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Composable or poseur? What to look for in a DXP

The Contentstack TeamApr 27, 20235 min read

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As customer needs and expectations continue to evolve, organizations need to be able to respond quickly in order to remain competitive. A composable digital experience platform (DXP) offers speed and flexibility while delivering the personalized experiences today’s consumers expect. This has prompted a growing number of organizations to make the switch to a composable DXP. Unfortunately, it has led to a growing number of composable DXP offerings that are not quite the real thing. In this article, we’ll show you how to spot these and how to avoid what we call composable poseurs.

What is a composable digital experience platform (DXP)?

In a traditional, monolithic (or “legacy”) architecture,  an all-in-one suite of software from a single vendor. Functions are built into the software by the vendor, and users can seamlessly incorporate whatever functions they need to deliver their customer experience — in theory, anyway. In practice, monolithic architecture is often complex and difficult to maintain.

Let’s say you want to add a function that isn’t included in your legacy suite. To do so, you’ll need to add a vendor-approved third-party plug-in, but the ones available may not be quite what you’re looking for. Or, you can update your CMS to include that function, but that’s a time-consuming and complex process that requires significant updates to back-end code. Plus, monolithic platforms are sold as a suite, which means you often wind up paying for features and functions you’ll never use.

Composable architecture is a way of separating the front end (what you see on the display) and the back-end code (development) of a website, making development faster and easier. Users can fully customize any combination of functions according to their specific business needs.

A composable DXP is assembled from a series of best-of-breed solutions. These solutions work together via APIs to deliver content and digital experiences to customers in a more agile and flexible way than a single, integrated and monolithic platform.

Why this matters for your business

A composable digital experience platform offers many advantages for users, such as the ability to push content to multiple channels quickly, make changes with little to no coding skills, or update specific modules or blocks incrementally over time as business needs evolve. In addition to making life easier for your organization’s teams, a composable DXP approach can make it easier to future-proof your marketing tech stack, deliver a robust and personalized customer journey, and even save your organization money.

What makes a DXP composable?

So you’ve decided to move to a composable DXP. What features should you be looking for in your new, future-proof architecture? And what does a true composable digital experience platform look like in practice?

Headless CMS

In the early days of the internet, CMSes were designed to store and present content on web pages. A traditional CMS stores all its content in one big repository — but because that content is only intended to be displayed in a specific way for one specific medium (websites), it can’t be repurposed or reused for different channels. 

With a true composable DXP, content is still stored in a CMS; however, the CMS is headless, so content can be deployed via APIs across any digital touchpoint. The content in the CMS can also be structured so that if you need to edit site copy or an image, you don’t need to update it on each channel. Just edit it in one place and it will automatically update anywhere that content is located. 

A true headless CMS also does not include a presentation layer, so you have full control over how your content will be displayed to customers.

Open architecture

Many DXPs that claim to be composable also tout all the pre-built functions that come with their composable DXP. They seem to think that’s a strong selling point — but in reality, it’s a clear sign that their DXP offerings aren’t truly composable at all. 

The benefit of a composable DXP is the flexibility to assemble a technology stack that works best for the digital experience you want to create for your audience. If most of that tech stack is being supplied by a single vendor, then the architecture isn’t truly open. What you get will likely have more in common with monolithic DXPs than a true composable DXP solution.


A growing user base for your site or application is a good thing, but if you want to maintain that growth, you have to scale. A true composable DXP allows you to quickly and efficiently scale individual functions according to demand, often in a low- or no-code environment. 

How to tell if a DXP is composable (or just ‘composable’)

The difference between a composable DXP and a “composable” DXP can be difficult to spot. If you’re not sure which is which, ask yourself the following questions:

Will your teams feel empowered?

With a true composable DXP, content and marketing teams can make changes to the front end or publish new content without the need for IT involvement. And by spending less time on tedious tasks, your IT team can spend more time on bigger-picture projects. In addition, composable DXPs enable developers to make changes quickly and efficiently when necessary. If the solution doesn’t seem like it will make a big difference in the way your teams work, it might not be truly composable after all. 

Are all the functions independent and separated?

In a monolithic DXP, all the functions are contained within a single CMS, which means they are not independent or separated from one another. Some vendors use a “decoupled” approach, in which the front end and back end are separated. Content can be delivered via an API or via an integrated front end, but you are still limited in how the whole system can be structured. In a truly composable DXP, all your content and applications operate from a single CMS, much like in a monolithic solution; the difference is that the headless CMS holds the content, and APIs connect each operation and function, so everything is kept independent and separate for maximum flexibility and speed.

Do you have a true variety of options?

A composable DXP should have the ability to incorporate the following:

  • Personalization options

  • Customer relationship management (CRM) software

  • Customer data platform (CDP) solutions

  • Digital asset management (DAM)

  • Customer experience management (CEM) software (chatbots, automation, etc.)

In a “composable” DXP, these features will either be automatically included out of the box, or the vendor will only allow you to pick from a handful of third-party vendors if you want to add these features into your tech stack. 

Composable poseurs may use terms like “headless” to try and capitalize on the shift to composable architecture, but their offerings aren’t intended to be used as part of an open architecture. A truly composable DXP will offer greater flexibility, increased ease of use, and a much wider range of options, so you can choose whatever software works best for your marketing stack.

Learn more

Learn more about composable DXPs and the benefits they offer in our article, “Why composable architecture is the future of digital experience.” To see the difference between “composable” solutions and a truly composable DXP, schedule a free demo with us today.

About Contentstack

The Contentstack team comprises highly skilled professionals specializing in product marketing, customer acquisition and retention, and digital marketing strategy. With extensive experience holding senior positions in notable technology companies across various sectors, they bring diverse backgrounds and deep industry knowledge to deliver impactful solutions.  

Contentstack stands out in the composable DXP and Headless CMS markets with an impressive track record of 87 G2 user awards, 6 analyst recognitions, and 3 industry accolades, showcasing its robust market presence and user satisfaction.

Check out our case studies to see why industry-leading companies trust Contentstack.

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