A digital experience platform (DXP) can be used to build websites, portals, applications, and other digital products that optimize their visitors' user experience by using personalization, aggregation of various services, and different integrations. As a result, these experiences will be excellent at driving conversion and customer satisfaction, unlike what a traditional CMS could offer.
A digital experience platform is an evolution of the conventional content management system (CMS). The platform typically consists of various components, including a headless CMS, a personalization engine, and a customer data platform (CDP). In addition, it often works alongside other technologies like marketing automation software, a customer relationship management (CRM) system, a Digital Asset Management solution, and an e-commerce solution. The different layers of functionality can exist in a single offering or as a suite of products that work together.
The need for DXPs has grown as businesses require a more effective way to use their customer data to create great digital experiences. A traditional CMS is designed to handle web content management for a website alone, making it unaccommodating to future channels. DXPs offer a flexible solution for content and digital experience management at scale. Here are some of the main advantages of using a DXP:
Optimize the customer experience across touchpoints
A DXP allows you to spread content to various digital channels, including commerce platforms, mobile apps, IoT devices, kiosks, and more. This enables you to make the most of your omnichannel strategy as the user experience is optimized on every channel.
Create highly personalized experiences
DXPs leverage behavioral data to create highly personalized customer experiences. For example, you can define rules to create audience segments based on variables like location, pages visited, device type, and more. The DXP will then automate personalization by showing content to the audience segment based on their profile. This allows you to provide a truly individualized experience to each customer.
A digital experience platform offers seamless integration with the other parts of your application ecosystem. This includes ERP systems, product information management (PIM) systems, marketing automation, CRM, and other digital marketing tools. With this flexibility, you can adopt a best-in-breed approach to building your technology stack.
A DXP includes different parts that help define the system's operations.
Because of its initial roots in CMS, DXPs can easily manage all sorts of content, ranging from small text to large files. They make it easy to create, edit and publish content, as well as making available through (headless) APIs and integrated search engines. They can also manage access control for authenticated users in a granular way. Finally, the best ones have strong internationalization capabilities.
Key capabilities for the content aspect of a DXP include:
- Omnichannel content
- Sites management
- Enterprise search
- Authenticated experiences/access control
- Strong internationalization support (dozens of languages at the same time)
- Content integrations
- Modularity and extensibility
Data is part of what defines and separates a DXP from other technologies, ranging from analytics to delivering personalized experiences. To do this, it integrates or includes technologies such as a Customer Data Platform (CDP), an analytics engine, and a personalization engine that can use the collected data to change the look and feel of the user experience. For example, if a visitor has returned to the same pages five times, display a banner that offers a discount or other products he might be interested in. The ability to deliver these types of experiences, combined with the other components of a DXP, makes these solutions compelling. Data collection and governance are also important, especially regarding compliance with privacy laws such as the GDPR.
Key capabilities for the data aspect of a DXP include:
- Data governance (GDPR and more)
- 360 degrees integrated customer profile
- Strong reporting
- AB-Testing and personalization
- Data integrations
- Modularity and extensibility
Integrations are another very important part of DXPs. They leverage the possibility of aggregating different systems together consistently and making sense for their users. Integrations may range from simple front-end solutions to complex back-end business logic interactions. For example, a DXP could be coupled with a Product Information Management (PIM) system, a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system, a complex electronic commerce system, and so on. A DXP will be as good as its possibilities for making these integrations smooth and quick to implement. It should be able to leverage zero/no-code platforms as well as custom code using third-party APIs.
Key capabilities for the integrations aspect of a DXP include:
- Out-of-box ready-to-use connectors
- Integration APIs
- Good quality samples and documentation
- Support for cloud deployment
- Support for automated testing
- Modularity and extensibility
The presentation layer may take many forms. Historically, CMS’ would only produce HTML for websites, but DXPs have evolved from them to make it possible to interact in different ways:
- Through traditional HTML rendering, using page templates
- Through API-first access, notably for headless applications (NextJS, React, Angular, Vue, etc.)
- Through native mobile applications
A DXP should be capable of all of these, as they can equally be important for medium or large enterprise applications. For example, implementing a complex headless application might not be necessary if a need could be filled by using traditional HTML rendering.
Key capabilities for the presentation aspect of a DXP include:
- Omnichannel presentation, web, mobile, PoS, and more
- Support for integration with headless APIs such as ReactJS, Angular, and more
- Integration with CDNs
- Integration with image optimization services
- Integration with SEO features
- High-performance delivery
- Transparent front-end caching system
- Integration with access control and authentication
- Cloud deployment
Myths about DXP & misconceptions
Analysts and vendors DXP and Digital experience stack confusion
To better illustrate this problem, let's look at some examples of definitions of DXP by market analysts such as Gartner and Forrester.
Depending on how readers interpret or understand these definitions, it could be easy to confuse a DXP with a full-fledged marketing or digital experience stack. Let’s clarify what these stacks mean to understand the difference better.
A marketing stack is a collection of software tools and technologies businesses use to plan, execute, and measure their marketing efforts. These tools can help with email marketing, social media management, content creation, and advertising. A marketing stack typically includes both paid and free tools and can be customized to meet the specific needs of a business.
Digital Experience Stack
A Digital Experience Stack is a collection of software tools and technologies businesses use to create and manage their customers' digital experiences. This can include things like websites, mobile apps, and online services. A digital experience stack typically provides web design and development tools, content management, e-commerce, and customer relationship management. A digital experience stack aims to help businesses deliver high-quality, engaging, and personalized experiences to their customers across all digital channels throughout the customer lifecycle (from conversion to post-sale).
Based on the above definitions, it should be clear that the DXP is part of a digital experience or marketing stack. These stacks may be much more complex and contain many interconnected services to deliver the complete enterprise solution. DXPs offer the advantage of providing a platform that will help connect all the touch points with all the various elements in the stacks.
How does a DXP fit in your stack?
A DXP sits at the top of a digital experience stack. It combines various tools and technologies from the stack and provides a single, integrated platform for creating and managing digital experiences. A DXP can help businesses streamline their workflows, reduce complexity, and improve the overall quality and consistency of their digital experiences. By using a DXP, businesses can better engage and retain customers, drive revenue growth, and stay ahead of the competition in today's digital landscape.
What can marketers do with a DXP?
With a DXP, marketers can create, manage, and deliver a wide range of digital content, such as websites, mobile apps, and online marketing campaigns. This can help marketers improve the customer experience, drive engagement, and ultimately, increase conversions and revenue. Some specific things that marketers can do with a DXP include
- Create responsive landing pages without the need for any development: The rhythm of digital marketing is always faster than the one of developers. Marketers need to have the flexibility to create landing pages without any involvement or developers and without HTML knowledge. They also need to have templates that allow for creativity to be able to try new things quickly.
- Easily manage websites with dozens of languages: Global brands need to address their audience across several websites in different languages. This requirement increases the complexity of delivering any piece of content online. A good DXP will provide all the tools to make that process consistent and easier to manage.
- Mix anonymous and authenticated experiences in a few clicks: Digital experience doesn’t stop after the first conversion. It is paramount that authenticated experiences are managed by business teams and constantly optimized.
- Reuse content across sites, portals, and applications: Duplication of content always leads to content being out of date. Your DXP should make it easy to reuse content.
- Create and manage forms without any development: Depending on your industry, forms can play a critical part in the customer experience you’re building. Business users should ideally have complete control over them.
- Manage content from external sources (products) as native editorial content: In many organizations, content is stored in different tools: Product Information Manager (PIM, such as Akeneo), Enterprise Content Management (ECM, such as Hyland or Nuxeo) or custom software. If you need to display this content on your website for visitors or authenticated customers, your DXP should provide a way to manage this content: add it to a page, select the way it should be displayed, or link it to editorial content.
- Push form data to a CRM: Any data being collected by your DXP should flow to the rest of your marketing & sales stack. Marketers also need some control over this flow so that when adding a form field, marketers can also make sure that this data is added to the CRM or to the marketing automation.
- A/B Test headlines in a few clicks: A/B test is one of the most efficient tactics to optimize experiences. Your DXP must provide an easy way to A/B test any content or page you want to optimize.
- Personalize content in a portal, with customer data collected on the website: Personalization is also a key static to help your visitors and customers. A good DXP consistently collects data across your websites, portals, and apps and gives control to the business users. A good DXP enables organizations to see personalization as something more than a quick win.
What can developers do with a DXP?
For a developer, a DXP is a powerful tool that can speed up and simplify their workload, particularly when setting up new sites and ongoing management backends. When implemented correctly, a DXP can save time, reduce technical issues, and provide clients or end-users with dynamic, great-looking digital experiences that will help differentiate them from their competitors online.
A DXP should simplify a developer’s job and free-up time spent on things like backend CMS maintenance so they can focus on more innovative projects that move their business forward. A well-designed DXP should have the built-in infrastructure to support fast page load times and additional features like analytics, automation, and security that should either be baked into the DXP or easily set up and configured alongside it.
A DXP should also be user-friendly and relatively easy for developers to learn and use. There are no special skills a developer needs to acquire before using a DXP, and when deployed correctly, a DXP should improve many areas of a developer’s workflow, particularly with regard to customer-facing assets and content delivery.
More importantly, a well-designed DXP should make it easier for developers to comply with in-house security policies, develop modules that extend the DXP’s functional scope, reuse their code from project to project, deploy their development with single-click functionality, and leverage existing apps through powerful integration and aggregation capabilities.
Some specific things that developers can do with a DXP include
- Launch websites as fast as possible but maintain control and brand guidelines: by using page and site templates, companies can ensure that the experience is consistent with the requirements in terms of branding while at the same time making it easy for users to deliver new websites quickly. Developers can focus on designing the content definition, views, templates, applications, and other dynamic elements that can be reused from one project to another.
- Explore API endpoints and documentation using GraphQL or REST: directly using APIs to interact with the DXP makes it possible to integrate or develop logic using these endpoints that can offer a unique end-user experience. GraphQL being self-documenting, helps developers quickly get up to speed on any API that supports it.
- Mix head-on and headless approaches whenever needed with any front-end technology: hybrid DXP enables developers to have the best of both worlds and be able to deliver whatever solution is needed much faster using the same platform. It is also possible to reuse some of the assets developed for one front-end to the other, making it easier to deliver and maintain.
- Leverage customer data to create custom experiences (quizzes, funnels, assessments, etc.): having full access to the customer data makes it possible to develop logic that uses it to build applications that are personalized and more relevant to end-users. Developers will be able to focus on how the data is managed and transformed using rule-based systems or other data management capabilities.
- Extend APIs and implement any custom logic and services: using the DXP as an API gateway makes it possible to centralize all the APIs using the DXP as a central point of access, eliminating the need for multiple front-facing servers and simplifying authentication, access control, and deployment.
- Extend user interfaces to provide new capabilities: being able to extend or modify the UI of a DXP is an important feature for developers, as it allows them to customize the solution for different customers and provide value-added functionality that could be reused between projects. It also helps in delivering a more coherent user interface experience.
- Easily make features global or site-specific: most DXPs support the notion of managing multiple sites, and when developing new features, it can be very interesting to select on which sites to make them available or not. On the other end, providing global features can be useful for adding functionality for system administrators or power users that may have specific needs. Developers can choose the level of granularity of the availability they need for their projects.
- Aggregate sources of content (PIM, any API) and provide federated search: make it possible to integrate external content into the DXP’s content repositories and leverage features such as federated search without having to do custom integrations. This way, developers can focus on minimal integration when building connectors by reusing them between projects.
- Develop faster thanks to modular hot deployment: modular development is critical to the proper designing, developing, and deployment of long-running solutions. Being able to hot deploy changes makes it possible to quickly test changes and also simplify quick deployments. Proper modular DXPs will allow modules to perform all kinds of functionality, from integration with external content to extending the DXP’s UI.
- Access all of the source code to ease understanding and debugging: having access to the DXP’s source code is very important for developers, especially when they need to have access to inner workings for debugging or understanding pieces of the product that may be behaving strangely or that are not well covered by the documentation. It is also a guarantee that over time the system will remain maintainable by different actors, which would be impossible it if wasn’t available.
- Integrate with other systems and technologies, such as customer relationship management (CRM) systems, analytics tools, and marketing automation platforms: a DXP will usually be a good point of integration for various back-end tools that can be integrated in powerful ways to provide a better understanding of visitors and be able to deliver better overall experiences to them. Developers benefit from the flexibility of a DXP to be able to quickly connect all these systems in a coherent manner without requiring long integration developments.
- Collaborate with other teams, such as marketers and designers, to build and manage digital experiences: a DXP can make it more efficient to work with other people involved in digital experiences and provide a common platform for collaborative development iterations. A DXP’s flexibility and deployment capabilities are critical to offering a good interaction between these different actors.
What are composable DXPs?
A Composable DXP is a digital experience platform consisting of a series of separate (micro-) applications that are integrated on a case-by-case basis. They may consist of solutions provided by different vendors. They work together through API and microservices with a headless approach.
In its most basic sense, a Composable DXP provides a base platform with modules/extensions you can add to meet your needs… with the primary goal of creating a full marketing suite composed of applications vs. relying on a single platform attempting to do everything.
Composable DXP pros
Composable DXPs are born out of vendors that know they cannot/don’t want to deliver a full-fledged DXP in terms of functionality and instead decided to focus on specific features, such as headless content, search, customer data, or presentation layer.
In effect, it does make for a loosely coupled architecture that can serve some scenarios well, such as:
- Existing systems that are already deployed: integrating with systems that are already deployed can be a good case for using composable DXPs because if the DXP already provides an integration for the existing system, the cost will be reduced.
- Content & E-commerce: Integrating E-commerce with content solutions (CMS or DXP) is hard. If your use case goes beyond what Shopify can support, and if you have access to front-end developers, a composable DXP could be an interesting choice as it might be easier to integrate with a complex e-commerce system.
Composable DXPs have interesting pros, but they are also risky, as we will see in the next section.
Composable DXP cons
With all things, there are some considerations and trade-offs. A Composable DXP has distinct cons that need to be evaluated before you make the jump into this new architecture.
Inconsistent marketer user experiences
The biggest issue with Composable DXPs is the fact that, as it integrates with different services/applications that usually all have their own back-end user interface, the users of such systems will have to learn and manage all these different UIs, which can introduce frustrations and high learning curves. Moreover, in some of the worst cases, it might require re-developing a back-end UI to provide a better user experience, which might imply high costs that might not even be reusable, depending on how tailored they are to the customer.
Moving away from “one platform to rule them all” could imply higher integration costs. Specifically, what will the application(s) you are integrating cost? Because each application is different, do you require separate development teams that specialize in integrating and managing the application? And will those integrations be re-used or different for each customer?
Reliability and performance risk
When you decouple a platform into a base with extensions via separate applications, you have an increased risk of individual application failures and network latency between the layers of a Composable DXP. This makes it very difficult to know where an error is occurring in an overall platform, as there may not be aggregated logging across the applications and constant network latency analytics to isolate where the bottlenecks are in the composed platform. This also introduces performance bottlenecks if applications have dependencies that can take the whole DXP solution down.
This complexity comes from differing applications and development stacks/frameworks (Java, .NET, Node.js, NextJS, etc.) that may require distinct workflows or even multiple development teams to manage.
It is conceivable that a single organization or system integrator does not have the experience required to manage the full stack or manage it well, so your DevOps will need to account for all the separate teams, repositories, testing, and supporting governance for these distinct pieces.
With separate, almost distinct applications, your governance complexity is sure to increase. From tracking licenses, development methods, upgrades, and teams specializing in specific parts of the platform, there is much to keep under management. This is where a strong governance plan with a governance committee comprised of key stakeholders and product owners comes into play.
An alternative to composable DXPs: the modulith DXP
It is interesting to look at how the industry evolved to create DXPs, as this chronology also helps to understand the concepts behind the terminology.
- DXP vendors started as WCM (CMS) or portal software vendors
- Then they added missing capabilities to reach the "Horizontal portal" offering
- They invested in data later on, through development or acquisition, to form the DXP market
CMS != DXP
As a robust platform of marketing tools, a DXP always includes a CMS (often as its core), but it also usually includes the following functionalities:
- Data capture, management, and leveraging (using a CDP usually)
- Strong integration capabilities (through strong modularity & integration tools/services)
A CMS is foundational software for digital identity, strategy, and engagement. A DXP is the full suite of tools powering personalized experiences that scale and connect – across channels, geographies, and languages.
A fun way to remember the difference is to use the following equation:
DXP = Content(CMS) + Data(CDP) + Integrations
Jahia’s DXP is, as you might have guessed, defined as a modulith DXP, and can serve all the needs modern DXP users might have.
We provide a quick glossary of other related standard terms to help quickly understand their meaning.
Traditional Web Content Management (= CMS = WCM) – Software to manage your website. Digital content is controlled in a combination of presentation and management of the end-to-end experience of a page.
Headless CMS (= Content As a Service = Content Platform) – Digital content managed without a presentation layer.
Hybrid CMS (=Decoupled CMS) - CMS with both Traditional and Headless capabilities
Portals – Digital channel for logged-in visitors that delivers personalized engagement
Marketing Stack – Entirety of the marketing team’s technologies
Personalization – Show different content or experience to the visitors/customers
Optimization (=AB Test) – Ability to test different approaches for better results
Customer Data Platforms – Aggregated customer data to manage exp.
No Code / Low Code – ability to perform developer tasks by users