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Demystifying digital experience platforms: A comprehensive guide for technical buyers

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Learn how to navigate the complex landscape of digital experience platforms and make informed decisions to elevate your company's digital journey.

If you're completely new to the digital experience space, you might only have a homepage, product pages, a blog and a simple checkout experience. If that's the case, you could probably get by with a regular content management system.

However, for most companies, there are dozens of touchpoints throughout the customer journey. In fact, the average online journey includes anywhere from 20 to 500+ touchpoints (the low end of which is even tough to control).

If you're looking for a way to connect the whole digital journey from awareness to purchase, personalize it every step of the way and do it at scale, a CMS won't cut it anymore. You'll need a digital experience platform (DXP).

It's an integrated set of technologies that are designed to orchestrate a full digital experience stack. Like a CMS, it's based on a common platform. But it's designed for omnichannel delivery and personalization instead of just web pages and site organization.

In this guide, we'll give you the rundown of everything you need to know before investing in one.

Adopting a DXP isn't as simple as flipping a switch

Of course, that’s the case with any major technological shift. But, given the integrated and customized nature of a DXP, it’s important to really understand what you’re getting into before making the investment.

Before going all-in, carefully evaluate your current tech stack.

  • Where do customers interact with your brand (websites, portals, social, etc.)?
  • What are the tools and systems you already have in place?
  • How do they support your current customer journey?
  • Are there gaps or redundancies?

Investing in a DXP doesn’t mean replacing your whole tech stack (though this is a good opportunity to refresh outdated systems). DXPs are cloud-and API-based, making them remarkably adaptable.

For companies starting out their digital transformation journey, or just realigning it, start with a cloud-native CMS with built-in analytics and personalization capabilities and an integration library with all the essentials. That'll give you a strong foundation for assembling your DXP.

Traditional DPXs vs. Composable DXPs

Plenty of MarTech platforms come from one vendor (think: a customer data platform or digital asset management solution). In the same way, you can buy a DXP with everything you need under one hood. We call that a traditional, or "closed," DXP.

The main benefit to closed DXPs is the vendor does most of the heavy lifting for you. Implementation and support, among other benefits, are all part of a piece. That's great for organizations without large development teams or hands-on tech support. Plus, the tools are purpose-built to work together.

A composable DXP is a digital experience platform that is assembled from a series of best-of-breed solutions that work together via APIs and leverage microservices architecture. Find out here why composable DXP matters to your business.
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Of course, that convenience does come with a trade-off: loss of flexibility. The more components that come from one vendor, the harder it is to swap them out for another, and closed systems are notoriously less integration-friendly. In other words, if some offerings within the DXP aren't as strong as others, you might end up with a lot of unused software or have to compromise on functionality.

Composable DXPs, also called "open DXPs", solve the problem of getting trapped in a vendor's ecosystem by bringing together "best-of-breed" platforms across multiple vendors.

Typically, they include a core set of technologies from one vendor, but enable customers to add components from other suppliers (usually subsidiaries or approved partners) to meet their specific needs.

An open architecture and modular approach allow for easy modification, expansion and integration with external solutions. As a technical buyer, this is your primary consideration, as it will help you narrow down your options before you even start evaluating demos.

Use a traditional DXP if:

  • You're in a highly regulated industry with strict compliance requirements.
  • Your company follows rigid, standardized processes.
  • The touchpoints in your customer journey are naturally interconnected already.
  • You only use a few marketing channels and don't plan on expanding.

Use a composable DXP if:

  • You operate in a dynamic environment where tech and customer preferences are constantly changing.
  • Your customer touchpoints range from web, mobile and social to PoS, kiosks and IoT devices.
  • Your marketing team constantly tests different features, content and strategies.
  • You want to optimize costs by investing only in resources you'll actually use.
  • You already rely on tons of third-party tools.
  • You anticipate a high-growth future and need something scalable.
  • It's impossible to personalize all your customer touchpoints with any one platform.
  • You're looking to differentiate through your customer experience, specifically.
By Nancy Mann Jackson
A digital experience platform helps companies engage with customers across various channels. It offers tools to create positive interactions, although approaches may vary. Understanding its components is crucial for effective implementation.

Features to look for when narrowing down your selection

Like any huge MarTech investment, you have to take a methodical approach that considers business/platform use cases.

Your end users will look for the following:

  • Headless CMS (or a hybrid system that offers it)
  • Content scheduling and workflow automation
  • Commerce and ecommerce
  • Personalized content and responsive experiences
  • Sales, marketing, and customer success analytics
  • Flexible APIs like RESTful or GraphQL
  • Interoperability

From there, you can start looking at the "big picture" infrastructure needs to determine one product's feasibility over another.

Evaluating technical elements of a DXP:

The DXP you choose will likely be based on a microservices architecture or service-oriented architecture (SOA).

  • Microservices are collections of smaller, autonomous services that communicate via APIs.
  • SOA is a collection of components that interact with one another using a service bus.

Microservices tend to be more modular and flexible (and can be delivered via a cloud vendor like AWS or Azure), though SOA has its advantages if you're building on a legacy infrastructure or taking an enterprise scope.

A good DXP has a way to adjust server capacity on demand, usually by scaling vertically (adding more power to an existing server) or horizontally (distributing workloads across multiple servers).

Your scalability needs depend on two factors:

  • Existing traffic demand (or rate of queries)
  • Expected growth

Microservices are inherently scalable, as you can focus your resources on the specific areas that need it when you need it. SOA can be more challenging to scale, as components may require software updates (especially if you're doing this manually).

As data integrity and privacy have become crucial for modern enterprises and their customers, enterprise-grade security and compliance are imperative for any DXP. This encompasses features like:

  • Single sign-on (SSO)
  • Compliance certifications (SOC2, GDPR)
  • Identity and access management
  • Encryption in transit and at rest
  • Audit logging

Some of these features are built into the platform itself; others will need to be manually configured or added as separate security tools.

If you're in a highly regulated industry (like healthcare, finance or government), you'll also have to consider whether each facet of the system meets those demands.

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Integration capabilities
A huge risk is vendor lock-in. If your DXP doesn't integrate with your existing tech stack or a tool you want to add to it soon, that DXP will be severely limited for your needs.

DXPs have varying levels of API integration. Most offer prebuilt connectors for certain platforms and software providers, while others require manual configuration.

Ideally, it should support your essential DXP integrations—marketing/customer insights, CRM, analytics, AI, federated search—as readily as possible and offer a flexible API to add whatever you need.

Developer experience
Developers are the ones who have to work with this platform. A great DXP will offer:

  • SDKs for popular programming languages (Java, Swift) or JavaScript frameworks
  • Accessible APIs
  • Comprehensive developer portals with documentation and tutorials
  • A developer community (like Brightspot's) for questions and potential troubleshooting
  • A sandbox environment (or test instance) to experiment with the DXP's features.

Total cost of ownership
A technical buyer might not immediately consider all the costs that come with a DXP, especially if they don't have visibility into many components. You have the obvious implementation/installation fees, but also consider the following elements:

  • Licensing fees
  • Hosting
  • Maintenance and support (do you need a dedicated team for this, or can IT handle it?)
  • Scaling costs (if you anticipate major growth)
  • Training costs (if you're transitioning to this platform from another)
  • Future integration fees
  • Customization/development costs

Also consider variable costs. DXP vendors have wildly different pricing structures for API calls or content entries, for example—costs you can easily underestimate or miscalculate if you don't work alongside your marketing team when making this choice.

Making an informed decision for your tech stack

Most importantly, a DXP is meant to provide a fully integrated, seamless experience for your team and your customers. When evaluating technical elements, remember to:

  • Consider the bi-directional flow of data
  • Listen to marketing and customer success stakeholders
  • Focus first on core system requirements and your existing tech stack

Without fail, we've witnessed how making a thoughtful and informed decision when choosing a DXP can streamline marketing processes, strengthen customer relationships and deliver better insights.

A robust DXP sits at the heart of an array of marketing tools, using APIs to integrate with your existing technology stack and with new third-party services that either exist today or will be available in the future. It leverages solutions like digital asset management (DAM), marketing automation and personalization, and it caters to the latest content requirements, such as for simplified production for distributed teams and omnichannel distribution.


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