CMS vs. DXP — What’s The Difference?

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It’s that age-old dilemma: Cheese vs. quiche. Apples vs. pie. CMS vs. DXP.

…What’s that, you say? None of these things are remotely at odds? And the former usually acts as the key ingredient for the latter?

Alas, it’s true. As much as the martech world likes to pretend that the question of “CMS vs. DXP” is a crucial one that every organization must consider, the truth of the matter is that this is a manufactured controversy. Choosing one does not necessarily mean not choosing the other. Rather, it’s about understanding where you are in your digital experience journey and what you’ll need to help you get to the next stage in it.


A Content Management System, or CMS, is something we have actually covered in-depth before. To summarize: a CMS allows you to create, manage, publish, and control the digital content you use wherever you engage with a customer. Essentially, the content acts as a “catalyst” for the digital experience your customers have with you.

A CMS, in many respects, is a vital piece of technology that nearly every company with a digital presence has to have. It is the basis by which organizations interact with their customers online and sits at the center of much of their digital strategy.

However, in talking about a CMS versus a DXP, it’s important to also point out all the things that a CMS doesn’t do. With just a CMS, you present content, your customers experience it, you both move on. There’s no customer data collection, no personalization, no fancy optimization or analytics.


A Digital Experience Platform, or DXP, focuses on ensuring the experiences your customers receive are consistent and valuable to them. This is accomplished utilizing a feedback loop tied to every experience, wherein a DXP receives customer data, helps you analyze it, and then empowers you to use that data to improve the experience the next time around.

The thing is, in order to do any of this fancy optimization, you still need an experience to, well, optimize. Which means that, in order for a DXP to even function, you need a CMS running at the base level to handle all of the content.

Thus, when talking about a DXP, you are inevitably talking about a parcel of technology that includes a CMS as a base-level component of it, whether that’s natively integrated (as Jahia’s is) or built via multiple different vendors. See why the whole “vs.” argument doesn’t really hold water?


Twist! Just kidding, but there’s a point we want to make here. Although the inherent technologies behind a CMS and a DXP are not in conflict with each other, the use cases for each are. Depending on how large your organization is and how fast you’re looking to grow your digital footprint, there are different scenarios where having a CMS could actually be better than upgrading to a DXP.

First, let’s talk about size. If you’re a small mom-and-pop store or a start-up with limited resources, chances are you’re not able to spend a large amount of money on digital infrastructure to interact with your customers. In fact, you might not have that many customers to begin with. A CMS can often be the best choice for organizations like this, who are just looking for the bare essentials to get up and moving. That doesn’t mean you can’t later decide to upgrade your CMS to a DXP, and in fact many technologies such as Jahia are built to scale with you, but at least for the early goings, a CMS is all you’ll really need.

However, if you’re a larger organization that has found your engagement level with customers stagnating, or a smaller organization that is looking to grow quickly, bringing in a DXP makes for a strong, longer-term play. This is because a DXP can often act as the centerpiece for your entire digital experience, as it centralizes content management, data collection, and personalization into one place. If the DXP also has strong integration capabilities, you’ll be able to leverage it within the other technologies you have, creating an interconnected stack of marketing technologies that all talk with each other.

There are other things to consider in both cases. The marketing technologies you already have, for instance, can sometimes be difficult to connect into a DXP, especially if they are older and less open to integration. If you already have a CMS and are thinking of upgrading, it’s also worth considering whether the vendor you’re using is built as a stack or a suite — the latter is often a much higher cost consideration and can freeze you into a technology ecosystem you might not necessarily want. And then, of course, there’s your personnel. Do you have the marketing staff you need to be able to leverage all the capabilities of a DXP? Or, if you were to buy one, would you only be taking advantage of 10% of its full potential?


The choice between a CMS and a DXP is one built upon your specific needs rather than differing capabilities. A DXP does everything a CMS does and much, much more. But that doesn’t always mean it’s the correct choice. A healthy dose of introspection, and a lot of questions, are the key to deciding the best path forward for you and your organization.

Interested in learning more? We actually hosted a webinar recently that dived deep into this topic. Click here to watch the on-demand recording. You can also contact us if you’d like to discuss the topic in more detail!

Matthew Kippen
Matthew Kippen

Senior Product Marketing Manager