Only one vendor is ranked a leader in Forrester Research's evaluation of digital experience platforms — and there's no sign that will change in the near future.

“It’s probably going to be the state of the market for a while,” said Ted Schadler, Forrester vice president and principal analyst and one of the authors of the Forrester Wave for Digital Experience Platforms, which was released last month. 

Today marks Part 2 of a mini-series discussing Forrester's take on digital experience. In Part 1, we explored leading vendors in Asia Pacific.

Who Has It?

headshot of james norwood of episerver

Only Adobe cracked the leaderboard this fall. Last year, in the first Wave of its kind, no one led.

“Each vendor tends to lead from a different perspective, and customers can use the Wave to ascertain which vendor is best suited for them based on their priority area of need,” said James Norwood (shown, right) chief marketing officer of Stockholm, Sweden-based EPiServer, one of the vendors in the Wave (named a “contender”). 

“Forrester should be applauded for trying to tackle the continued market consolidation that is trending toward DXPs, and it’s just as hard to produce a single-scoring approach to defining a DX platform leader as it is to find a vendor who can truly claim to be today.”

To be ranked a leader, Forrester expects DX vendors to excel in marketing, commerce, customer service, customer data, content and analytics. No vendor, Forrester reports in its Wave, nails all six.

But that’s only the starting point, Schadler told CMSWire. Vendors offering digital experience platforms must be able to provide strong integration, a single-practitioner user experience, single security model and cloud offerings that are consistent with promised commercial terms.

Then toss in a secure portal experience, good product information management, content marketing and mobility.

“Our enterprise customers are asking for portfolios that work together,” Schadler said. “Customers don’t want to be passed off to marketing or sales. They want a clean, consistent experience. Industries like travel and banking have a real desire to bring all the parts together when they’re onboarding somebody and don’t want to have them feel like a stranger. And they want to do it on web and mobile apps and mobile sites.”

Suite vs. Best of Breed

Does the all-in-one suite vs. building your digital experience stack argument matter here? Not really, said Chris Chodnicki, co-founder and executive director of strategic partnerships and alliances for Baltimore marketing agency R2i.  

Whichever vendor you choose, you ultimately need to own the customer profile. “You can’t look at things isolated,” Chodnicki said. “It needs to be integrated. … If it’s content, it needs to be distributable to all channels.”

R2i works with open-source technologies and proprietary; examples include Adobe, Sitecore and Acquia, three of the 10 “significant” digital experience platform providers identified by Forrester.

Asked about digital experience vendors, Chodnicki said “everybody’s got holes.”

“Will we find the holy grail?” he asked. “The answer is it depends on the maturity of your organization.”

Still Early

headshot of forrester analyst ted schadler

DX is still in its early days, Schadler said (we agree). Later, though, he expects the category to come into its own, much like enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) did. We’ll see, he said, a “major consolidated suite” for DX.

“There are 100s of web content management (WCM) vendors and 1,000s of vendors in Scott Brinker’s graphic,” Schadler said. 

“There is a lot of innovation and pushing boundaries. But at the end of the day, people need to be able to operate today, tomorrow and in the future. They need to have vendors that are going to be there over time with releases in a consistent way. Over time the big guys with deep pockets will invest what it takes to have a solid capabilities, and there are some new guys you wouldn’t have expected like Salesforce and perhaps Acquia.”

Who’s Your Leader?

The good news, Schadler said, is vendors have “finally woken up to the fact” that digital experience requires more than a few features applied out of the box. “They’re really having to put their stakes in the ground,” he said.

So how do you go about choosing a DX provider? Although Forrester ranks digital experience vendors in its wave, Schadler said it’s about “finding a leader for you.”

Assess how quickly a vendor can get its platform up and running for you, he said. What integrations will it allow going forward? Does it have strong mobile app support? “You can’t build a web experience without thinking of what it feels like in a small mobile experience,” Schadler said. “Vendors are not there yet.”

Does your vendor’s DX platform tell a “rationalized data story?” How good is at showing a single view of the customer? Is the digital customer experience ultimately successful? 

“It’s a lot easier,” Schadler said, “to retain and upsell a customer than it is to acquire a new one.”

Vendors Weigh In

CMSWire caught up with Adobe as well as some of the vendors Forrester calls “significant” in its Digital Experience Wave. It should be noted one of Forrester’s requirements to get in its DX door is to be able to reference enterprise customers with at least $1 billion in revenue.


DX platform: Salesforce Customer Success Platform

Strength: “The ability to empower companies of every size and industry to put customers at the center of their business and connect with them in an entirely new way,” said Eric Stahl, senior vice president of product marketing for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud. “It provides both a system of record and a system of engagement for companies of every size and industry.”

Response to Forrester's criticism: Salesforce will implement a component-based framework for developing digital experience applications, additional functions to Journey Builder, which will allow marketers to more deeply personalize marketing campaigns, an enriched AppExchange program, and a deeper integration of mobile data to the entire digital experience.

SAP hybris

DX platform: The SAP hybris digital experience offering is a combination of hybris Commerce, which includes content management capability, and hybris Marketing solutions.   

Strength: It’s the only DX solution that unifies rich, real-time predictive insights with content in context of customer journey — and pairs that with the best commerce platform in the market, said Brian Walker, chief strategy officer, SAP hybris.

Response to Forrester’s criticism: SAP hybris is working with the customer’s existing and commoditized marketing execution systems. Via synchronous real-time integration (completed in 2014) hybris is enabling real-time marketing, merchandising and optimization. A majority of hybris Marketing customers will run the solutions in the cloud.


DX platform: Adobe Marketing Cloud.

Strength: “Adobe Marketing Cloud has invested over the years to build best-of-breed technologies that support the delivery of digital experiences and give marketers the upper hand,” said Loni Stark, senior director of strategy and product marketing for Adobe Experience Manager. “This has culminated into a platform that supports customer journeys across touch points.”

Response to Forrester’s criticisms: Adobe did not respond.


DX platform: SDL Digital Experience solution.

Strength: “SDL’s digital experience solutions make it easy for brands to manage complex digital experiences while providing IT with a modular, future-proof platform that easily integrates with existing systems and infrastructure,” said Dom LeBlond, senior vice president of product management at SDL.

Response to Forrester’s criticisms: “Forrester's analysis correctly shows that SDL’s digital experience strengths are in our support for customer experience strategy through globalization, content and marketing technologies,” LeBlond said. “We think that this market is in its infancy and that as customer requirements continue to evolve and become more well-defined, new criteria will be added to the Digital Experience Wave placing more emphasis on capabilities that SDL offers such as e-commerce optimization and knowledge self-service.”


DX platform: EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud

Strength: “We have probably the broadest set of pre-built and certified adaptors to integrate with existing systems than anyone else in the market,” said James Norwood, EPiServer’s CMO. “For example, we support pretty much every marketing automation vendor of note.”

Response to Forrester criticism: Forrester wants to see some more time pass following the Ektron-EPiServer merger before giving us additional credit, “and that’s fair,” Norwood said. “However, we have still appeared with a market presence as large as Sitecore’s, which says a lot about our momentum.”


DX platform: The Acquia Platform

Strength: “Organizations adopt the Acquia Platform to create and deliver experiences that unify content, community and commerce,” said David Aponovich, senior director of digital experience at Acquia. “The platform includes everything from the ability to manage hundreds of sites at once, to real-time customer analytics and personalization to help organizations deliver the right experience, at the right time and place.”

Response to Forrester’s criticisms: Forrester’s evaluation of Acquia is fair, Aponovich said.

Title image by Magnus Lindvall