Understanding Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) and Headless CMS

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In a snapshot:

Everything you’ve wanted to know about how a Headless CMS factors in to a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) as part of a modern techstack, explained in less than 10 minutes.

Disclaimer: This article on how a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) and Headless CMS go together is canonical. It was originally written for GraphCMS.

Key Takeaways

  • A DXP is a Digital Experience Platform that could be a monolithic suite from a single provider, or a combination of best-in-breed microservices.
  • A DXP is becoming more critical for customer-obsessed businesses that strive to deliver a better customer experience (CX).
  • A DXP allows better touchpoints with customers across channels, and gives better business control through reliable data and personalisation.
  • DXPs allow organisations to build intelligent, and effective architectures.
  • DXPs commonly include a CMS (Content Management System), DAM (Digital Asset Management), CRM (Customer Relationship Management), CDP (Customer Data Platform), AI (Artificial Intelligence), BI (Business Intelligence), eCommerce, CEM (Customer Experience Management), and CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization); however there may be several others based on the business needs.
  • A CMS is at the core of a DXP.
  • Headless CMS have an advantage over Web CMS for a DXP since they are API based.

What is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)

A Digital Experience Platform, commonly abbreviated to DXP, is an emerging category of software that assists companies in digitizing at a rapid page, with the ultimate goal of providing a superior Customer Experience (CX), which, to avoid any confusion, is a reason why some sources may use DXP and CXP interchangeably.

Oversimplified, DXPs can commonly come in 2 forms:.

  • A full-stack suite of harmoniously compatible solutions, from a single provider, like the Salesforce Cloud or SAP Commerce Cloud, or
  • A range of products from multiple providers that connect together to create a powerful DXP; such as a combination of products like GraphCMS (CMS), Segment (Data Infrastructure), Mixpanel (Analytics), Airship (Customer Engagement), VWO (A/B Testing), and so on.

In either instance, DXPs aim to solve complex problems for customer-obsessed businesses that organisations struggle with tackling on their own – an exceptional CX.

The emergence of DXPs work hand in hand with the rise of utilizing a new architecture designed around microservices and APIs, that reduce the IT complexity most organisations were victim to. Theoretically, DXPs combine “Content Management” with “Engagement Management”, to allow teams the flexibility of creating omni-channel content, with the reliability of agile workflows, data-driven insights, and consistent user-journeys.

DXPs collect and aggregate customer data across a range of digital channels such as websites, apps, billboards, watches, and so on, enabling companies to maintain and personalise content to their customers across channels.

DXPs aim to grant personalized access to information based on user attributes. By streamlining customer interactions across platforms and coordinating customer data across touchpoints, companies are able to collect stronger analytics to make better business decisions on how their end interfaces impact their business.

Many products, or microservices, within a DXP are functionally different, yet work alongside one another to achieve the goal of customer experience enhancement. For instance, a DXP may include eCommerce, Business Intelligence, NPS, Content Management, and Chat bots. They all may come from the same or different providers, yet work seamlessly together and share aggregated data to create a “Digital Experience Platform”.

Benefits of a DXP

There are several benefits that come with integrating a DXP as a whole or in part, the most striking of which is the ability to orchestrate multiple services across multiple channels, into one unified interface – whether on a website, an app, eCommerce systems, or interactive displays.

These platforms are similar to, and may have several overlaps to Customer Experience Management (CXM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM), and Web or Headless Content Management Systems (CMS).

Since the goal of a DXP is to enhance the CX that a company can provide, these are the key benefits of a DXP:

1. Better touchpoints with customers.

DXPs combine multiple services that are great at what they do. Incorporating a modular approach with best-of-breed services for multiple use cases like chat, NPS, campaigns, banners, etc. allow businesses to focus on delivering great experiences across devices, and harnessing the abilities of these services to create better interaction relevance with their customers.

With digital touchpoints expanding between PC, mobile, wearables, speakers, and chatbots, to name a few, having a DXP strategy in place allows businesses to be present wherever their customers are, and understand how they interact with their products across channels.

2. Intelligent and effective Architecture

DXPs have a great advantage when it comes to setting up effective, efficient, and scalable infrastructures – microservices. Microservices are an emerging approach to setting up infrastructures that create applications and experiences our of a collection of services that’re independently deployable, great at doing a primary function, highly testable, loosely couples, and highly maintained.

Microservices loosely resemble a plug-and-play approach where services can easily be added or removed to enhance the end application, enabling companies to avoid expensive lock-in and easily evolve their techstack as and when needed. This allows developers and marketers to independently add and remove services to the overall business architecture to deliver better digital experiences.

3. Personalisation

DXPs make it easier to create contextual personalisation for delivering campaigns since they are able to swallow a massive amount of aggregated data from multiple services and touchpoints into a single database. Many DXPs incorporate Artificial Intelligence (AI) into utilizing this data to make smarter decisions and provide better insights, therefore empowering teams to act on them and provide better CX.

Using engagements, interactions, and actions, AI powered DXPs can consistently automate better CX at every touchpoint across devices, enabling businesses to better target users at the right time in their journeys.

4. Omnichannel Communication

What was once a tedious task of assuming that the same communication on websites would work as effectively on mobile and other devices has been obliterated by the emergence of DXPs and effectively collected data. Businesses are able to connect with their audiences natively across devices and understand which products or services perform better in that regard.

Technologically, embracing DXPs also allows organisations to improve their delivery to users across devices by being able to completely customise their offering based on which user is interacting with which device at which time or location.

5. Better business control

DXPs are designed to seamlessly integrate with a brand’s communication, support, marketing, and branding, across platforms, and in real time. Leveraging the plethora of APIs available within a DXP, companies can collect and orchestrate all activities, ensuring the right context and content is delivered to the right customer at a precise time in their lifecycle.

6. Reliable data and analytics

Having a single repository being fed with data from countless services, and having the ability to make sense of them in real time, is an extremely important advantage of DXPs. To better visualise this, a company within the eCommerce space can collect every interaction with customers across all devices, products, and campaigns, into a singular data warehouse. This can be further enriched with the interactions those customers have had with the marketing teams or support teams, and then further enriched with their reactions to certain recommendations or campaigns.

The ability to achieve this gives businesses the power to create an almost individualised experience for each customer, potentially paving the way for exceptional customer loyalty and retention, and the ability to make effectively better business decisions.

Understanding a typical DXP

Businesses today thrive in an acronym led world, where the influx of tools available are overwhelming.

A DXP in itself could be a prime example for highlighting how a variety of tools come together in orchestrating the best possible CX, and a prime combination of services, in no way exhaustive or in order, that fall into most DXPs, are as follows, including the roles they play (⚠️warning: MarTech Acronym overdose ahead):

1. CMS

The content management system (CMS), provides the content and context necessary for other services within the DXP to operate. Whether text, website content, landing pages, banners, or push notifications, the CMS is at the core of the DXP, offering a repository for other services to absorb content from. In a DXP, a Headless CMS stands apart in being effective, since it provides all this content to other services natively via API, rather than the other services needing to interpret and transform any of the content.

2. DAM

Digital Asset Management, or DAM, plays its own role as an asset manager within a DXP. Oftentimes interchanged with a CDN, a DAM is essentially a repository for digital assets that can be uploaded, queried, and shared. Common formats are images, documents, audio, and video, although more recently, DAMs are also responsible for delivering shared assets, user generated content, and inventory assets as and when required.

3. CRM

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool like Pipedrive or Copper can seamlessly integrate into a DXP via API to enrich user information along the user journey and provide actionable insights to commercial teams to act on engagements and interactions.

4. CDP

A Customer Data Platform, or CDP, is the central warehouse that hosts all customer data. On an oversimplified level, this can be a collection of events – like clicks and pages viewed, or a set of attributes – like customer location and language preference, that are compiled and tagged within a CDP. This data remains there until called upon to enrich CRM or personalisation tools by providing them with the user attributes and targeting context that they require to execute granular campaigns.

5. AI

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is a big lever in modern DXPs delivering the value they’re able to. Through a combination of machine learning, computational analytics, and contextual intelligence, platforms are able to predict and anticipate user actions and behaviour, allowing marketers to act in real time with better targeting across platforms, ensuring they deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.

6. BI (Reporting, Analytics, etc.)

Many DXPs rely on Business Intelligence (BI) tools to gather, compile, categorize, and visualise the data that comes in from the wide variety of tools and services in action. A common BI flow would involve:

  • Collecting unstructured data from several sources like billing, events, ads, etc.
  • Scheduling their collection via a scheduler (like Airflow) or via CRON jobs.
  • Structuring this data into parameters that the business needs via a database tool (like DBT).
  • Storing this data in a data warehouse (like Google BigQuery or Postgres)
  • Querying this data into visual mediums (like spreadsheets, Google Data Studio, or Tableau).
  • Analysts, marketers, and other stakeholders can then visualise all the data gathered from the several services within the DXP to validate their strategy or make actionable decisions for their business.

7. eCommerce (PCMs, PIMs, PXMs)

Several companies that offer transactions or online shopping would further include an eCommerce API into their DXP, which can include Product Information Management (PIM), Product Experience Management (PXM), and Product Content Management (PCM) APIs in the mix.

8. CEM (chatbots, automation, etc.)

Customer Experience Management (CEM) forms another core aspect of DXMs, where companies can use several services to catalyse better customer support, engagement, and feedback via tools and services like chatbots, communication automation, NPS, etc.

9. CRO (A/B Testing, personalisation, etc.)

Another prime contender to be part of a DXM is Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) which involves activities like A/B Testing to create better converting marketing assets, or offer personalisation to customers based ont heir attributes from a CDP using personalisation tools like Dynamic Yield or Frosmo.

Whilst the above are commonly found within most DXPs, they are in no way an exhaustive list, since the possibilities of adding microservices and tools into a DXP are endless based on the business needs and industries.

CMS at the core of a DXP

DXPs are often labeled as “Next Generation CMS”, however, at present, CMS form the core of most DXPs, especially when opting for a best-of-breed microservices approach over a monolithic all-in-one suite.

A CMS absorbs, contains, and delivers the content and context that is needed by the other services within a DXP, for businesses to effectively communicate with their users at the right moment. A DXP goes a step further by providing automation and smart omni-channel delivery as required, but very much relies on the CMS at the core to provide this content.

In the case of GraphCMS, or a Headless CMS, the CMS provides this content via an API, which provides an ideal foundation to build a DXP upon. Any service within the DXP can quickly pull this data natively via API, and leverage data logic to deliver it to the right person at the right time. While this allows developers and marketers to independently work at what they do best, it also allows granular additions, edits, and changes, without interrupting the flow of the entire digital project.

The immense value of the Headless CMS in the DXP comes from the extensible API-driven content, and its ease of integrations to the other services, either via published integrations, or via webhooks.

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About Me

I’m a digital marketer with 7+ years in commercial activities, including Marketing, Growth, Business Development, Analytics, and Data Visualisation, within several B2B and B2C organisations.

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