Recent trends in digital content and the customer experience have seen the marketing technology (MarTech) stack grow in both capabilities and complexity. Solutions such as a digital experience platform (DXP) and a content management system (CMS) can help consolidate the many different systems in this environment, making marketing easier while allowing companies to deliver content to the right customer touchpoints across the buyer’s journey.         

But with multiple options available, it can be confusing assessing what you need. For example, what’s the difference between a DXP and a CMS? Which is the best option for your business? 

Curious about how CMSs and DXPs have evolved over time and how they compare today for delivering the modern, multi-channel digital experiences your customers and employees want most? Read on to learn more!

Understanding the Power of the Modern Digital Experience 

Offering a great digital experience has become a major competitive advantage in today’s digital age.

The data speaks volumes: 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, as per findings from PwC. It’s crucial to note that speed and simplicity are of the essence: 83% of survey respondents from 2021 research defined a good digital experience as simply being able to “quickly accomplish what I came to do” as the most important factor.

With online expectations at an all-time high, digital experience also equals trust. The 2021 research found that 65% of people will trust a business less when they experience a problem using a website or mobile app. Ultimately, this can also have a negative impact on customer relationships and loyalty.

How Do Digital Touchpoints Impact Internal Operational Systems and the Employee Experience?

Quick and easy access to digital content can drastically improve the pace at which an organisation conducts business and achieves its primary strategic goals.

At the experience level, this holds true for both internal and external stakeholders. On the one hand, employees are able to perform their roles and achieve greater job satisfaction when their company’s digital platforms are modern and exhibit a high degree of modern sophistication. Getting the job done transforms from being a potential burden into a more convenient and fulfilling experience.

Equally, vendors, partners, and customers - both of the B2C and B2B variety - are likely to find it preferable to work with companies that are able to consistently deliver optimised, seamless, and positive digital experiences across all platforms and devices.

So, the next questions are ‘how do you make great digital experiences happen?’ and ‘which platform will get you there?’. 

DXP vs CMS: What’s the Difference?

To build and achieve the right set of digital experiences as described in this article, organisations use state-of-the-art websites, blogs, and other forms of advanced digital media. 

Building your own platform from scratch is both difficult and unnecessary. Today, companies rely on specialised software platforms to manage digital content and harness it to more effectively deliver optimised online experiences.

Let’s explore the differences between the two main software platforms that specialise in managing digital content: content management systems and digital experience platforms.

What is a Content Management System?

A CMS is an enterprise-level software platform that is used to manage all aspects of digital content and an online presence for an organisation. That involves the creation, distribution, storage, and modification of digital content. 

As the digital age progressed, CMSs were built to manage the creation and modification of digital content. Wordpress is a well known example of a system that became popular, especially for simple websites. Think of a CMS as a software platform that lets organisations handle their digital content on a website without requiring any highly specialised developer technical skills and knowledge. A CMS website is like a database for managing web content in one simple application with publishing tools, search, editorial capabilities, and so on.

Content management systems and associated software have evolved over the years, creating several subsets in the process:

  • Enterprise content management (ECM) – As the oldest form of CMS, this arose in the 1980s when the internet was not as widespread and was mainly used by firms to manage content internally between its various departments and divisions.
  • Web content management (WCM) – As the internet became more prominent in the 1990s, CMS evolved into WCM, with a heavy focus on managing content displayed on websites, blogs, and other online platforms.

Although both terms are sometimes considered synonymous, when most users talk about CMS in the modern context, they are actually referring to the WCM subset.

Creating and designing a website from scratch requires knowledge of high-level languages like HTML and CSS. A CMS solution removes this technical barrier, allowing users without coding skills to create, design, and edit websites and online content displayed on web pages across different platforms.

Key Components of a CMS

A traditional CMS has two main components:

  • Content management application - a graphical interface that allows users to perform tasks like creating a webpage, adding content to the page, modifying the visual aspects of the content, and so on.
  • Content delivery application – the back-end that handles the complicated task of compiling the modified content and updating the website with this content. It includes both storage databases and programming frameworks like Java or ASP.NET.

Key features of a CMS can include: 

  • Intuitive indexing, search, and retrieval features
  • Format management
  • Revision features (edit and update content)
  • Revision control (track changes)
  • Publishing functionality allowing use of customised templates
  • SEO-friendly URLs
  • Integrated and online help, including discussion boards
  • Group-based permission systems
  • Admin panel with multiple language support
  • Integrated file managers and audit logs
  • Support for Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) 

What is a Digital Experience Platform?

In the 1990s and 2000s, people started using computers and laptops in mass numbers to access business websites. This meant that companies only had to focus on creating and managing content that would be displayed on PC screens – legacy CMSs and customer portals were designed to deliver content with this purpose in mind.

However, the situation today is much more complex. Apart from PCs, there are mobile phone browsers, mobile apps, wearable tech, and IoT devices - all of which are capable of accessing online content. Consumer preferences and expectations have also evolved, demanding faster, seamless, and engaging online experiences from enterprises.

A DXP (Digital Experience Platform) is the next step in the evolution of the CMS, taking experience and functionality to the next level. A DXP performs all the functions of its predecessor, while also providing advanced tools that create more engaging digital experiences online. 

The key difference with a modern DXP is the consideration of and ability to meet the various needs of the user journey across multiple channels. In that respect, DXPs were created to deliver the right content at the right time and continue nurturing a long-term relationship. Businesses can leverage the architecture and functionality of a DXP to deliver unified digital interactions across multiple touchpoints for the entire customer journey.

Ultimately, a DXP helps deliver more personalised content to audiences across multiple devices and software ecosystems.

Digital Experience Platforms - Designed for Digital Transformation

Enterprises have high standards to meet when it comes to acquiring and retaining customers. Download our whitepaper to find out more about the value of a DXP for enterprises who want to focus on creating personalised, connected experiences in the midst of digital transformation.

Download the Whitepaper >

Key Components of a DXP

The major components and digital tools in a DXP include:

  • Headless CMS (which is back-end content management where the content repository “body” is decoupled from the presentation layer “head”)
  • Translation and personalisation tools
  • Omnichannel marketing features
  • CRM tools
  • AI and automation features
  • Data management and analytics
  • Social media integration
  • Ecommerce integration

Key features of a DXP can include a range of advanced options. For example, Liferay DXP features include:

  • Identity management and access control (application security)
  • Integration and interoperability features
  • Collaboration and social features
  • Forms, workflow, and business process automation
  • Content management 
  • Experience management 
  • Segmentation and personalisation
  • Multichannel support
  • Search
  • Analytics and optimisation
  • Cloud capabilities

DXP solutions can have different orientations, based on the roots of their software platforms. There are three such heritage categories (CMS, portal, and commerce) and each of them have different advantages across the entire customer journey.

CMS vs DXP

Though they share some core features, there are significant differences between legacy CMS and modern DXP solutions. These differences can be categorised as follows.

1. Platform Architecture

The standard CMS software solution tends to be monolithic, with a standalone platform that includes all the features. They are usually available as single-vendor solutions, with minimal integration capabilities. The result is a closed, siloed solution.

But headless CMS is an improvement in this regard – it removes the front end while retaining the content delivery application. You can integrate this with different application programming interfaces (APIs), which are pieces of code that allow the headless CMS to work with different devices and platforms.

In stark contrast to legacy CMSs, a modern DXP retains the versatility and flexibility of a headless CMS. A standalone, single-vendor DXP solution is rare, if not non-existent. Instead, DXPs are available as platforms that come with core components and integration capabilities.

2. Scope

The scope of any legacy CMS is extremely limited when compared to even the most minimal DXP implementation. The former is mainly focused on creating websites and managing the content a business wants to display on their site.

In contrast, a DXP is a radically open platform with scope for multi-channel or omnichannel support, API integrations, extensive personalisation options, and a heavy focus on delivering a seamless customer experience. It has the core competency of CMS with a slew of extra features.

3. Deployment

This is one area where both CMS and DXP are equal in offering both on-premise or cloud-based platform solutions. In the case of CMS, Drupal and Joomla offer on-premise deployment, while Wix is a cloud-based solution. In the case of DXP, Liferay offers cloud-based solutions, while Magnolia DXP is an example of an on-premise solution.

Final Thoughts on CMS vs DXP

Switching from a legacy CMS to a DXP platform is a significant decision with many ramifications for any business. However, it’s a decision that will set your organisation on what should be considered a welcome path towards total digital transformation

DXPs can significantly improve the marketing, customer service, sales, and employee engagement metrics of a business, with the added ability of being able to scale on-demand.

Like any major initiative, a decision should only be made after a thorough analysis of your enterprise capabilities and an exploration of the readiness for digital transformation of this kind. A proper review of the unique needs of your enterprise is essential, given the wide array of DXP heritage categories and customisation options available.

It is quite easy to pick the wrong DXP solution for a business, resulting in less than optimal ROI. Take a good look at your firm, its customers, the market, and the competition. For best results, take into account your firm’s future growth targets and pick a DXP deployment mix with the optimal feature set and scalability that will suit your specific needs.

If you’d like to explore Liferay DXP further, you can request a demo with our specialist to see how the software could work with your current technology and organisational structure to help meet your business and digital goals.

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