Editor's Note: This article has been updated to reflect changes in the current state of digital experience platforms.

A Digital Experience Platform (DXP) is defined as an integrated set of core technologies whose goal is to support the creation, management, delivery and optimization of customized digital customer experiences (DCXs). Web content management (WCM) systems, also called content management systems (CMS), sit at the heart of DXPs, and many of today’s DXPs historically derive from portals and WCM systems, according to research in the CMSWire DXP Market Guide published in the spring of 2021. 

Here's Gartner's definition of a 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 multi experience customer journeys.

Here's Forrester's definition of a DXP: A platform that provides the architectural foundation and modular services for developers and practitioners to create, orchestrate, and optimize digital journeys at scale — to drive loyalty and new commerce outcomes across owned and third-party channels.

$15.8 Billion by 2025

How hot are DXPs? The global Digital Experience platform market size is anticipated to be valued at $15.80 billion by 2025, according to research by Million Insights published in August of 2020.

Marketers’ desire to adopt digital platforms for marketing strategies will drive the demand for DXPs, according to researchers. The B2C application segment of DXPs dominated the market as consumer brands strive to use technologies to provide relevant, personalized and consistent content and products.

While many companies analyze customers’ data and experience with the help of a pre-integrated technology stack and DXPs, integration and business processes issues arise for DXPs during implementation. Further, there is a reluctance in the deployment of updates. These factors, according to researchers at Million Insights, are projected to hinder market growth. They also see a lack of a skilled workforce for operating DXP solutions as an obstruction to market growth.

Almost 80% of digital customer experience executives surveyed by CMSWire in its State of Digital Customer Experience 2021 report said that digital experience was “very” to “extremely important” to their organizations. However, only 11% reported that their DCX tools were “working well,” and 42% declared their tools “need work.”

Some potential reasons for this level of dissatisfaction include low levels of maturity in areas such as personalization, silos between different tools that may impact the ability of teams to understand customers, and budgetary challenges, CMSWire researchers reported.

Related Article: Has the Suite DXP Dream Failed? The Case for Modular Digital Experience Platforms

Components of a DXP

According to the CMSWire DXP Market Guide, core DXP functionality includes:

  • Customer experience (CX) personalization
  • APIs for administration, authoring, interoperability, decisioning and delivery
  • Content authoring, workflow and collaboration
  • Content and experience analytics
  • Content indexing, metadata and search
  • Content modeling and extensible content types
  • Content presentation and delivery
  • Content security and access control
  • Content versioning and change management
  • CRM and marketing automation integration
  • Digital Asset Management (DAM) and/or integration
  • E-commerce or Ecommerce integration
  • Experience design (low code site or page design)
  • Experience personalization
  • Experience testing and optimization
  • Experience/site versioning and change management
  • Forms design, integration and delivery
  • Image management and editing
  • Multi-lingual support and/or localization integration
  • Multi-site, multi-channel, multi-device support
  • Platform account and access services
  • Platform/back office extensibility
  • Social media integration

Gartner’s definition includes several software capabilities, such as content management, account services, personalization and context awareness, analytics and optimization and customer journey mapping among others.

Digital commerce, on the other hand, is not required, but is one of the most common adjacent technologies, according to Irina Guseva, senior research director at Gartner, lead analyst for the DXP MQ. “The ultimate outcome is being able to compose, manage and deliver contextualized and optimized digital experiences across the entire customer lifecycle on all channels of interaction," she said.

Is Composable the Wave of the DXP Future?

In its Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms published in January of 2021, researchers cited the need for organizations to adopt a “composable DXP.” This will include the ability to deliver composable user experiences,  front end as a service (FEaaS) and composable content. Gartner researchers claim this will help replace “heavyweight monolithic applications,” something that vendors will be forced to abandon because of buying behaviors. Vendors will have to increase modularity of their offerings and the corresponding pricing, based on consumption-based models, according to Gartner researchers.

“A composable DXP entails more than just product modularity and API-based, best-of-breed product integrations,” Guseva told CMSWire. “The composability should come at the packaged business capabilities level and ‘valuex’ consumption-based pricing models, as some of the examples of composability.”

Joe Cicman, senior analyst for digital transformation at Forrester, told CMSWire that when he talks to vendors about their composable DXP strategies it’s clear that being composable is only half the battle.

Learning Opportunities

“The other half,” Cicman said, “is being pre-composed. APIs and events make it easier to piece-together solutions than say five to 10 years ago. But the client is still paying to integrate the stuff together. To take significant cost out of the equation, DXP vendors need strategic ISV partnerships and to appear in one another’s app store to provide one-click integration.”

Related Article: Composable DXP: Is It Sales Jargon or Something More?

Digital Experience Platforms Myths Vs. Reality

So what are the actual outcomes when implementing and managing DXPs? Guseva put together a myth vs. reality comparison when asked to dispel certain myths around DXPs:

DXP Is (Reality)DXP Is Not (Myths)
Central technological foundation to be built upon and to support the entire, continuous customer life cycle across all digital channelsNot just a mashing together of new or existing technologies. Not just a bucket of products.
Multichannel delivery via APIs of digital interactions across all touchpoints, including IoT, AR/VR, digital assistants and kiosksNot just a website channel. Or a responsive/mobile web. Or mobile app
A unified and integrated platform on which an employee experience (among other experiences) can be deployedNot a stand-alone intranet package
It’s a platform where business and IT with various skills and responsibilities work together toward the common goal of customer experience improvement.Not an IT system, not a marketing system. It is, however, a way to manage experiences and that management is far from just a task for the IT organization
DXP is built for change and can be easily changed as a response to changes in demandNot a monolithic system that doesn’t undergo constant evolution, optimization and refinement

DXP Integration Costs Are High

Digital Experience Platforms don’t come cheap. Gartner found that through this year, 85% of effort and cost in a DXP program will be spent on integrations with internal and external systems, including the DXP’s own, built-in capabilities. And here’s another number to share with your marketing teams: 90% of global organizations will rely on system integrators (SIs), agencies and channel partners to design, build and implement their digital experience strategies.

What is the message to the buyer about selecting a DXP?

“Most often they do actually look for the holistic DXP approach, but some companies do prefer a more modular approach and go after a best-of-breed, piece-by-piece approach and essentially build out their own vision of a DXP,” Guseva said.

Comprehensive integration separates true platforms from mere product portfolios, according to Cicman. Companies buy digital experience parts from multiple vendors and implement them over time, Cicman added. “Even when a company goes all-in with a single vendor, it doesn’t implement all the parts all at once,” he said. “That means a vendor’s products always run (if even just temporarily) in a multi-vendor stack.”

Platforms are expected to deliver efficiency, not just the ability, for assembling capabilities. Larger vendors proclaim their portfolio of products are pre-integrated and work well together. Smaller vendors focus on pre-integrating their narrower portfolios with cloud parts from the broader ecosystem, according to Cicman.

Related Article: Curiouser and Curiouser — Drawing the Line Between DXP and CDP

Internal DXP Integration Skills Lacking

Most often, organizations tend to rely on an experienced systems integrator for DXP work, as they typically lack internal expertise or skill sets to be able to pull off the implementation, or even a DX strategy, according to Guseva. “It is such a multi-faceted and complex endeavor. Just knowing how to code in .NET is great, but typically not enough to properly implement a .NET-based DXP,” she said. “Successful DXP investments entail a high degree of planning, strategy, and agile product management. I think while the DXP market is maturing, it is still in the early stages of mainstream.”

A true DXP is designed to be an integration hub, in addition to providing the capabilities around experience composition, management, delivery and optimization of digital experiences across the entire customer journey, Guseva added. Architectural flexibility, API-driven approaches, Content-as-a-Service (CaaS), head optional/hybrid/headless, microservices-oriented architectures are all supposed to aid in integration work, but this is “not consistent across the marketplace and some vendors do this better than the others,” she added.

DXP is the centerpiece for customer experience and digital experience strategy execution, but it’s not a silo and cannot be viewed as a single platform to solve all business needs, Guseva added. “DXP is the centerpiece in the tech ecosystem that brings content, data, experiences, applications and micro-experiences into one layer,” she said. “Therefore, integration with multiple in-house, legacy, adjacent technologies is a must. The goal is a unified, continuous and optimized experience. You need integration with other systems to accomplish that.”