What is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)?
Providing optimal digital experiences is becoming a financial imperative. Customers of today expect experiences that are consistent and unified across every touchpoint. If companies don’t put their customers first today, they’ll lose their relevance and revenue sooner than later.
These needs are met by the Digital Experience Platform (DXP), an emerging category of software solutions. In this blog we’ll explore the need for personalized experiences, see how DXP helps in delivering and address what you’ll need to actually make it happen.
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So What Actually is a DXP?
'Gartner defines a digital experience platform as an integrated software framework for engaging a broad array of audiences across a broad array of digital touchpoints. Organizations use DXPs to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile apps and other digital experiences.'
So everything is immediately clear now, right?
Of course not, because it’s impossible to sum up everything a brand needs its digital experience to be in 2 sentences.
However, the two core principles that I feel stand out in this definition is that it takes multiple integrated technologies to control a wide span of touchpoints, and the need for one central platform to be the control center for this expanded experience.
As with all new things, the standardization of the particulars takes time and there’s a natural selection of which standard features end up sticking.
📔 Read this next: 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms [Report]
The Difference Between CMS, WEM and DXP
The principles and technology behind the DXP have evolved with the demands of the digital consumer and digital worker. We recently wrote a more in-depth look at this evolution, but at the core it boils down to 3 stages:
Content Management System (CMS): The basic system to help enterprises organize written content, images, data, and other collateral needed for their online presence.
A CMS provides version management and authoring workflow to keep large, global sites consistent. Web Content Management (WCM) is more or less another name for CMS, because we are an industry that loves acronyms.
Web Experience Management (WEM): As digital became a major facet of brands, new customer channels popped up, and cross-departmental collaboration began to rely on sharing digital information, WEM emerged.
These systems introduced rule-based personalization to the online experience, and gave the ability to collect user behavior, define personas, and create and provide unique content to the targeted audience.
Most importantly, WEMs allow companies to share content, data, logic, and other elements across channels consistently.
Digital Experience Platform (DXP): The experience quickly moved beyond just content, and just the web - businesses want to share any type of asset, or group of assets, across any digital touchpoint - online, in-store, billboards, kiosks, customer portals, eCommerce systems, and more.
It also become clear that the digital experience was no longer just a way to get people in the door, but critical to growing customer satisfaction and loyalty post-acquisition.
The digital journey has expanded, more back end applications are being used by different departments to handle their piece of that journey.
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For the customer experience to remain consistent from acquisition to advocate, these back end systems need to integrate.
Digital is no longer just in Marketing’s hands, the entire business is responsible for it.
This need for a connected, consistent experience - both internal and customer facing - led to the rise of the agile DXP.
At their core, all DXP vendors are trying to supercharge the way the digital experience is delivered.
All of these systems - CMS, WEM, and DXP - are still after the same thing - making the interaction between customer and brand meet both parties needs - but the way they enable this has evolved.
Why are DXPs Becoming More Popular?
The call for relevance and customer experience has been around for quite some time now in both B2C and B2B. The next generation of CMS, Web Experience Management systems (WEM), changed websites from brochures into an integral part of the customer journey.
This gave companies new ways to collect customer data, define personas and create exceptional experiences with unique content for specific audiences. Moreover, it connected new digital channels such as mobile apps and social media.
In practice, marketers found that these systems are designed to work with native data. WEM systems are stand-alone marketing tools that are difficult to connect to other systems. Data, profiling and applying business logic is limited when you work from a silo.
📔 Read this next: Win Customers for Life in the Digital Era [Guide]
This realization launched the Digital Experience Platform (DXP). An open platform that easily integrates with other systems and departments. That enables companies to craft truly personal experiences to customers. Something that companies today need more than ever.
The Advantages of a DXP
Having every tool you use to control your digital experience come from one company, all in one large suite, simply isn’t practical.
Every company should have the freedom to innovate with the fast growing Martech space, by being able to add or replace solutions, and connect the data they offer, with minimal disruption to the experience as a whole.
I have yet to meet a company that hasn’t already made technology investments and, more importantly, already have best-of-breed tools in place that they really enjoy working with. Flexible, and frictionless connectivity is why BloomReach believes an open, API-first approach is a key part of a modern DXP.
📖 Read this next: API-led Commerce Drives Next-Gen Digital Experiences [Guide]
Control Every Touchpoint
The number of interaction points you need to manage has rapidly grown, and will continue to do so.
Not only do you have to jump on each touchpoint as quickly as your customers expect them, you have to keep it all consistent in content, feel, and logic.
This is where API-first design shines. APIs hand out the raw information in a pre-defined way, and every touchpoint can present that raw information in their own structured way.
This means you write that FAQ document once and it can be used across web, mobile, customer portals, kiosks, chatbots, voice assistants, and any other digital touchpoints you choose. Update that FAQ document once, and it’s updated everywhere.
APIs sharing isn’t limited to simple content and data, but can provide entire elements as a service.
Define pricing logic once and share it with apps, 3rd party retailers, “buy me” buttons on social, and wherever else you’d like consistent information to be available.
Connects The Business
We know that a DXP is not the only tool you need in your kit. You need a marketing platform to bring customers in the door, a commerce platform to handle inventory and transaction, a support environment to work with existing customers, and the freedom to choose other point solutions that fit your unique needs.
The DXP sits at the center of these, using APIs to aggregate and orchestrate data to determine and show customers the right experience every time they walk through the door.
An open DXP can bring every best-of-breed tool that impacts the experience together with minimal interruption.
If a department has a prefered tool in place, they can simply connect it to the DXP with APIs, and can add and remove tools with ease - making experimentation much less daunting.
A Flexible Architecture
For the above connections to work, the underlying structure of the DXP has to be flexible. For the BloomReach DXP we turn to a microservice architecture to do this. What does this mean?
This means that back-end logic is decoupled from front-end presentation, so developers and marketers can make changes to both quickly and independently of each-other.
It also means that improvements to the platform can be made modularly, making and deploying changes in one area without disruption the rest.
This is especially important when building and deploying custom components or integrations with other best-of-breed systems.
This flexibility also allows businesses to use the DXP in the most valuable for them.
They can use “content-as-a-service” (aka headless) to store and dish out content in a structured API, or as “experience-as-a-service” to edit WYSIWYG style and serve whole elements out to front-end applications, use it for full site delivery where marketers edit and publish the content and presentation directly from the platform.
📔 Read this next: Bloomreach Architecture Overview
How a DXP Works with AI
Your experience spans across a growing number of touchpoints, you have data flowing in from multiple sources, and you brand is continuing to grow in customer base and in products and services offered - how do you continue to maintain and improve it?
Even more importantly, how do you find time to innovate?
Artificial Intelligence is the key here. It can assist you all across the experience, from doing the grunt work that powers personalization to discovering hidden insights within your data.
Having intelligence intrinsically in the DXP, where it has access to data from every tool and touchpoint, is the ultimate seat for AI to understand and improve the experience - from acquisition to loyalty.
We once asked 500 people to describe a red dress. They came up with 129 words for “red”, 275 descriptions of the belt, 105 descriptions of the length and 216 words to name the occasion at which one would wear the dress.
That’s over 80M combinations of search terms. For one item. Humans just simply can’t keep up. Site search needs the help of artificial intelligence to deliver the most relevant results, at scale, for any search query.
Keeping your visitors finding the information they want, and keeping them on your site.
For many companies, personalization is something that is both rule-based and left on the fringes of the experience. Stand alone elements like product grids, store location maps, and regional contact numbers were personalized based on hand written rules.
Of course manual rules can only go so far.
The same person visiting his insurance website on a weeknight via a desktop at home is going to have completely different needs visiting the same site at 2am on a mobile phone while abroad.
Writing a rule for every one of these micro-journeys a visitor might have would take eternity - and you’d probably still miss some.
This level of contextual personalization requires a deeper level of personalization, one that takes into account every piece of content, device use, customer behaviour, and successful conversion paths to learn, deliver, and learn again which patterns lead to better outcomes for which people at which times.
📕 Read this next: 12 Steps to Perfect Personalization [Guide]
This type of personalization needs to happen at the core of the experience, not the fringes.
The DXP platform, sitting at the connected heart of the experience, should be the place where this intelligence is housed and can talk to your entire solutions toolkit to keep learning about your visitors and continuously, automatically, improve their experience.
Before: Personalization on the fringes
After: Personalization at the core
Man and Machine
Having AI sitting at the heart of your experience not only means it can use the connected data to give your customers what they are looking for, it can use that data to show you insights you didn’t even know were there to look for.
How did you choose the metrics to measure your experience?
A gut feeling or following best practices perhaps? AI can open new doors to business insights by gleaning through your data, identify which patterns and trends are actually making an impact, and give you insights on what you can do to boost or change those patterns.
With all the rage of AI scalability and insights it can seem like computers won’t need us at all to create exceptional experiences.
I can’t say what will happen 300 years from now, but in today’s digital age humans are still very much needed.
📗 Read this next: The Case for Human+Machine
There is a quote I like, with an attribution that remains a mystery, that hits it right on the nose, “Computers are incredibly fast, accurate and stupid; humans are incredibly slow, inaccurate and brilliant; together they are powerful beyond imagination.”
Let AI fine tune your search, evolve the web of data and logic that powers personalization, and show you all the hidden gems and insights, and let the real people behind your brand to focus their efforts on the creativity, ethics, and truly original ideas that are what really gives your digital experience that unique competitive advantage.
5 Key Ways How DXP Addresses Today's Customer
The business need for personalization is clear and we explained the developments that lead to DXP. So how does DXP help in meeting the demands of today’s customers? By agility and data processing, often using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning technologies. This gives companies using DXP the following advantages:
Actionable insights: DXP connects the internal operational systems with all the digital channels. Not just web, mobile and social media, but also in-store, on billboards, in customer portals or via e-commerce systems. That enables customer data capturing, processing and profiling, which gives a unified 360 degree view of the customer. So when customer service handles that rude tweet, they‘ll know the customer history beforehand. Or the sales department sees the interests and lead score of a potential customer before calling.
Match experience to user needs: DXP helps identify user needs by profiling and data prediction. Regardless of channel or device, the right digital experience can then be created real time with the right content, offer and emotional appeal. This will lead to a better, faster and more efficient customer journey.
Become customer-oriented: By connecting DXP with internal systems, you can track customers, map their customer journey and identify crucial bottlenecks. And that enables you to reengineer your business practises. That’s exactly how the new disruptors of today operate: by offering a superior customer experience.
Connect best of breed solutions: Companies typically use technology that has been chosen in the past to be best fitting. DXP as an open platform, connects to these best of breed solutions. You can switch or upgrade a specific marketing tool whenever you see the need. This makes your marketing agile and allows you to grow your personalization in manageable steps.
Optimal content usage: Quality content comes at a price. Especially if you’re looking to create personalized content. DXP allows you to coordinate your content to drive reuse across multiple environments by decoupling the presentation layer from the content and its metadata. Your content becomes like water, filling each container completely and fittingly. This means your content investments will yield better results.
DXP is not only for B2C. Across all industries, B2B companies are facing the demand to make B2B shopping just as easy as B2C. Because today, 64% of B2B buyers research at least half of their work purchases online. And 38% make half or more of their work purchases online.
📔 Read this next: The Rise of the B2B Customer Experience Imperative [Guide]
And like B2C, B2B shopping behavior will continue to be driven by digital developments. DXP helps both B2B and B2C in creating that seamless customer experience that brings meaning, connection and loyalty.
Do you need a DXP?
Not every CMS company has evolved their platform toward a DXP, nor does every one of them need to.
The core principles of CMS, version management, workflow, authorization and content organization, are still fundamental to creating a digital experience.
For companies that don’t currently use digital as a main driver of business, these features meet their current needs.
DXP platforms should be considered by companies at the stage in digital where they would benefit from a fully connected experience.
Brands with a multiple touchpoints, a diverse audience, a business stake in digital, or all of the above are ready for this type of platform.
The businesses urgently in need of a DXP are those with multiple back-end systems and front in tools currently in silos along the experience, and have marketers and developers hungry to innovate with highly differentiated customer experiences.
Deciding if you need a DXP, or are satisfied with a CMS, requires a critical look at where your digital experience is today and, even more importantly, at what level you want it to perform in the next 5 years.
Ultimately, the right platform is the one that efficiently supports your needs at the right level.
How to Get Started
To fully utilize DXP, nothing short of a digital transformation is needed. It’s not just about creating a digital experience. It’s about creating the best digital experience. Having an effective website or an app is just the starting point.
You’ll need to tie your digital channels with your business operations and learn to apply business logic to your customer interaction. Any legacy application architecture needs to be dealt with and any source of customer data needs to be connected.
As Forrester analyst Liz Herbes notes: “Real digital transformation spans both the experience layer and the operations core.”
Are you ready to deliver the best digital experiences to your customers? Let us walk you through how a Digital Experience Platform can work for your organization. Book at demo today.
Gartner research. Forecast Snapshot: Digital Experience Platforms, Worldwide, 2017. Bianca Francesca Granetto, Yanna Dharmasthira, Fabrizio Biscotti. [6 November 2017]
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