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What Is A Digital Experience Platform? DXP vs CMS Explained

The need to manage and disseminate content digitally, on the internet, has been around for the best part of 30 years. From rudimentary content management systems (CMSs) in the 90s through to the fully-fledged digital experience platforms (DXPs) that we see today, the evolution has been rapid. But despite this rapid rate of change in digital technology and behaviour, business and IT leaders are still expected to make technology decisions today that will have a critical impact on tomorrow’s success. (We’ll be discussing this challenge, and how to create the ultimate, future-proofed digital eco-system in our upcoming webinar, Beyond 'Open' Tech: How to deliver great digital experiences in less time & cost).

We’ve previously discussed what a DXP is and why you might need one. But what differentiates a DXP from a CMS? Is a DXP essential or will a CMS suffice? What can organizations do with a DXP that they can’t do with a CMS? In this blog post, we’ll explore these questions, and more.

Toby Margetts

Written by

Toby Margetts
‎Digital Strategy Lead – Squiz
14 August 2020


The difference between the two is subtle but important. So important, that Gartner recently replaced its annual Magic Quadrant Web Content Management report in favour of a DXP report (CMSWire). Gartner defines the two as follows:

  • DXP: “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.”
  • CMS: “comprising a set of templates, procedures and standard format software that enables marketers and their proxies (e.g. webmasters) to produce and manage...any marketing activity requiring single or multimedia content.”

In short, a CMS is mainly focused on the production and management of digital content, whereas a DXP is also focused on how, where and when that content is delivered. But, in order to fully understand the differences, it’s worth considering the potted history of the CMS and how the DXP has evolved from it, in order to meet modern customer needs.

In the beginning, there was RAINMAN

In 1992 AOL developed a Remote Automated Information Network Manager, better known as RAINMAN. It allowed content publishers to directly place their content into a live navigation hierarchy and present it to the world. It was arguably the first iteration of a traditional CMS as we know it today.

As the adoption of the worldwide web infiltrated modern life, organizations needed a quicker, cheaper and more secure way of managing their content. The CMS needed to upskill fast in order to meet these needs – and it did. WYSIWYG editors meant users no longer needed to understand code to create content. Workflow automation increased the speed at which content was approved. Responsive templates allowed content to be read and watched on multiple devices. Dozens more features and functionalities became standard over time. This gave rise to the hundreds of CMS providers that we see today, each offering a selection of out-of-the-box features to improve the experience of both the CMS user and the customer viewing the content.

But the revolution didn’t stop there.

Customers expectations soar

The digital age has ushered in a generation of ‘always-on’ end-users that have greater expectations from their digital interactions. In addition, advancements in technology allow organizations to have deeper, more meaningful interactions with their customers, across an ever-expanding number of channels. The traditional CMS is often found wanting in its ability to effectively provision, automate, personalise, track and measure these types of experiences. Organizations that cannot provide compelling, personalized digital experiences to their customers will fall behind competitors and, ultimately, fail.

This is where the DXP comes in.

Advantages of a DXP 

In many ways, the DXP is the evolved, new and improved tool for managing the customer experience. But for leaders currently making a business case for investing in a DXP rather than a CMS, there are very real benefits for both the customer experience and the bottom-line.

1. Large Scale Management

CMSs are often limited in their ability to manage large amounts of content or assets. Once multiple platforms, channels and mediums are factored in (i.e. IoT devices, wearables, digital billboards, apps etc.) they can often become overwhelmed. A DXP is a more capable solution that lets you sync and push content to all these places seamlessly, so you can remain in complete control of the customer experience.

2. Better Personalization

DXPs enable your organization to personalize omnichannel campaigns on a deeper level due to centralized data. In addition, these campaigns can be more contextually personalized due to the DXP’s ability to roll out content that is based on customers needs and context.

3. 360 Degree View of the Customer

A DXP can provide detailed data points on any given customer at any given time, allowing marketers to tailor messages to an unprecedented degree. This helps identify and eliminate pain points, makes businesses more effective and creates a more helpful and relevant customer experience.

4. Increased productivity 

A DXP can reduce the number of silos within an organization, allowing employees to access information or data at any time from one centralized location.

5. Short time-to-market for commerce sites

DXPs contain fully-fledged e-commerce features that can be integrated with the content management solution rather than the traditional model that required separate integrations with e-commerce solutions that were both expensive and time-consuming.

DXP vs CMS: which is right for your organization?

If you’ve read this far, you might be thinking 'would my organization benefit from a DXP?’ The best way to answer that question is to ask yourself the following question: Is digital a key driver of your business, or will it be in the near future? If the answer is yes, then a DXP would undoubtedly help your organization deliver better digital experiences to your customers.

So when else might a DXP be an appropriate solution?

1. Your organization is bloated with dozens of disparate systems that restrict the effectiveness of marketing teams and developers

2. Your customers are diverse and engage with you on multiple channels across various devices

3. You don’t possess a 360° view of your customer base

4. You struggle to deliver truly personalised experiences to your customers

Introducing the Squiz DXP

The Squiz Digital Experience Platform allows you to build sophisticated customer experiences and digital services using advanced content management, intelligent search, deep content analytics, flexible data management and rapid integration. You can use it to orchestrate your entire digital experience with a flexible and open platform that works with the tools you already use.

Here’s what’s inside:

  • Content management - Often at the heart of a DXP is the continued ability to create, supply and manage content  to customers on any channel and any device in any format
  • Datastore - Collect and store customer interaction data that can be used to develop new, personalized digital experiences
  • Personalised search - Fragmented data sources, permission-based access and location-specific queries make it hard to provide the right answers to search queries. Relevant and personalised search results across digital properties by using machine learning across almost any data repository
  • Analytics - Inform decisions and optimise content to better connect with customers and turn customer behaviour into actionable insights.
  • Low code integrations - Deliver and scale digital experiences at speed while reducing costs and maintaining flexibility with an open, integrated platform.

Far from being another digital fad, the DXP is here to stay. In fact, many businesses are already convinced that a DXP is the only way to deliver the experiences that modern customers expect, with the DXP market projected to reach $15.8 billion by 2025 (Grand View Research, Inc). That doesn’t mean that the CMS is dead – far from it – but what is clear is that organizations are recognising the need to develop deeper, more meaningful digital relationships with their customers whether they’re students, citizens, tenants or something else. A DXP contains all the tools an organization might need to do just that, allowing them to drastically improve the customer experience.

For more information on the Squiz DXP visit

Toby Margetts

Written by

Toby Margetts
‎Digital Strategy Lead – Squiz
14 August 2020

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