Digital experience (DX) is quickly becoming a deciding factor for many customers when it comes to deciding what brands get their business. And of course, many brands are beefing up their martech stacks to improve their digital fortunes. But what makes more sense, to invest in a DX solution from a vendor, or assemble one on your own?
The gulf between enterprises when it comes to their current DX stacks and their understanding of the technology’s potential remains frustratingly vast. It’s common for brands to be using legacy solutions that can be outdated by as much as a decade. That juxtaposes with customer expectations, which will only become more demanding about digital experience quality and personalization going forward. The best time to commit to and begin executing a long-term DX strategy is, well, as soon as possible.
Properly shaping a DX tech strategy requires a careful assessment of available vendors and their solutions, as well as the organizational support, training and structural changes should show the foresight, dedication, and determination to pursue a DX strategy that takes the next five to 10 years into account, investing now to realize continual benefits over the long-term.
In pursing your DX strategy, choosing whether to go all in with a major DX vendor or to go it alone is the most important decision you’ll make.
Option 1: Select a major DX vendor, and accept vendor lock-in.
The major digital experience vendors seek to provide a holistic, all-in-one stack of integrated DX technologies capable of meeting whatever needs you’re likely to throw at their solution. In order to outpace the competition, they’re also at the forefront of technology development in areas such as AI and machine learning.
Of course, there’s one potential downside to working with the major DX vendors: they don’t just want a piece of your business, they want the whole thing. These vendors are highly motivated to get you using their whole platform, continuing to add useful component solutions that also deepen your vendor lock-in with each purchase.
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That said, aligning your enterprise with a highly capable, resourced and innovation-oriented vendor may be the right choice if the solutions you become locked into provide vital capabilities you would have pursued anyway. Brands that do fully embrace major DX vendor platforms are often the first to have access to the kinds of leading-edge features that deliver definitive advantages over competitors. Before making this commitment, however, be sure your eyes are open to the fact that if a vendor does turn out to be poorly suited to your needs, exiting that relationship and organizing your enterprise around new tools will be a long and costly process.
Option 2: Building a digital experience stack from piecemeal offerings.
Rather than betting your brand’s future on a single platform vendor, the alternative is assembling a DX stack on your own through in-house creations and/or mixing and matching solutions sourced from different vendors. This practice is common enough that major vendors are increasingly likely to build out platform compatibility with popular external solutions. Maintaining flexibility beyond what a single vendor might offer can provide distinct strategic advantages in two ways: 1) ensuring that you directly control all of your customer data, and 2) adding the ability to finely tune and acutely control the user experience.
When it comes to optimally leveraging customer data, brands should make use of big data platforms (along with the most complete data they can assemble) to achieve a single view of the customer. Because this capability is so inherently tied to the effectiveness of all solutions across the DX stack—and ensuring the security of that data is just as crucial—it’s common for enterprises to use big data platforms that they can tightly control and that are tailored to their needs. This strategy of harnessing a closely-held big data solution is practiced even by some brands that otherwise use major DX vendor platforms for everything else.
Similarly, the benefits of a more nuanced control over digital experience drives many brands to utilize specialized front end applications. Such solutions can leverage modern web and native app technologies to deliver experiences more customized for individual customers. An example of this is the rising practice of operating e-commerce platforms in a headless mode, allowing brands to provide a highly personalized front end for all customer interactions while still realizing the advantages of their established back end DX technologies. Building and utilizing these solutions, which requires either tremendous internal expertise or an experienced technology partner, can serve as a decisive competitive differentiator by making customer experiences that much more personal and memorable.
Brands should also keep an eye on potential next-generation solutions, like those that offer the promise of creating personalized experiences programmatically. For example, Adobe already offers a solution that uses AI to modify the images that specific customers see. Other technologies customize headlines in the same manner. Emerging DX technologies will only increase the stakes when it comes to selecting the partners best able to meet your brand’s particular needs—whether that turns out to be a single major DX platform provider or a carefully assembled selection of solutions.