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Our take: Forrester Wave™: Digital Experience Platform (DXP)

  • 18 October 2021 / By Brian Browning

The latest Forrester Wave™: Digital Experience Platform report was issued this summer and offered a variety of intriguing perspectives about the always-evolving digital experience platform (DXP) market. By our definition, “DXP” loosely refers to deeply integrated, wide-ranging platforms that cover everything from content management to commerce, personalization, and experimentation. Compared to Microservices; API-first, Cloud-native; and Headless (MACH)-based approaches, where each component is selected and integrated into a custom platform, DXPs provide these integrations and functions inherently from one provider, which reduces complexity and centralizes most aspects of hosting and ongoing development.

Kin + Carta’s VP of Technology, Brian Browning, shares his unique insights on the evolving DXP environment. He also offers his thoughts on the factors that clients should consider when deciding how to invest in these platforms that are critical for acquiring new consumers, increasing revenue, and differentiating themselves in a crowded marketplace.

Our take: Optimizely's DXP remains the single best bang-for-the-buck for DXPs

It’s a crowded marketplace. The Forrester report, The Forrester Wave™: Digital Experience Platforms, Q3 2021, identified 13 vendors, which received a 26 criteria in-depth evaluation. Among the leaders, it’s clear that Optimizely (formally known as Episerver), has produced a powerful, attractive platform for marketers and business leaders.

Optimizely’s DXP distinguishes itself by including a new CDP-focused component called ODP, so it’s effectively become one of the only providers to have this native capability. ODP allows customers to consider data in three views: assets tracked and used on the platform, customer behavior when interacting with the platform, and customer data-like demographics. By leveraging these three perspectives, customers can drive personalization from anonymous to segmented and from segmented to the holy grail of one-on-one hyper-personalization. The standard data normalization challenges still clearly exist, as with any CDP, but we believe Optimizely stands out with its inclusion of a CDP component right out of the gate.

It’s important to remember Optimizely’s wide range of fundamental capabilities—its core CMS is one of the most respected and widely used features, it provides commerce functionality that serves both B2C and B2B models in truly innovative ways, and it offers some of the most powerful and easy-to-access personalization capabilities of any platform.

Finally, when comparing Optimizely’s DXP platform with those of the other providers, you’ll find it represents the best overall value proposition. Overall, we believe Optimizely’s DXP is the best bang-for-the-buck in the Leaders segment of the Forrester Wave report.

Integration still matters in the DXP world

It’s tempting to think that because a customer is buying a DXP, all the necessary functions that anyone could ask for or need are already included. But that’s rarely the case, and even if it was, there is still the issue of considering existing tools that a customer has likely already invested in. For example, what if a customer already has a robust digital asset management (DAM) tool that works with other martech systems? They shouldn’t be forced to ditch that tool simply because their new DXP also includes DAM functionality.

Among other factors, this highlights why integration will be necessary to provide the full value of what a company has invested in. To that end, it’s crucial to ensure your chosen DXP is adept at integration, offers comprehensive APIs that are well documented, managed, and communicated, and allows for innovative ways to access and deliver content, assets, and data stored or managed within it.

Many DXPs include hybrid headless models that allow for content, commerce, and related functionality to be delivered through web service calls. This allows the same DXP that powers the website to deliver content to mobile applications, kiosks, and other channels without duplication. Understanding how these hybrid headless solutions work is essential to ensuring long-term value realization.

Embracing experimentation is key to optimization

Customers are moving swiftly away from the world of redesigning websites, mobile apps, and other digital experiences every couple of years and into a world where they deliver MVP experiences and then experiment to drive how the digital property evolves its feature set, experiences, content, and functionality. This approach allows customers to guarantee that the new feature or function they believe will motivate customer behavior can be tested and proven before jumping into full-scale implementation and investment. By doing so, customers build only the capabilities and experiences that they know will serve their business needs.

DXPs that include built-in experimentation offerings dramatically streamline the ability for non-technical stakeholders to create experiments, deploy them to statistically significant audience segments without damaging overall site performance, and then instantly see the experiments’ results. Doing this at scale allows for a comprehensive view of how to invest and how to react to user feedback, and it provides critical insights into how the property should evolve to drive increasing value for both customers and end customers. This is another place where Optimizely’s DXP stands out—it not only includes world-class tools for website experimentation and optimization but also offers a full-stack version of its experimentation tool that can drive the same functionality into custom applications.

Focus on the people who run your digital experiences and make them key stakeholders during DXP-related decision-making

Finally, in an era where we’re all dazzled by the latest artificial intelligence, customer data story, or innovative use of personalization, it’s important to remember the stakeholders who own the administration, management, content authoring, experimentation, and user experience components of the sites, mobile apps, and other channels that DXPs power.

Incorporating these roles into the evaluation process is paramount. Traditional stakeholders in DXP selection activities include IT and marketing, but the process would often benefit from a larger group of stakeholders, including deeper-level resources in marketing and IT audiences. Include the people who write content and manage the product catalog and promotional engine. Include the people who extend the DXP’s core functionality through custom integration. Include the people responsible for detailing the analytics and reporting side. Having a more inclusive set of stakeholder representatives is essential to understanding the specific needs of a growing and diverse audience of stakeholders and, most importantly, gaining their acceptance and buy-in.

As always, the DXP market continues to grow and evolve. It’s never been more important to have powerful, persuasive, and personalized digital experiences, and DXPs are ideal for crafting and delivering those. A DXP is a decision that a customer will live with for many years, and the good news is that many genuinely powerful and apt solutions exist. Knowing which DXP offers the best overall value is essential to the success of any set of digital properties and the companies that depend on them.

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