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Meghan Fishburn headshot
Meghan Fishburn

SVP, Client Strategy

The Time is Now: Upgrading from a CMS to DXP

A Digital Experience Platform (DXP) efficiently and effectively delivers website personalization and other modern digital engagement requirements.

This is part 2 of our DXP Deep Dive Series. See part 1 here: When does your business need a DXP?


Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses were investing in more robust digital properties and communications strategies. The pandemic has accelerated these efforts as businesses and their audiences become increasingly ‘digital-first’ in their mindset and approach to engagement. As businesses evaluate how their technology stack can deliver against these increased expectations and service levels, many business, government, and trade association leaders are realizing that the features and capabilities of a 'standard' CMS (content management system) aren't enough to meet their needs. Specifically, as digital marketers and IT leaders build personalized digital engagement programs, look to scale their virtual events, and integrate multiple databases and third party features, their CMS can't sustain this level of functionality.

While CMS platforms have been instrumental in helping organizations establish and manage large-scale digital engagement programs, the fundamental shift in the way content is created, managed, distributed and optimized for today’s marketplace requires consideration of a more robust platform type, the DXP (digital experience platform), in order to efficiently and effectively deliver on these modern digital engagement requirements. This includes being able to track and analyze user journeys through multiple campaigns and touchpoints. To get a better understanding of what strategic and technical issues are involved in this process, we asked AgencyQ’s Senior Vice President of Strategy Meghan Fishburn to share her insights on the current “DXP vs. CMS” debate:

The Q: What’s the difference or added benefit with a DXP vs. a CMS?

Meghan Fishburn: A digital experience platform, or a DXP, is essentially a “CMS+.” A DXP offers everything a CMS does, plus the capability for multi-site management, integration support (many DXPs have “out of the box” connectors that can save valuable time and are more reliable), and more advanced and cohesive analytics offerings. The strongest advantage of a DXP is the ability to answer “why” certain site behaviors are happening. There's deeper visibility with a DXP than what a CMS can show.

The Q: Can you personalize with a CMS?

M.F.: Yes, but not well, or efficiently. It’s more expensive to create that custom functionality than with a DXP that has some of those capabilities baked in. The key thing to understand here is that DXPs leverage their analytics features to enable faster--and more accurate--personalization. This is a more manual process with a CMS, requiring tedious A/B testing to optimize for “best content and features” per segment. For example, a typical membership association needs to integrate multiple data sources to meaningfully personalize a digital experience, and with a DXP it's easier to configure, deploy, and manage throughout the member’s digital engagement journey with the organization.

The Q: What’s the biggest benefit of using a DXP?

M.F.: DXPs are built for those looking to market to, and engage with, multiple audiences through multiple channels. Their tools enable a personalized engagement with visitors coming from email, social media, and search engines, with built-in multi-site management features, intranet capabilities, and robust user behavior analytics tools. Essentially a DXP wraps all benefits of a CMS with a set of tools to manage the complexity of modern multi-channel digital engagement–this is what makes it so valuable. We recently instrumented a DXP to help a large multinational corporation enable different business units to “move at their own pace” when delivering multi-channel digital marketing and sales support, so the DXP’s value was in helping the IT team reduce support hours while facilitating modern multi-channel marketing for business units with aggressive digital engagement objectives.

The Q: Are there any ‘watch outs’ to selecting, implementing, and managing digital assets through a DXP?

M.F.: While the biggest benefits of a DXP tend to be put into “marketing effectiveness” terms, there is an added benefit of a DXP for organizations who haven’t previously invested in marketing technology or are looking to consolidate their existing ‘stack’ for ease of management and future needs to scale. The ‘watch out’ for these organizations is to make sure to have a robust, detailed roadmap for digital transformation, and avoid the temptation to over-invest in technology at the expense of getting the organization used to new digital engagement tools first. We're working with multiple B2B clients who are focused primarily on DXP workflow and ‘digital transformation,’ and then will leverage the DXP’s personalization features for audience engagement once their organizations are in a position to handle these new digitally controlled customer relationships.

The Q: Why are so many businesses, government agencies, and associations considering a DXP in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? Does it make sense for them to invest in this technology now that a return to normalcy is closer?

M.F.: Pre-pandemic digital trends won't go away once we return to ‘normal.’ The audiences those groups are looking to engage with are all thinking digital-first, and many of our clients face external pressures (e.g., the 21st Century IDEAct for federal agencies) to improve their digital experiences across audiences. The key is to build for both current and projected needs, and when we work with DXPs, we help our client partners position themselves for evolving needs. We recently leveraged the personalization capabilities of a DXP to allow a government agency to organize their deep content repository and design a personalized experience for their visitors–cutting down the time spent searching for content by 50%! Obviously, they are delighted with the resulting user satisfaction, and the DXP will allow the agency to extend this value across new content formats and audience segments, as they evolve.

The Q: Thank You Meghan – are you open to DXP-related questions from our readers?

M.F.: You're welcome, and I’m happy to respond to any questions.

The Q: Curious how your organization could benefit from upgrading to a DXP from a CMS? Send us your questions for Meghan.

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