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Explore this introduction to digital experience platforms

Web experience management platforms and content management systems are morphing into digital experience platforms. This introduction to digital experience lays out the basics.

In the modern, interconnected workplace, individuals and teams rely on digital experiences to complete tasks and meet their goals. Digital experiences deliver content in context, and rely on digital experience platforms, or DXPs, to generate these experiences.

DXPs provide the content and data resources that produce digital experiences, and have steadily evolved from traditional content management technologies. In the future, DXPs may produce more useful digital experiences, as they can offer new ways for organizations to connect with customer data and control content flows.

In this introduction to digital experience, discover what the term means, how DXPs have evolved over time and what organizations should know about DXPs for their business operations.

What is a digital experience?

A digital experience encompasses what happens when people observe, encounter or partake in activities within a digital environment. Each experience influences the flow of content for a purpose, whether it's to discover the right information to solve a problem, purchase items online, raise awareness about a brand or exercise with a fitness goal in mind. A digital experience is both personal and interpersonal -- what an individual person sees, senses and acts upon, as well as what a group of people share and understand in digital environments.

Additionally, a digital experience relies on the environment to deliver content in a certain context. Words, images, sounds, haptics and alerts blend with audience data and data about the environment to generate targeted interactions with users. Data about the environment might include the devices that people use to engage with content, such as personal computers, mobile phones, tablets, smart speakers, kiosks, wearables and other connected gadgets.

A digital experience harnesses and structures how information flows. It also considers the content itself, data about individuals and groups, business-related factors and real-time signals from sensors within the ambient environment.

A digital experience encompasses what happens when people observe, encounter or partake in activities within a digital environment.

Evolution of digital experience platforms

A DXP manages the content and data necessary to digitize activities and generate digital experiences. The DXP evolved from a content management system (CMS) and a web experience management (WEM) platform into an interactive platform that controls content flows.

In the early days of the web, digital experiences were simply a series of web pages collected in a file system, organized into websites and presented on full-screen web browsers. However, nontechnical users needed easy ways to create and publish content. This led to the first-generation CMS, often called a web content management system, which enabled content creators and editors to add and update text, images and video clips on web pages and provided templates for nontechnical users to format website content. Those users could also create microsites, in which they would adapt the design and templates from one site to meet the needs of others.

However, content was page-oriented, static and difficult to personalize. Content management was tightly connected to content delivery and displayed within full-screen web browsers. This led to the development of more advanced CMSes, as well as WEM platforms, which added capabilities for dynamic web publishing.

With WEM platforms, nontechnical users can create and update content on their own, but they also focus on discrete chunks of information -- sometimes referred to as content components or snackable content. An underlying content repository stores these pieces of information, which include metadata with tags that describe the content components' characteristics. WEM platforms introduced metadata management to organize terms into tag sets, as well as mechanisms to manually or automatically tag content components.

The DXP evolved from a content management system and a web experience management platform into an interactive platform that controls content flows.

A WEM platform separates content management from content delivery. It assembles content components from the repository to generate page displays through predefined templates. WEM platforms also rely on business standards to tailor content delivery based on customer profiles. Over time, as mobile devices became more commonplace, WEM platforms began to dynamically adapt templates to the varied screen sizes of mobile devices.

Benefits of DXPs

DXPs offer various benefits, including the following points.

Modernization. A DXP can modernize content management capabilities. It weaves together information and data from disparate sources to create engaging experiences.

Use of both CMS and WEM capabilities. A DXP combines both CMS and WEM capabilities and includes one or more authoritative repositories for various types of snackable content -- text, rich media, 3D renderings, audio clips and other items. DXPs consistently manage these components.

Support for nontechnical users. DXPs support editorial workflows that enable nontechnical users and teams to create new content, aggregate items from external sources and organize components for on-demand delivery across multiple digital channels.

Use of headless CMS capabilities. A DXP often incorporates headless CMS capabilities to manage content components without assuming how or where users will deliver the components.

Use of microservices and RESTful APIs. DXPs rely on microservices and RESTful APIs. Microservices are a type of architecture where an application can be split into or developed through smaller, individual parts or services, and each smaller service can function independently. RESTful APIs are a type of API that use HTTP to interact with data.

The microservices and RESTful APIs are maintained within a headless CMS to access and update content components within repositories. Application developers can assemble microservices to develop more useful user experiences. Additionally, UX designers and front-end developers can build user experiences on their own without relying on back-end development activities.

Integration with customer data platforms. Engaging content flows depend on detailed customer data beyond just profile information from individual websites. Increasingly, DXPs rely on customer data platforms (CDPs) to aggregate and normalize both first- and third-party customer-related data to support personalization and control content delivery.

The future of DXPs

In the future, DXPs will produce more engaging digital experiences, although those experiences will depend on how individuals sense and respond to digitized cues. DXPs will benefit from added CDP data management capabilities and innovative content management through microservices and RESTful APIs.

CDP capabilities. Organizations can expect a revolution in how they use customer data to generate digital experiences. A DXP will use increasingly detailed customer data from a CDP. To retrieve this data, CDPs will aggregate and normalize information collected automatically from more sources, such as location from smartphones, personal performance from fitness trackers and IoT device signals. Data from simple experiences becomes more useful to personalize results if the CDP can match a customer's activities with that individual's background and intent.

For instance, a fitness club might rely on data from members' fitness trackers to personalize in-gym experiences, such as automatically setting workout profiles on exercise machines and selecting motivational videos to match a session's intensity. Then, the club could continually refine fitness experiences with data from each session to predict overall wellness goals and objectives.

Microservices and RESTful APIs. Organizations can expect more advanced and more useful customer journeys that rely on intelligent content resources. Microservices and RESTful APIs can recognize patterns from machine learning engines and generate insights from AI algorithms to transform how platforms manage and deliver content. Developers can access metadata to manage content flows and use microservices to create engaging digital experiences.

For example, a sports franchise might want to convert clicks from digital devices into sales, both around game-time events and afterwards, to boost fan engagement and market new products. The franchise might update players' performance statistics in real time and automatically push out alerts tuned to individuals' interests. Fans receive this content on their devices with real-time promotions for merchandise, which they can immediately purchase.

Microservices and RESTful APIs can make a difference in this example. Behind the scenes, developers rely on AI-powered microservices to extract meaning and metadata from game-time video streams. RESFTful APIs provide standardized ways to interact programmatically with disparate content repositories.

With a DXP, developers can also adapt microservices and RESTful APIs to produce different digital experiences and build audiences in new ways. For example, fans could explore prior events, which the platform automatically indexes by athlete, particular plays, breakthrough strategies and other factors.

The franchise could also send fans personalized alerts about updated clips and sense their preferred devices to automatically deliver visual experiences to mobile phones or audio experiences to smart speakers, for example.

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