This blog post originally appeared on destinationCRM

Enterprise technology buyers are moving rapidly to adopt strategies and software to support digital experience (DX) initiatives. And with good reason: Forrester research shows that one of the last remaining areas for differentiation is the ability to provide compelling, engaging user experiences through digital channels. Your customers demand it, and your competition is probably already there (or well on their way).

The road to get there is replete with challenges covering the gamut of people, processes,  and technology. For technology buyers seeking to adopt DX tools and technologies, it’s a vast but immature market.

Application development and delivery pros, often on the front lines, face a proliferation of legacy and new technology to manage, engage, and measure customer experiences through digital channels—we’re talking Web sites, mobile channels, and many other digital touchpoints.

Here’s a truism: These professionals frequently encounter systems that don’t live up to their promises. They may be too old or inflexible to support rapidly changing requirements. Tech vendors add to the confusion. Some deliver all-encompassing DX suites, which have varying degrees of successful integration. Others provide pointed solutions that may deliver one part of the DX equation well, but rely on integration with third-party systems to provide a full solution.

The challenge for DX professionals is to determine how best to assess, choose, integrate, and apply the right software solutions to meet strategic DX imperatives. Easier said than done, right?

Look at Seven Main Technology Categories

Digital experience functionality must enable organizations to manage structured and unstructured content, execute marketing campaigns, contextualize experiences, perform transactions such as purchases, support customer service interactions, and optimize experiences.  Based on Forrester’s research, you can expect to find this functionality in seven main categories:

Content management. Content management solutions have evolved from supporting Web publishing to enabling business users to create and manage content-driven, multichannel digital experiences. This category includes Web content management, digital asset management for rich media, and product catalog management to manage unstructured and structured content.

Marketing automation. A variety of marketing automation solutions from vendors such as IBM (Unica), Neolane, and Responsys are expanding from supporting functions like campaign management and messaging to supporting advanced requirements for managing the processes, resources, and execution of marketing activities. This is especially relevant in this era of cross-channel customer experiences.

Personalization and recommendation engines. Point solution providers that initially focused on personalized recommendations using collaborative filtering now increasingly use complex data-driven algorithms. These can use cross-session and device browser history, in-session navigation, inbound URL, purchase data, and more to dynamically tailor customer experience.

Commerce. Commerce platforms support many capabilities, including management of products, promotions, and orders, and have capabilities for content publishing, search, and site management. These capabilities must integrate tightly into back-office systems. Commerce vendors have begun to add DX capabilities.

Customer service interaction management. Companies are finding it critical to standardize the problem resolution process and customer service experience across a variety of channels, such as voice, email, chat, Web self-service, and social. Customer service interaction management solution vendors (e.g., eGain, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories, Moxie Software) offer a central interaction hub of customer data and history, agent and Web self-service, knowledge management capabilities, workflow, and customer feedback management capabilities.

Analytics, testing, and optimization. Web analytics and site optimization applications (e.g., Adobe Omniture, Webtrends) no longer can focus solely on Web sites. As customer interactions fan out across inbound and outbound channels, companies call on analytics tools to provide visibility to a multichannel funnel spanning the entire customer life cycle. These tools increasingly feature native data collection and third-party integrations to track interactions and report on activities.

Search. Search engines don’t simply just power the white box at the top of the Web pages. Instead, search engines provide algorithm-based technologies to dynamically provide contextualized experiences based on historical, situational, and demographic data.