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Digital Experience Platform vs. CMS

Brooklin Nash
May 21, 2019
IT & Development

Digital Experience Platform vs. CMS

There is an emerging type of software solution that enables companies to streamline digital customer experiences — digital experience platforms (DXP). DXPs largely evolved from content management systems (CMS). These two types of software often get confused with each other because they share the same roots, and DXPs often incorporate CMS features. But the two are very different, even though there is overlap between their functions.

A CMS enables businesses to manage and publish their online content such as blog articles, images, data, etc. Traditionally, CMS have primarily focused on web content and are sometimes called ‘web content management systems’. However, some CMS have expanded to include the ability to create, publish, and manage content across multiple digital channels.  DXPs, on the other hand, typically incorporate some standard CMS functions plus engagement with consumers across all digital touchpoints. They also feature the ability to personalize content and individual digital experiences across different channels. These digital channels can include social media platforms, mobile applications, online storefronts, email, customer portals, and text/SMS. A DXP also has greater data collection and analysis capabilities, allowing companies to track and aggregate user engagement metrics across digital channels.

DXPs are flexible tools designed to help optimize user experiences across digital touchpoints. Many DXP products offer different types of features and may come in the form of a suite of integrated point solutions, or a platform solution. This can make the research process for choosing a DXP more complicated — unlike other solutions which mostly share similar components, DXPs take on different forms.

Some companies choose to stick with a CMS, while others choose to undergo a ‘digital transformation’ with a DXP. Continue reading to learn more about CMS and DXP solutions, how they can serve your business, and which solutions to consider for your software stack.

What is a DXP?

A DXP incorporates all the functions of a CMS, but also integrates content across all digital touchpoints, tracks user engagement, and can personalize content and digital experiences. DXPs can come as a suite of software tools, or as a single software solution. Though DXPs are flexible in their format and use cases, they share some core functions.

The main functions of a DXP include multiple user access, streamlined omnichannel customer engagement, data collection and analysis across all touchpoints, personalization capabilities, and secure storage of customer data gathered from multiple channels. Some of these functions overlap with customer experience management (CXM) tools in addition to CMS products.

DXPs are a natural progression of CMS solutions. As online commerce and activity change, consumers expect to be able to engage with a company across websites, social media, and apps, as opposed to just reading web content. DXPs allow businesses to facilitate these interactions in a consistent and integrated way. For example, if a company produces a piece of content for their website, this content can be easily integrated into their customer portals, chat tools, eCommerce platform, mobile app or social media profiles.

For larger websites, DXPs can help personalize site visitor experiences by automatically setting their page to the region’s landing page, language and compliance settings. This makes for a much more user-friendly experience for visitors in different geographic areas.

Though CMS solutions enable data collection and a certain level of content personalization, DXPs can perform these tasks more effectively and across channels.

Various Types of DXPs

Because DXPs are diverse in their functionality, it is easiest to categorize them based on their legacy software.

CMS-inspired DXPs are best suited for creatives and marketing teams. These tools can be best harnessed for customer acquisition and relationship building. This line of DXP offers robust tools for customer segmentation, email campaigns, advertising, and web-based analytics.

eCommerce inspired DXPs are built with online stores in mind. They typically integrate with eCommerce platforms if they do not offer eCommerce functionality themselves, enable stores to personalize their content for individual shoppers, and integrate with the online tools eCommerce stores need (shopping carts, payment systems, inventory management, order fulfillment, etc.)

Portal inspired DXPs are built for companies that use portals for their long-term customers. Portals collect very personal information and offer customers details on their individual accounts with the company. These can be used to offer individualized promotions, keep tabs on renewals, manage individual policies, and store warranties.

These DXPs are not limited to the capabilities associated with each category. There is overlap between the features different vendors offer, but it can be easier to identify a DXP’s focus based on the legacy system it evolved from.

There is a wide range of use cases for DXPs. But knowing how DXPs are functionally different from one another can help you determine which DXP is best suited for your business.

Are CMSs Still Viable for Businesses?

In short, yes!  A CMS enables businesses to manage and deploy online content without requiring any technical knowledge. A CMS can be used to publish blogs, reports, eCommerce content, and more. This type of software enables multiple users to access to a company’s website. A marketing professional can publish the most recent blog article, an HR administrator  can post a job opening, the PR team can release a press release, and so on.

A CMSs can range from a simple blogging platform to a solution that allows users to manage a more complicated website. Most CMS solutions offer features such as page templates, website themes, a WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor, publishing workflows, content scheduling, form generation, SEO support, API, and analytics tools and more.

Though some CMS solutions are open-source and free, many most businesses choose paid tools because they offer more customer support and are often more user-friendly tools. These range in price based on the number of users, the amount of content it will support, and the level of utilized features. Many are subscription based, but there are also lifetime licenses available.

However, most traditional CMS platforms do not integrate your content across all your digital access points, such as customer portals, gateways, chat, etc.

The core features of a CMS platforms are still very much needed for businesses, but can be limited for companies that want to take their customer experiences further than their own website or blog. For companies looking to expand their digital presence, a DXP might be a more suitable choice.

Top Rated CMS Software on TrustRadius

Before jumping into all things DXP, explore customer reviews of popular CMS solutions listed on TrustRadius. Customer reviews can give you insight into the experience of those who choose to use a CMS for their site. Here are the Top Rated software listed: WordPress, Squarespace, Cascade Server, Weebly, Kentico, Wix, Drupal, and Acquia.

Key Differences Between a CMS and a DXP?

Both CMS and DXP solutions provide an important service for businesses. While a CMS traditionally manages the customer-facing content of a website, a DXP manages customer  experiences, including interaction with content, across all digital touchpoints.

To break it down into specifics:

Structured vs Flexible: CMS platforms have a very structured way of managing and deploying serialized content. Think about templates, web themes, and very little wiggle room for customization to your site without the help of a developer. In contrast, DXPs are more flexible. They can be used for many different purposes and integrated with different platforms and tools.

Available Features: CMS platforms generally have a set of standard features. DXPs have a wider range of features that also include CMS functionality, and can differ from product to product.

All-in-One vs API-first model: CMS software can be an all-in-one platform or API first, meaning there is more room for build custom software integrations. A DXP is typically founded on an API-first methodology.

Scalability: Traditionally, CMSs have managed web content, whereas DXPs can publish content and engagement tools across websites, social media channels, customer portals, online stores, IoT devices, and mobile apps. As your business grows and adapts to changing consumer preferences, a DXP may be better equipped to grow with you.

Do I Need a CMS or a DXP?

Some businesses are perfectly content with their CMS, and plan to continue providing their audience with primarily web content. But others are starting to provide content and other engagement materials across multiple digital channels, and may need a solution that can help them manage the customer experience across these channels. It all depends on how your business interacts with consumers, how your audience wants to engage with your business, and what financial resources you are willing to invest in creating digital experiences. This is a team decision. Multiple departments will use the solution you choose to manage and publish content. Buyers should check in with all colleagues who work with your company’s content. Ask if they are happy with the tools you currently use, or if there is room to explore different options.

Where to Start Your DXP Research

If you are interested in adding a DXP to your software stack, it can be intimidating to know which tools to start comparing. Here are a few vendors to get started with:

Interested in a DXP with CMS roots?  Adobe Experience Manager, Sitecore Web Content Management, and Kentico Web Content Management are good solutions to check out first. These solutions feature tools for marketing, email campaigns, customer segmentation, personalization, and customer analytics. If you are looking to use regional websites, with different languages, these tools are a great place to start exploring.

Are you an eCommerce brand looking to improve your customer experience with one integrated solution? Start your research with SAP Hybris, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Magento Commerce Cloud. These solutions offer many of the same features that the CMS-heritage DXPs offer, but are tailored to companies leveraging online sales. All of these seek to unify your shoppers’ experiences. Magento Commerce Cloud might be better suited for those who already use Magento as their eCommerce platform. Salesforce Commerce Cloud and SAP Hybris serve both B2B and B2C businesses.

Is your portal central to your customer retention strategy? Liferay Digital Experience Platform and Jahia are the DXPs you’ll want to check out first. These DXPs are great tools for integrating portals and intranets with your other digital content and touchpoints. Like other DXPs, these solutions can be used for content management, facilitating customer experiences, and managing customer data across all channels.

This list is designed to be a good jumping off point for your research. Because different industries use DXPs differently, one way to take your research further is by using the advanced filters on the DXP Reviews Page. You can sort reviews based on the reviewer’s role, industry, company size and more. This can help you find reviews from like-minded professionals who really understand what you are looking for in a DXP.

Moving Forward: A CMS or DXP?

A CMS is a useful tool for any company that produces content on a regular basis, but might not be able to provide the integrated digital experience consumers now expect.

A DXP brings all content and digital experiences under one system. This can make branding, customer acquisition and relationship management more cohesive. No matter the industry — insurance, B2B, B2C, retail, hospitality, construction — all businesses need tools to manage their online content. It’s just a question of which tools will enable you to create the best, most synchronized customer experiences.

To really get a feel for what a CMS or DXP can offer your business, and most importantly your audience, read real customer reviews. Professionals like you are the best source of information on specific use cases, benefits, and limitations of a software.  

About the Author

Brooklin Nash

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