Gartner's latest digital experience platform report highlights leaders and challenges in software market

Five software vendors sit in the research firm's latest Magic Quadrant for DXP platforms but a call for more modular, integrated and best-of-breed approaches dominates report

Gartner has released its latest digital experience platforms (DXP) report, highlighting rising need for modular and composable software solutions in the face of the pandemic and the explosion of digitisation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The research firm’s latest Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms 2021 lists five vendors in the top quadrant for both leadership and completeness of vision: Adobe, Acquia, Episerver (now Optimizely), Sitecore and Liferay. Core capabilities each vendor had to adhere to in order to be featured include content management, account services, analytics and optimisation, customer journey mapping, personalisation and context awareness, customer data management, cloud capabilities, security and access control and multi-experience support.

There was also a raft of optional capabilities creeping into the increasingly sophisticated DXP market including digital asset management, content services, low-code application development platforms, digital commerce, marketing resource management, product information management, CRM, customer communications management and payment gateways.

Across Gartner’s leadership ranks, Adobe’s Experience Cloud was just ahead of the pack, highlighted for its wide-scale adoption globally and ecosystem of users and partners, differentiating customer data management capabilities for profile and identity management, real-time segmentation and data enrichment for enhanced personalisation.

Against this, Gartner noted Adobe’s offering was the most expensive in market in terms of total cost of ownership, and complexity of implementing and using the platform remains significantly challenging for adopters.

Acquia’s Open Digital Experience Platform, which comprises of Drupal Cloud and Marketing Cloud, was highlighted for its accurate understanding and strategic roadmap around the DXP market, its vibrant open source community, and more comprehensive approach to digital experience management. This has been driven by the acquisitions of Mautic, AgilOne and Cohension, which brought in digital marketing, customer data platform (CDP) and low-code site builder functionality, respectively. The report did caution, however, on the strength of Acquia’s personalisation capabilities, which it stated were less advanced that others in the market.

Episerver’s DXP, which has just been rebranded under Optimizely branding, was noted as a leader and visionary for its understanding of the market, product vision and acquisitions, modular and transparent pricing and packaging, advanced personalisation and sophisticated testing and optimisation tools. Cautions from Gartner included a lack of B2B use cases, multiple changes in ownership in recent years, and lack of business-to-employee support.

Sitecore was also considered a leader and visionary by Gartner for its broad set of digital experience capabilities for customer experience-centric and B2C use cases, and consistency in market. Its growing use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning for features such as autopersonalisation, automated optimisation and content tagging was also noted. On the cons list for Sitecore are ‘monolithic’ pricing proposals lacking transparency, lack of differentiation in market and messaging, and some product complexities leading to challenges with realising the full potential of the software.

The fifth and final vendor in the top righthand quadrant was Liferay. Pros included an extensive user base for authenticated customer and partner portal use cases, strong offering in terms of extensibility and application integration, headless presentation, and open-source basis, providing value for money and relatively low total cost of ownership. Negatives included too much emphasis on on-premise capability, complex pricing and packaging, and a lack of B2C use cases.

Across the rest of Gartner’s DXP Magic Quadrant, the research group noted Bloomreach as a visionary vendor but lower on the scale in terms of ability to execute. Those listed as challengers with strong ability to execute but less visionary credentials included Salesforce, Oracle, OpenText and HCL Software.

On the list of niche DXP players in the bottom left-hand corner of Gartner’s latest report are Crownpeak, Magnolia, Squiz, CoreMedia, Kentico and e-Spirit.

According to Gartner, DXPs act as “centres of gravity” within complex and interconnected technology stacks to increase an organisation’s digital presence. In 2020, a notable trend influencing their take-up and use was the COVID-19 global pandemic, which saw many organisations scrambling to set up digital commerce and experiences to meet changing consumer behaviours and needs.

“Application leaders in charge of digital experiences found themselves struggling with the usability, scalability and uptime of their DXP systems, given the spikes in traffic and growing demand for the digital channel,” Gartner commented in its report.

As a result, Gartner said vendors in this space will need to abandon ‘monolithic technologies’ that cannot meet market demands and embrace a composable DXP as a way to deliver composable user experiences and composable content. In addition, the research firm has cited increasing pressure against the suite approach in favour of more incremental, best-of-breed and easily integrated offerings.

“Many technology stacks currently in place were composed by organisations from a set of heavyweight monolithic applications covering a wide set of business needs, with low rates of change. Gartner expects that pressure from buying behaviours in this market will force vendors to increase the modularity of their offerings and the corresponding pricing, based on consumption-based models,” the report stated.

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