Headless

What is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)?

Aleksandar Basara 9 min read
What is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)
Photo by Glen Carrie / Unsplash
Table of Contents

DXP are one of the best solutions to provide a multi-experience journey to users, regardless of where they come from or the platform/device they use, streamlining your web presence.

They are ideal for any business with a web presence across different platforms. Likewise, they are suitable for working with different user groups simultaneously, as well as intercompany teams and partners, keeping everything synchronized and in the same place.

What is a Headless DXP?

The term “headless” often refers to the headless CMS concept, but is also applied to digital experience platforms as well. Having no “head” means the platform does not have a fixed front end. Instead, each platform that tries to access DXP content will “pull” its head, resulting in an optimal experience for every single user.

How does a DXP work?

DXP guarantees an optimal, multi-platform user experience by harnessing the power of API. APIs allow applications to communicate with each other and serve as an interpretation that ensures both sides get what they need in the most efficient way possible.

Due to the API-based architecture, DXP can deliver a genuinely user-first experience. With them, what's in front of the end consumer will never be limited by the tools you use to build it.

Besides having an API-based architecture and being headless, DXP also utilize cloud technologies and microservices, putting even more power in users' and developers' hands.

DXP components

Depending on the needs of your business, a DXP can consist of different components. But, there are a few critical capabilities of digital experience platforms they all share:

Content-first omnichannel experience: the key feature of DXP's is the omnichannel presence. With a DXP, you only need to author the content once. The technology will ensure each user gets it the way you intended it once created, no matter the access channel.

Ultimate personalization and automation capabilities: as DXP's aren't tied to one “main” platform but are frontend-agnostic, the customization possibilities are endless. You will be able to create an ultimate experience for every user group and every single access point, ensuring your brand presence always remains top-notch.

Integrations and automation capabilities: because of the API architecture, you will also be able to fully connect all the tools you already use and create integrations and automation, resulting in an ultimate user experience across the board. It will also improve the overall productivity within your organization, as every data piece will be handled in the same place.

Content and asset management: finally, DXPs improve how you manage content and assets. Because you will have everything drawn from a single place without cumbersome integrated heads, your team won't waste time on constant content tweaks to ensure everything looks how it's supposed to on various platforms.

When it comes to the digital experience platform vs. CMS, DXP's provide some distinct benefits:

Traditional CMS is rigid: because monolithic CMS has an integrated head, it is far less flexible than a digital experience platform. That will mean limited capabilities to serve content on new platforms, creating more problems as technologies change and require constant updates.

DXP is customer-oriented: CMS has a hierarchical functionality, which means the tool itself can become a concern when the content database grows. DXPs aren't hindered by structure – the end-user will dictate how the content will look, depending on the device they use, guaranteeing the best possible user experience.

DXP is future-proof: because DXPs deliver content upon API request in an optimal form, they will be able to do that basically forever or as long as APIs are in use. On the other hand, CMS relies heavily on the compatibility of its current version and any system that tries to access the content, making it more challenging to stay bug-free as time passes.

Why do you need a digital experience platform?

While we already highlighted some benefits DXPs offer, the truth is that most of the web still relies on traditional CMS. So, why bother reinventing the wheel and switching to digital experience platforms?

Benefits of Digital Experience Platforms

Digital experience platforms provide many direct benefits to businesses, so let's name a few:

Improved productivity

Because APIs allow seamless integration, you will be able to design a tailored workflow for your business requires without worrying about tool-to-tool compatibility.

Plus, because DXP will serve as a central platform both for end-users and team members and will hold and process all of the information in the same place, your customers will get much better support, while your team will be better organized simultaneously, resulting in a win-win scenario.

Limitless scalability

With DXP, you will never have to worry about your tech stack bottle necking your company's growth. DXPs are resistant to future system updates or new device types appearing on the market. Your only job is to produce quality, user-first content – the tech foundation will never come in its way.

Advanced analytics

In traditional systems, where every app works for itself, crossing all the information from different data points would be next to impossible. Digital experience platforms streamline your whole toolbox, which means all data will get processed through the same place.

This will give you opportunities for comprehensive data analysis. Through that analysis, you will draw better conclusions from user behavior and interactions, and improve user experience across the whole customer journey.

How to choose a DXP?

Which type of DXP is the best option for you will depend on your business needs. But, to help you understand the differences, let's break down different digital experience platform examples.

DXP choices: Monolithic Vs. Composable DXP

Digital experience platforms can be monolithic or composable, so let's explain the benefits of each.

The benefits of a monolithic digital experience platform (DXP)

Monolithic DXPs are very similar to traditional CMSs, following a simpler, layered structure and keeping everything you require in a single place. The key benefit of monolithic platforms is their simplicity. Let's face it; most businesses aren't big enough to require a modular, composable approach. Smaller companies usually don't need to optimize for each platform or user type, as they have a limited reach.

Plus, monolithic platforms owned by a single vendor offer a full set of pre-made tools, making them simpler to use. Yes, the options are limited, as you need to stay within the system, but only advanced users will feel those limitations – monolithic platforms are powerful too. The only problem is: what if your business scales? As your needs grow, you will likely find the monolithic tech stack limiting eventually.

The benefits of a composable DXP

Unlike monolithic DXPs, which keep all of your options within the same ecosystem, composable, a.k.a. modular digital experience platforms practically give you unlimited capabilities. Because you can connect anything with anything else, as long as it has an API, you can build your own tech stack.

That means you won't ever feel limited by the tech stack you chose in the past – when your business needs change, you will be able to adjust the tools you use to support it.

Yes, introducing modular DXPs from the get-go can indeed be annoying, and some businesses don't really need that much firepower, especially early on. But it is often better to be safe than sorry. Plus, you will not create and implement modular DXPs yourself – most of the burden will fall on the back of a DXP consultant you pick to hire.

Best digital experience platform vendors

To help you select one for your business, I gathered some of the best digital experience platform companies and highlighted some of their key features. These are my picks:

Ibexa

The key selling point of Ibexa is that it is the only DXP geared toward B2B sales. As such, it is designed to provide you with the tools to develop the ultimate customer experience management strategy, improving B2B conversions and customer experience simultaneously:

Content management

Content is the core of any DXP, and Ibexa is no exception. You will be able to create any kind of content centrally but deliver it to any channel or destination, as Ibexa supports headless. Plus, Ibexa makes it super easy to collaborate with your team, as well as edit multimedia within the platform itself.

Website management

Ibexa makes it super easy to create multiple websites, as it has its own page builder. Its suite has advanced SEO and social media capabilities too, which will help you establish a strong web presence.

Personalization

Ibexa shines when it comes to user-driven personalization. Users will get customized content based on their behavior and interests, improving conversions, while everything stays GDPR-compliant.

eCommerce

Because Ibexa aims to improve B2B sales, its eCommerce capabilities are powerful. Besides customizable buying experiences, there are some neat features such as quick checkouts, order lists, and rich product information, all available out-of-the-box. Plus, the platform integrates with your CRM, putting even more power in the hands of your sales agents.

PIM

Built-in digital product information management will help you keep an eye on every product and marketing information, ensuring you stay on top of the fulfillment process from start to finish.

Development:

Ibexa is API-first, with built-in REST and GraphQL capabilities. That, accompanied by the Symphony PHP framework, means your tech stack or performance will never hinder your primary business operations.

Pimcore

Pimcore is an open-source DXP platform, truly headless, relying on GraphQL-API, which means you can customize it entirely for your business needs. Plus, as it is open-source, you are likely to find numerous compatible open-source solutions that will work with it entirely free.

Content and commerce hybrid

Pimcore proud itself of being a single source but multichannel publishing megalith, allowing your business to show on any platform without having to manage and edit everything manually. Its capabilities allow you to change everything in real time, tweaking your campaigns and improving conversions from a single interface.

Plus, its CMS is straightforward to use as it has a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG interface, allowing you to create content without coding. It has full multilingual support and multi-site management, making it ideal for projects in multiple languages.

On top of all this, all your content fully integrates with the Pimcore eCommerce framework, allowing you to control the entire customer journey experience from a single place. Combining that with Pimcore SEO and marketing capabilities, you get a compelling open-source solution designed to boost sales.

Fully integrable

Because Pimcore is a headless and API-based open-source digital experience platform, you can seamlessly integrate it with your existing tool set. But you will also have complete freedom to modify your workflow in the future as your business grows and its needs change.

Omni-channel presence and marketing

Pimcore shines when it comes to delivering content to various platforms. Thanks to its API-based architecture, Pimcore can provide the best possible experience to each user, no matter if they are consuming content from mobile phones, tablets, or email. That makes Pimcore an actual content-as-a-service platform oriented only towards the best possible user experience.

Powerful analytics

As more users use the platform, Pimcore becomes even more powerful. Advanced data collection allows you to create user profiles and show content based on prior behavior or preferences. This will tremendously improve the effectiveness of your campaigns, resulting in better conversions.

Adobe Experience Manager

As a company, Adobe requires no introduction. Besides a plethora of tools we use daily, they also have a very capable digital experience platform. Here's what makes it a great choice:

Powerful content management suite

Adobe Experience Manager puts tremendous firepower in your hands but is packed in an intuitive interface. That means all the features are there for advanced developers, but non-techie users won't find it overwhelming.

This platform shines at rapid content development. With Experience Content Fragments, you can easily tailor content for each user group without having to change everything every single time. Advanced analytics will tell you in real-time what type of content goes well, eliminating guesswork.

Plus, because AEM is omnichannel intended, all your creations will appear on any platform just how you intended them.

Flexible app development

AEM has a terrific Modern App Experiences suite that allows you to create apps for various platforms in a simple yet highly customizable manner. That means you can still deliver tailored experiences for each platform you want to show on, but hassle-free, delivering content at scale.

Rapid deployment

Because Adobe has a full set of tools ready from the get-go and powerful out-of-the-box core components, you can launch your project super fast.

Plus, there are many site templates and a convenient creation wizard that will help you get started. Thereafter, you can hand-pick your tools and customize everything to your liking.

However, AEM will stay flexible – if something unpredictable happens, or you realize that you need to upgrade your workflow, you can change things on the go. But, the core feature set of AEM is mighty and will likely serve most businesses well for the foreseeable future.

Truly cross-channel capabilities

Adobe guarantees any content created through AEM to be available and served in the best possible way, no matter the user's access point. Your only worry should be making the best possible content, and AEM will ensure it gets delivered to the user just the way you wanted it.

This means the Adobe digital experience platform is a perfect option for creating reusable content and for rapid content development. You won't waste time editing and tweaking content and constantly checking how it looks and feels on various platforms – spend all that time improving the content.

Conclusion

As you can see, DXPs have many benefits and will likely replace traditional CMSs soon. Which digital experience management platform is the right option for you will depend primarily on your current business needs and future goals?

To ensure you set the proper foundation for your future growth, it is best to hire a DXP consultant. Remember, the platform you choose will determine the type of experience you serve to users, directly influencing their journey and, eventually, conversions. Therefore, choose wisely – it's much easier to pick the proper foundation early on than to waste money, time, and nerves later when you regret your choice.

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