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PHOTO: Rob Tol

With Adobe’s purchase of Marketo, the debate over best-of-breed versus cloud digital experience stack has heated up again. Unfortunately, the debate is about the wrong thing. Instead of arguing over software provider A or B, the discussion should center on how to deliver consumer experiences that drive deeper engagement and connect individuals and brands.

It is far more important to look at what the DX stack accomplishes, not what each system does. For example, if your website is built on the latest CMS, which publishes at blinding speed, but is still not optimized for a mobile audience, the experience itself will fall flat. A poor experience limits engagement and hinders customer connection, taking a bite out of revenue and customer loyalty.

Related Article: Adobe Acquires Marketo: Good Things Are Seldom Cheap

4 Elements of the DX Stack

Data Hub

Data is the foundation of any DX stack — data about customers, prospects, demographics, transactions. Data is also about content, assets, metadata and taxonomies. Data makes the world go around.

Let’s start with customer data. Sales teams tend to favor CRM systems that manage data around contacts, accounts and opportunity. Accounting focuses on data for accounts receivable and accounts payable. Marketing and customer experience groups need to create large complex data environments that bring together various databases — customer behavior, third party data — appending attributes to an individual like household income, metropolitan statistical area, browsing history and connections to other people.

As DX stacks evolve, they are aggregating more and more data sources in real time. For example, companies making multiple acquisitions are faced with the daunting task of merging completely independent data ecosystems. As a solution, rather than trying to build one giant new data system (requiring massive amounts of cleansing, hygiene, mapping and synchronization) many enterprises are turning to a NoSql solution to make existing data accessible everywhere without creating a new monster.

NoSqL allows a company to have its cake and eat it too. Apples and Oranges – without the limitations of traditional relational databases. This allows a company to access data at scale and in real time. And, in the end, create and deliver a better customer experience.

Related Article: Customer Data Platforms: A Contrarian's View

Content Hub

Data is not just about people. Every digital asset you have, every tag or piece of metadata should be thought of as pieces of data. This approach allows you to identify, access, understand and use your content as the currency of your customer’s digital experience.

Reimagining content as data will enable the ability to identify patterns and relationships that occur. And with the latest semantic tools, you can extract triples, combinations of subject, verb and predicates and understand the meaning and the context of the content, or ontologies.

Only when you understand these relationships, can you develop a content strategy that will define the best content type, structure and form (for example: tweets versus video versus long form, taxonomies, metadata and tagging). In turn, the strategy will inform the DX software needed, including web CMS, DAM, PIM, tagging, workflow and publishing systems.

Related Article: DX Procurement: Are You Buying Frankenstein's Monster or the Bionic Man?

Intelligence Hub

Armed with the right data about your audiences and the right content that is relevant to them, you can evolve your DX stack with intelligence. Within a DX stack, intelligence is the process by which decisions are made as to what content is presented to which individual according to context and intent. Deliver content at the right time, to the right person, with the right offer, on the right channel, right device, right location and right stage in the customer journey.

This is where good data scientists are worth their weight in gold. Rules and decision engines are so last decade. Today we rely on deep learning, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI). An Intelligence hub helps us create a digital experience that is satisfying to both the customer and the brand. 

Interestingly, most of the large marketing clouds skirt the issue of intelligence by either bringing out old A/B testing tools, rules-based personalization tools or touting the magic of their AI solutions powered by Watson, Google or Microsoft.

But there are many other new entries to the intelligence layer of the DX stack. Each takes advantage of the incredible advancements in processing power and data storage giving you the ability to find precious needles in haystacks.

Related Article: 8 Ways to Segment Your Customer Data

Experience Hub

The top of the DX stack is delivery of the experience itself.

If you, the marketer, have done the hard work early, the decisions have already been made as to who gets what, when, where, how and why. Now, your efforts in publishing and distribution enable your audiences to engage your brand via different channels, in a different sequence. This isn’t something you see in traditional campaign management flow diagrams.

For DX to be effective, the marketer has to employ a publishing system that is device, channel and platform agnostic. This is where the beauty of decoupled architecture in a CMS model shines. This non-siloed approach will allow you to maximize data, content and intelligence in your DX stack.

Related Article: Save Your Digital Experience Project From These Common Pitfalls

The Evolution of the DX Stack

The DX stack will evolve only when marketers’ approach to digital experience evolves as well. We have never seen such advances in marketing technology before. But if we do not actively choose to become customer-centric and organize our teams around this evolved DX concept, we will not be able to realize the promise of whatever amazing DX technology stack you have.