Sitecore’s Platform vs Composable Digital Experience Platforms (DXP)

Navigating digital experience platforms (DXP) to choose the right fit for your organization.

Intro to Digital Experience Platforms (DXP)

As business needs grew more complex than what mere Content Management Systems (CMS) could address, the Digital Experience Platform (DXP) emerged. Instead of simply publishing content to a website, businesses required the capability to deliver content across a variety of growing channels. DXPs employ a combination of analytics, AI, and marketing automation software to provide a personalized user experience. Savvy companies leverage these technologies to execute intelligent marketing strategies that foster stronger relationships with prospective customers.

Despite the advantages of these new platforms, they came with a considerable amount of technical overhead. In-house developers had to learn a complex stack that often included disparate technologies that didn't integrate well without customization. The expenses of setting up and maintaining these new platforms often outweighed the benefits they provided.

Recent technological advancements and innovative architectural concepts have given rise to a fresh perspective on DXPs. As a result, they have transformed into more modular, agile, and lightweight solutions. This has led to the emergence of the Composable Digital Experience Platform.

Illustration of a Platform and Composable Digital Experience Platform

Figure 1: Illustration of a Platform vs Composable DXP.

In this blog post, we aim to provide you with a concise introduction to this new and exciting era of marketing technology. We will highlight both Platform and Composable DXPs, what value they both bring business, and the solutions Sitecore provides for both:

What’s a Platform DXP?

Sitecore’s Platform DXP Overview

Value of Sitecore’s Platform DXP

What’s a Composable DXP?

Sitecore’s Composable DXP Overview

Value of Sitecore’s Composable DXP

Platform vs Composable DXPs

Other Considerations About Composable DXPs

What’s a Platform DXP?

A Platform DXP — sometimes referred to as a traditional or monolithic DXP — is an all-in-one, integrated digital experience solution. A Platform DXP is a singular architecture in which all functionalities are tightly connected and managed by a single service or tool, also known as a suite.

Platform DXPs are designed to provide a comprehensive solution for businesses seeking to deliver personalized, contextual, and seamless digital experiences to their customers. These platforms typically include a range of features, such as content management, customer data management, analytics, personalization, and integration capabilities, among others. By leveraging a Platform DXP, businesses can enhance their digital experiences, increase customer engagement and loyalty, and drive better business outcomes.

Sitecore’s Platform DXP Overview

Sitecore's Platform DXP suite is comprised of Experience Manager (XM) and Experience Platform (XP). The solution can be hosted by the organization or using Sitecore’s Managed Cloud. Sitecore’s best-in-class products in both XM and XP were designed, developed, and innovated together to be part of each single platform. Sitecore Managed Cloud is a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) hosting option for both Platform DXP options. Let’s explore each solution deeper:

Sitecore’s Platform DXP Solutions Product Descriptions
Experience Manager (XM) A user-friendly CMS that allows businesses to create, manage, and publish multi-lingual and multi-site content across channels, providing easy-to-use visual editing tools, templates, and components, with options for personalization, third-party integration, accelerating your time to market.
Experience Platform (XP) A complete DXP that provides businesses with omnichannel marketing capabilities, including personalization, marketing automation, and analytics for a 360-degree view of each customer’s journey. It enables businesses to deliver personalized experiences across multiple channels and languages while allowing marketers to measure their campaign effectiveness and adjust their strategies in real-time.
Managed Cloud A PaaS hosting service that allows users to deploy Sitecore XM and Sitecore XP on Microsoft Azure, providing an alternative option for those who prefer not to run their Sitecore instance on premises or via public cloud.

Value of Sitecore’s Platform DXP

Platform DXPs have become increasingly important for businesses seeking to provide exceptional digital experiences for their customers in an all-in-one solution. With a wide range of features and capabilities, DXPs have a number of advantages. Let’s explore how a Platform DXP can benefit businesses:

Benefit of Platform DXPs Description
Centralization Offers a single platform for content, customer data, analytics, and personalized content across any channel.
Reduced integration needs With native functionality built-in, you will spend less time integrating disparate pieces of a tech stack.
Flexible deployment Available for deployment on IaaS, PaaS, and fully managed PaaS solutions.
Containerized Developers can address issues of consistency, isolation, and reproducibility with less overhead.
Headless options Offers the right headless option for you—JSS, ASP.NET core SDK, Next.js—to further support headless, omnichannel delivery.
Extensibility Allows you to meet specific business requirements with granular extensions and integrations to other critical business systems.
Upgradability Provides a consistent schedule for routine maintenance and upgrades.

What’s a Composable DXP?

A composable DXP is a software platform designed to provide organizations with a modular approach to creating, managing and delivering digital experiences. With a composable architecture, businesses can design and integrate a scalable system with a range of capabilities using individual components or services from different vendors and systems to create a customized digital experience platform that meets their specific needs.

This approach allows for more customization and flexibility rather than being limited to a single monolithic platform or traditional DXP. Organizations can create the best possible digital experiences for their customers while evolving their composable platforms to support business change and growth. Composable DXPs typically consist of a core integration layer that connects the various components and enables them to work together seamlessly.

Sitecore’s Composable DXP Overview

Sitecore's Composable DXP includes a suite of best-in-class products, each solving a different problem as a standalone product. Together, they can be scaled up or down to create an optimized tech stack for businesses wanting to deliver impactful digital experiences to their customers. Let’s explore each solution deeper:

Sitecore’s Platform DXP Solutions Product Descriptions
XM Cloud A modern, agile CMS that combines headless content delivery with a visual authoring tool, enabling businesses to rapidly launch websites and deliver personalized experiences across channels with language and framework-agnostic sites that are Jamstack-ready for faster performance, security, and scalability.
Personalize Enables marketers to leverage customer data to create relevant, next-level customer experiences across channels, using user-friendly drag-and-drop interfaces for targeting and triggered experiences, while constantly optimizing and testing experiences through omnichannel experimentation.
Customer Data Platform (CDP) A customer data platform that unifies customer data across touchpoints and provides deep analytics and insights, enabling marketing teams to deliver personalized experiences and optimize user experiences by segmenting customers based on common behaviours, attributes, and purchasing decisions, all from one centralized place.
Content Hub Digital Asset Management (DAM) Helps organizations centralize, manage, and deliver digital assets to any customer touchpoint through a centralized repository, allowing teams to automate and deliver updated and approved assets to any channel, and take their content marketing to the next level. Its flexible content models and asset configuration make it easy to find assets, enabling teams to stay on the same page.
Content Hub Operations An end-to-end content operations solution that allows organizations to streamline their content strategy, sync marketing efforts across the content workflow, and take control of all aspects of their content landscape to enhance collaboration, visibility, and resource management, thus boosting the impact, speed, scale, and production of their content marketing.
Content Hub ONE A lightweight and easy-to-use headless CMS that streamlines content operations and enables users to define content types, store content and media based on those content types, and publish content across multiple channels with an intuitive UX, making it accessible through a variety of endpoints such as web, mobile app, kiosk, social media, POS systems, and more.
Send An automated email marketing tool that allows businesses to engage audiences through personalized campaigns created with an intuitive drag-and-drop editor, leveraging AI for advanced list segmentation and personalization. It offers integrations with various platforms and provides powerful real-time data and analytics for campaign optimization, ensuring the best return on investment for email marketing.
OrderCloud A fully customizable headless e-commerce platform that enables large-scale businesses to streamline their commerce operations with a flexible, cloud-native architecture that can be easily scaled for B2B, B2C, and B2X marketplace solutions, making it an ideal choice for enterprises looking to build their e-commerce business on their own terms.
Discover An AI-powered e-commerce tool that uses real-time recommendations, search, and merchandising to identify customer needs and provide personalized, friction-free shopping experiences, thus driving sales and delighting customers.
Connect Enables easy integration of Sitecore products with numerous systems, applications, and software platforms by offering 1000+ out-of-the-box app connectors with a low code / no-code workbench, fully integrated with Sitecore’s composable DXP.
Search AI-powered search enables businesses to power their website search box with fast, predictive, and hyper-relevant content, anticipating visitor journeys and delivering unified, relevant content across multiple languages to help customers find what they need quickly.

Value of Sitecore’s Composable DXPs

Nowadays, organizations need to be agile, responsive, and able to quickly adapt to changing customer needs. Businesses can benefit from Composable DXPs with a flexible, modular approach to digital experience delivery that allows businesses to pick and choose the features and capabilities they need, without being tied down to a monolithic, one-size-fits-all solution. This approach empowers businesses to create unique, highly personalized experiences for their customers, while reducing costs and increasing agility.

Benefits of Composable DXPs Description Benefits of Sitecore’s Composable Solutions
Extensive configuration Extensive configuration options allowing businesses to create customized solutions that fit their specific needs. This means businesses can select only the features and components that they require, without having to pay for unnecessary functionalities. Assemble Sitecore’s SaaS-based solutions that work with a best-in-class technology stack.
Lower total cost of ownership (TCO) Known for having a lower TCO than traditional platform DXPs. With composable DXPs, businesses can purchase and integrate only the components they need, reducing the cost of maintaining, upgrading, and customizing their digital solutions. Continually optimize your Sitecore solution portfolio so that you’re never stuck with too much or too little.
Flexible development Allows for flexible development, meaning that businesses can easily modify and customize their solutions as their needs change. This allows for greater agility and adaptability, ensuring that businesses can respond quickly to changing market conditions and customer needs. Sitecore allows you to build solutions with modern frameworks: headless, Jamstack, MACH, etc.
Differentiated solutions Enables businesses to create differentiated solutions that stand out in the market. By selecting and integrating only the components they need, businesses can create unique digital experiences that are tailored to their customers' needs and preferences. Supports differentiated solutions that provide the opportunity to go after a wider total addressable market.
Technical talent pool Ability to expand the technical talent pool for businesses. Because composable DXPs rely on standard APIs, businesses can hire developers with specific skills and expertise, knowing that they will be able to integrate easily with their existing technology stack. Increases access to a wider pool of talent across both .Net and Javascript developers.
Faster development cycles Leading to faster development cycles because businesses can select pre-built components that are ready to be integrated into their digital solutions. This allows for rapid deployment and faster time-to-market, ensuring that businesses can stay ahead of the competition. Modern CI/CD (continuous integration and deployment) pipelines and DevOps reduce innovation cycles that lead to greater agility.

Platform vs. Composable DXPs

Now that you understand more about the value of both a Platform and Composable DXP, let’s explore a comparison of the platforms to summarize their differences and unique capabilities. A traditional DXP and a composable DXP are both platforms for managing and delivering digital experiences, but there are some key differences between them. Let’s compare them!

Platform (Monolithic) DXP Composable DXP
Architecture Provides an organization with all the functionality and capabilities needed to deliver digital experiences in a single platform. Built using individual components and microservices that are integrated to meet the specific needs and goals of the organization.
Flexibility Typically inflexible and can be difficult to customize or change the platform as an organization's needs evolve over time. Designed with flexibility in mind. Provides organizations with the ability to choose the technologies that best meet their business needs, and to change/add components as their needs evolve.
Scalability Adding components or capabilities often requires a significant investment in time, resources, and money, making it difficult to scale. Allows organizations to scale their tech stack with the ability to add components and capabilities as their digital experiences grow, without limitations.
Integration Integrating with other systems and technologies can be difficult, as it’s often a closed system. Easily integrate with other systems and technologies, such as CDPs, marketing automation tools, e-commerce and more, to provide seamless and unified customer experiences.
Cost Expensive as organizations are required to purchase the entire platform, regardless of whether they need all its components and capabilities. Avoid the high upfront costs associated with a traditional DXP and only pay for the components needed. Add or change components as business needs evolve.

Other Considerations About Composable DXPs

In addition to the technological benefits of a composable DXP, there are several business considerations that companies should take into account. One of the primary advantages of a composable DXP is cost savings. With a composable DXP, companies can purchase and integrate only the components they need, rather than investing in an all-encompassing solution that may require extensive customization and ongoing maintenance. This can result in significant cost savings over time. Additionally, a composable DXP enables faster time-to-market, as businesses can quickly integrate new features and capabilities as needed. This agility can help businesses stay competitive in a rapidly changing market. Finally, a composable DXP promotes innovation and experimentation by allowing businesses to easily test new ideas and approaches without disrupting their core systems. This flexibility encourages a culture of innovation and can lead to breakthroughs in customer experience and digital marketing strategies.

Consideration #1: A MACH Approach to Composable

The architecture of a Composable DXP is based on four technology principles: Microservices-based, API-first, Cloud-native, and Headless, collectively referred to as MACH. Each element of MACH contributes to the flexibility, scalability, and adaptability of a Composable DXP. The Microservices-based approach allows for independent development, deployment, and management of software components, which communicate with each other through well-defined APIs, enabling an API-first approach. Cloud-native architecture leverages the full capability of cloud computing environments, providing organizations with highly resilient, flexible, and scalable applications that can be easily updated to meet customer demands. The Headless approach decouples back-end content functionality from front-end UX functions, allowing for omnichannel publishing and a more customized customer experience. By combining these four principles, MACH creates a standard for the multiple integration points that must communicate and work together in a composable DXP, making it easier to integrate multiple systems.

Consideration #2: Composability is a State of Mind

Composability is a state of mind that emphasizes flexibility, modularity, and scalability. It is a way of thinking that encourages businesses to think about their digital experience in terms of independent components that can be combined and integrated as needed. This mindset emphasizes configuration over customization and promotes the use of pre-built business capabilities, reducing the need for extensive in-house development. By adopting a composability mindset, businesses can create more differentiated solutions, accelerate development cycles, lower total cost of ownership, and increase ROI. This approach requires a willingness to embrace change, think beyond traditional monolithic solutions, and be open to new technologies and ideas. Ultimately, a composability mindset enables businesses to adapt and evolve quickly in response to changing customer needs and market conditions.

Consideration #3: Low-code / No-code Solutions

Low-code/no-code solutions are software tools that allow users to configure and integrate functionalities into larger solutions with minimal or no coding required. These solutions are considered Plug-and-Play Business Capabilities (PBCs) in the context of Composable DXPs. PBCs are like SaaS offerings that provide pre-built, ready-made business capabilities that can be seamlessly integrated into a larger software solution. This allows for faster implementation and integration of new capabilities without requiring extensive development time. In summary, low-code/no-code solutions serve as easy-to-use, pre-built tools that businesses can easily plug into their existing systems to enhance their functionality.

Consideration #4: Front-end Developers are the New Full-stack Developer

The emergence of low-code/no-code solutions, Javascript frameworks, and JAMStack architecture has significantly impacted the role of developers in building and maintaining software solutions. With the use of ready-made business capabilities, companies no longer require developers who specialize in hosting complex software solutions. Instead, they only need front-end developers who are experts in Javascript frameworks and JAMStack architectural concepts. This shift requires significant re-training for developers who are used to working with traditional technologies such as .NET MVC or PHP. While senior full-stack developers may still be necessary, in-house development teams will become leaner and more specialized in this new front-end paradigm.

Consideration #5: Upgrading and Re-Platforming are Easier Than Ever

JAMStack architecture offers several benefits that make web app development more efficient and cost-effective. One such benefit is that it enables web apps to be agnostic about their data source, meaning that the structure of the app does not have to align with the data source. This makes re-platforming and upgrading less expensive than with Monolithic DXPs. With Monolithic DXPs, upgrades to different technology stacks such as switching from Web Forms to MVC were costly transformations. However, with JAMStack, the app's architecture is no longer limited to the constraints of the CMS rendering it, making the process of switching to new technologies more affordable. Additionally, JAMStack architecture allows for easy integration of new Plug-and-Play Business Capabilities (PBCs), like e-commerce, making it easier to switch between PBCs as needed. Finally, API standardization reduces the cost of adoption and implementation of modular PBCs, making it easier to pitch your solution over another.

Which Sitecore DXP Solution is the Right Fit?

Businesses have different needs when it comes to delivering impactful experiences to their customers. Platform DXPs offer a pre-built suite of functionalities that may work well for businesses with simple needs or those who are just starting out with their digital transformation journey. On the other hand, Composable DXPs offer a modular approach, allowing businesses to pick and choose the specific functionalities they need, creating a personalized stack that works best for their complex needs. Composable DXPs also provide more flexibility, scalability, and agility, making them ideal for businesses that require a higher degree of customization and control. Ultimately, choosing the right type of Sitecore DXP depends on the unique needs of your business and its customers. Reach out to the friendly team at Fishtank to explore the Sitecore suite in more depth to help you make a more informed decision!

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Meet Theresa Gutierrez

Sitecore Strategist | Sitecore Strategy MVP

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Theresa, aka 'T', is a high-energy marketing creative with 8+ years of experience across various industries. She's passionate about delivering strategy and design, with a focus on Sitecore SaaS technologies. T is an avid golfer and loving dog momma, appeased only by delicious food and a bevy of something bubbly. Cheers!

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