Omnichannel Marketing Automation

What Is a Digital Experience Platform? DXP vs CMS vs WEM

By Megan Warhurst


Providing optimal digital experiences is becoming a financial imperative. Today's customers 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.

So what's the solution? Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs), are an emerging category of software solutions that help to enhance customer experiences.

In this blog we’ll explore the need for personalized experiences, see how DXP helps in delivering those, and how you can get started with a DXP.

So, What's a DXP?

Gartner defines Digital Experience Platforms (DXPs) 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.

Do you follow? If not, don't worry — it’s impossible to encompass up everything a brand needs its digital experience to be in just 2 sentences.

However, the two core principles that stand out in this definition are that:

  • It takes multiple integrated technologies to control a wide span of touchpoints.
  • There is a need for one central platform to be the control center for this expanded experience.

With any new technology, the standardization of the particulars takes time and there’s a natural selection of which standard features end up sticking.

Read this next: 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms [Analyst 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.

In another one of our blogs, we take a more in-depth look at this evolution, but at the core it boils down to 3 stages:

  • CMS — Site Control: The introduction of CMS helped businesses gain control, but also introduced new challenges by creating silos in the organization. 
  • WEM — Channel Consistency: WEM brought centralization and consistency to the channel, providing better Content Management. However, in many cases, this reduced maintainability for IT.
  • DXP — Fully Intregrated Experience: A DXP combines the power of the WEM with the benefits of a radically open platform, leveraging the power of Microservices Architecture and APIs to reduce IT complexity. 

Content Management System (CMS)

Content Management Systems are a basic platform that help businesses organize written content, images, data, and other collateral needed for their online presence.

A CMS provides version management and authoring workflows to keep large, global sites consistent. Helpful note: Web Content Management (WCM) is more or less another name for a CMS.

Read this next: What is a Content Management System and How Does it Work? [blog]

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 deliver 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 now e-commerce businesses want to share any type of asset, or group of assets, across any digital touchpoint — online, in-store, on billboards, in kiosks, through customer portals, across e-commerce systems, and more.

It's become clear that the digital experience is 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 slice of that journey.

Read this next: The State of Commerce Experience 2021 [Analyst Study with Forrester]

For the customer experience to remain consistent from acquisition to advocate, these back-end systems need to integrate.

Digital is no longer just in the marketing team'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 a better customer experience has been around for quite some time in both the B2C and B2B arenas.

The next generation of CMS, Web Experience Management systems, 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.

seamless digital experience dxp

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.

This realization launched the Digital Experience Platform (DXP) — an open platform that easily integrates with other systems and departments — and that enables companies to craft truly personal experiences for customers.

Which is 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.

Teams should have the freedom to innovate with the fast-growing Martech space — and add or replace solutions and connect the data with minimal disruption to the experience as a whole.

Most organizations make technology investments in best-of-breed tools that they really enjoy working with. Flexible and frictionless connectivity is why Bloomeach believes an open, API-first approach, which is a key part of a modern DXP.

advantages of dxp digitial experience platform


[DXP Advantage #1]: Control Every Touchpoint

The number of interaction points you need to manage is rapidly growing. 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.

digital experience platform apis

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.


[DXP Advantage #2]: 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 transactions, 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.

digital experience platform connect business

An open DXP can bring every best-of-breed tool that impacts the experience together with minimal interruption. And 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.


[DXP Advantage #3]: A Flexible Architecture

For the above connections to work, the underlying structure of the DXP has to be flexible. For the Bloomreach Engagement, we turn to a microservice architecture to do this. What does this mean? Back-end logic is decoupled from front-end presentation, so developers and marketers can make changes 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 disrupting the rest. This is especially important when building and deploying custom components or integrations with other best-of-breed systems.

microservices apis digital experience platform

This flexibility also allows businesses to use their DXP to the best advantage. 

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: The Ultimate Guide to Headless Commerce [Guide] 

5 Key Ways How DXPs Address Today's Customer

  • 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.
  • 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 best-of-breed technology that has been chosen for specific use cases. DXP as an open platform, connects to these best-of-breed solutions. You can switch or upgrade a specific marketing tool as needed. 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. A 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.

A DXP is not only for B2C. Across all industries, B2B companies are facing the demand to make B2B shopping just as easy as B2C.

And like B2C, B2B shopping behavior will continue to be driven by digital developments. A DXP helps both B2B and B2C in creating that seamless customer experience that brings meaning, connection, and loyalty.

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 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.

  • Semantic Search

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.

Read this next: Semantic Search Explained in 5 Minutes [blog] 

  • Contextual Personalization

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 an 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.

This type of personalization needs to happen at the core of the experience, not on 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.  

  • 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. That simply isn't true — it's just the tool that will unlock the full potential of the great ideas marketers and commerce pros already have.

Read this next: The Case for Human+Machine [ebook]

While this quote's attribution remains a mystery, it's spot on, “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.

Do You Need a DXP?

Not every CMS company has evolved its 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 multiple touchpoints, a diverse audience, a business stake in digital, or all of the above are ready for this type of platform.

Read this next: How Digital Transformation is Driving Customer Experience [blog]

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 at 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.

If you are wondering how our customers use our Digital Experience Platform, check out the customer success stories here:

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Megan Warhurst

Content Marketing Manager at Bloomreach

Megan collaborates with Bloomreach experts and customers, as well as industry leaders, to create content for customer-obsessed marketers, digital transformers, and data-driven professionals. Megan is a CDP evangelist who believes in turning the power of data into relevant, authentic experiences across the digital landscape.

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