Do you understand the differences between a Portal vs CMS vs DXP? All three platforms have their place, but which one is right for your business? 

There are definitely some similarities between the three platforms with crossover, but the key takeaway is that each platform represents an evolution from the next. The key reasons behind this are changing customer expectations and the way people use digital platforms to do business, consume content, and access customer service.

Digital customer experience tools have evolved according to modern customer needs and have become more powerful digital experience platforms. 

But what does that mean today? Let’s break it down. 

What’s the Difference Between a CMS, Portal, and DXP? 

As providing superior customer experiences becomes more of a competitive differentiator, the technologies that businesses use have transformed accordingly. We’ve come a long way since the nascent internet of the 2000s, and the way we use technology and devices has radically evolved along the way.

Two of the key factors are trust and accessibility. We now feel far more comfortable interacting and doing our business with organisations online as a first preference. We also expect our brands and suppliers to offer convenience and accessibility, complete with great product information, ecommerce capabilities, and 24/7 online service.

What is a CMS?

A content management system (or CMS) was built to manage the creation and modification of digital content (think of Wordpress, one of the most simple examples). A CMS system is essentially a software platform that lets organisations create, manage, and modify content on a website without requiring highly specialised developer technical skills and knowledge - anyone in a business can use a CMS. A CMS website can be thought of like a database for managing web content in one simple application with publishing tools, search, editorial capabilities, and so on.

You will usually find that a web CMS is used for enterprise content management (ECM) and web content management (WCM). ECM typically supports multiple users in a collaborative environment, ultimately to enable organisations to deliver relevant content to users. Alternatively, WCM is used in conjunction with web experience management (WEM) to build web-based experiences. 

However, as new digital channels have emerged, such as mobile and smart devices, content has needed to be accessible and consistent across every touchpoint. To this end, traditional web CMSs have struggled to deliver the nuances required for these new channels. Therefore, portals stepped into the picture to help deliver a range of more nuanced interactions and benefits for organisations.

What is a Portal?

A portal is essentially a tool to help you build a variety of websites and web applications with a single access point. It shares similarities with a CMS in organising web content but it functions differently - often as a private location requiring a customer or partner login. A portal can also bring together a range of native additional features such as a document library, forums, wikis, and even personalised blogs tailored for the user’s experience.

 

A portal - also known as a web portal - is suited for nurturing long-term customer relationships after purchase (take a look at these 15 awesome examples from the Liferay Community). Portal functionality is extremely useful for experiences that require a user to log in. This can be especially true in the B2B sphere where customised ecommerce experiences are required. However, in some instances, they can offer limited functionality for the full range of business cases, and can sometimes be complex and costly depending on the organisational requirements and product/service offerings.

What is a DXP?

Digital experience platforms (DXPs) offer a modern solution and take experience and functionality to the next level. DXPs first emerged due to the need for both CMS and portal functionalities to meet changing customer expectations. They 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.

What Makes a DXP Different?

You might be wondering, is a DXP just broken down, refashioned, and repackaged CMSs and portals? That’s a fair question given some of the common ground and crossover in terms of functionality. But a high quality DXP is in fact its own solution set, and the key difference is in how it’s built from the ground up.

“A true DXP is designed to be an integration hub, in addition to providing the capabilities around experience composition, management, delivery, and optimisation of digital experiences across the entire customer journey.” CMSWire

What sets DXPs apart is their ability to integrate with multiple existing, legacy, and adjacent technologies to deliver a unified, continuous, and optimised experience.

So no, DXPs are not repackaged CMS and portal solutions. However, the reasons that businesses look for these solutions are often the same as what leads them to finding a DXP.

While DXPs have adopted some of the capabilities from these systems, they are far more than just the sum of these components. DXP vendors have taken CMS and portal functionalities, alongside features to meet modern user needs, to design an agile platform that is able to support a business’s needs to create unified digital experiences.

What Exactly is a Unified Digital Experience?

At first glance, it might sound like nothing more than a buzz term, but a unified digital experience simply means consistency across multiple channels and devices.  Specifically, consistency of experience so that when customers engage with your brand via email, web, or social media, there is a seamless and easy experience across each channel.

So when you click on a link in a social media channel that takes you to a website to complete a form, you then receive an email confirmation - and that is a unified experience. The customer is crossing a variety of channels and there is a degree of contextual awareness that is taking place on the customer journey - which is of course, good.

Before modernised tools - like DXPs - became available, these kinds of experiences were made possible through specific bespoke engineering and programming specific to each company environment. With the advent of DXPs, we now have platforms that can automate unified digital experiences for customers without requiring highly technical skills or a large amount of effort from internal teams.

What Does It Mean to be Unified Across Platforms?

At a technical level, it’s worth understanding what constitutes a company’s development of the unified digital experience and what is required to bring it all together. These are the four primary capabilities which define a unified digital experience solution and mark the evolution of the various solutions (CMS, portal, and DXP), both on the platform side and in the realisation of those capabilities through implementations:

  • Unified sessions
  • Unified channel data
  • Unified experience management
  • Unified dynamic sequences

Why Should Your Business Consider the Use of a DXP?

DXPs can bring significant benefits for your business, especially for your IT team and by extension, your entire organisation across just about every department. By leveraging a DXP as the centrepiece in a technology ecosystem, you will be able to bring content, data, experiences, and applications into one consolidated layer. 

This is the foundation so necessary for providing optimised digital experiences across the entire customer journey. That’s the external transformation, and internally there are important benefits too including:   

  • The ability to cut down on internal costs and resources
  • Being able to fulfill multiple organisational needs through one platform
  • Gaining the agility to adjust for changing future needs quickly

Download this whitepaper to see why DXPs are becoming a necessity as well as the benefits they can bring to your organisation.

What is a DXP Not?

Sometimes the best way to understand something is to understand what it is not.

The DXP market is still emerging but leaders in the industry will agree that a DXP is NOT

  • Just a bundle of new or existing technologies. A DXP is a central technological foundation to be built upon that is deeply integrative and flexible. While it does draw from portal, CMS, and even commerce functionalities, all of it works well together to support a continuous customer journey across all digital channels. 
  • A single channel or package. A DXP enables multichannel delivery across a variety of touchpoints and empowers users to deploy many experiences on a single platform. 
  • A monolithic system. A DXP is built for change and will go through constant evolution, optimisation, and refinement especially as the digital landscape and customer expectations continue to change. 

What Can DXPs Do?

With all of this in mind, you might be wondering, what other core capabilities distinguish a DXP from other technologies on the market including portals and CMSs?

Uniquely, DXPs can offer your organisation:

  • Multichannel delivery for digital interactions across various touch points 
  • Native content management capabilities for managing different content types 
  • Personalisation, analytics, and optimisation capabilities out of the box 
  • Flexible architecture that supports integration with legacy systems and third-party applications 
  • Account services including registration, login and password management with authentication, and access control 

Explore 7 Popular Use Cases in Action

Now you have learned more about the differences between portals, CMSs, and DXPs, as well as how organisations have used them over the last 15 years or so, why not take a further look at how they work in action? From self-service customer portals to e-commerce sites to multi-partner portal, this e-book dives into 7 diverse and interesting use cases looking at how organisations have leveraged Liferay's modern DXP platform to build custom-tailored digital solutions.

Download the E-book Now >
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