The Gist:

  • Benefits of a composable DXP. A composable DXP provides greater flexibility and scalability as businesses can select and integrate components from a variety of vendors. It also allows businesses to evaluate and select technology components based on cost, features, functionality and compatibility.
  • Challenges of a composable DXP. The complexity of a composable DXP can be a challenge, requiring a steep learning curve and an advanced level of technical understanding to customize correctly. Additionally, the procurement process for modules is more complex, and each part of the system may have its own data set, making it difficult to keep data in sync.

A composable Digital Experience Platform (DXP) consists of a series of “best-of-breed” modules that work together through APIs, SDKs and microservices using a headless approach. The key difference between a regular DXP and a composable DXP is that a composable DXP is purpose-built to be extensible and is particularly useful for a cloud and microservices-based formula. With such scalability, composable DXPs are more easily integrated with a business’s existing martech stack.

Let's take a look at the benefits of a composable DXP, as well as the challenges brands face with putting together such a platform.

A 2021 Gartner research report indicated that application leaders will not be able to meet market needs or business objectives using monolithic DXPs and must update tech stacks, decompose monoliths and deliver task-oriented capabilities. Additionally, the report suggested that to future-proof a brand’s martech stack, a composable DXP must be used to deliver composable user experiences.

Traditional DXPs Are Monolithic

To fully understand the benefits of a composable DXP, we must first delve into the particulars of a standard DXP. A standard DXP is a monolithic, all-in-one suite of software that includes personalization, marketing automation, content management, search and other marketing tools that facilitate the creation of a seamless customer experience. Because a monolithic DXP comes from a single vendor, support and service are easily obtained.

Up until recently, these monolithic DXPs were typically used by smaller marketing teams, and because the vendor controls the type of technology that will work with it, this prevents the DXP from being easily integrated with other software. The vendor also controls which third-party apps, services and communication channels can be integrated with the platform as well as how they will interact with the platform and each other. While this limitation takes much of the complexity out of the system, it also makes it difficult to integrate the monolithic DXP with older, legacy systems. Examples of monolithic DXPs include Adobe Experience Cloud, Salesforce Cloud and SAP CX.

Alex Meyers, engineering manager at UK digital agency, Carbon Six Digital, told CMSWire that the key advantage of using a traditional, monolithic DXP, provided by a single vendor, such as Adobe, Salesforce, SAP or Oracle, is that developers can get support and service from a single provider.

“However, their major drawback is that they come with a hefty software license fee which covers all of the functionality included within that DXP, which means that companies often end up paying for features that they will never use,” said Meyers, who further explained that once an organization is running its entire ecommerce operation on a single vendor’s platform, it’s very difficult and costly to change.

Related Article: Marketing Technology Expands as Composable Business Models Are Embraced

The Benefits of a Composable DXP

A composable DXP is comprised of a set of independent application programming interfaces (APIs) and/or software developer kits, (SDKs) that enable brands to deliver personalized content experiences throughout the customer journey, seamlessly integrating its various parts. When brands need to add additional functionality, they are able to add a new API, edit or replace an existing one, or enable it to work with a third-party application that is a part of the composable DXP or the brand’s existing martech stack. According to a 2020 Gartner report, because the software that is used as part of a composable DXP is connected more efficiently, customers who adopt a composable DXP approach are able to deliver new features 80% faster than customers using traditional suites.

By using these APIs and SDKs, a composable DXP platform establishes a basic foundation that enables a brand to maintain and control all of its content and campaigns in one central package. The composable DXP is able to consolidate a brand’s entire martech stack, including content management, customer data platform (CDP), CDN, ecommerce, analytics, marketing automation, website, search and other resources.

Meyers said that in contrast to a monolithic DXP, a composable DXP provides businesses with the flexibility to select and integrate components, from a wide range of vendors, to perform specific functions.

“As business needs change, elements of the DXP can be retired and replaced, without having to go to the lengths and expense of re-platforming,” said Meyers, who gave an example of how a company might select the best-in-class Customer Data Platform, if it will deliver the most value, and equally, a midmarket CDP may provide the right functionality and better integration with a chosen CMS. “A composable DXP allows organizations to evaluate and select from a variety of technology components based on cost, features, functionality and compatibility,” said Meyers.

A composable DXP relies upon a microservices architecture, which is a type of application architecture where an application is created as a collection of services, and this provides a framework with which brands can create, deploy, and independently maintain microservice architecture diagrams and services. 

Learning Opportunities

Examples of composable DXPs, as advertised by the vendors, include Uniform DXCP, Sitecore DXP, Magnolia DXP, and PimCore DXP. Many composable DXPs today include low-code/no-code development options, enabling businesses to rapidly put the composable DXP into operation. Additionally, because the majority of composable DXPs are headless, they separate the front-end presentation layer from the back-end content management system, which facilitates much greater flexibility in how content is delivered across different channels, including email, website, kiosk, mobile app, call center, chat and more.

Justin Thomas, founder and lead consultant at JourneyEngine, a growth marketing agency, told CMSWire that a composable DXP offers a variety of advantages over a traditional DXP. “For instance, since it is built around a microservices-based architecture, its scalability and flexibility allow for the integration of any existing martech stack much more easily than with other solutions,” said Thomas. “Additionally, due to its ‘best-of-breed’ approach, businesses can customize their composable DXPs according to their own specific needs and requirements.”

Related Article: Composable: The Marketer’s Perspective and Roadmap

A Composable DXP’s Complexity Is Its Biggest Challenge

Although there are many benefits that come from using a composable DXP, they are not without challenges. The initial challenge is that for many businesses, there tends to be a fairly steep learning curve when getting it initially set up and connected to the current martech stack of software and platforms. Thomas understands the challenges that come with implementing a composable DXP.

"Firstly, they require an advanced level of technical understanding in order to be able to customize them correctly," explained Thomas. "Additionally, the use of API and microservices means that they are inherently complex systems and can be difficult to manage without the right expertise.” 

The process of purchasing modules for a composable DXP will also be unlike the typical procurement process used by most IT teams. Because composable architecture is uniquely multivendor, the buyer journey is more complex. “Finding the right 'best-of-breed' modules to create a custom composable DXP can be time-consuming, as well as expensive," Thomas suggested.

Another challenge is that each part of the system may have its own data set, with no easy way to keep each data set in sync after changes are made in other systems. Additionally, APIs, SDKs and microservices are frequently updated, so system administrators and developers must stay up-to-date in order to keep the composable DXP operational and secure. While monolithic DXPs only require brands to monitor and manage one platform from one vendor, because composable DXPs are a combination of best-of-breed packages, they require more tedious monitoring to stay up to date.

That said, the composable DXP has so many advantages over traditional monolithic DXPs that they are worth the extra effort and attention that is required, according to Thomas. “Overall, the benefits of a composable DXP outweigh the challenges,” said Thomas. “With its unprecedented scalability and flexibility, along with its ability to be tailored to specific business needs, a composable DXP is becoming increasingly popular amongst digital experience professionals.”