Headless CMS vs DXP: An In-Depth Comparison

Posted on July 14th, 2022 by Antonello Zanini

CMSs and DXP solutions have become more and more popular, but they are often confused or misunderstood. This is because a CMS and a DXP generally share some key aspects, even though their ultimate goals are different. In this article, you will find out how the two tools differ and why you always hear the comparison CMS vs DXP. You will learn when and why you need one or the other, and how you can use a CMS, especially a headless CMS, to implement a full-fledged digital experience.

Let the comparison begin!

Headless CMS: Definition, Benefits, Adoption

Let’s now delve deeper into the headless CMS paradigm, addressing its key aspects.

What is a headless CMS?

A headless CMS (Content Management System) is a back-end-only content management platform that acts as a content repository. In detail, a headless CMS is a single source of truth that equips you with what you need to create the content, manage it, and expose it via API. This means that a headless CMS does not involve a front-end layer, and this is what makes it different from a traditional CMS.

Therefore, the frontend developers are responsible for retrieving the content from the headless CMS through its APIs, elaborating it, and presenting it to the end-users. In other terms, a headless CMS can be used simultaneously with several front-end applications and technologies.

Learn more about what a headless CMS exactly is.

Top 3 benefits of a headless CMS

A headless CMS comes with many benefits. Let’s now focus on the three most relevant ones.

  • It increases your productivity: with a headless CMS, you can manage all your content in one place, regardless of your target websites, frontend device, or marketing campaigns. This avoids communication overheads and inefficiencies, making it also easier to monitor performance and achieve goals.

  • It is scalable: by centralizing the content management in a single place, your headless CMS becomes capable of serving many frontends at once. To connect new websites, web or mobile applications, you only have to make them call the APIs exposed by your headless CMS.

  • It is secure: being a SaaS (Software as a Service), a headless CMS is accessible through the web. So, you always get the latest version of the product. Since the provider behind it takes sure of updating it, a headless CMS is resistant to known attacks due to obsolete technologies.

CMS vs DXP: When you should adopt a headless CMS

If you want to implement an omnichannel strategy, adopting a headless CMS is the perfect solution. An omnichannel CMS comes in handy when your marketing and communication team aspire to define channel-agnostic customer experiences. This goal can be easily achieved by having each channel retrieve content from the same source, which is what a headless CMS is about.

Similarly, a headless CMS is useful when dealing with multi-site management. If you have several websites to manage, you would like to handle them from the same platform. This can be achieved by decoupling the frontends from where the content is managed with a headless CMS.

Keep in mind that the two scenarios presented here are just examples and that a headless CMS has endless uses!

DXP: Definition, Benefits, Adoption

Let’s now jump into the DXP world, tackling everything you should know about it.

What is a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)?

DXP stands for Digital Experience Platform and represents an integrated and cohesive set of technologies, products, and services that work together in a composable architecture to help companies deliver rich, advanced, high-quality experiences to their customers. Thus, the goal of a DXP is to enable the management, optimization, and delivery of digital and contextualized content-based experiences across multiple channels

To accomplish this, a DXP comes with tools to collect meaningful, heterogeneous, cross-channel data to better understand your customers and identify patterns in their behavior. Then, this data is used to create successful content-driven experiences.

Simply put, a DXP allows your business to listen to your customers through data and speak to them through personalized content.

Top 3 Benefits of a DXP

A DXP offers several benefits to your business. Let’s now focus on the three most important ones.

  • It allows you to create better customer experiences: You can use the data collected by a DXP as feedback to design and deliver richer, more successful, personalized content-driven experiences to your customers, based on their preferences and past actions. 

  • It helps you increase your customer retention rate: As shown in this study, delivering richer experiences through an omnichannel strategy to your customers helps you achieve 91 percent greater year-over-year customer retention rates compared to businesses that follow other approaches. 

  • It helps you to make data-based decisions: A DXP gathers a huge amount of data, which can be used to monitor and understand what is going on, the effectiveness of your communication strategy and marketing campaigns, and how to change them accordingly.

CMS vs DXP: When you should adopt a DXP

If you plan to launch a long-term omnichannel strategy, adopting a DXP could make all the difference in supporting it and saving you time and money. In addition, a DXP is particularly important if you have several marketing campaigns running. This is because monitoring them all, performing A/B testing, and modifying them accordingly is critical to turning them from failures to successes. Acting late or with the wrong moves means losing customers, and you do not want that. 

Just as in the case of a headless CMS, do not forget that a DXP is useful in many other circumstances and situations.

CMS vs DXP: Why They Can Be Used Together

The most noticeable difference between the two is that a headless CMS is a single application, while a DXP is built on top of a set of solutions. Although both deal with content management and support omnichannel strategy, they have different goals. A headless CMS is a general-purpose solution for content management, while a DXP is more focused on finding ways to create and deliver the content your customers expect according to their preferences.

However, what is important to highlight here is that even though a headless CMS and a DXP are different, they can be used together. Specifically, what generally happens is that the DXP platform is based on a headless CMS.  In other words, one of the main services with which the DXP solution is built is a headless CMS, which means that a headless CMS can be used to achieve some goals typical of a DXP.

So, let's now learn how you can leverage a headless CMS like DatoCMS to build a DXP.

Digital experiences

How to Use DatoCMS to Build a DXP    

DatoCMS is an advanced, easy-to-use fully-featured headless CMS that provides you with everything you need to store, manage, and deliver the content, data, and information required by all your services. At the same time, you can use this data to build rich digital experiences for your customers and users, which is what a DXP is about. 

Therefore, you can build a DXP on top of the content management features offered by DatoCMS via API. Then, the other services that are part of the DXP will retrieve, use, and analyze the data coming from the DatoCMS APIs.

The advantages of this approach are that with a single tool, you already have most of what you need to build a DXP. This makes your DXP less complex and reduces the development time and costs as a consequence. Do not forget that this is just one of the several ways you can employ DatoCMS and that it has much more to offer. 


In this article, you learned what CMS vs DXP means, why you should adopt both these solutions, and how. Likewise, you delved into what is a DXP, when you should use one, and why. In particular, you saw everything you need to know to understand the main differences between a headless CMS and DXP. Although these two concepts have different goals, a headless CMS can be used as the core service of a DXP. This is why a headless CMS like DatoCMS can be used to implement the DXP you need, and here you learned why. 

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