March 2, 2021
Digital products, such as websites, mobile applications, and e-commerce solutions, are everywhere nowadays. Organisations understand that becoming a market leader requires digital maturity, and that’s why they are eager to introduce more and more digital solutions to their IT ecosystems. This is where DXPs (Digital Experience Platforms) step into play and save the day. With a decent DXP, you can integrate various marketing and IT applications and tools within one system. Such a solution facilitates work and allows you to get the most of your business activities.
In today’s marketing and business environment, various tools and applications are mushrooming. In many instances, companies utilise dozens of different digital products! And this situation can cause some complications. I’m sure you will agree that there is a significant difference between introducing new digital solutions in an uncoordinated way, nearly randomly, and doing so with a long-term vision that takes full integration between all the ecosystem’s ingredients into account and focuses on users and their needs.
The old-fashioned approach to introducing digital products was simple – new products were implemented to satisfy isolated business goals of specific stakeholders within an organisation. Let’s use a simple example:
Suppose your marketing department was given a goal to improve digital presence. For this reason, they ordered a new, more engaging website with a new CMS system. At the same time, the sales team needed to collect and track leads more efficiently. That’s why they demanded a new CRM platform. And yes, both these IT solutions were necessary, but no one thought about integrating them in any way.
This approach, thankfully already outdated, had one important disadvantage: It didn’t take into consideration the big picture of the company. As a result, you ended up with a technical ecosystem that consisted of a number of separate digital products that were completely detached from one another, making it difficult to make the most of these apps and programs.
Today, a more holistic view is becoming prevalent. Companies and agencies are currently starting to treat each of the newly introduced digital products as a part of a broader digital platform supporting various stakeholders and engaging users through various touchpoints.
And this is precisely what Digital Experience Platforms are all about. The DXPs have recently become a name commonly describing a digital IT solution or digital ecosystem that integrates various digital tools and apps in a coordinated way, concentrating on user experience and engagement.
From a business perspective, Digital Experience Platforms are user-focused solutions enabling organisations to make the effective use of:
From a technical standpoint, Digital Experience Platforms are complex software solutions comprising digital products that are able to exchange data through the one Application Programming Interface (API) layer, with an architecture designed for further extensions (e.g., microservices), and often accompanied by data analytics and optimisation tools.
Although every DXP is different and shall reflect the business needs of a concrete organisation, there are elements (solutions) that are often a part of it:
A typical CMS system provides your website (and sometimes applications, too) with the necessary tools that are needed to deliver content. Content Management Systems usually have editorial, reporting, SEO optimisation and administration features.
The DXP offers so much more as it provides content automation and delivery in an omnichannel model, i.e. via websites, newsletters, apps and social media profiles. And because DXPs have analytics modules, they will help you assess the results of your content-related actions.
In the e-commerce sector, there are two significant aspects of the DXPs you ought to be particularly interested in. For starters, e-commerce features provide you with the pre-purchase, fulfilment and product management options. Typically, you also have access to customers’ shopping carts, payment modules and carriers’ management.
Secondly, DXPs facilitate the smart use of customer data, which is extremely helpful concerning product recommendations and widely understood personalisation.
We live in the mobile-first world. If you want to engage users and catch their attention, you have to offer them the best possible mobile experiences. In some cases, reaching mobile users means the need to build a dedicated mobile application that’s fully integrated with the DXP. In other situations, you ought to have the possibility of using various PWA (Progressive Web Apps) or RWD (Responsive Web Design) techniques.
Regardless of the approach towards mobile, the key is to make it integrated with the rest of the digital ecosystem, to collect and learn from customer data flowing through the mobile touchpoint.
Let’s be honest here. Today, there is no marketing without data analytics. Every decent marketing and sales tool comes with an analytics feature that helps you understand how your efforts influence your customers, what your conversion rates are and what can be done to improve your campaigns. Obviously, marketing data comes from various sources (e.g., Google Analytics, CMS platforms, social media monitoring tools, brand monitoring tools). Thanks to the DXP, you can integrate all your marketing and sales data into one platform, making analytics and optimisation a breeze.
As you already know, when it comes to DXPs, full integration between various tools and apps is at the very core of this platform. Digital Experience Platforms have to integrate and collect data from all the relevant apps and software that your company uses in order to improve marketing and sales efforts. So this layer is essential. In fact, it’s your starting point regarding DXPs! Without this layer, all that we talk about in this article would not be possible.
There are two main approaches to introducing the DXP into an organisation:
• The single-stack approach means building the platform based on either an all-in-one product or a suite of products from the same vendor (hence the name “single-stack”). There are several well-known vendors offering mature solutions suitable for building medium and large-sized DXPs. In their yearly report, Gartner, a global research and advisory firm, recognises five leading DXP providers in alphabetical order: Acquia, Adobe, Optimizely (former Episerver), Liferay and Sitecore.
• The lean approach, on the other hand, means building the platform based on a set of individually chosen digital solutions connected through a tailor-made API-based integration layer. The choice of products (so-called Digital Experience Stack) has to reflect specific business needs and goals of the organisation and often includes a headless CMS (e.g., Contentful) as a content storage and data provider for the end-user touchpoints.
THE DXP APPROACH: SINGLE-STACK An all-in-one DXP offers a suite of products that satisfies most of the customers’ needs, usually consisting of CMS, e-commerce, digital marketing tools and connectors to third-party back-office systems. This approach has both positive and negative consequences. Building a DXP on a suite from one vendor usually means no troubles with integrating various DXP components with each other. In addition, there are fewer places to make mistakes while designing a DXP, since the architecture, as well as major components, are given upfront.
On the other hand, big all-in-one suites may sometimes be perceived as either too extensive or not flexible enough. Fortunately, single-stack vendors usually offer a flexible licencing model allowing organisations to buy and utilise only those components that are needed, with an option to extend the ecosystem in the future. For example, Episerver DXP (currently Optimizely) is based on three major components: • Content Cloud: It’s the basic CMS feature that can be extended with • Commerce Cloud (e-commerce features) and • Intelligence Cloud (data analytics features)
Unlike the all-in-one approach, a lean DXP has to be designed from scratch. But it doesn’t mean it has to be a costly or time-consuming endeavour. Actually, in many cases, time-to-market is even shorter! Developing the DXP based on individually chosen components means implementing only the functionality that really brings value in the given situation.
The key success factor here is a well-thought-out API-first architecture integrating platform components and enabling further extensions. However, it is equally important to make a proper choice of products (platform’s components) that offer implementation flexibility and can be easily paired together. For these reasons, lean DXPs are often based on so-called headless solutions, like headless CMS (e.g., Contentful) or headless commerce (e.g., Commercetools, Shopify).
The headless solutions detach user touchpoints from the business logic regardless of what this logic may be. Usually, user touchpoints (like a website’s frontend or a mobile application) have to be tailor-made and connected with the business logic through an API-driven layer. The separation of user touchpoints and business logic makes such an architecture a perfect match for building DXPs. Headless solutions take care of the business logic (e.g., handling orders and transactions) leaving freedom of crafting tailor-made user experience for designers and developers.
In addition, it is relatively simple to connect several headless solutions to the same user touchpoints. For example, an organisation may have a website and mobile application provided with data from both headless CMS and headless commerce.
In this article, I tackled a lot of questions related to Digital Experience Platforms. Let’s make a quick summary of what we talked about today:
If you have any questions regarding DXPs, or you are interested in implementing them in your company – drop us a line! We’ve been working with DXPs for several years now, and we simply adore this solution. We’ll do our best to help you find and configure a platform that will completely fulfil your needs and expectations.
Throughout over 15 years of career in IT he has been working in variety of technical, advisory and managerial roles delivering digital solutions to mid and large companies. A mix of technical and business consultancy experience allows him to advise clients on applying technology to achieve measurable business results. He worked for clients like Canal Digital, Electrolux, Nord Pool Spot, Norsk Hydro.
Contact Dariusz: firstname.lastname@example.org