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What is DXP Really Going to Do For You?

So ... what IS DXP? And how do you navigate the different forms and add-ons available within a digital experience platform (DXP)? Blend CTO Joe Kepley discusses the ins and outs of DXP, including how to prioritize the rollout of new features.

3/20/2023

Authored by

Categorized

  • Development
  • Digital Optimization
  • Strategy

If you’ve attended a web tech conference in the last few years, you’ve probably heard the term “DXP.” Content management system (CMS) vendors have been rushing to either rebrand as “Digital Experience Platforms” (DXP for short) or position themselves as part of a “composable DXP” — a suite of marketing tools working together to handle the digital experience.

Let’s be honest — ”The Digital Experience” sounds like the name of a techno band from the 90’s. But what does that even mean? And, given that many of the companies we’ve worked with on DXP systems are still just doing the same things they’d have done with a regular website and email system, what would an ideal “digital experience” look like?

If an organization used all of the tools in a DXP, and planned out the full user experience, what could we expect?

Before we dive into reality, let’s look at the dream — the ideal scenario.

Introducing the National Association of Bass Players.

Say hello to Reiko, head of the National Association of Bass Players (NABP). In exchange for annual dues, the NABP advocates for artists’ rights, lobbies for less restrictive noise ordinances, and provides information and services to its members. Bass players are loud, and they need to be protected.

This year, the NABP is pushing to expand its membership. Specifically, Reiko’s strategy team will target drummers — they already have good rhythm and keep odd hours — to take on a second instrument in the bass. They’ve put the whole marketing team and every component of their digital experience platform to this task.

Now, say hello to Reiko’s target: Andy. Andy is a drummer. While browsing Facebook, Andy sees a promoted article from the NABP’s blog. While reading, he notices several related articles that he’s interested in. He finds a free video series on learning the bass through a free subscription, texted directly to his phone.

He grabs his brother’s bass and signs up, and even takes a few lessons over the weekend, but forgets about it after that. But hey, another text pops up to remind him after a few days of lapsed lessons. Emails arrive with song sheets. Posts from the NABP community are promoted. And, after a few weeks of exposure to ideas about sound ordinances and thicker walls, a lead community member reaches out and asks if Andy wants to formally join the NABP. 

He says yes.

Meanwhile, back at the marketing office, Reiko’s team continues to work on their initiative. They’ve found that the intro video series has helped retain new users. Their A/B experiment on sending reminder messages has improved retention by 20%, and a follow-up multivariate test showed that it was actually best to send the message on Saturday afternoons. Once the program started taking off, they worked with key existing members to reach out directly to users who have reached a certain threshold of engagement.

This, in combination with email, text, and personalized content suggestions on the site, has helped to bring in more members. Given their success with drummers, who knows? Maybe tuba players are next.

Seeing through the dream scenario.

This sounds really nice, and it’s the sort of narrative that optimization vendors will use during sales to explain the value of their offering. But it’s not often that real-world teams experience the same kind of success.

There are a few reasons for this.

Putting the cart before the horse — automation before planning.

Digital experience tools are often purchased with an understanding of their usefulness in improving the team’s capability, but without a specific goal or understanding of what that improvement will look like.

Almost all software is designed to automate some process. If you don’t know what your process is, it’s difficult to imagine an automated version of it, much less what sort of tools would be needed to do that job. 

I might want to do some woodworking, so I could buy a bandsaw. But it might be that what I really need is a power drill, or a table saw, or a hammer, depending on my project.

The disappointing lack of magic — and people.

The thing is, a project and a process requires more than tools. It also requires people. Automating a process requires updated tools, but people will be key drivers in making any digital experience successful.

Targeting a custom message to more specific key audiences means more than just an improvement in messaging — it also means an increase in overall messages, from one message to two, or three, or eight. Someone will need to do the work of understanding how the message should be adjusted for each of those groups, implementing those adjustments, and applying measurements to make sure they’re successful.

Good DXP tools make this job a lot easier — and in fact, you often need them to make it possible at all! — but they’re not magic. Whether handled by internal staff or an outside group, it takes a team of people with sufficient time and budget to make it all happen. Having a hammer in my garage doesn’t get the woodworking done; someone has to swing it.

A universe of tools, and few of them connect.

The notion of composable DXP is attractive — you survey the universe of available tools, pick the best one for your needs, and then you’ve got the best solution, right?

But, in order to really deliver, these tools all need to align on a single profile for a single user and work together to deliver the digital experience. If the email marketing tool doesn’t know that the user has been more engaged with a certain category of content on the web site, it won’t be able to deliver custom results. And if the CRM is only showing the sales team what happened on the web site, but not in the app, they won’t have the full picture. 

Most DXP tools are designed to integrate with a lot of different solutions, but the actual work of that integration has to be well thought out and built with the intention to deliver the correct data to the right places. For success, the whole stack of tools requires a clear picture of the user.

Doing it the right way.

If it sounds complicated — it is. Which is why it’s important, when implementing a true digital experience, to start with a plan instead of a tool.

Plan the digital experience from a user perspective.

First, know what you’re going for from the start. Sit down for an hour, think about your audiences, and what you want their digital experience to be like.

An outline for a business law firm might look something like: 

  • Business clients will:
    • Search for “contract law,” click on our AdWords listing, and…
    • Learn about our services by…
      • Reading the services page on the web site, or they’ll…
    • Click our link to schedule a consultation, or…
      • join one of our topic-focused newsletters, where we can build relationships through thought leadership. Then we…
        • Use click-throughs to determine what type of client based on their article interest, and…
          • We then send more personal invites to events or webinars focused on that interest area.
  • Potential hires will:
    • Find our open positions page through search and ads, or…
      • find one of our articles targeted at law students, or we’ll…
    • Use our scholarship programs and student days to build a pool of potential hires, and…
      • Reach out via text about various programs and internships to our top targets based on their graduation dates.

With the plan above, we have some idea of what we need to do at each step (text, email, get data from the web site), so we can narrow the list of tools we’re looking at, and also ask sales teams to walk us through those specific scenarios. 

We’ve also narrowed our process to something we can automate. It doesn’t have to be final, but it’s a start. Out of the universe of things a DXP could do, we’re now focused on something we actually want it to do. We know what we want, so sales, training, and execution can be focused on our needs, rather than what the sales team thinks we need.

Finally, we also have a good place to start for understanding how we’ll measure and optimize at each step. For example, if our plan calls us to send texts to students, we can measure the replies and clicks on those texts, and optimize the wording and timing over time, or test how we’ll do with text vs email. These all point to capabilities we’ll need in our DXP solution. 

Make sure there’s a process.

Beyond the plan, remember that people will need to help populate, execute, and maintain even the most automated of processes.

If you buy a new tool and install it, it’s going to sit on the shelf until someone takes ownership. In order for it to provide value, it needs to become part of someone’s job. What’s more, it needs to become part of your overall process — there’s a way your marketing team is doing things now, and that will need to change in order to incorporate this new tool.

Make sure that your team is given the right training and time to make it work, then check in to make sure that measurement and feedback on your digital experience becomes a part of the day-to-day process.

Start with the important parts.

There’s a temptation to do everything right at kickoff. DX tools offer tons of features, and you’ll want to try them out. Or, you may be tempted to buy a bunch of different tools at the start, knowing you’ll want to integrate them at some point down the line.

But, as we mentioned earlier, your tools are only as good as your team’s ability to understand them, put them to use, and act on the data in a positive way. If you start with too much too early, you’ll find trouble digesting all of the potential benefits in a way that helps you act upon the data you’re receiving.

First, make sure you have a way to aggregate your data. Whether the user is on your web site, in your app, or in texts or emails, you need all of their actions and decisions to flow to a single place. This will build a unified picture of who they are and what they want, regardless of the source. This “single source of truth” could be something like a customer data platform or CRM.

From there, focus on key activities for your key audiences. For example, if a key part of your customer journey is the newsletter, make sure you’re working to measure the effectiveness of each news article, and make sure the newsletter provides feedback through clicks to the website. With this set up, you’ve integrated both the tool and the process of newsletter measurement into your improvement cycle, and you can move on to the next item.

Focusing on your users’ digital experience is an important part of growing your organization, and it’s important to go into a digital transformation with a real process in mind rather than just a sales brochure from an expensive vendor.

Blend Interactive loves helping teams see the return on their digital investments. If we can help, reach out!