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What is the difference between digital experience and CMS?

Siw Grinaker on

Digital experience and CMS are two essential terms when optimising your digital presence and growing your business. Learn the difference in this article.

Digital experiences and content management systems (CMS).They’re two terms that come up a lot when we talk about how businesses can optimise their digital presence, but what’s the difference between them? And what role can they both play in growing your business?

What is a digital experience?

From your ecommerce shop and landing page to your company website and chatbots, a digital experience encompasses all the ways your customers and team engage with your digital content. Created and managed using a CMS, these digital experiences form an important part of the customer experience, affecting how people shop, browse, and connect with your business – both online and offline.

Remind me again: What’s a CMS?

The official definition of a CMS is “a computer software system that manages and organises the creation, modification, and publication of digital content like documents and images, often in a collaborative environment, for presenting to a website”

In other words, if a digital experience is the end-user solution, a CMS is the toolbox that lets you build it in the first place, and keep iterating without a hitch for years to come.

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Why do we separate the two concepts?

As a business, you can produce loads of different digital solutions, both for your customers and employees. Put them together, and they should create a holistic digital experience that’s streamlined, smooth and compelling.

A CMS, on the other hand, is the engine that creates these experiences. Whereas a digital experience is the end-user solution, a CMS is the behind-the-scenes motor that keeps everything running.

Why is a CMS the engine behind it all?

It all starts with content. Ranging from blog posts and product descriptions to website apps and images, these different types of content extend across every touchpoint, forming the building blocks of your digital experiences.

As a content management system, it’s a CMS’s job to create, modify and manage these types of content. Like an engine, it powers all of the moving parts that go into a diverse digital experience.

Read more: 8 reasons why your digital projects are slow - and how to solve them

Digital experiences: the lowdown

A holistic digital experience stretches across a number of touchpoints, and includes components like:

  • Website – the heart of your digital experience, an optimised website will contain responsive and up-to-date content and services that are easy to navigate and manage.
  • Intranet – your company’s intranet might only be available to staff, but it still plays an important role in a holistic digital experience.
  • Apps – web apps are the building blocks to a great website, offering extra functionality and interactive content.
  • Chatbots – online chatbots can optimise digital experiences for customers and staff by offering convenient customer support.
  • E-commerce – for businesses with an online shop or booking process, a streamlined e-commerce platform is an important element in their digital experiences.
  • Beacons – forming part of a omni-channel experience, beacons are becoming a useful tool in location-based marketing.
  • IoT (Internet of Things) – with devices becoming smarter and more connected, IoT will soon form an important part of digital experiences.
  • Social media – even though you have no control over the design and workings of a social media platform, the presence there is still a part of your total digital experience toward your audience, and you should make sure that your social media accounts follow brand guidelines, tone of voice etc.

Make your CMS the hub for your digital experiences

What is a DXP? (Digital Experience Platform)

When reading about digital experiences, you might have seen the term DXP thrown into the mix. Don’t worry, this isn’t another new concept to wrap your head around.

Forrester defines a DXP as “software to manage, deliver, and optimise experiences consistently across every digital touchpoint”. In essence, it’s simply a more accurate name for a CMS, which takes into account the software’s continual growth into a fully integrated experience.


The difference between a digital experience and CMS is simple: while the latter is the engine, the former is the end-user solution. And really, it’s almost impossible to have one without the other. Whether your digital experience consists of a simple website or beacons, IoT and chatbots, a CMS will be the toolbox that makes it the best it can be.

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Frequently asked questions

What are digital experiences?

Content and functionality on every digital touchpoint—including websites, mobile apps, IoTs, wearables, beacons, AR/VR, and digital signage.

What is a digital experience platform?

A DXP delivers unified experiences across different digital channels, while using analytics to understand the users and continuously improve.

What is the difference between CMS and digital experiences?

Digital experiences are the end user solutions—like website, intranet, app, chatbot, e-commerce, IoT—while a CMS is the engine behind them all.

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