What is a 'Digital Experience Platform' and why do I need one?
In this blog, we’ll explore why 'Digital Experience Platform' (DXP) is a constant buzzword and why you might consider using one to extend your digital customer experience. Primarily we’ll do this in the context of looking at DXP capabilities that go beyond those of a Content Management System (CMS). We’ll also look specifically at the core components that make up a DXP.
Gartner defines a digital experience platform 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.”
But what does this actually mean?
Most organisations are already using some kind of CMS to deliver their digital services and this is the starting point for most DXPs. But where a CMS falls short is in its ability to treat customers as individuals. Fostering relationships digitally requires a seamless experience that crosses channels and it needs to be done at speed, while simultaneously reducing risk and complexity. This is what a DXP enables.
CMS vs DXP
On the surface, the capabilities of a CMS can look equally competitive to those of a DXP, especially when in the hands of skilled developers. But to say that the two compete underestimates the current digital needs of large enterprise.
A standalone CMS is a highly capable tool, with the right determination and in the right Developer’s hands, it’s still fair to say a CMS can deliver you almost anything. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. With the increased need to transact with customers across multiple channels a platform that enables fast integration and easily surfaces data from multiple locations is necessary to move at speed and scale over time. A DXP provides a way to deliver services without the compromise.
Here’s an easy way to broadly determine the need for a DXP: is your customer journey more complex than just a transaction? Do you need to foster a digital relationship with a customer, student, citizen or tenant over a long period of time and does that relationship involve providing them with a personalised service? If the answer is yes, then you probably have a need for a DXP.
Key components of a DXP
1. Content Management
Before moving beyond this point, we should, of course, acknowledge that content management still plays a core role in the make-up of a DXP. It is a core component that is supported by others, not replaced. Although this article focuses on the wider DXP components it’s important to cover off the essentials, including CMS. Building and managing content at scale, with easy editing and workflow, will assist with content creation, but the presentation is equally important, especially as part of a DXP. Control of the presentation layer and the ability to serve across multiple channels are essential to service the demand for an increasing number of end-points and devices.
A headless CMS enables the delivery of content that can serve multiple channels.
While search capabilities can be delivered with a CMS, and a CMS alone can operate in a headless capacity, having a DXP with a specific search tool and headless CMS, provides extensively more opportunity to improve a digital customer journey.
2. Search and Insight
The need to aggregate information and resources of disparate types and locations is a significant challenge for the enterprise. The best search and navigation solutions help break down functional silos, while providing intuitive or automatic ways to sort through information and find resources. The main purpose of search and navigation is to ensure users can discover and find information, applications, services and people.
The right DXP will ensure that your users can find information when they search for it, are guided through information taxonomies and are provided with recommendations for relevant content based on their behaviour and context.
New forms of navigation now allow users to discover information through relationships. For example, knowledge graph technology makes this possible through an intelligent understanding of the meaning within the content itself. This continuous evolution of the customer experience exposes the potential capabilities of a DXP.
3. Integrations and interoperability
The integration layer of your DXP needs to be comprehensive, with the capability to easily connect to any API using an open integration framework. It must also provide you with an ever-growing library of out-of-the-box integrations that will connect you to technology that will enhance your customer journey.
When choosing a DXP it is important to consider your existing tech gaps to determine what you need. Are you looking to rip and replace your entire tech ecosystem and re-platform onto one tech stack? Or are you looking to enhance your existing tech stack by making it more integrated and accessible?
Unless you have the budget to buy into a monolithic stack from a single vendor the way your DXP integrates your existing systems is one of its most important functions. Integration will
- surface data from disconnected systems to provide you with a single-source-of-truth
- connect systems to digitise the customer journey
- help you remove duplication.
4. Customer data management
Customer data management is another core component of a DXP. Collecting and storing information as users interact with your digital assets provides a new data source that contains deep insights into what your users need. The translation of that data results in an ability to present a more personalised experience, surfacing information across data collections - a now common, expectation of modern users (even if unknowingly). However, anyone who has tried to introduce personalisation will understand that complexity can easily build-up. A DXP provides data storage that enables you to easily deliver and surface personalised content and data across many channels.
Datastore supports both marketers and developers
A good datastore will enable personalisation that makes everyone’s lives easier. Marketers will have a simple editing interface with the insights they need to connect with the user, developers will have tools that enable them to build quickly build digital experiences and the end user will benefit from a seamless relevant experience.
Speed is also essential. A key benefit of a datastore is having access to data, fast.
Of course, once you’ve created a digital journey the process of learning and improving begins immediately. It’s essential to understand how your customers are behaving (not how you assume they are) and how your content is performing, in order to make well-informed improvements. Analytics enables you to do this and forms yet another key part of the DXP make-up.
Behavioural and content analytics provide understanding of what’s working and what’s not and helps you improve everything from reading grade, spelling or grammar mistakes and content duplication. The continual monitoring of such analytics provides confidence that your digital offering is performing at its optimum.
Finally your ability to easily deploy, manage and secure your DXP services is critical for digital agility. A secure cloud platform that enables you to meet best practice standards that has adequate bandwidth and enables fast data is crucial.
Bringing it all together
So, we’ve established that to service the needs of a sophisticated customer journey a DXP must combine search, content management and customer data storage to enable the creation of richer digital experiences. Then integration capabilities ensure that those digital experiences are connected to the back-end business systems and surface relevant content and data. Finally you must continually measure and monitor performance and effectiveness through the use of analytics.
The DXP enables multiple components to work together to deliver a unified customer experience
The continual sophistication of the customer journey, however, shouldn’t translate into an immediate expectation of ever-growing complexity for your organisation. In fact, the opposite should be the objective. The DXP has a further role to play, one that reduces the convolution of technology. Every element needs to be easily managed. Everything; each image used within content, each site created, each integration used and each component part of the DXP. It all needs to be managed through a unified interface that overcomes the potential for tech entanglement.
The ease of management of your DXP should ideally be combined with a sense that there is a much wider, overarching drive for simplicity, efficiency and time/cost-saving. Extended elements of the DXP can include access to pre-built components and templates; reusable assets that cut valuable development time and lower development risk.
These elements could be easily overlooked as simple add-ons, but that would be a mistake. Having access to a library of pre-built assets and resources could be the keystone that makes a new initiative commercially viable, unlocking the value of hidden development hours, already invested in the creation of reusable components.
While many digital journeys can be short-lived and end with a satisfyingly unambiguous transaction, there are many organisations grappling with the challenge of needing to maintain an on-going relationship that is based on services. Universities need to not only attract students but support them throughout their university life, and beyond. Local government offices need to reduce costs by providing a superior digital experience that drives channel shift away from call centres. Membership organisations need to enable their members to find unique value amongst bulging archives of content. And so on. A monetary transaction is not always the goal. Providing an efficient service that supports the user through an extended journey is the goal for many organisations. Improved engagement, efficiency savings, cost reduction are equally valid goals.
The UK central government recently announced savings in excess of £100M coming from the introduction of a programme of centralised HR services. Much of those savings are as a result of a complete transformation of their digital capability and the success of a newly developed self-service offering. At the heart of their transformational success sits a DXP. It has enabled them to implement a digital self-service solution without compromising on the experience they wanted to deliver; something that would have not been possible with a CMS alone.
When faced with the challenge of providing digital services to customers, where the primary goal is not to achieve a transaction, there is often an extended digital journey to consider. A journey that is frequently complex and challenging. There is little doubt that more organisations need to be successful in their ambition to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
What role should a DXP play in your digital ecosystem?
Digital marketing teams have long controlled content but they are infrequently in control of the back-end system of record. As the two become more reliant on each other to perform a seamless customer journey there will undoubtedly be some decisions to face around where the ownership of that journey lies.
What does the customer need? What can be done to continuously improve the journey for the customer? Viewing your world from the perspective of the customer that you’re servicing still remains an essential discipline and it's the one where the requirements for a DXP can first surface. One that answers the question of what role should a DXP play in your digital ecosystem? Those same customer demands have driven the rise of the DXP and so it is back to the customer that we look first to really understand the journey. It is then that we look to a DXP to support and connect that customer to the service being provided.