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DXP vs CXP vs CMS: a glossary of digital experiences

Trey Briggs
Try Storyblok

Storyblok is the first headless CMS that works for developers & marketers alike.

At one point or another, enterprise marketing teams all have the big discussion. You know the discussion: it's the one where you sit the entire team down, lay all your cards out on the table, and ask: what are we? What are we as an organization, what are we trying to accomplish, and what is the best way to achieve these goals? Who is our audience, and how does our approach to digital experience empower their buyer journey? For enterprise marketing teams, the tools used to answer those questions are nestled in one of many acronyms: CMS (Content Management System) vs. DXP (Digital Experience Platform) vs. CXP (Content Experience Platform), and the list goes on and on. 

Let's be honest here: we're all at least a little confused when it comes to acronyms describing the modern web experience. There are many different ways to define the burst of experience-first frameworks and methodologies - from content experience to content management system to digital experience platform. How can you make a decision that benefits your enterprise business if you're swimming in three-letter buzzwords?

We're right there with you! Storyblok has been in the business of digital transformation for years, and we even find ourselves going over definitions and figuring out where we fit in the acronym dance every few years. There are plenty of acronyms to add to your glossary, but there are three digital experience acronyms that cover the bulk of software and systems used by enterprises today:

In this article, we'll help you prepare for the big discussion with a breakdown of these three choices. While this isn't exactly a deep dive, we want to make sure you come away with the knowledge you need to start the conversation about your enterprise's desired digital offering.

Section titled CMS - Content Management System

A CMS is a software or platform that allows users to create, manage, and store content on a website. A CMS helps manage all the content your site publishes, focusing on easy-to-use functionality that marketing teams can control, typically without the need for too much technical guidance. 

You can manage media needed to build out functional web pages with any standard CMS. An excellent example of this is WordPress, which powers much of the smaller, uncomplicated sites across the internet. This simple setup is perfect for very small businesses, entrepreneurs, and a lot of the internet. 

Content Management Systems are, at their core, a place to:

  • Store and display content and media assets
  • Provide a seamless workflow between marketing and technical teams
  • Give in-depth analytics and content authoring support
  • Store, display, and distribute content

Section titled The two branches of CMS - Legacy and Headless

To understand modern CMS, you must understand the differences between legacy CMS and headless CMS. The two are born from the same base but expand into vastly different principles and perks. 

Legacy CMS vs Headless CMS graphic || Storyblok Headless CMS

Section titled Legacy CMS

Legacy CMS solutions work well for extremely small businesses. They're built for functionality and ease of use, removing the technical barrier that many digital experiences have out of the box. Still, they become a bottleneck once the need for scalability, security, and speed expand. Legacy CMS platforms don't cater to enterprise companies. The limitations are too steep to handle the sheer amount of content and features needed to run an enterprise solution.

They're a long-standing staple in web solutions for businesses, small and large, and provided some of the first solutions for managing an online presence. However, as time has gone on, legacy CMS (while still a staple for small businesses and entrepreneurs) has become less able to handle enterprise businesses' growing complexity and needs.

Best used by:

  • Small businesses
  • Entrepreneurs 
  • Passion and hobbyist websites

Section titled Headless CMS 

The answer to enterprise-level content needs within a CMS is a headless solution. A headless CMS is a back-end only content management system that serves as a content repository and makes content accessible via a RESTful API or GraphQL API. This decoupling removes the scalability bottleneck that Legacy CMS faces. Headless CMS works best for enterprise-level companies that need speed, flexibility, and language-agnostic frameworks.

A headless CMS is a tech stack agnostic solution that powers your company's content delivery with tools catered to:

  • Workflow
  • Organization and user administration
  • Content Authoring
  • Security
  • Reporting

Headless CMS requires a bit more technical skill, so they work best for organizations with a technical team to build out required tools. Some options, like Storyblok, offer a suite of features that cater to making the workflow between marketing and tech teams a seamless experience.

Best used by businesses that: 

  • Have enterprise-level website needs
  • Plan to scale
  • Have a large amount of content
  • Need extensive customization

Need a quick and easy overview of Headless CMS? We have you covered. LEARN MORE

Section titled DXP - Digital Experience Platform

The Gartner glossary defines a DXP as an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery, and optimization of contextualized digital experiences. Unlike a CMS, a DXP expects a hefty transformation from the company helming it. DXPs are all about personalization and, depending on the company, some go above and beyond to give consumers drastically optimized experiences.

DXPs grew to provide a wide range of tools that solve a common MarTech (Marketing Technology) issue: meeting consumers raised in a digital age where they are (social media, websites, and constantly on their phones). While they can be a single software offering, most DXPs are multiple products made to work together to achieve a unique goal. 

Some DXPs are centered around eCommerce experiences, offering tools that focus on customer experience features such as:

  • Inventory Management
  • Payment Integration
  • Customer Portals
  • Web-based Analytics
  • Advertising Campaigns
  • Email and social campaigns

Section titled CMS vs. DXP

For marketing teams, DXPs seek to fill a void in the consumer journey by providing omnichannel tools that connect consumers to brands in a structured way. However, deciding to go with a DXP means building (or rebuilding) your site and marketing techniques entirely. CMS allows marketing teams to update and transform their digital solutions without starting from scratch.

Both Content Marketing Systems and Digital Experience Platforms are built to scale, work great for eCommerce, and provide consumers with a personalized experience. A DXP, however, will require a streamlined and focused approach that can't be seamlessly implemented into most workflows. 

It's a rewarding option if you're able to start clean!

CMS vs DXP graphic || Storyblok Headless CMS

Section titled CXP - Content Experience Platform

According to Aragon Research: Content Experience Platforms (CXP), a market category for content management, focuses on the unique journey for a buyer through web, mobile, and other forms of customer experience. CXP replaces older approaches such as web content management (WCM). 

Unlike DXPs, CXPs focus on device-agnostic content to create personalized experiences. A content experience platform treats content not only as king but as the entire court. These platforms focus entirely on supporting content through every possible use case, especially content creation, distribution, and analysis. It's essentially a central hub for the content lifecycle, focusing less on nontechnical teams. 

A few key differences between a CXP and the other acronyms:

  • Built to create and handle new content channels quickly
  • No boundaries or distractions from a content workflow
  • Built with content experts in mind and caters heavily to content teams

The media created with this solution is optimized in the software for multichannel use out of the box. 

CXPs allow marketing departments with little to no technical expertise to thrive. These platforms integrate with tools used to reach broader audiences across a variety of social and digital channels and provide detailed analytics. CXPs are all about content, content delivery, and content teams, focusing less on full-service enterprise marketing tools. 

CXPs provide:

  • Speed and flexibility for creation and distribution of media
  • Omnichannel content experiences that support a variety of social platforms
  • Content-first approach

While CXPs are obviously great for content teams and marketers, they aren't always full-scale websites. They're a great option if you don't need eCommerce or enterprise-level personalization and digital offerings.

Section titled The acronym doesn't matter

When your time comes to have the big discussion, remember that the acronym you use to describe the digital experience you offer doesn't matter. CMS vs. DXP vs. CXP and so on only matter as long as these definitions give you a clear path forward. We've grown to embrace and expect personalization, MACH architecture, and scalability. What lies ahead is exciting, and your digital architecture should focus on standing out and delivering something unique for your consumers. 

As we head deeper into these exciting technical times, there will surely be more acronyms, more solutions, and more ideas to play with along the way. Be flexible and build an experience that transforms your buyers' journey into a system that stands the test of time.