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News Analysis

What Is a Content Experience Platform?

9 minute read
Dom Nicastro avatar
Aragon Research has debuted a new research software category, and we pursue what's behind it.

No one’s going to say there aren’t enough acronyms to describe software that produces, manages and publishes content. Let's see, we've got, WCM, WEM, CMS, DXP, Agile CMS and CSPs. And now it looks like there may be a new acronym on the block

Meet the CXP, or Content Experience Platform. Aragon Research became the latest analyst firm to put a different spin on the content management software market we used to call Web Experience Management and Web Content Management.

What kinds of vendors are these? We’re not exactly sure yet.

Definition of Content Experience Platform

We do know what Aragon thinks CXP are, as noted in its February report on the rise of CXPs: “Content experience platforms are the next generation offering to address the age-old enterprise need for creating and delivering dynamic experiences to users on any device. Historically, this need has been met by web content management systems (WCM), which have undergone numerous transformations as they have evolved to address the shifting needs of the modern enterprise content pipeline, which needs to move beyond the static website model of the past.”

Aragon sees these platforms growing from $11 billion in 2019 to $28.8 billion in 2025. Here is what they consider the key components for a CXP:

  • Content generation: CXPs provide single-pane visibility and control over content-generation tools like Word documents, Google documents, translation software, digital asset managers and SEO. 
  • APIs and integrations: Integration and flexibility are key here. Decoupled, composable, API-enabled CXPs drive contentexperience.
  • Content management and delivery: CXPs differentiate beyond pure content management because content is "assembled and adapted on the fly for thetargeted delivery platform." CXPs add new digitaltouchpoints to the platform and act asa hub and single source of truth for content across channelsand devices.
  • Search and predictive analytics: Search is still vital, and content analytics "derive insights from content where thetext or a higher-level abstraction of meaning — called a concept — has been organized ina model that can be mechanically processed."
  • Cloud native: Cloud and mobile enablementare now table-stakes, Aragon researchers found. 

“We think this is an upgrade of the legacy WCM market,” said Jim Lundy, lead analyst and CEO of Aragon Research. “The way people digest content has to be more dynamic. We're not talking about custom portals, which is really what DXP is from Gartner. There's still people that need to build these experiences, so what do we call it? We came up with the idea of Content Experience Platform as the best thinking we could do at the time and so far it's worked out.”

Related Article: Were Digital Experience Platforms Ready for the Digital Onslaught in 2020?

Taking a Step Back Back: What It’s Really All About

Marketers and those charged with creating content experiences shouldn’t get lost in an analyst and vendor haze when thinking about this software. Selecting the right content management software ultimately comes down to a combination of the right support, vision, community, stability and focus. Not to mention usage scenarios, properly assessing a features matrix, implementation partner selection and having technology match your organization's skill sets. And, ultimately, no matter what colorful acronyms and catch-phrases are out there to describe this software space, content software technologies must be able to reach beyond websites.

That said, it’s good to know how analysts like Aragon and others are defining this space.

Here’s what Gartner says about Digital Experience Platforms (DXP): A digital experience platform (DXP) is a well-integrated and cohesive set of technologies designed to enable the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences across multiexperience customer journeys. (Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms, January 2021).

Here’s what Forrester says about Agile CMS: Technologies like agile CMS offer a collaborative environment for developers and practitioners, along with the tools that techies and creatives crave, as a more efficient means to deliver the right content to the right channel — at the right stage of the customer journey. (Forrester Wave: Agile Content Management Systems (CMSes), Q1, 2021).

Content in Motion and APIs

Content Experience Platforms prioritize the totality of enterprise content as an interconnected experience, rather than a set of isolated assets, according to Aragon researchers. They provide frameworks that draw digital assets together into a dynamic, immersive and rich journey. They stress streamlined content authoring and publishing workflows, emphasizing omnichannel content delivery, integrations driven by APIs, scalability, and quick deployment through low-code solutions.

“We’ve seen this shift in what we call content in motion,” Lundy told CMSWire. “The idea that experiences that are driven by content, whether you're talking about mobile apps, whether you're talking about a website, whether you're talking about documents and contracts that used to be just stored in SharePoint."

Related Article: Does Web Content Management Have an Agile Future?

Content Experience Platforms Not Entirely New

Aragon Research may be the first to define and research a category on Content Experience Platforms. But it is not the first to use the term. Vendor Uberflip has claimed to be a CXP for years.

Randy Frisch, chief marketing officer for Uberflip, said the company coined the term around 2013 or 2014 and worked with software review site G2 on a Content Experience Platform grid in 2018

We’re not going to get deep into a “who said what first” game here. Plus, it’s confusing enough that different firms call the same platforms different things (i.e. is Adobe a DXP or an Agile CMS?).

Learning Opportunities

How does Frisch and Uberflip see this space shaping up? Defining a content experience platform starts with answering, "What is content experience?" Frisch, author of a book on content experience added, “And when we talk about content experience, we look at three factors: the environment, the structure, and the way we compel someone to actually engage at the end of the day.”

Environment, Structure, Engagement

Here’s how Frisch breaks down those three factors of content experience:

  • Environment: That is how your content is contained, according to Frisch. It's the look and feel. It's the colors. It's the layout. It's all of the elements around your content, but not the content itself.
  • Structure: That's how it's organized. When we talk about organization, we're not talking about page layout, per se. We're talking about, "What content comes after the other?" How do we organize content in a way that's going to create the best buyer experience?
  • Engagement: This is about trying to expedite or accelerate that journey through content.

According to Frisch, a content experience platform should really help check off elements of a content experience framework: centralize, organize, personalize, distribute and generate results.

“I think a really important point is that a Content Experience Platform is not the platform in which you create content,” Frisch added. “That's part of Aragon's research that I actually don't agree with. The reason we coined the terms ‘content experience’ and ‘content experience platform’ at Uberflip many years ago was because there was a lot of confusion around what a content marketing platform actually is. I don’t think the idea of trying to combine the two in one is the right approach.”

A content marketing platform is where content marketers — people whose job is to create content — work with different workflows, audit rules and processes to get content out the door that can be used in a content experience platform, he added. Together, a content marketing platform and a content experience platform really fulfill the needs of an organization.

Related Article: Give Your Self-Service Portal a Strong Content Management Platform

Contentstack Emerges in Aragon Report

It’s a waiting game to see how CXP vendors will be rated by Aragon Research. In its report last month, Aragon did cite one vendor in its report: Contentstack, noted by Aragon in a small side section called “Contentstack at a Glance.”

Contentstack, born in 2018, ran with a press release Feb. 18 where it announced, “it was included as a leading provider of Content Experience Platforms” in the Aragon report. Next month, maybe. But not quite yet. It was cited as a “strong performer” in Forrester’s Agile CMS Wave, but Aragon didn't rank anybody. 

PR semantics aside, Contentstack is high on CXPs because “it comes with significantly less baggage than some of the terms that have been around longer and have to keep some room for the legacy players, or those that are overly broad and hence less prescriptive,” according to Matthew Baier, chief marketing officer and chief operating officer of Contentstack.

“Ultimately, though, it’s not about the buzzword and more about what customers are trying to accomplish,” Baier added. “I can’t think of any commercial organization I have interacted with in the last year that doesn’t have a digital strategy — and one they are pursuing with urgency. Everyone is thinking beyond the web and how best to deliver and manage content across digital channels. Mobile has become table stakes and creating rich, and personalized customer journeys is top of mind, regardless of the industry you’re in.”

More than Rejuvenated CMS

Many of the best-in-class marketing technology vendors are already built using MACH principles — i.e. Microservices, API-First, Cloud-Native, Headless, according to Baier. CXPs, Baier added, are becoming a system of record for all digital content inside organizations. As a core content hub — or core content infrastructure — CXPs are more than just rejuvenated content management systems.

“They are becoming a strategic differentiator for organizations to reap exponential returns from their investment into digital content and digital experiences,” Baier said. “Being able to connect to adjacent content experience technologies such as personalization, content analytics, automation and AI/ML services makes CXPs significantly more powerful than traditional CMS ever was.”