What Do Buyers Really Want in a Digital Experience Platform?

Article ImageThe release of the latest market map from one of the legacy analyst firms always leads to a spirited discussion among my colleagues at Digital Clarity Group and friends within the industry. On what basis did Company X move up and to the right? Why did Company Y lose its visionary status? We shook our collective heads over one particular digital experience platform (DXP) market map, published in fall 2017. A DXP is the collection of technologies that an organization uses to create, manage, and orchestrate the digital experience (DX) delivered to customers, prospects, employees, and other stakeholders. In simplest terms, the underlying construct for this particular map was that the “best” DXPs are those that have the most parts, with “parts” comprising a wide variety of DX capabilities (including WCM, commerce, mobile development, and customer service solutions). The assumption that organizations would buy a single-vendor DXP based on the number of parts within said solution is at odds with what our analysts and consultants were seeing across companies of all sizes and industry sectors. We decided that it was time for voice-of-the-buyer, fact-based insight that would separate DXP myths from reality.

DXP Buyers Speak

In early 2018, we undertook a program of original research aimed at understanding how buyers are approaching their DXPs. We conducted a survey of 300 business and IT professionals in North America and Europe. We interviewed 22 business and technology leaders in North America, Europe, and Latin America. We also talked with executives and managers at nine providers of DX technologies and services.

Our premise going into the research was that there’s no single, right answer to the question of the best way to constitute an effective DXP. We sought to understand when and why buyers choose a single-vendor end-to-end platform, and when and why they choose a multi-vendor best-of-breed solution. The data shows that there’s demand for both approaches in the current market. But it also shows a clear preference: Two-thirds of participants in the survey and interviews are taking the multi-vendor approach.



Risk Drives DX Platform Preferences

We asked survey respondents about the DX technologies their organization currently has installed and about their strategic plans for buying new DX technology within the next 12 months. We found that 31% of survey respondents prefer to work with a single vendor that offers a DXP comprising of multiple technology products. When asked about their preference, they cite confidence that their preferred vendor makes high-quality products. They believe that, over time, the vendor’s DX products will integrate well with each other. (We noted that IT leaders are more skeptical of vendor claims than marketing leaders.)

More than two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents are taking multi-vendor approaches to their DXPs. Within this total, 33% prefer to find best-of-breed technology vendors for DX point solutions; 22% use a single vendor for their DXP backbone and supplement technology needs with point solutions when necessary; and 11% are adopting open source solutions that are customized by partners or in-house IT resources. When asked about the primary reason for their multi-vendor preference, respondents see the markets for DX technologies evolving very quickly, making it unrealistic for any one vendor to provide a single platform. And 3% of respondents have no plans to buy new DX technology in the next year.

The approach of choice for any organization is ultimately about managing risk. Respondents who constitute their DXPs with components from multiple vendors prioritize a need for business agility. They want to avoid being made irrelevant by a big disruptor (such as Amazon, in the case of retailers) or by direct-to-consumer commerce (in the case of manufacturing). These leaders perceive high risk in being tied to a single vendor. Respondents who choose a single-vendor end-to-end approach want to share risk with their chosen vendors and with services partners.



The Best-Fit DXP Matters

In the digital era, sustainable competitive advantage lies in the experiences that organizations deliver to customers, prospects, employees, and other stakeholders. The days of competing on the basis of price, product, and packaging are long gone. Investments in DX technologies are therefore central to the ability to survive and thrive, because leaders are putting their businesses on the line when choosing DX technologies and partners. It’s true that much of DX is still aspirational, with large gaps in technology, skills, and best practices. Choosing a DXP approach that’s aligned with the strategic goals and objectives is one of the best ways to turn aspirations into reality.

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