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Reinventing the digital experience platform



Reinventing the digital experience platform

Over the past couple of years, research firms Gartner, Forrester, and others have heralded the arrival of digital experience platforms (DXPs); the future is now and all that (for a DXP primer, you might enjoy Pamela Parker’s article). But practically speaking, is there such a thing as a digital experience platform? As Tony Byrne of the Real Story Group (and a MarTech contributor) said in 2018, referencing Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for DXPs, put it: “No enterprise digital leader in her right mind would actually purchase ‘digital experience’ as a platform. DX is a strategy and approach, and no single platform or vendor on this chart will get you there.”

Digital experience platform evolution

The days of monolithic all-in-one platforms are fading. Marketing technology vendors are moving toward “composability,” which offers marketers the freedom of choice they want by selecting best-of-need products that best suit their marketing organization and business needs. This is a shift from the monolithic approach, where companies rely on a single vendor for their system. Of course, the single-vendor method might be suitable for the procurement folks, but it can introduce risk to the business, as I discussed in this article. Plus, in many cases, customers are not getting the full breadth of features, functionality and ROI from their single-vendor martech investments.

An early example of DXP evolution comes from web content management (WCM) vendors, creating complex suites that combine features of WCM, digital asset management (DAM), portal, personalization, analytics, and more. In some cases, these “integrated” suites are natively nothing more than a collection of acquired point solutions that form what the vendor calls a digital experience platform.

Stitching those disparate products together to create a unicorn solution is an integration partner’s dream but, in too many cases, a CMO’s nightmare. The work can be complex, time-consuming and expensive, and the results frequently fail to deliver on the promise. In the 2021 CMSWire State of Digital Customer Experience report, 80% of the 1,300+ digital customer experience execs surveyed responded that their digital experience was “very” to “extremely important” to their organizations. That said, only 11% believed their tools were “working well,” while 42% said their tools “need work.”

Introducing composability

An excellent example of composability in action is the evolution of the legacy content management system (CMS). The monolithic CMS integrates content, images, HTML, and CSS and provides a Graphical User Interface (GUI) to help non-technical users create and publish content. Unfortunately, it’s virtually impossible to leverage a content re-use strategy since code and content are combined.

To remedy this problem and provide developers with a composable method of flexing their innovation chops, vendors introduced the decoupled CMS. This flexible front-end and structured back-end model promoted faster development, redesigns, upgrades, and new site rollouts, leaving content and development teams to work independently and more efficiently. In this CMS incarnation, the front and back ends are separate, which means developers could try new frameworks and tools without impacting the site’s content.

Then came the headless CMS, a back-end-only solution that stores content and distributes it via RESTful API. Using a headless approach, marketers could syndicate centrally-managed content to websites, mobile apps, digital signage, car dash displays, or other endpoints. There’s no presentation layer provided with a headless CMS, leaving developers the latitude to handle presentation in whatever way best suits the requirements du jour. 

Meanwhile, throughout this evolutionary process, the need to create and manage remarkable customer experiences to acquire, convert, and retain customers continued to explode. The lines between decoupled and headless blurred, and even monolithic CMS offerings began to morph. Legacy CMS vendors returned to the drawing board while innovative new players entered the market. More martech vendors were adopting the concept of composable solutions.

Composable DXP adoption: Resistance is futile

The aggressive push to drive DXP adoption is underway, and it’s working. Global research and consulting firm Verified Market Research says the Global Digital Experience Platform Market size was valued at USD 15.88 Billion in 2020 and projected to reach USD 43.43 Billion by 2028, growing at a CAGR of 13.4% from 2021 to 2028. 

However, along with all the hype, there’s some confusion. Gartner defines the DXP thus: “A digital experience platform (DXP) is an integrated set of core technologies that support the composition, management, delivery and optimization of contextualized digital experiences.” But as mentioned above, there’s a big question; should those “core technologies” be integrated into a monolithic, all-in-one platform, or should the “core technologies” be represented by a collection of point solutions assembled on a best-of-breed basis?

Composability and the martech stack

Over time, some legacy CMS vendors like Sitecore, Optimizely (formerly Episerver) and Progress Software’s Sitefinity have reinvented their platforms to fit into a DXP box, while newcomers like Contentful, Contentstack and Storyblok are driving in new directions. One thing is sure; it looks like composability is here to stay.

The concept is even finding its way into the board room as a future-proof schema for the post-COVID enterprise. Gartner says, “Composable business means creating an organization made from interchangeable building blocks. The modular setup enables a business to rearrange and reorient as needed depending on external (or internal) factors like a shift in customer values or sudden change in supply chain or materials.” 

Gartner identifies three building blocks of the composable business: composable thinking, composable business architecture and composable technologies. COVID seems to have accelerated this model in companies that may have lagged in building out their functional digital knowledge and martech muscles.

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Modular is better

Building modular, or composable, technology stacks has always been a great idea, though early on, it wasn’t as palatable as it is today. Plus, as I’ve said here, there’s been some advancement of functional digital knowledge in many organizations that’s driven new ways of thinking and working, including selecting various best-of-need martech tools from different vendors to build out the martech stack.

As Mark Demeny, director of product management at Optimizely, says, “Dealing with one vendor is perhaps a little bit safer. For example, the customer can work with one vendor and one renewal cycle instead of six. But while it’s easier for procurement, it may not be easier from an implementation perspective, depending on how well the martech vendor has assembled its product offering. Ultimately, it comes down to the preference of the buyer and the skill set of their organization.”

Keep in mind that things could get complex — expensive — when rolling your own composable DXP. In fact, according to Real Story Group’s Byrne, some customers “are spending 2-6x more on initial implementation services than they do on licensing costs. Same for outbound marketing and e-commerce projects. SaaS vendors with more productized, multi-tenant solutions talk about ‘quick start’ projects with light professional services fees, but the ‘MVPs’ that results tend to be long on the M and light on the V.”

Read next: Does your marketing team need a digital experience platform?

Avoiding the composable DXP trap

To increase your chances of success and reduce risk when building out your composable DXP, consider the following:

Choose your best-of-need solutions carefully. That includes following the advice in this article, including:

  • Understand your long-term priorities and those of your chosen martech vendor(s). For example, are they focusing on innovation, growth, and new customers, or are they focusing on keeping existing customers happy and prosperous?
  • De-couple software from services. Sure, the vendor might offer hosting or implementation/consulting services, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best fit to deliver those services for your organization.
  • Always be thinking about a migration strategy. Composable means flexibility, but even upgrades can require a lot of planning, consideration, and cost. Stay on top of the constantly shifting market by researching and engaging with new vendors on a monthly (or bi-monthly) basis. That’ll help you keep your finger on potential products and services that are fit-for-purpose in your composable DXP stack.

Choose your outside consultants carefully. While vendors may provide professional services, they usually focus on implementing own their products and services.

  • Know before you go. “Whenever you start a technology project, get clear about what you need from any outside consultants. There’s a good chance you may need various ‘soft skills’ such as information and process analysis, user experience, and change management, along with migration support.” says Real Story Group’s Byrne. Consider conducting a standardized review to understand the available individual and team skills and experience required to build and use a composable DXP. This will not only help you determine current skills and skill gaps but prepare hiring managers for potential recruiting and the outside consultant selection process.
  • Make sure they’ll focus on your best interests. Luma Partners 2021 Full Year Market Report showed strong growth in martech M&A deals, springing back from pandemic lows to achieve a 95% YoY growth. With big deals come big expectations from investors, often translating into mandates of 40-50% growth per year. A fierce quest for revenue might make one partner hyper-focused on your needs and another on their own. Mitigate potential risk and exposure by doing your homework, including reviewing the partner’s financials.
  • Pick composable tools first. Most services partners you’ll engage with are themselves partnered with several martech vendors. These relationships often involve commissions or co-op funds for advertising and events based on sales by the services partner of the martech vendor’s products. Thus, the outside consultant might have a vested interest in recommending specific products or services. Before choosing a service partner, prudence dictates developing solid business and technology requirements and performing vendor research (including demos and a proof-of-concept) to select your composable DXP components. As Byrne says, “If changing integrators is like switching plumbers, then changing vendors is like remodeling your bathroom completely. Get a blueprint, select the fixtures, then find the plumber.”

The composable DXP for the win

For companies and their marketing organizations seeking a way to create, deploy, and manage remarkable customer experiences, the composable, modular DXP can be a desirable approach. Instead of leveraging only 10-15% of the features and functions of an all-in-one solution, consider point solutions that best meet your business, marketing, and technology needs.

A purpose-built composable DXP can evolve with your business, customers, industry, and the endless shifting martech landscape. Once that’s in place, the focus can shift to creating remarkable composable customer experiences. But that’s another article.

Does your marketing team need a digital experience platform DXP

Explore platform capabilities from vendors like Sitecore, Optimizely, Pantheon, WordPressVIP and more in the full MarTech Intelligence Report on digital experience platforms.

Click here to download!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Reinventing the digital experience platform

Gene has been a Martech Healer for three decades, inventing the future while helping organizations and leaders ‘Ride the Crest of Change.’ A serial entrepreneur since his first newspaper delivery start-up, Gene developed early innovations in social media networks, digital-out-of-home narrowcasting, and SMS mobile marketing. He currently serves as the chief strategy officer and head of consulting at GeekHive, a New York-based marketing technology consultancy helping clients maximize their investments in martech.

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The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader



The Complete Guide to Becoming an Authentic Thought Leader

Introduce your processes: If you’ve streamlined a particular process, share it. It could be the solution someone else is looking for.

Jump on trends and news: If there’s a hot topic or emerging trend, offer your unique perspective.

Share industry insights: Attended a webinar or podcast that offered valuable insights. Summarize the key takeaways and how they can be applied.

Share your successes: Write about strategies that have worked exceptionally well for you. Your audience will appreciate the proven advice. For example, I shared the process I used to help a former client rank for a keyword with over 2.2 million monthly searches.

Question outdated strategies: If you see a strategy that’s losing steam, suggest alternatives based on your experience and data.

5. Establish communication channels (How)

Once you know who your audience is and what they want to hear, the next step is figuring out how to reach them. Here’s how:

Choose the right platforms: You don’t need to have a presence on every social media platform. Pick two platforms where your audience hangs out and create content for that platform. For example, I’m active on LinkedIn and X because my target audience (SEOs, B2B SaaS, and marketers) is active on these platforms.

Repurpose content: Don’t limit yourself to just one type of content. Consider repurposing your content on Quora, Reddit, or even in webinars and podcasts. This increases your reach and reinforces your message.

Follow Your audience: Go where your audience goes. If they’re active on X, that’s where you should be posting. If they frequent industry webinars, consider becoming a guest on these webinars.

Daily vs. In-depth content: Balance is key. Use social media for daily tips and insights, and reserve your blog for more comprehensive guides and articles.

Network with influencers: Your audience is likely following other experts in the field. Engaging with these influencers puts your content in front of a like-minded audience. I try to spend 30 minutes to an hour daily engaging with content on X and LinkedIn. This is the best way to build a relationship so you’re not a complete stranger when you DM privately.

6. Think of thought leadership as part of your content marketing efforts

As with other content efforts, thought leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It thrives when woven into a cohesive content marketing strategy. By aligning individual authority with your brand, you amplify the credibility of both.

Think of it as top-of-the-funnel content to:

  • Build awareness about your brand

  • Highlight the problems you solve

  • Demonstrate expertise by platforming experts within the company who deliver solutions

Consider the user journey. An individual enters at the top through a social media post, podcast, or blog post. Intrigued, they want to learn more about you and either search your name on Google or social media. If they like what they see, they might visit your website, and if the information fits their needs, they move from passive readers to active prospects in your sales pipeline.

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How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips



How to Increase Survey Completion Rate With 5 Top Tips

Collecting high-quality data is crucial to making strategic observations about your customers. Researchers have to consider the best ways to design their surveys and then how to increase survey completion, because it makes the data more reliable.

→ Free Download: 5 Customer Survey Templates [Access Now]

I’m going to explain how survey completion plays into the reliability of data. Then, we’ll get into how to calculate your survey completion rate versus the number of questions you ask. Finally, I’ll offer some tips to help you increase survey completion rates.

My goal is to make your data-driven decisions more accurate and effective. And just for fun, I’ll use cats in the examples because mine won’t stop walking across my keyboard.

Why Measure Survey Completion

Let’s set the scene: We’re inside a laboratory with a group of cat researchers. They’re wearing little white coats and goggles — and they desperately want to know what other cats think of various fish.

They’ve written up a 10-question survey and invited 100 cats from all socioeconomic rungs — rough and hungry alley cats all the way up to the ones that thrice daily enjoy their Fancy Feast from a crystal dish.

Now, survey completion rates are measured with two metrics: response rate and completion rate. Combining those metrics determines what percentage, out of all 100 cats, finished the entire survey. If all 100 give their full report on how delicious fish is, you’d achieve 100% survey completion and know that your information is as accurate as possible.

But the truth is, nobody achieves 100% survey completion, not even golden retrievers.

With this in mind, here’s how it plays out:

  • Let’s say 10 cats never show up for the survey because they were sleeping.
  • Of the 90 cats that started the survey, only 25 got through a few questions. Then, they wandered off to knock over drinks.
  • Thus, 90 cats gave some level of response, and 65 completed the survey (90 – 25 = 65).
  • Unfortunately, those 25 cats who only partially completed the survey had important opinions — they like salmon way more than any other fish.

The cat researchers achieved 72% survey completion (65 divided by 90), but their survey will not reflect the 25% of cats — a full quarter! — that vastly prefer salmon. (The other 65 cats had no statistically significant preference, by the way. They just wanted to eat whatever fish they saw.)

Now, the Kitty Committee reviews the research and decides, well, if they like any old fish they see, then offer the least expensive ones so they get the highest profit margin.

CatCorp, their competitors, ran the same survey; however, they offered all 100 participants their own glass of water to knock over — with a fish inside, even!

Only 10 of their 100 cats started, but did not finish the survey. And the same 10 lazy cats from the other survey didn’t show up to this one, either.

So, there were 90 respondents and 80 completed surveys. CatCorp achieved an 88% completion rate (80 divided by 90), which recorded that most cats don’t care, but some really want salmon. CatCorp made salmon available and enjoyed higher profits than the Kitty Committee.

So you see, the higher your survey completion rates, the more reliable your data is. From there, you can make solid, data-driven decisions that are more accurate and effective. That’s the goal.

We measure the completion rates to be able to say, “Here’s how sure we can feel that this information is accurate.”

And if there’s a Maine Coon tycoon looking to invest, will they be more likely to do business with a cat food company whose decision-making metrics are 72% accurate or 88%? I suppose it could depend on who’s serving salmon.

While math was not my strongest subject in school, I had the great opportunity to take several college-level research and statistics classes, and the software we used did the math for us. That’s why I used 100 cats — to keep the math easy so we could focus on the importance of building reliable data.

Now, we’re going to talk equations and use more realistic numbers. Here’s the formula:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

So, we need to take the number of completed surveys and divide that by the number of people who responded to at least one of your survey questions. Even just one question answered qualifies them as a respondent (versus nonrespondent, i.e., the 10 lazy cats who never show up).

Now, you’re running an email survey for, let’s say, Patton Avenue Pet Company. We’ll guess that the email list has 5,000 unique addresses to contact. You send out your survey to all of them.

Your analytics data reports that 3,000 people responded to one or more of your survey questions. Then, 1,200 of those respondents actually completed the entire survey.

3,000/5000 = 0.6 = 60% — that’s your pool of survey respondents who answered at least one question. That sounds pretty good! But some of them didn’t finish the survey. You need to know the percentage of people who completed the entire survey. So here we go:

Completion rate equals the # of completed surveys divided by the # of survey respondents.

Completion rate = (1,200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Voila, 40% of your respondents did the entire survey.

Response Rate vs. Completion Rate

Okay, so we know why the completion rate matters and how we find the right number. But did you also hear the term response rate? They are completely different figures based on separate equations, and I’ll show them side by side to highlight the differences.

  • Completion Rate = # of Completed Surveys divided by # of Respondents
  • Response Rate = # of Respondents divided by Total # of surveys sent out

Here are examples using the same numbers from above:

Completion Rate = (1200/3,000) = 0.40 = 40%

Response Rate = (3,000/5000) = 0.60 = 60%

So, they are different figures that describe different things:

  • Completion rate: The percentage of your respondents that completed the entire survey. As a result, it indicates how sure we are that the information we have is accurate.
  • Response rate: The percentage of people who responded in any way to our survey questions.

The follow-up question is: How can we make this number as high as possible in order to be closer to a truer and more complete data set from the population we surveyed?

There’s more to learn about response rates and how to bump them up as high as you can, but we’re going to keep trucking with completion rates!

What’s a good survey completion rate?

That is a heavily loaded question. People in our industry have to say, “It depends,” far more than anybody wants to hear it, but it depends. Sorry about that.

There are lots of factors at play, such as what kind of survey you’re doing, what industry you’re doing it in, if it’s an internal or external survey, the population or sample size, the confidence level you’d like to hit, the margin of error you’re willing to accept, etc.

But you can’t really get a high completion rate unless you increase response rates first.

So instead of focusing on what’s a good completion rate, I think it’s more important to understand what makes a good response rate. Aim high enough, and survey completions should follow.

I checked in with the Qualtrics community and found this discussion about survey response rates:

“Just wondering what are the average response rates we see for online B2B CX surveys? […]

Current response rates: 6%–8%… We are looking at boosting the response rates but would first like to understand what is the average.”

The best answer came from a government service provider that works with businesses. The poster notes that their service is free to use, so they get very high response rates.

“I would say around 30–40% response rates to transactional surveys,” they write. “Our annual pulse survey usually sits closer to 12%. I think the type of survey and how long it has been since you rendered services is a huge factor.”

Since this conversation, “Delighted” (the Qualtrics blog) reported some fresher data:

survey completion rate vs number of questions new data, qualtrics data

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The takeaway here is that response rates vary widely depending on the channel you use to reach respondents. On the upper end, the Qualtrics blog reports that customers had 85% response rates for employee email NPS surveys and 33% for email NPS surveys.

A good response rate, the blog writes, “ranges between 5% and 30%. An excellent response rate is 50% or higher.”

This echoes reports from Customer Thermometer, which marks a response rate of 50% or higher as excellent. Response rates between 5%-30% are much more typical, the report notes. High response rates are driven by a strong motivation to complete the survey or a personal relationship between the brand and the customer.

If your business does little person-to-person contact, you’re out of luck. Customer Thermometer says you should expect responses on the lower end of the scale. The same goes for surveys distributed from unknown senders, which typically yield the lowest level of responses.

According to SurveyMonkey, surveys where the sender has no prior relationship have response rates of 20% to 30% on the high end.

Whatever numbers you do get, keep making those efforts to bring response rates up. That way, you have a better chance of increasing your survey completion rate. How, you ask?

Tips to Increase Survey Completion

If you want to boost survey completions among your customers, try the following tips.

1. Keep your survey brief.

We shouldn’t cram lots of questions into one survey, even if it’s tempting. Sure, it’d be nice to have more data points, but random people will probably not hunker down for 100 questions when we catch them during their half-hour lunch break.

Keep it short. Pare it down in any way you can.

Survey completion rate versus number of questions is a correlative relationship — the more questions you ask, the fewer people will answer them all. If you have the budget to pay the respondents, it’s a different story — to a degree.

“If you’re paying for survey responses, you’re more likely to get completions of a decently-sized survey. You’ll just want to avoid survey lengths that might tire, confuse, or frustrate the user. You’ll want to aim for quality over quantity,” says Pamela Bump, Head of Content Growth at HubSpot.

2. Give your customers an incentive.

For instance, if they’re cats, you could give them a glass of water with a fish inside.

Offer incentives that make sense for your target audience. If they feel like they are being rewarded for giving their time, they will have more motivation to complete the survey.

This can even accomplish two things at once — if you offer promo codes, discounts on products, or free shipping, it encourages them to shop with you again.

3. Keep it smooth and easy.

Keep your survey easy to read. Simplifying your questions has at least two benefits: People will understand the question better and give you the information you need, and people won’t get confused or frustrated and just leave the survey.

4. Know your customers and how to meet them where they are.

Here’s an anecdote about understanding your customers and learning how best to meet them where they are.

Early on in her role, Pamela Bump, HubSpot’s Head of Content Growth, conducted a survey of HubSpot Blog readers to learn more about their expertise levels, interests, challenges, and opportunities. Once published, she shared the survey with the blog’s email subscribers and a top reader list she had developed, aiming to receive 150+ responses.

“When the 20-question survey was getting a low response rate, I realized that blog readers were on the blog to read — not to give feedback. I removed questions that wouldn’t serve actionable insights. When I reshared a shorter, 10-question survey, it passed 200 responses in one week,” Bump shares.

Tip 5. Gamify your survey.

Make it fun! Brands have started turning surveys into eye candy with entertaining interfaces so they’re enjoyable to interact with.

Your respondents could unlock micro incentives as they answer more questions. You can word your questions in a fun and exciting way so it feels more like a BuzzFeed quiz. Someone saw the opportunity to make surveys into entertainment, and your imagination — well, and your budget — is the limit!

Your Turn to Boost Survey Completion Rates

Now, it’s time to start surveying. Remember to keep your user at the heart of the experience. Value your respondents’ time, and they’re more likely to give you compelling information. Creating short, fun-to-take surveys can also boost your completion rates.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in December 2010 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

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Take back your ROI by owning your data



Treasure Data 800x450

Treasure Data 800x450

Other brands can copy your style, tone and strategy — but they can’t copy your data.

Your data is your competitive advantage in an environment where enterprises are working to grab market share by designing can’t-miss, always-on customer experiences. Your marketing tech stack enables those experiences. 

Join ActionIQ and Snowplow to learn the value of composing your stack – decoupling the data collection and activation layers to drive more intelligent targeting.

Register and attend “Maximizing Marketing ROI With a Composable Stack: Separating Reality from Fallacy,” presented by Snowplow and ActionIQ.

Click here to view more MarTech webinars.

About the author

Cynthia RamsaranCynthia Ramsaran

Cynthia Ramsaran is director of custom content at Third Door Media, publishers of Search Engine Land and MarTech. A multi-channel storyteller with over two decades of editorial/content marketing experience, Cynthia’s expertise spans the marketing, technology, finance, manufacturing and gaming industries. She was a writer/producer for and produced thought leadership for KPMG. Cynthia hails from Queens, NY and earned her Bachelor’s and MBA from St. John’s University.

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