What is composable DXP?

by Ned Hallett
Published on February 2022

In the last few years, the ways brands have delivered experiences, engaged customers and most importantly, made sales, has been in a constant state of flux.

We’ve gone from CMS to WEM, via MACH and now to DXP (digital experience platform), composable commerce and composable DXP.

In short, an upturned can of Alphabetti Spaghetti.

In this piece, we track the progression of these tools, namecheck this plethora of acronyms, and try to explain where we are now.

We’ll cover:

  • What exactly are all these things?
  • How did we get from one to the other?
  • What is the future of digital experience and commerce? 

A roadmap to composable DXP, stop one: the humble CMS

What does CMS stand for?

Content management system.

What does a CMS do?

Unlike the Swiss army knives further down this list, CMSs have quite a simple remit.

As the tin suggests, a CMS allows marketers and webmasters to manage text, audio, video and multimedia web content.

The CMS’s place in the journey 

If we place this in the context of the kinds of platforms that, for example, track users’ journeys across social, email and web – and make personalised recommendations based on ML insights, we can see that a CMS really is the starting point.

However, it’s still an evolution from a hand-coded HTML site.

Stop two: the missing-link WEM 

What does WEM stand for?

Web engagement management.

What is WEM?

Web engagement management is not strictly a technology in the same way that a CMS or DXP is.

Instead, it’s a framework for online marketing that emphasises the use of certain technologies. 

The principles of WEM, which was a buzzword/buzzphrase around 2010, include:

  • Content optimisation
  • Multi-channel management
  • Conversational engagement
  • Demand generation
  • Sales automation

WEM’s place in the journey 

We won’t spend too much time unpicking each principal, as the specifics, as imagined by WEM, are of their time.

For example, a key part of conversational engagement, in the WEM world, was the use of forums, whereas now community and engagement mostly takes place on social.

However, what you do start to see – and what is in its most up-to-date incarnation in composable DXP – is an emphasis on technology and approach that covers the entire customer lifecycle.

Stop three: not the return, but the arrival of the MACH (and composable commerce)

What does MACH stand for?

Microservices, API-first, cloud-native and headless.

What is MACH?

MACH is not a platform or a set of eCommerce principles. It’s a group of technologies, which lay the groundwork for composable DXP.

To touch on the technological elements of MACH briefly:

  • Microservices – a modular application architecture that splits an app up into microservices 
  • API-first – APIs enable communication between different software
  • Cloud-native – more modern cloud technologies like serverless or containers 
  • Headless – a type of content management wherein content can adapt easily to various touchpoints, e.g. POS devices, mobiles and tablets 

The effect of this combination of technologies is enabling modularity…or composability .

Microservices are inherently modular. APIs are the go-betweens that make all this modularity possible. Cloud-native = same story for the infrastructure, and headless means modularity for the front end.

All this modularity is what enables ‘composable commerce’ or composable DXP, in which digital experience platforms are ‘composed’ from various , ‘best-of-breed’ elements.

MACH’s place in the journey 

The goals of WEM are realised in composable DXPs, but MACH is the architectural and technological groundwork that makes this possible in most cases.

End of the road (for now): DXP/composable DXP 

What does DXP stand for?

Digital experience platform.

What is a digital experience platform?

DXPs are more like CMSs than WEM or MACH in that they’re both types of platforms that aim to deliver on their acronymic promise.

In the spirit of WEM, DXPs aim to deliver at every stage of the customer journey. But unlike WEM, DXPs are purpose-built platforms.

In practice, this often means DXPs are split into four  functions:

  • Content management 
  • Customer data and analytics 
  • Personalisation and marketing automation 
  • Integrations 

This means that any DXP platform will be a workable CMS, have access to advanced customer analytics, use that customer data to personalise content across channels, and track all of these journeys, interactions and data at various touchpoints.

Where composable DXP differs 

In an interview singing the praises of composable DXP, one engineer told the story of a client paying six figures a year for a DXP feature they had never switched on.

This story illustrates the general problem with out-the-box DXP: some of the elements – advanced ML-driven personalization, for instance – are very powerful, and go far beyond the requirements of many teams.

Composable DXP then, making use of MACH architecture, is a modular approach to a DXP.

Using microservices packaged to fulfil specific business needs – i.e. product search – a composable DXP approach solves the issue of redundancy while allowing scale-ups and enterprises to access the features they need as and when.

There’s currently no more road after composable DXP, but many predict it will be a major feature of experience landscape in the years.

Your place in the journey; our place in the journey 

If you’re reading this, it’s likely you’re trundling along that road from CMS to composable DXP.

And if that’s true, we’d like you to think of us as the conveniently placed Starbucks, KFCs, or handy fuel stations along the way, though with more of a specialist, expert connotation than these chains invoke.

What we are is a cloud-native MSP with a pioneering full-stack support offering, and what we can do is: 

  • Help guide you to the type of eCommerce, digital commerce or experience solution that fits your bill 
  • Manage and support your platform 24/7
  • Architect, manage and review your cloud-native infrastructure

From our work supporting Procook’s multi-million-pound eCommerce solution to the launch of Joe Wicks’ The Body Coach, we’ve made a name supporting complex, mission-critical apps.

So a composable DXP stack is right up our alley. But wherever you are in your journey, it’s worth taking a look at our full range of managed services for eCommerce.

But wherever you are in your journey, to find out more about how we could help you, just get in touch.

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