In the wake of the UK’s Covid-19 lockdown, providing customers with a consistently positive digital experience has become more important than ever – no matter which sector an organisation operates in.
As a result, there has been an uptick in the number of businesses looking to either purchase, or construct their own, digital experience platform (DXP). Gartner describes DXPs as “an integrated and cohesive piece of technology designed to enable the composition, management, delivery and optimisation of contextualised digital experiences across multi-experience customer journeys”.
To create these contextualised digital experiences, such systems “orchestrate multiple customer-facing applications via a single interaction or presentation layer”, says Irina Guseva, Gartner’s senior research director. This orchestration is enabled by means of application programming interfaces (APIs) that integrate the DXP with a range of third-party applications, from sales and service to customer relationship management (CRM).
To put it another way, the software enables companies to engage more effectively with their customers in all things digital and to use the data gleaned from such interactions to further optimise and automate their experience going forward. The ultimate goal here is to boost the firm’s top or bottom line, increase customer loyalty or boost brand awareness.
But DXPs are nothing new, says David Friar, technical director at digital marketing consultancy Cognifide. In fact, they are the latest evolution of web content management (WCM) software and, as such, aim to:
- Provide a single system to produce content and deliver it to all chosen channels, including email and social media, in order to boost efficiency and ensure clear messaging.
- Deliver a coherent customer experience by ensuring all content is displayed in a consistent manner.
- Orchestrate all of the company’s digital assets, ranging from websites and mobile apps to voice assistants, and wearable tech, to enable a coherent, automated response to customers’ behaviour in order to engage with them more effectively.
- Use appropriate data to ensure the customer experience is personalised and therefore more engaging.
- Make it easier to alter digital experiences based on customer feedback using a mix of automation and agile approaches.
“We see adoption across all verticals, from higher education to manufacturing, with about half of buyers following the build route and the other half the buy path,” says Guseva. “Interest in DXP, as a superset of WCM toolsets, is growing, but because DXP is a newer market and represents an evolution from WCM, it is still emerging.”
Confusion, cost and complexity
As a result, this situation can sometimes generate “confusion around the definition and use cases” of the technology, says Guseva, not least because the DXPs themselves offer varying levels of functionality and maturity, with capabilities in some instances made available via third-party software. Machine learning support is also increasingly common.
But Friar warns: “You can buy a platform that will cover about 80% of your needs, but don’t underestimate the amount of effort required to get it up and running as none of them are plug-and-play, and they also have to be customised and configured – although what takes significant development time is if you need to integrate it with other systems.”
Adoption, meanwhile, tends to be most widespread at the mid-sized company and enterprise level, says Guseva, and generally falls into two categories:
- Global organisations needing to become digital businesses and provide a better customer experience.
- Companies with mature customer experience (CX) strategies that see DXPs as the “connective tissue” they need to integrate their CX technology stack.
But even in these instances, the cost and complexity of such implementations can be off-putting, not least because they tend to entail large organisational change projects.
“A key pitfall is approaching this kind of initiative as a purely technical problem because it involves transforming the way people behave and the skills they need to have,” says Friar. “So, the key thing is to plan for that from the start by introducing not just a technical build and set-up project, but also a coherent enablement programme.”
Friar cites the example of tackling one element of a DXP initiative in the shape of personalisation, an approach that many organisations embrace rather than going for a “big bang” implementation.
“If your aim is to deliver a data-driven experience, where the system constantly responds to the customer based on what the data is saying, the amount of content required from different organisational segments is massive,” he says. “You also need effective processes around your content workflow and approval systems – it’s a huge organisational shift.”
As a result, Friar recommends taking an agile, iterative approach to this kind of programme. “Have end-goals and aspirations, but take small steps towards them and be prepared to change direction if necessary,” he says. “This is a pretty big puzzle to solve, so most organisations will have done one or two bits well, but a clear roadmap will help them focus on their priorities for the future.”