All about composable DXP: Bringing composable and digital experience platforms together

Let’s get a better understanding about composable DXPs, and how Contentful helps you build the DXP you need to deliver the experiences your customers want.
February 15, 2024


If the term digital experience platform calls to mind a monolithic suite of tools for delivering web-based digital experiences, we need to talk. This type of all-in-one DXP solution never truly delivered on its promise to provide all the capabilities companies need for delivering impactful digital experiences at scale. 

Perhaps that’s because, as Joe Cicman points out, the “all” keeps growing. Joe astutely asks, “How is it possible for one vendor to create one product that works across multiple industries and grows in scope as a company’s digital remit grows?” 

Enterprise organizations faced with ever-increasing pressure to innovate, adopt new technologies, and maintain a competitive edge are realizing one vendor can’t do it all. Leading companies are replacing traditional DXPs with composable architecture.

Composable DXPs let companies choose the best tools for their needs so they can deliver innovative, personalized experiences at scale across any digital channel. 

Let’s dive in and get a better understanding of what a composable DXP is (and isn’t), why composable DXPs are essential for success, and how Contentful can help you build the DXP you need to deliver the experiences your customers want.

Monolithic vs. composable digital experience platforms

CMSWire's DXP Market Guide 2024 defines a DXP “as an integrated set of core technologies whose goal is to support the creation, management, delivery, and optimization of customized digital customer experiences.”

They go on to distinguish between classic or traditional DXPs that meet this definition through a monolithic environment and composable DXPs that are “an integrated ecosystem of one or more solutions that work together cohesively as a whole.”

But, as CMSWire notes, "Every DXP solution (including those that were previously resolutely monolithic) seems to be repositioning themselves as a headless, hybrid headless or composable DXP." This can make it hard for buyers to determine if a solution is truly a composable DXP with all the benefits that entails.

What is a monolithic DXP?

Monolithic DXPs are all-in-one suite systems that provide a centralized way for teams to create and deliver experiences. All the capabilities are provided by one vendor, or one vendor and a limited selection of additional tools that work well with the core product. Think Sitecore or Adobe. 

These big vendors add capabilities through acquisitions. As a result, monolithic DXPs may win on checkbox exercises but lack the best-in-class capabilities companies need to deliver impactful experiences at scale and slow access to the latest technologies. Companies need to wait for the next version to get those capabilities. Then, they must shoulder the costs of upgrades, migrations between versions, maintenance of customizations made on earlier versions, and fixing version compatibility issues. 

Customizing a monolithic DXP toward what your business actually needs often means introducing technical debt. There are more things that can break, more homegrown stuff to maintain, and more difficulties when you need to migrate or upgrade.

Enterprise organizations want a centralized way to build experiences, but they also need the ability to modernize and innovate to stay competitive. This is where legacy DXPs hold them back.

A 2021 Gartner research report went so far as to say, “Application leaders can not meet market needs or business objectives with monolithic digital experience platforms and must update tech stacks, decompose monoliths, and deliver task-oriented capabilities. To future-proof the stack, a composable DXP must be used to deliver composable user experiences.”

What is a composable DXP?

A composable digital experience platform lets you choose business capabilities from different vendors. Instead of being locked into a single vendor, you choose the best solutions — content management, A/B testing, commerce, personalization, analytics, etc. — for your business and connect them via APIs. You can right-size your DXP with the tools your business needs now while building a foundation that empowers you to easily add or swap tools as your business evolves.

This increasingly popular option enables companies to take advantage of new technologies, innovate faster, and be more agile in how they deliver engaging digital experiences. While some traditional vendors are packaging their solutions as composable DXPs, a truly composable solution gives businesses the most freedom to choose the tools they want, making virtually anything possible.

Get a quick primer on composability and how it brings more flexibility, scalability, and adaptability to systems like DXPs.

Components of composable DXPs

The components of composable DXPs are unique to each business. They include things like a content solution, search, personalization, localization, customer data platforms, etc. The example below is based on a large, multi-brand, multi-region enterprise. Each brand has its own tone of voice and style, but they all need the same set of standardized business capabilities under the hood. 

These common capabilities become the core set of technology components that form the composable DXP. In this way, one platform can serve multiple customer journeys and personas, as well as other internal and external stakeholders like sales reps, distributors, and customer service teams.

With a composable DXP a single set of technology capabilities enable multiple customer experiences for all personas.

Benefits of composable DXPs

Adopting a composable approach is the best way to gain the flexibility and agility companies need to react to changing market conditions. Composable DXPs take advantage of the proven benefits of MACH architecture — microservices-based, API-first, cloud-native, headless solutions. This modular approach has several advantages over traditional DXPs.

Orchestration improves customer experiences

Composable DXPs are built with entirely API-based architectures for seamless integration of systems like content, DAM, PIM, CRM, and personalization. This architecture makes it easier for teams to orchestrate customer experiences across brands, channels, and regions all from a central hub.

For example, Contentful’s orchestration establishes a unified composable content source that aggregates content from various other backend systems, including custom-built ones. This allows teams to structure and integrate content with tools used for personalization, localization, asset management, etc.

The result is a unified content source from which content teams can deliver highly personalized, impactful experiences across multiple brands, use cases, regions and channels — all at scale.

Increased agility and scalability 

Composable DXPs offer the flexibility and extensibility companies need to quickly add capabilities, experiment with new things, and scale compelling digital experiences across multiple channels, use cases, brands, and regions. 

Contentful’s platform increases standardization, integration, and governance, leading to more efficient workflows. This streamlined process is crucial for quick onboarding and enhanced productivity within content and engineering teams. What’s more, Contentful structures content for use across channels, a first step in making content machine-readable.

Flexibility and automation increase speed and productivity

Contentful’s composable platform is designed to be highly flexible and extensible, fitting into existing delivery pipelines and delivering content as required. This customization is supported by flexible APIs and a market-leading App Framework.

Teams can access the tools they need to automate workflows and produce content and digital experiences faster. Marketers and creatives have the freedom to build what they want, the way they want, without being restricted by an opinionated, monolithic DXP or reliant on developers for every change. See how a composable approach unleashes “structured creativity” in our Marketer’s Guide to Composable Content.

Implementing a composable DXP strategy

With a composable approach, companies have a wealth of technologies to choose from. The key is to choose the capabilities your business needs now, rather than trying to build everything at once. Combining a composable DXP with a strong content strategy sets the foundation for future success. 

Identify the capabilities your business needs

Instead of jumping into every new technology and trend, focus on what differentiates you as a business and what experiences you want to deliver. Then think about the tools and capabilities you need to do that in a really efficient way. These will be the core components of your composable DXP.

Ask yourself:

  • What generates revenue or adds value for your customers?

  • What does your customer want? 

  • How are they consuming content today? 

  • How do they interact with your brand through content? 

  • How will that change in the face of new technology trends? Specifically, what will digital experiences look like when websites become obsolete?  How will AI interfaces interact with your content? 

You might not know all these answers, but the best way to equip your business to be agile and adaptable is to become composable.

Be clear about your content strategy

A composable architecture supports new ways of working that make producing and delivering digital experiences faster and more efficient. To get the most out of a composable DXP solution, you need a clear content strategy and workflows that take advantage of the freedom a composable DXP offers. 

Think about:

  • How teams can work more efficiently when content silos are connected.

  • How will workflows change to support omnichannel experiences? 

  • Where can you streamline processes and leverage marketing automation? 

  • What new initiatives will be possible?

Test and refine the components of your composable DXP to maximize value

Market conditions and customer expectations are evolving rapidly. To keep up with these changes, businesses need the ability to test new technologies, swap tools, and find what works best for them now and in the future. A composable DXP empowers you to be selective, refine your tech stack, and only pay for tools that add value. 

In composable, everything is meant to be fully flexible and easily connected through APIs. The solutions are cloud-native microservices that come with powerful app frameworks like Contentful's. Tailoring the technology to your needs is part of the platform's core capabilities. You can try new things, access the value, and swap them out for something else if it's not giving you the return on investment you want.  

Build a powerful composable DXP with Contentful

Composable is the future. It’s not a matter of whether you will need a composable DXP, it’s a matter of when. The Contentful Composable Content Platform is helping enterprise organizations assemble powerful, agile DXPs that deliver content-driven, impactful experiences at scale. 

Contentful "is well-positioned to serve the growing composable market; this is reflected in its current brand positioning and new features that enable more advanced orchestration." — CMSWire's DXP Market Guide 2024 

Contentful's architecture allows organizations to connect different content repositories (DAM, PIM, CMS, ECM) flexibly. This modularity enables scalability, as companies can add or modify individual components without overhauling the entire system. New features and updates can be rolled out more quickly since they are often just additions or changes to individual components.

When used to build a composable DXP,  Contentful serves as a content infrastructure that unifies content across different systems. This simplifies content management and ensures consistency across all channels and touchpoints. By centralizing content, different teams (Marketing, Sales, IT) can collaborate more efficiently. By contrast, traditional DXPs may require separate content systems for different content types, creating silos that make collaboration and consistency challenging.

By making composable easier to implement, Contentful lowers risk and accelerates time to value. Instead of replacing your entire tech stack, Contentful integrates with the tools you already have, including homegrown and legacy tools. This means you can keep the tools you love and leverage existing investments while gaining the flexibility and agility that a composable architecture brings.

What’s more, you don’t have to wait to add new capabilities. An open framework and advanced extensibility features support powerful pre-built integrations from other market leading technology partners and solutions such as SAP, Shopify, Commercetools, and Ninetailed. You can utilize the Contentful App Framework to customize and build your own solutions or explore and access hundreds of pre-built apps — including apps using generative AI — from the Contentful Marketplace.

With Contentful, you can adjust your composable DXP to meet all of your current needs without sacrificing your ability to expand and scale your DXP as those needs grow.

Wrapping up

What digital experience do you want to build next? Global marketing, commerce, a knowledge base, or mobile app? Find out how much faster you can deliver it with a composable approach. Request a tailored demonstration and consultation with one of our experts.

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