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CMS vs. DXP – Which is best for your association?

What exactly is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP) and how is it different from a traditional Content Management System (CMS)? And...why should you care in this first place?

Here, we’ll walk through the key differences and why this distinction is important.

We’ll also discuss the latest trends and the changing face of Digital Experience Platforms, the best DXP products and features out right now, and then glance into the future of digital experience optimization and how to prepare your organization.

The Difference Between a CMS and a DXP

A CMS is the foundational software used to create, modify, and manage digital content, strategy, and engagement. A DXP is an integrated suite of core technologies on one central platform that work synergistically to power highly personalized, yet consistent experiences at scale through a variety of contexts and digital touchpoints.

A step ahead of CMSs, DXPs support the creation, management, and delivery of omnichannel digital experiences across websites, apps, devices, geographies, and languages.

The two systems do have some overlapping functionality in terms of web content management and digital asset management and tracking. However, DXPs evolved from CMSs, so they offer a wider and more enhanced set of tools and functionalities.

what is a digital experience platform

DXPs essentially fuel a whole new frontier of digitized operations and context-based personalization. This next-level realm of capability coordinates this deeply harmonious omnichannel User Experience (UX) that makes it easier to meet KPIs and increase share of voice in the market.

Compared to CMSs, DXPs allows organizations to engage a broader range of audience segments, better meet ever-evolving user expectations, and gather actionable insight at an accelerated rate.

Latest DXP Trends

In the past, the benefits of exponential change have typically favored technical-savvy organizations with deep pockets. But with the intuitiveness and rising accessibility of leading DXPs, associations and not-for-profits have begun adopting this digital transformation technology at an accelerated rate in order to survive and scale.

Many smaller organizations have historically not been able to afford even a portion of many DXP platforms, much less the full suite.

To allow smaller and bootstrapped organizations to benefit from these platforms, many DXP vendors today have created different entry pricing models and flexible licensing agreements that can be scaled up or down as your organization needs change.

DXP platforms today have also focused on creating featured mobile applications and helping organizations eliminate silos through COPE (create once publish everywhere) features.

content efficiency and scalability

When a DXP is Advantageous to a CMS

Compared to a CMS, DXPs provide more grease to the wheels of progress, business continuity, and accelerated ROI. What features make this possible and what are some situations in which your organization would benefit from a DXP over a CMS? 

how DXPs transform organizations

If you want to:

  • Build, deploy, and continually improve brand touchpoints and unified digital experiences.
  • Deliver a contextual, engaging, and personalized omnichannel journey lifecycle.
  • Manage every step of the user journey and data across systems and devices—quickly and efficiently—with multichannel support, workflows, and knowledge management.
  • Integrate seamlessly with adjacent technologies to increase staff productivity, reporting, user/member engagement, and search capabilities.
  • Unleash newer possibilities with improved data governance, integrated analytics, and a single source of truth for AMS, LMS, events, e-commerce, and beyond.
  • Enable full-fledged user interactions and continuous conversation with members, staff, and stakeholders.
  • Coordinate and optimize your web experience with improved persona modeling, journey mapping, and other user research practices.
  • Handle more complex tasks and give both the organization and IT developers a central system to collaborate, innovate, and configure applications with ease.
  • Leverage continuous updates, security patches, and the latest features much quicker and easier to ensure your organization is always on, always updated, and protected from risks.
  • Leverage applied AI, ML, and the latest innovations at any desired pace.

Digital Experience Transformation and the Association Industry

For associations and not-for-profits, it’s just as important to hop on the digital transformation train and serve up an integrated omnichannel digital experience as it is for any organization in any industry.

When done systematically and intentionally, focusing on innovation amplifies and personalizes the member experience and helps to future-proof your organization. And in the digital age we’re in now, hyper personalization and digital maturity are expected.

Really, the organization that doesn’t take advantage of the innovative power and engagement potential that we have access to today will eventually fade out. And with the accelerated rate of change we're experiencing, that’ll likely happen sooner than you may think, regardless of industry or type of organization.

importance of innovation and digital transformationOnly agile organizations who can adapt digitally to these changes and deliver personalization at scale will survive. Keeping up with digital transformation is no longer an option.

Associations need online platforms that support optimized site search, personalization, and multichannel management effortlessly. Ensuring their members are easily able to find the right content on their sites while also educating and helping members ask the right questions is a top priority.

That’s why an increasing number of associations are embracing DXP platforms and their edge technologies. DXPs really allow you to bring association management, learning management, event management, communities, e-commerce, staff management, and content management under one cohesive umbrella and empower the omnichannel journey.

Best Digital Experience Platforms for Associations

There are a range of competitive DXP platforms in the marketplace today. Here are our top picks based on our over three decades of experience helping associations and not-for-profit organizations level up their digital experiences.




Sitecore is an industry-leading digital experience platform that powers more than 11,000 websites worldwide, including brands like Microsoft, L'Oreal, and Puma. The DXP provides rich customer experiences, personalized content, omnichannel digital asset management, and a connecting e-commerce journey.

Sitecore was named a Leader in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms for the fourth year in a row. Matt Krebsbach, Sitecore’s VP of Strategic Messaging & Communications, said the following in an interview about what differentiates the Sitecore platform from its competitors:

“One of the trends Gartner highlighted in the DXP MQ is the tug of war between vendors who have assembled vast technology portfolios versus those who cover a smaller part of the DXP technology landscape. But both complicate an organization’s ability to deliver superior, contextually relevant experiences to their customers at every touchpoint. Sitecore fits neatly in the middle by design.

We offer the digital experience management technologies necessary to plan, create, orchestrate, optimize, and drive revenue from customer-focused digital experiences, but that doesn’t mean that we are today or will ever be everything to everybody.

That focus means we can offer our customers all of the technologies that are fundamental to earning their customers’ business and loyalty, as well as the benefits of an integrated, flexible, and connectable platform that enables them to quickly adapt to changing business demands with less risk to their business.”

Sitecore was also positioned as a Leader in the The Forrester New Wave™: Marketplace Development Platforms, Q4 2021. The report highlights Sitecore's "strong architecture and pricing and fee schedule capabilities," and how "customers like its flexibility and how it's improved its operational efficiency..."

And for ten consecutive years, Sitecore has also been named a Leader in the Web Content Management market by Gartner.

Progress Sitefinity



Progress Sitefinity allows you to manage large amounts of sites with centralized multisite, multichannel, and multilingual capabilities.

The DXP has dedicated sales, marketing, and R&D organizations. Sitefinity offers tech support and services both internally and through an extensive partner network. This allows you to leverage a full portfolio of products to address digital experience needs.

Forrester, a leading global research and advisory firm, conducted a Total Economic Impact™ study in 2021 to better understand the benefits, costs, and risks associated with investing in Progress Sitefinity Digital Experience Platform.

The customers interviewed reported that their organizations were using outdated, incongruous web tools prior to adopting Sitefinity. The absence of a unified platform resulted in cross-departmental content redundancies and project inefficiencies.

For example, content creation, review, approval, and publishing across websites and channels sometimes took weeks because these organizations didn’t have a centralized, standardized system.

After the investment in Sitefinity, these organizations were able to standardize and streamline end-to-end content population and management, as well as provide a more user-friendly interface for both their audience segments and internal teams. Below are some of the key findings from the Forrester report on the ROI of purchasing Sitefinity:

245% ROI payback in 13 months.

Three-year present value (PV) benefits of  $3.47M


$1.3M in productivity gains from improved digital efficiencies.

$1.6M in productivity gains from improved integrations.

$557.6K efficiencies gained from internal redeployment of IT architects.




Sitefinity also has a low-cost entry platform that includes most needed features and the rest can be built. This gives you access to a suite of enterprise-grade capabilities at a relatively low cost.


Episerver | Optimizely Digital Experience Platform


Optimizely Digital Experience Platform is an open, extensible software that provides advanced personalization and leading experimentation capabilities. The customer-centric DXP consists of Content Cloud, Intelligence Cloud, and Commerce Cloud. These unified solutions allow you to power large amounts of sites with centralized multisite, multichannel, and multilingual capacities.

For four consecutive years, Episerver (now Optimizely) has been acclaimed as a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms. The DXP powerhouse was specifically named in 2021 because of its solid grasp of the DXP market, ability to execute, and completeness of vision.

Episerver/Optimizely was also recognized as a leading vendor solution because this was the year Optimizely and Episerver went through a journey of brand and digital transformation. The two are now united as Optimizely, the leading Digital Experience Platform designed to help you unlock digital potential.

Optimizely is also known for giving its customers the space needed to test new approaches and better respond to the needs and behaviors of members and constituents. Optimizely also makes it easy to create, tailor, and scale content. Plus, it provides great e-commerce, CCPA and GDPR compliance, and risk protection.

Future of Digital Experience

The escalating user expectations of a hyperconnected, effortless, and personalized experience across the entire digital journey are driving further explosion of DXPs. And with this expectation growing by minute, it’s safe to say that DXP will soon become the bread and butter of end-to-end member engagement and management and the epicenter of all things in the fabric of digital.

The organizational agility, continuous improvement, and rapid growth that DXPs provide are also fueling this transition across organizations and industries.

Don’t Get Left Behind

At Brightfind, we work with a number of different CMS and DXP partners that offer hyperconnected, scalable, and intuitive solutions.

Are you ready to embrace innovation and create meaningful member, constituent, and customer moments? We’d love to collaborate with you!

Let’s give your audience a seamless omnichannel digital experience to take your organization to new heights and integrate your different best-of-breed software systems. Or, if you want more insight or a detailed recommendation about the best DXP or CMS for your organization, we’d love to connect.

Just cruise on over to our contact page to get in touch.

Emily Shine

Topics: CMS, Web Development

Written by Emily Shine

Emily Shine is a content writer and SEO strategist who helps purpose-driven organizations and entrepreneurs build their online presence. When she's not behind the computer, you can catch her in the park, gigging on a stompbox, or playing tennis.