What Is a Composable DXP and How to Build One
In this article, you will learn about the composable digital experience platform (DXP) concept and its benefits compared to traditional monolithic DXPs. You will discover how a composable DXP, built on a modern architecture and connected through APIs, allows businesses to create, manage, and deliver digital experiences more effectively.
The article discusses the limitations of traditional monolithic DXPs and highlights the advantages of a composable approach, such as seamless integration with existing technology stacks, the ability to mix and match best-of-breed technologies, and the freedom to evolve with changing market demands.
A composable digital experience platform (DXP) is a suite of digital marketing tools connected by APIs. These tools enable teams to create, manage, analyze, and deliver digital experiences across channels and over time.
Gartner reports that businesses that adopt a composable DXP can deliver new features to their customers about 80% faster than customers using traditional DXPs.
But what’s the difference between a composable and a monolithic DXP? And which one is right for your business?
The traditional DXP is an integrated set of technologies designed to deliver digital experiences. Over the past few decades, traditional CMS vendors expanded beyond just content management and started building additional marketing technologies on top of the CMS.
Analytics, campaign management, digital asset management, marketing automation, personalization, and A/B/n testing are examples of the types of capabilities CMS vendors built into the CMS. Often these technologies were natively integrated and designed to work cohesively with the CMS as a monolithic system.
The traditional DXP suite offered a ton of promise. In one system, a user could create content, associate it with a campaign, publish it to a webpage, analyze traffic, and gather insights about your customers that would allow you to deliver personalized content and web experiences to each visitor.
But often, the promise fell short. Organizations would spend 6-12 months creating content and building their site, only to find out after all that work, that they couldn’t use many of the additional features due to how the site was architected.
Even if the site were architected correctly, organizations would find that the additional tools forced the business to adapt to the tool rather than the tool adjusting to meet the company's needs. Additionally, because a monolithic DXP is a fully integrated suite of tools, you’re paying for all of them—even if you don’t use them. This includes the licensing, hardware, and infrastructure required to power the entire platform.
Moreover, while DXP suites often promise a ton of features, they rarely deliver. Often, organizations find they end up buying the same tool again because the integrated capability didn’t meet expectations.
And a system that works for your business today might not be what your business needs tomorrow.
The result is an unwieldy, unnecessarily complex suite of tools that requires niche technical skills to build and maintain and that often includes functionalities that you don’t need—and doesn’t include the functionalities you do need. As a result, traditional DXPs can be complex and cumbersome to use. Teams with specialized knowledge of a given DXP have to cobble together patches and workarounds to operate the platform.
What's more, as best-of-breed solutions emerge, DXPs don't offer the composability to adopt them. Progress towards optimized customer experiences—created efficiently, quickly, and at scale—can be glacial.
But that doesn’t mean it’s time to do away with the DXP entirely. Instead, businesses should consider investing in a composable DXP solution to finally meet the demands and opportunities of the omnichannel era.
For years, companies have pursued the omnichannel holy grail of “right message, right moment, right channel” without success. Solutions for content creation and distribution—typically monolithic CMSes and marketing platforms—have failed to scale with the proliferation of data and channels.
Delivering digital experiences requires a lot of tools. The collection of those tools is an organization's Digital Experience Platform.
Traditional Monolithic DXPs offer these tools in a single integrated system from one vendor. But as described above, this approach is less than ideal. Today, organizations are moving away from Monolithic DXPs and adopting a composable approach.
A Composable DXP is a digital experience platform “composed” of different, best-of-breed tools, often from multiple vendors. This isn’t a new concept. Best-of-breed as has been around for decades. Historically it’s been difficult to pull off due to integration challenges.
Today’s modern, cloud-native technologies leverage standard APIs that make it easier for organizations to assemble their own best-of-breed DXP.
This architecture enables teams to mix and match the systems and solutions required for their unique needs. It also allows organizations to grow into new levels of digital maturity over time and only pay for the tools they need at the moment. As your organization changes and grows, you can add functionalities and grow your Composable DXP over time.
Companies who choose a composable DXP assemble and combine—compose—the right set of capabilities that meet their unique business strategy and customer expectations. Unlike a traditional DXP, a composable DXP takes a modular approach.
In other words, composable DXPs avoid lock-in and provide teams with the freedom and flexibility to integrate any third-party solution. Critically, these systems can be assembled and reassembled in response to inevitable shifts in internal, market, and customer needs.
Here’s what sets composable DXPs apart:
- Modular architecture - A composable DXP comprises various components that work together cohesively but can be taken apart and put back together as necessary.
- Integration with third-party systems - Composable DXPs integrate their advanced systems, features, and tools with existing apps and third-party systems.
- API-first approach - Instead of packaging system functionality into a user interface and a closed programming environment, a composable DXP exposes system functionalities as endpoints so developers and other vendors can integrate more readily.
Composable DXPs still include some of the key components of a traditional DXP, such as:
- Omnichannel capabilities - Any composable DXP combines content management and engagement tools so that teams can deliver personalized experiences across channels and contexts.
- Content management - Teams can drive personalization at scale through atomized content management. DXPs support content types such as text, voice, images, and video, as well as navigation and taxonomy elements.
- Analytics and insights - Track customer habits and behaviors to gain insight into what audiences seek.
To keep up with market trends and evolving customer demands, companies have to move quickly and decisively. They need the freedom to adopt ever-emerging best-of-breed solutions. They must equip their content teams to use, reuse, and iterate on content across teams, channels, and regions to ensure accuracy and reach customers with lightning speed and precision.
They need to free up their developers and engineers to focus on building value that requires creativity and technical skill rather than working around monolith shortcomings or managing tasks that other teams should be empowered to do themselves. The composable DXP approach evolved to accomplish all of that and more.
Businesses are switching to composable DXPs for a variety of reasons, including:
- Seamless integration with your existing tech stack. Since a composable DXP is precisely that—composable—it can easily integrate with the technology you use already. Businesses switch to composable DXPs when they’re looking for a solution that enables them to experiment with content.
- Freedom to evolve with your business. Content should evolve with you. A composable DXP enables businesses to address new channels as they appear and fall off the map, without getting locked into costly vendor agreements. For businesses that want to move fast without breaking things, a composable DXP is the right choice.
- The ability to create personalized customer experiences. Composable DXPs put the customer at the center of everything you do. As customers’ preferences evolve, businesses can add and subtract functionalities that support those preferences. Businesses that plan on moving into new markets and seeking out new audiences could benefit from a composable DXP.
Composable DXPs offer numerous benefits over monolithic models and standard CMSes.
- Agility and flexibility. To keep up with market trends and evolving demands, companies have to be able to deploy new content quickly. A composable DXP makes it easier to plan and schedule deployments.
- The ability to create personalized and contextual experiences. Businesses must be able to integrate with ever-emerging best-of-breed solutions, as well as to incorporate the tools your team simply loves to use and couldn’t live without. With a composable DXP, you can quickly compile your own tech stack and cheaply implement new products and capabilities.
- Greater flexibility for content teams. Composable DXPs allow content teams to proliferate and centralize content seamlessly. Organizations can create content once and use it anywhere, across myriad teams, channels, and regions, avoiding stale content and ensuring up-to-the-minute accuracy.
- Freedom for developers and IT teams. Since developers and IT teams don’t need to manage every aspect of the back end, they’re freed up to perform more creative and technical tasks.
- Customer-centric value. Prioritize customers by creating personalized omnichannel experiences. As the customer journey changes, composable DXPs enable teams to change the way they collect and analyze customer data. That fosters seamless interactions with users and a more consistent experience of your brand.
Like any solution, composable DXPs do come with a few potential drawbacks.
- Complexity. By definition, a composable DXP is made up of many different components. This might make it a little harder to manage everything in an all-in-one platform.
- Integration. It can be challenging to integrate DXP components with other systems and tools.
- Cost. Depending on your selected components, a composable DXP can be more expensive than an all-in-one DXP.
- Knowledge. Building a composable DXP requires a deep understanding—including some specialized knowledge and skills—of the various components and how they work together.
The exciting thing about composable DXPs is that they are built, not bought. That means you have the opportunity to hand-tailor your tech stack to your organization’s needs. As long as each technology solution is API-first, headless, cloud-native SaaS, and microservices-based, you’re good to go.
At a minimum, here’s what you need to get started:
Core to a composable DXP is a modern, cloud-native, API-first content management system. A modern CMS is a solution that can aggregate content sources in real-time, provide a fully customizable editing experience, support structured content, and allow content to be displayed across any digital surface your customers value.
CMS’s anchoring traditional DXPs can’t handle the demands of today’s omnichannel world. Traditional CMSes were purpose-built to power the web channel.
Vendors of these systems have tried to keep them relevant by retrofitting them with APIs, porting them to cloud hosting, and adding a services layer to disguise them as SaaS. These are known as decoupled CMSes.
The Sanity Composable Cloud is the best-in-class headless CMS on the market.
A customer data platform synthesizes data from many sources and tools into a single centralized database. The database consolidates information on all the touchpoints through which customers interact with your brand.
The goal of a DXP is to enable you to optimize digital experiences, which is impossible without robust analytics. You’ll need to monitor everything from search performance to listings to social media to marketing to reviews.
These tools help companies automate the mundane, repetitive tasks that are necessary for running a business, like sending out mass emails and generating leads.
CRM software is a must-have for any organization looking to manage and parse customer data, build relationships with customers, deliver better customer service, and sell more products.
A composable DXP for today’s businesses
What’s the most effective, scalable way to create digital experiences that differentiate and drive your business? The answer is ever-changing. As customer behavior and expectations and the landscape of technologies evolve, you need the flexibility to adapt and adapt freely. This is only possible with an API-first, composable DXP comprising the best solutions for your business.
Learn how the Sanity Composable Content Cloud is the modern CMS for teams building their composable DXP by speaking with our Sales team today.