What is a DXP?

January 19th, 2023

Ah … a DXP. Yet another tech acronym. But, if there’s any combination of three letters we’d suggest you lock down, it’d be this one.

DXPs are our bread and butter at FFW. Here’s the FYI (sorry for the acronym) on DXPs.

What is a DXP?

DXP stands for “digital experience platform.” According to Gartner, an IT research and consulting company, a DXP is “an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences.”

Let’s break this down a bit further:

A “digital platform” is the technology or capabilities that provide the foundation for building, operating, and scaling specific applications.

As for “digital experience,” this might sound like we’re describing a Freud experiment, but a digital experience is the summation of all cognitive, emotional, sensory, and behavioral responses by a consumer during all stages of interactions across digital channels.

Put the two together, and digital experience platforms are a set of integrated technologies that enable the platform owner - typically an organization - to build, operate, and scale to enhance their users’ (both those who visit and those who own it) overall experience, primarily through web pages, but also through mobile apps and other digital channels.

Do I need one?

Throughout recent years, especially with the rise in business’ digitization brought on by the COVID pandemic, platform owners have more often utilized web analytics to understand user behavior and their conversion trends. 

Take, for example, an organization that wants to optimize these analytics by performing multivariate and A/B testing. They’ll need an application that can track their customer’s entire user journey, to understand more concretely the route their users take to a purchase, which can necessitate e-commerce capabilities.

Now that this organization possesses multiple technologies to obtain copious data, its marketers and platform owners need a way to store, connect, and track it to the right customer or prospect. They can acquire digital tools like a customer relationship management (CRM) or a customer data platform (CDP), or both.

You can probably see how orgs that acquire a variety of technologies to serve their variety of needs can present a major problem when trying to maintain them. For the most part, the tech will be operating separately from one another, resulting in an utterly mixed bag. Marketers and platform owners are also bogged down by the cost of licensing and operating all of these disparate technologies. They’ll need a way to integrate them to work together seamlessly - for maximum efficiency. 

Enter: DXPs.

The scenario above is just one example of a set of specific technologies that best serve this hypothetical organization’s needs. There are countless other technologies and capabilities that organizations can acquire based on their situation. Though, the general conclusion is typically true: disparate technologies are utilized to their fullest potential if they’re integrated as part of a DXP.

DXPs' core capabilities

Another way to broadly think about DXPs is as a central hub that houses capabilities from multiple technologies to deliver a seamless digital experience, no matter what channel their user is on.

Within this general understanding, we’d be remiss not to mention DXPs’ three specific, core capabilities:

  1. Content management
    • Similar to a Content Management System (CMS), DXPs provide an interface for creating, outlining, editing, and housing content. This can include functionalities such as collaboration, editing, and approvals to generate a more streamlined workflow. But, whereas legacy CMS’s have focused their content management on rigid website page templates, a DXP’s content management capabilities are based in composability and modularity of content, empowering the use and re-use of content across a variety of digital channels.
  2. Presentation
    • Because DXPs power digital experiences across a variety of digital channels, it’s important to present content across different end-user applications, as well as orchestrate content and data coming from different systems (for example, marrying visual assets from a media library with product information from an ecommerce system). To achieve this, more and more organizations are opting for a headless approach, which decouples the front-end interface from the back-end, allowing organizations to easily shift what is presented or how it's presented, for total flexibility.
  3. Data and personalization
    • The capabilities within a DXP integrate analytics from a variety of sources (for example, web analytics across multiple domains, mobile app usage data, etc), making an organization’s data measurable, insightful, and actionable. This provides marketing and digital teams with an understanding of visitor behavior, which can then be leveraged by an organization to provide personalized digital experiences based on the user’s priorities or needs.

The two ways DXPs can be formed

One option: it can be a suite of different products or capabilities provided by a single source. Take for example, the Acquia DXP, that provides an array of products and technologies, all under the Acquia name. Their products span from a CMS - the Drupal platform, to a CDP, a digital asset management system (DAM), all the way to personalization tools, along with much more. Each Acquia product integrates with one other seamlessly to provide a full DXP, serving whatever needs an organization has.

On the flip side of the coin, DXPs can also be an aggregate of varying technologies from multiple sources. These DXPs are a type of system architecture approach focused on leveraging best-of-breed technologies to provide the capabilities needed by an organization. Within this type of DXP formation, we partner with service companies like Contenful (a content platform), Segment (a CDP), and Pantheon (a website operations platform), that are not DXPs in and of themselves, but can each be an integral part of a DXP.

At the end of the day, no matter how it’s built, a solid DXP contains a set of integrated technologies to effectively serve whatever digital needs an organization has.

The benefits

  • Gives you a 360 degree view of your users through data.
  • Delivers a better customer experience. 
  • Improves your marketing efforts and effectiveness.
  • Optimizes your content continually; it lets you reuse or repurpose content.
  • Flexible architectures allow you to adapt more confidently and seamlessly.
  • Minimizes silos within an organization, and internal teams can collaborate more efficiently.

How is a DXP different from a CMS?

Before we get into their differences, let’s first define what a CMS is: An application that is used to manage content, allowing multiple users to create, edit, and publish, without needing to write code from scratch. The content is stored in a database, but is presented by use of templates (like a website, for example).

Now, websites can be powered by either a DXP or a CMS. Additionally, a DXP refers to a specific category of technology platform or product, as does a CMS.

They sound pretty similar so far, right? So what makes them different?

The fundamental difference is that a CMS, as the name suggests, focuses on content management capabilities. It does not include the other capabilities that a DXP does, like: delivering experiences to multiple digital channels; acquiring and recording user data; and having commerce built-in (MarTech).

CMSs’ low code solutions allow marketers and site owners to take control over from their IT departments. CMSs suited an org’s needs in the days of the early web, but as customer expectations and behavior have shifted and an organization’s digital presence spans across multiple devices and channels, marketers and site owners' needs have grown beyond a CMS’s ability.

“98% of Americans switch between devices in the same day,” research from Google reported. In this modern age, it’s absolutely key to utilize a DXP, to provide site users with a seamless experience across their devices and channels.

Why we love 'em

We’re quite obsessed with DXPs, what they enable our clients and us to do together, and the optimized future they promise. DXPs are an extraordinary leap in increasing impactful business practices for both organizational and personal success.

We also understand that seizing the full potential of a DXP for your org is a daunting task. Though the technology is so complex, the result is simple: sustainable success.

We want to stress here the vital role DXPs play in today’s business landscape. Your web presence and capabilities are no longer just a leisure pursuit, or a side attribute, but an integral part of your organization. Don’t worry; with years of experience in building, operating, delivering, and scaling DXPs, we’re the people that can take you where you need to go.

If you want to talk about DXPs and what they can do for you, drop us a line. Our digital experts would be ecstatic at the chance to talk to you about the future your org can reach by taking such an innovative approach to your digital capabilities.