A few days ago, on Wednesday, July 31st, Acquia held a webinar on digital experience titled “Think Bigger: Your Digital Experience is More Than Your Website”.
They talked more generally about the experience economy and the recent important changes in digital experiences, and more specifically about digital experience platforms (DXP); namely, why an open DXP is the best solution and how Acquia’s services can serve as the foundation for an open DXP.
As with all Acquia webinars, a recording will be publicly available soon for anyone who wasn’t able to attend it or who wants to revisit certain points. In the meantime, we hope this recap will fill in enough gaps to make the wait easier or maybe even compel you to start rethinking your digital strategy today in preparation for the future.
Experience is everywhere
As Tom states, we are now in the “experience economy”, with 1:1 personalization a necessity for brands that plan to win in this economy.
Today, everything is essentially an experience; we’re surrounded and bombarded by them. Competition among brands, too, works mostly on the basis of customer experience, which means brands need to constantly focus on delivering the best possible experience if they want to stand out.
The physical world is full of amazing, memorable experiences (Disney, for example, has decades of them under its belt and is hence able to focus on all their minor details). But - what about the digital? What are our most memorable experiences in the digital sphere?
For both, it holds true that it takes a lifetime of great experiences to create an iconic brand. In the digital, however, you can undo a lot of positive experiences and even destroy a brand with a single bad experience, from which it is extremely difficult to come back.
Why is it so hard to create great digital experiences?
The recent explosion of channels has made user journeys hard to predict, as they interact with brands through various channels, some of which didn’t even exist a few years ago, while those that haven’t yet been invented will also become touchpoints with brands.
Current martech systems are siloed. They each focus on different parts of the customer journey and, by consequence, each have their own view of this journey. But, not only are the tools siloed - the very organization of the teams is siloed as well.
This kind of organization makes it impossible sometimes to deliver an integrated customer experience. And the problems becomes even worse at scale, with even greater technological and organizational limitations to delivering a great, 1:1 customer experience.
So, how can you tackle this and win out in the experience economy?
Well, the most important thing is - breaking down the silos, both on the technological and organization level. In order to deliver an integrated digital experience, you need one common view of the customer which is consistent across all channels.
This brings about obvious advantages: the ability to come to market and take advantage of new channels faster, more consistent user experiences, reusable content, automated decision making, more governance, etc.
In the “old” internet, every brand needed a website - this is also the reason why the CMS was created, as a better way to manage these websites. But, today, a website alone isn’t enough; today, every brand needs a digital experience platform - an open DXP.
Planning your optimal DXP
Well, but, isn’t a DXP essentially the same thing as a CMS? It’s true that a DXP is a product, a platform, a solution - but, at the bottom line, it’s a strategy of how you’re going to interact with your customers to achieve desired goals.
So, a DXP is a strategic perspective on how to approach this problem, whereas a CMS is a tactical solution.
Web content management
The web CMS is still the basis for any DXP (“content is king”). The focus, then, should be on specific use cases from which you can work. Some of the most common of these are:
- Multichannel delivery: this use case rests on the perception of content as a service, content in the sense of enabling people and making their lives easier. An API-first strategy is vital for this, as you need to be open with distributing and sharing content with other platforms.
- Cross-channel strategy: a bit more complex than the previous point, here the focus is more on mapping the customer journey and figuring out how the customer moves through multiple touchpoints of interaction and what the entire integrated story then is.
- Campaign management: the most important thing here is to be aware of how the CMS, personalization and marketing tools all interact. They need to work really well together in order to get the most out of the campaign.
- Commerce: the recent emergence of cloud commerce platforms, such as BigCommerce and Shopify Plus, has made it possible to invest less into the backend (since it’s in the cloud) and allocate a bigger part of your budget to other areas, such as marketing.
- Customer data: what you do with data is more important than how you collect it or store it. The question here is: how are you going to extrapolate the insights and how can you best leverage them?
- Work backwards: the future is uncertain and unpredictable. If you acknowledge that, you can work backwards from it, starting with the realization that your DXP will have to be adaptive to change and new tools; we are in an era of unprecedentedly fast digital innovation, after all.
1. If you want agile marketing, you need high developer velocity.
In software development, agile has completely replaced the waterfall approach. Now we’re starting to see this as a marketing trend as well: small releases, continuous iteration, better insights on the performance of a campaign and consequently the ability to adapt faster. But the catch is - successful agile marketing demands high developer velocity.
2. If you need cutting-edge commerce, you need to be disruption-ready.
With e-commerce becoming the most popular form of shopping, innovations in this sphere will be particularly important for brands, hence they will have to be especially adaptive in this area. Commerce cloud applications mentioned earlier are an example of these very recent breakthrough technologies.
3. If you need a decoupled or headless approach, don’t go with a technology that wants to do several different things at the same time.
Open DXP is the only DXP that has it all
Because of all the considerations and trends just discussed, you need to embrace an open architecture for your DXP, one without the restrictions of a lock-in.
Unified content and data create a seamless 1:1 customer experience. Acquia is helping their clients with bringing together all the data obtained from their customers, connecting all that data together in order for a single, unified view of the customer, and getting the content to the customer through whichever channels they interact with a brand on.
Acquia Open Experience Platform
The Acquia Open Experience Platform consists of two parts: the marketing hub and the experience factory. The latter is built on the Drupal CMS and then extended with preconfigured features that are ideal for mid-market organizations.
So, with all the advanced integrations such as Mautic or Acquia Lift, how can you achieve better business outcomes? In what way do they empower you? The answer is: they enable you to connect the right person at the right time with the right content on the right channel.
The “open” refers to more than just open source; it’s about being an open platform. In this context, this means utilizing Acquia’s open DXP alongside competitive products; whatever technology their clients need, Acquia wants to make all these different technologies work better together.
In this sense, Acquia’s DXP is positioned as an open alternative to proprietary platforms such as for example the Adobe Experience Manager or Salesforce’s Lightning Platform.
Some additional resources
Q: Can an organization get started with only Acquia Lightning and then add on other services later?
A: Absolutely; there are some foundational investments you really need, such as Lightning. Then you can add on Lift to extend your Drupal site with personalization, then Mautic for marketing, etc. Think of your DXP as a journey, not just as a touchpoint on that journey.
Q: Can Acquia Lift be integrated with other CMS platforms or does it only work with Drupal?
A: Yes, it does work with other platforms; it was designed as CMS-neutral.
Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve encountered when helping your customers move to a DXP?
A: There were two crucial mistakes, actually. Firstly - not accepting that the future is unknowable and that things change; and, secondly - a lack of discovery (the discovery checklist linked above is an excellent starting point).
Q: What does a digital experience look like in 2025?
A (Justin): It’s going to be similar, in the sense that there will still be a website, but also different in terms of the way people will interact. There will be an even greater focus on mobile experience, but voice is more limited in its use cases, so it likely won’t be as important as the hype predicts.
A (Tom): Because the pace of technology has never advanced faster, it’s hard to predict what the digital experience will look like even next year. New platforms are emerging every day and we’ll likely continue to see this; the winners will be the organizations that are able to successfully reach their customers with personalized content across all channels. The most important thing will be constant innovation; it will need to happen on a monthly basis. This is true for both the platforms themselves as well as for the organizational aspect.
We hope this recap has given you a better understanding of what an (open) DXP is and why a focus on the digital experience will continue to be more and more important thanks to technological advancements.
A lot of brands already demand a multichannel and cross-channel experience for their customers, but the only integrated solutions are expensive and limited proprietary tools.
Now, Acquia’s positioning itself as the only open provider of these services has the potential to completely change the name of the DXP game. We’re excited to see how their upcoming tools, e.g. Content Cloud, will act as further disruptors of the industry.
We conclude with the one major takeaway from all this: because the future is uncertain, you need to set a strategy that will allow you to adapt to any new technologies in order to stay in the game.