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PHOTO: Victoriano Izquierdo

Anyone looking to invest in a web content management (WCM) or digital experience platform (DXP) is already well familiar with the ongoing debate between best-of-breed and single suite approaches. It’s an argument that resurfaced in recent years, and by all accounts, isn’t going away anytime soon. Digital disruption and business transformation are driving the DX strategies and priorities of brands worldwide.

Independent analyst firm Digital Clarity Group (DCG) recently looked at the topic, conducting interviews with business and IT leaders to gain insight into real-world DXP purchasing strategies. The DCG report, "Digital Experience Platforms: Buyer Trends, Preferences, and Strategies," explores why organizations invest in DXPs, how they choose their approach and what systems and tools are most important for driving lasting business transformation.

The results suggest that the traditional approach to DXP investments are changing — and fast.

Disrupting Disruption?

But why is the tide changing? No industry, region or business size is immune to digital disruption, and the threat of competition is very real.

Its no longer a case of simply having a website. Businesses now need to deliver wow moments across channels and platforms. Practically speaking, this involves multiple departments, different technologies, varied stakeholders and a broader cultural change, focusing on a customer-centric approach to business.

Related Article: Digital Experience Stacks Evolve Once Again

Expanding List of Core DXP Proficiencies

DXP technologies have changed dramatically in the functionality offered by different platforms. In 2014, Forrester cited three core capabilities in its first Digital Experience Platforms Wave which set DXPs apart: content, commerce and data.

Just three years later, in its third Digital Experience Platforms Wave (fee charged), Forrester named eight core components: content, marketing, commerce, service, analytics, customer data, personalization and development.

The question is, can a single platform serve this breadth of interests?

Related Article: The DX-CX Tech Conundrum: Where Does One End and the Other Begin?

Best-of-Breed Is Thriving

The DCG report indicates that brands want control — and the ability to build — their own digital ecosystems. Almost three-quarters (70 percent) of brands currently take a heterogeneous approach to their digital experience platforms, meaning they combine best-of-breed components to build the desired DXP and continuously extend its functionality for better customer engagement.

A couple of years ago, Scott Brinker, creator of the notorious "Marketing Technology Landscape," rightly pointed out that “best-of-breed marketing technology stacks are thriving.” In today’s fast-moving environment, brands need to build their own technology ecosystems to deliver next-generation digital experiences.

There’s no one size fits all approach, and the DCG report acknowledges this trend, “Clearly, no single 'correct' DXP approach applies equally to all organizations.”

Related Article: Choosing a DX Platform: Shrink-Wrapped Chicken Sandwich or Pastrami on Rye?

How Sweet Is Single Suite?

DCG is not alone in its findings. A Forrester DX report "State of Digital Experience Delivery 2017" (fee charged) had similar results when speaking to brands — three quarters (74 percent) of marketers currently employ a “best-of-breed” approach as they mix and match their choice of tools. Only 23 percent prefer a “full-stack” provider that offers a marketing cloud or suite.

So why are brands opting for best-of-breed? In its report, DCG suggested global brands are skeptical about the single suite approach. Brands doubted a DXP based on a single-vendor suite would scale and help them overcome the content challenges associated with engaging with a global audience.

Respondents also felt it’s unlikely a single vendor could develop a fully-functional end-to-end DXP while keeping up with the constant DX innovations. Given the pace at which DX platforms are evolving, it’s no surprise brands are skeptical.

Who’s Leading the DXP Charge?

Brands are changing the traditional way that transformational DXP projects are led, according to the report. Forty percent of enterprises indicated it’s not marketing, but rather their C-suite executives championing and driving DX strategies and projects. If the C-suite does not lead the DX initiative, then either the CIO/ CTO leads it.

This sentiment was echoed by Forrester analyst Ted Schadler, who has noticed more and more CIOs coming to the fore in DX projects. In an interview with CMSWire, he cited QVC, whose CIO and executive VP of commerce platforms now meet quarterly.

Who else is best placed to drive cross-department change? The leadership team, unlike most roles with a business, has an enterprise-wide overview, and the ability to collaborate with cross-functional teams to deliver end-to-end customer-centric processes.

Related Article: Who Should Take the Lead in Digital Experience Technology Selection?

Matching Technology With Requirements

If brands want to scale their business and excite customers, then they’re going to have to create, manage and deliver more content than ever — and in a way that engages the first time. But the benefits are clear: two-thirds of US consumers would recommend a brand if “it does a great job of delivering personally relevant content.” 

Could the single vendor approach deliver on these expectations? While the debate rages on, it’s important to remember that every brand is different. And every brand has its own digital vision. What’s important is that you find the find right partner that shares your vision.