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How to choose the best digital experience platform

The pandemic has fueled changes to our work and daily routines, with a desire for convenience and door-to-door service driving digitalization across all industries. It has become critical for organizations to use digital technologies to facilitate visibility and interaction between themselves and their users (customer, partner or employee) through more and more digital channels. A consumer digital experience includes what is delivered to us, what is received from us and what is learned about us as individuals. Consumer demand is insatiable for outstanding digital experiences which are intelligent, efficient and personalized.

Whatever digital experience means to your organization, the power and direct link of digital experiences to business success cannot be underestimated. organizations need to take a reality check on whether their existing systems can process data to deliver actionable insight. Only this will enable them to rival or outperform their competition. For organizations looking to deliver on consumer expectations, there is one vital tool for the tech ecosystem which is designed to facilitate this digital experience - a digital experience platform (DXP).

One of the key prerequisites for digital experience, in every online interaction, is personalization. For instance, before a consumer even sets foot in a car dealership, they already have a good idea of what car they intend to purchase – including the financing options. Car brands spend great sums of money facilitating that discovery through digital means, in giving dealerships and employees mobile capabilities to make the journey to purchase as smooth as possible at any customer touchpoint.

How has the market evolved?

While DXPs have only been available for a couple of years, it is worth seeing how quickly systems have needed to change. As the Internet saw a need for centralized management of the text and images involved in the creation of websites, the proliferation of smart devices and app development enabled consumers to access a more complex set of content from anywhere. The Content Management Systems (CMS) and Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) which dealt with web presentation text and images now needed to evolve to manage documents, videos (opens in new tab), and sound files. As these connections and capabilities expanded, the focus shifted to the customer journey, the experience that digital presentation provides. This heralded the arrival of the DXP, which could offer connected customer experiences while gathering actionable customer insights.

Gartner defines a DXP as, “an integrated set of technologies, based on a common platform, that provides a broad range of audiences with consistent, secure and personalized access to information and applications across many digital touchpoints. DXPs are used to build, deploy and continually improve websites, portals, mobile and other digital experiences.” DXPs work by managing the presentation layer based on the role, security (opens in new tab) privileges and preferences of an individual. They combine and coordinate applications, including content management, search and navigation, personalization, integration and aggregation, collaboration (opens in new tab), workflow, analytics, mobile and multichannel support. A DXP provides the presentation orchestration that binds together capabilities from multiple applications to form seamless digital experiences with journey mapping and a 360-degree view of the customer.

In early 2020, DXPs formally emerged as the platform for organizations to embrace digital opportunities, when Gartner replaced the WCMS Magic Quadrant with the DXP Report. Capabilities like workflow, video-embedding, drag-and-drop page building, localization and translation were now a given. The distinct advantages of a DXP include continuous development and continuous delivery, personalization and optimization of content, analytics to report on and predict the success of campaign strategy, integration through APIs, plugins and connectors, ability to craft a customer journey, marketing automation capabilities, access to machine learning and other uses of AI, and real collaboration between digital marketing and DevOps teams.

DXP features driving the future of digital experience

With so many DXPs to choose from, it is hard for organizations to know where to start - getting the right features and capabilities is critical to ensure the DXP you choose is right for a specific business in its specific industry. Here are some of the most important features for consideration:

  • A composable DXP will enable an organization to build a DXP with capabilities which best suit the business as it grows.  These could include: Digital Asset Management, Social Media Connectivity, Digital Commerce, Multiexperience Support, Applied Artificial Intelligence, Collaboration & Knowledge Sharing, Chat with AI/ML Features, Architecture & Platform Design, and Customer Data Management.
  • Content management -  A more sophisticated DXP will focus on composability of components so the content component of a DXP will be different from a stand-alone CMS, assigning those overlapping capabilities to other modular components such as digital asset management.
  • Analytics/Insights/Recommendations - AI can accelerate testing and ultimately offer suggestions about what content could have performed better rather than merely report what content did perform better. Actionable analytics provide the ability to assess and continually improve performance through testing along with business intelligence integration. Platforms that provide insight into the performance of your content strategy are available and should be easily accessible to your business users.
  • Personalization - Digital experience is a personalized experience. organizations are investing in technology that can provide personalization, but often fail to benefit from that investment. The strategies to be planned and executed before becoming efficient in personalizing customer experience on a large scale can take months or years.
  • Cloud capabilities - With hosting options such as Microsoft Azure, AWS and Google the cloud (opens in new tab) deployment of your DXP can offer operational efficiency, autoscaling, near elimination of downtime risk and insight into the CI/CD processes streamline and optimize the management of your environment, freeing up your DevOps team to focus on their priorities.
  • MACH principles (Microservices, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless), are getting lots of attention these days, and as revealed by the name, can only be applied in a cloud environment. These are not new concepts but banded together, are important to consider as DXP platforms move toward more composable structure.
  • Integration, interoperability, and extensibility - Your DXP platform becomes the backbone of your Martech stack as you connect to your existing business systems and introduce modular components to increase the power and efficiency of your solution. Any modern platform offers an API layer to facilitate integration, interoperability, and extensibility. These should be robust and well-documented.
  • Look for a commitment to developers, such as adoption of the latest front-end development technologies such as .NET Core, which offers cross-platform development and rapid deployment. Look also for low-code and no-code connectivity options that highlight a commitment to providing ease of use for all practitioners using the platform. Ensure there is a strong developer community and partner channel backing the DXP you choose, to enable beneficial community innovation tools and widgets.
  • Search Engine Optimization - If a customer can’t find an organization, it may as well not exist. Therefore, a DXP that has search engine optimization (SEO) tools is vital as it enables an organization to climb up the search rankings. In particular, look for a DXP that allows you to control canonical URLs for content pages, and to change default URL format for dynamic content items. Modern platforms also include the ability to create an XML sitemap file with URLs and additional metadata to inform search engines about the site, its pages, and its content. It’s also important to have functionality for mobile formats, Open Graph settings and automated generation of metadata.
  • Site Search and Navigation - Customers won’t stay on the site for long if it is difficult to navigate. Search indexes allow you to define different sets of content to be searched by the visitors on your website. Most DXPs come with site search services such as Lucene, AzureSearchService or ElasticsearchService.
  • Customer Journey Mapping - Probably the capability that most defines a digital experience platform is the ability to comprehensively and seamlessly orchestrate and evaluate the success of the customer experience. DXPs do this programmatically and intentionally with content and connectivity through multichannel presentation of your brand's message.
  • Account Services/Security & Access Control - In order to manage the customer journey effectively, DXPs must provide a means to manage customer profiles securely for activity behind a secure and authenticated login. Self-service capabilities can only be supported if users can identify themselves with confidence knowing their data and interactions remain secure and private.

Features which are vital for all practitioners, regardless of which DXP you choose, are ease-of-use, cloud deployment and integrated chatbot capabilities, which are becoming increasingly important. The ideal DXP which will enable you to build what you need, deploy where and how you want, empower your customers, then manage it all safely and securely. A scalable DXP is core to a robust digital presence and will enable the fastest business growth. 

Phil Dunlop, General Manager, EMEA, Progress (opens in new tab)

Phil Dunlop

Phil Dunlop, General Manager, EMEA, Progress Software.