What is a DXP and what are its advantages?
Have you ever heard about Digital Experience Platform (a.k.a. DXP)? If not, don’t worry! You will hear about it within moments. Quite often, we tend to tag these new technical terms as meaningless marketing jargon specifically created to emphasize a simple and easy concept. We all do it once in a while.
Let me be very straightforward: sometimes it happens for the DXP too. But, bear with me, in this case it’s the core topic I want to discuss so it’ll help us to better understand what we are talking about. Before judging a concept as marketers mumbo-jumbo, let me tell you more about DXPs.
What is DXP?
As the name suggests, we are referring to a platform which has the purpose to rationalize and optimize the user journey of a user who travels within your different digital properties. Too formal? It’s a single system which you can use to manage your user experience on all your digital products.
Whether you have one or more websites, mobile apps, e-commerce, physical stores, smartwatch app, smart TV, cars, IoT devices, etc (I could go on for hours) a DXP is the only access point from which you can control the user experience that moves quickly and smoothly from a device to another one.
The success of DXP is expected to increase more and more for various reasons. First of all, nowadays, your user demands an experience of the highest level and consistent with your brand in terms of design, tone of voice, and contents, regardless of the tools you are using, being it a smartwatch or a touch-screen in a mall.
Let’s get to the meat of it: what does a DXP look like? Well, conceptually there are two options. You can choose a single platform (monolithic) that is to say you can not split it into smaller parts, which manages all the fundamental aspects of your users’ journey. Another option could be a more flexible platform which is able to adapt to the evolution of the tech world. This platform is composed of many integrated services following a micro services architecture. But which one’s the best?
As usual, the correct answer is “it depends on the business goals of the company”. My two cents? A flexible solution composed of different tools combined is definitely the most practical, because it helps to add or replace easily each module and integrate new features. We should always keep in mind that a micro-services architecture is also future-proof. So, from now on, when I talk about DXP, I’m referring to this latest version, the flexible one which integrates several micro-services.
“All right, we got it. Could you now, please, explain the advantages of using this DXP?”. Let’s dive a bit deeper.
The 3 great advantages of a DXP
You definitely have an idea of what kind of advantages you could get by using a DXP to coordinate your digital properties. There are several positive aspects, most of them regarding different business areas.
1. Flexibility and farsightedness
The topic has already been discussed in the previous paragraph, but I think it is important to emphasize it. The days when replacing a business software took months and the company risked losing decades of monolithic and archaic architectures are over. A modern DXP, built on the principle of micro-services, enables you to add, remove, replace any piece of the puzzle without destroying the whole ecosystem.
Even better, the fact that all parts are connected in a flexible way helps you to create a platform which is already projected into the future. If a new tool was released to manage the delivery with Amazon’s drones or a new AI algorithm capable of predicting the type of content your client would like to read during the day, you could simply connect new models without throwing away what you’d built so far. This is the reason why this architecture is called future-proof.
2. Consistency with brand identity
This is a huge topic, but let me throw personalization in the mix too. The main goal of a well made DXP is to act as a common thread which unifies all the digital proprieties of the company (including those that do not yet exist and can be added in the future). By distributing all the content in a single hub, it becomes easier to create a smooth omni-channel experience.
Why I was speaking about personalization? Personalizing the content according to the users’ preferences and behavior is becoming more and more relevant in order to offer them a more pleasant and immersive experience. Even in this case, having a single CMS which communicates with the CRM is vital to serve content in a dynamic and customized way based on the visitor, his/her behavior, and based on the device he/she is using, etc.
3. Data-driven decisions
Lastly, one of the most important advantage which is connected with personalization, the topic I have just spoken about. How is it possible to build a dynamic and personalized experience without having the possibility to collect and analyze data in an efficient and continuative way? That is why a modern and well made DXP can make a real difference.
By integrating all the digital proprieties and creating a proper layer which gathers all the needed data for every platform, it is possible to improve the user experience. In addition, it provides decision makers the tools to create an experience more in line with the user habits – which are getting more and more sophisticated – while keeping it invisible to the eyes of the end user.
But how do I make all of this happen? How do I build a successful DXP?
Which are the most relevant parts of a DXP?
Let’s start with the basics: it does not exist a basic configuration of a Digital Experience Platform. There are no limits in terms of modules, services, integrations, neither minimum nor maximum. I suppose you have already understood that it is not so easy to present this topic in a clear way, because it does not have a defined shape (which is actually its greatest virtue).
There are two big macro-categories which compose a DXP: the part of management content (CMS) and the part regarding the management experience (Engagement Platform). The micro-services structure makes flexible and potentially endless the number of modules unified to create the perfect DXP. Are there some modules which are essentials, or nearly, for a success DXP? I will try to stress some of them.
Content Management System (CMS)
The CMS, in its modern and flexible version (called CMS Headless), is the heartbeat of the DXP. From here, various specialists who collaborate to create a high-value omni-channel customer experience are able to create, publish, translate, modify all the contents distributed on several platforms.
A modern CMS Headless offers the content through API to any connected digital products, easily and quickly. Even if you have tens of web sites, apps, and other devices, you will have a single platform which you will use for all of them. In a very short time, you will reduce the number of platforms on which you are working every day, by creating a single and influential source from which you can distribute all the contents on your digital products.
I will tell you more about what a CMS Headless is and why it is so fundamental in a successful DXP. If I create content and send it to anyone, how can I create a personalized experience capable of capturing the user preferences?
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
The answer is the CRM. I’m sure you heard of it, maybe in its most ancient sense: the digitized version of your rolodex. Even though it could have some similarities, the new goal of the CRM has become wider and increasingly important.
A good CRM platform can monitor the user during his path through your digital properties. The CRM knows where the user comes from, what platform he visits, and all of his journey, step by step. Moreover, it will collect user preferences and behavior in order to use them and personalize his/her experience to make it unique.
What language has been chosen by the user? Does the user want to see the prices in euro or dollars? Through which link did the user find us and download the app? In which time slots the user prefers to use the tablet rather than the laptop? What kind of content does the user consume more, based on the day of the week or based on the hour of the day?
But the question is: now that I know all this stuff, how do I use it?
Data Analytics Platform (DAP)
The CRM intercepts data, which are sent to an ecosystem with the task of helping the user to collect, organize, interpret, and use this amount of information. Squeezing this concept in the Data Analytics Platform is extremely reductive. You need to know that a DAP is formed by a lot of modules that can be integrated and connected to extract meaning from the mass data you collected.
For instance, the CRM can record if you want to navigate in the English version site, if your preferred currency is euro, if you prefer videos to images, and if you prefer to get news from a particular country. The DAP store all the data which are served to CRM in order to make a more pleasant and personalized user experience.
In the DAP ecosystem, there are AI systems capable of anticipating user’s needs thanks to predictive algorithms (machine learning) and they are able to predict future behavior by analyzing past ones.
There are also tools for human beings with the propose of making the data human-readable. In this case, I am referring to BI platforms which facilitate the creation of reports by automating as many aspects as possible. These platforms make the data accessible to the company’s decision makers so they can make decisions based on that.
As I said in the introduction, this is a non-exhaustive list. It could be integrated with more systems, for instance for specific fields, such as platforms which manage the e-commerce (product management, contents A/B testing and CTA, customized experience, etc…) or those that manage the automatization of the relationship with the user (e.g. chat-by or the dynamic FAQ management and knowledge base).
Based on the assumption that a DXP has not any expansion limits, is there an essential element? In theory the answer is no, but let me explain why I disagree.
Why CMS Headless should be vital for a DXP?
Take 10 marketers and put them in the same room, for sure they will agree on the best hour to publish a post on a social network, but they will not come to the conclusion if it is more important data or content. In my opinion, the truth is that a modern company can not create content without data but, at the same time, it doesn’t make sense to collect data if the company is not able to exploit them to customize its contents and make its user’s experience better.
That’s why I think that the headless CMS is the beating heart of a modern DXP. It’s the tool that made the DXP possible in the first place. Let me get back to my previous example to clear things up.
We built a complex infrastructure, with a CRM to collect data and a DAP, integrated with various tools, to store and analyze it, in order to give our CMS instructions on how to create a customized experience for the user. With a myriad of monolithic CMS’s, it would be almost impossible to set up an ecosystem capable to serve a seamless cross-platform experience for all users.
Companies are trying to unify their digital properties and create a pleasant and immersive omni-channel experience that creates a seamless user journey for the user. The headless CMS was created for that purpose: to become the only source of truth where you can stores your content and then publish it to all your digital products in real time, taking into consideration the data collected and analyzed by the CRM/DAP.
If I managed a news website, I could be able to collect countless bits of information regarding user preferences; their preferred language, the ideal medium where they consume content (do they prefer videos on their tablet and articles on their mobile device?), from the topics they are most interested in to the spots on the page where they click more frequently, such as banners and ads. With a headless CRM, it is easy to adapt the content accordingly; I can create a super quick marketing test, change the landing page’s content on the fly in my website, in my selling page, or I can show the content in different languages, and lastly, I can show certain content formats quickly and effortlessly based on user behavior.
In a nutshell, you can try to still optimize your content with an headless CMS, even if you’re not great at gathering data; on the other hand, it would be worthless to collect a huge amount of data to customize the user experience if you do not have a CMS able to quickly adapt to the omni-channel world we are living in.
I know this is a lot to take in. I hope it was useful to get an overview of how a company could adapt to the challenge of omni-channel communication. I could have said much more obviously, and maybe I will. In the meanwhile, let’s summarize what I touched upon:
- What is a Digital Experience Platform:
- The single access point from which you manage all your user experience;
- It’s nothing more than a galaxy of inter-connected micro-services;
- What are the advantages of a DXP:
- Flexibility and farsightedness;
- Brand identity consistency;
- Data-driven decision making;
- The parts which compose it:
- Content and media management (Headless CMS);
- Data management (CRM, DAP, BI, AI, etc.);
- Why the CMS Headless is the heart of DXP:
- The content is served based on data by creating a unique experience for the user;
- It allows the marketer to test hypotheses quickly to shrink down go-to market strategies.