« View all Customer Experience posts

Digital Experience Suite vs. Best of Breed (and why IT needs to leave room for experiments)

Written by Eric Pieters on 08/12/15

There is an eternal discussion about using Best of Breed marketing solutions (a mix of technologies from different vendors) or Marketing Suites (where you buy the technology from one vendor).

As the market of Digital Experience is growing, there is an increasing number of marketing tools available, making today’s technology landscape dauntingly complex.

The challenge for marketers is clear: they need to stay on top of technological change, or risk getting disrupted by nimble competitors.

Eric Pieters (VP of Professional Services at AMPLEXOR) shares his thoughts on the debate of Digital Experience Suite versus Best of Breed.

Digital Experience Suite vs. Best of Breed (and why IT needs to leave room for experiments)


Digital Experience Platforms: what do marketers need?

Forrester defines a digital experience platform as “software to manage, deliver and optimize experiences consistently across every digital touch point.” Digital Experience platforms should meet six key needs, says Forrester:

  • Coordinate content, customer data, and core services to drive reuse and quality
  • Unify marketing, commerce, and service processes to improve practitioner workflows
  • Deliver contextually and share targeting rules to unify the “glass”
  • Share front-end code across digital touch points to manage a common user experience
  • Link data and analytics to add insight and drive action
  • Manage code and extensions for maximum reuse while avoiding over-customization.


The Best of Breed versus Digital Experience Suite debate

The role of digital marketing has changed drastically over the last decade and that’s why they need solutions that are constantly evolving. In search of the holy grail (a Digital Experience Platform), marketers now have the choice between an integrated, complete Suite, or a personal stack of individual (often excellent) tools. By taking advantage of APIs (application programming interfaces), they can (try to) integrate these tools.


Split opinions for marketers

Marketers seem to be divided down the middle. A report from the Winterberry Group and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (January 2015) shows that all over the world, companies are extensively experimenting with both Best of Breed solutions, and Suites. However, there has been no clear winner, due to the “one size fits all” solution for every company.


The advantages of using a Marketing Suite

The advantages of suites are obvious:

  • One single point of contact
    One contact when you have questions if something goes wrong.
  • Integration
    Suites are all about integration, or at least that’s the promise. In reality, because many of these platforms have become Suites based on recent acquisitions, they may need time to integrate their different packages well.
  • No overlapping functionalities
    Again this is not always true, but each piece of the puzzle should be dedicated to one functionality, so that it is clear what to use and when to use it.
  • Centrally managed data
    Maybe the most important advantage: your data is managed centrally, within one database. There is only one customer record, or one list of products, so it’s easy to maintain. Your Master Data Management just became very simple.

In many cases we are in favor of Suites, and this is certainly the case when we are talking about established fields like ERP systems, where accounting, inventory and production processes are well integrated.


Best of breed: time to experiment

However, choosing Marketing Suites can sometimes be slightly dogmatic. We live in an exciting, fast-paced time. The quote from Pieter Zwart, CEO of Coolblue is wonderful here: "It will never go as slowly again as it does today”.

To make the most of the new possibilities, you need to stay on top of technological change or risk getting disrupted by nimble competitors. You want to be able to experiment.

As the market of Digital Experience is growing, there are an increasing number of marketing tools available, with today’s technology landscape being dauntingly complex. Just have a look at Martech’s Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic, with 1876 (!) vendors in 43 (!) categories.  The number of marketing software companies doubled in one year - this market is moving at an incredible speed.

Martech’s Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphicIt is very likely that your supplier does not yet have the functionalities you can find in a number of new cloud solutions -and not just the newest and shiniest "one functionality" product. There are lot of of pretty established products out there with great functionality and nice user interfaces, who come pretty cheap and easy to use.

That is why we advise you to take the plunge from time to time and experiment. Do understand that, while the product may be cheap, it does not come free. You will have to integrate the product with your existing systems.

We will give you the advice the Grail Knight told Indiana Jones in the movie The Last Crusade:

Choose wisely. For as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail shall take it from you.

The system needs to be open enough to be able to:

  • Integrate with other systems (API)
  • Maintain your own Master Data
  • Export all your data when you want to move out of it (I've seen wonderful systems which only allow you to export data in very weird formats, actually locking you in).

As long as these requirements are met, we believe you should be fine.



Opting to use a Marketing Suite will bring a number of obvious advantages: a single point of contact, integration and centralization. However, new marketing strategies and tools emerge at a very quick pace. If you're using a Suite now, in a couple of months you may find yourself wanting to add a tool that's not available yet in the Suite.

Be prepared to always be on the move and change your Suite or stack according to your marketing goals. As long as you keep in mind the requirements mentioned above and you ensure the systems or tools you're using are flexible and open, we believe it's worth experimenting with newer and better products.


➡ Read this article in German

Digital Marketing, Digital Strategy

Eric Pieters

Written by Eric Pieters

Eric Pieters is Vice President of AMPLEXOR Professional Services. He is based in Belgium.

Related posts