Analyst Digest: The Forrester Wave™: Digital experience platforms, q4 2023 Skip to main content

Analyst Digest: Forrester confirm Optimizely as the leading DXP

Justin Masters

Forrester’s 2023 evaluation of digital experience platform vendors was released in December rating how the platforms are aligning to Forrester’s assessment of the needs of organisations and specifically their digital marketeers.

We were delighted to see Optimizely continue its recent positive trend across all the leading industry analysts. No platform is perfect, and all platforms need to continuously evolve. Reassuringly for both Optimizely and Netcel, Forrester’s evaluation of Optimizely, and their words of caution as should be expected for all platforms, we have already seen will be ultimately addressed through Optimizely’s vision, strategy, and roadmap.

The unstoppable progress of AI

A key theme of the Forrester analysis, not surprisingly, was AI and how vendors are trying to both pivot and not get left behind in a world of AI for digital experiences which is becoming something of an unstoppable juggernaut. And a trend set to continue through 2024 and beyond.

Content generation, using AI and specifically OpenAI, is almost the baseline for all digital experience platforms in today’s marketplace. However, in a view I would echo, Forrester note that not many platforms are quite ready yet to generate content in a brand specific tone of voice and even less can use domain specific context around data, customer or product, within their AI tooling.

This is undoubtedly, in my view, the natural evolution of AI bridging the gap between future promise and today’s reality. The reality of AI is within touching distance, and I have no doubt that 2024 and into 2025 will really start to see the practical realisation of AI within digital marketing. This is common with new technologies and is clearly illustrated in any of Gartner’s Hype Cycles, and specifically in their 2023 Hype Cycle for Artificial Intelligence where many of the areas of AI are still within the initial stage of Innovation Trigger. Even though full maturity of many AI capabilities will be 2 to 5 years out (as of August 2023 based on the Gartner Hyper Cycle for AI), AI will continue to move at pace and can no longer be dismissed as a pipe dream.

Hyper Cycle for Artificial Intelligence 2023

Source: What’s New in Artificial Intelligence From the 2023 Gartner Hype Cycle™

Within the world of Optimizely, we have seen the emergence of AI throughout the platform ecosystem, with AI firmly embedded into the experimentation and recommendation products and a clear vision for how AI will be a copilot throughout the entirety of marketing operations. This is recognised by Forrester in their views of Optimizely’s AI roadmap and how this aligns with the future needs of customers.

Is your platform future fit?

A second theme was around future fitness of vendor platforms. Optimizely, and other vendors, have been making acquisitions and investing, significantly, in making these disparate pieces of tech work seamlessly together to create a uniform platform. Forrester highlighted that Optimizely still have work to do in this area and I believe this is recognised within Optimizely and will be addressed throughout 2024 in their roadmap.

Forrester make a point, at least my interpretation of it, that a digital experience platform isn’t the underlying technology, it’s what you do with it as an organisation that is the actual digital experience platform. I believe this rings true and I would echo this through ensuring that the appropriate strategies are in place for any organisation for them to truly realise their investment in digital experience platforms whether Optimizely or any other platform. Without the appropriate strategies, and a partner with a vision to help define and deliver on those strategies, it will always remain difficult to realise the potential ROI.

Within the evaluation process itself, Forrester assessed vendor platforms based on their strategy and capabilities to have:

  • Generative AI in context of brand voice with a credible vision and roadmap in this area, not just for generative AI but also how AI will drive a different type of interaction, rather than just AI for the sake of AI.
  • A fully formed strategy for a unified platform, not a combination of disparate parts. Whether that’s through acquisition and merger of technology, or from building capabilities from the ground up.
  • Composability, with the capability to interact or integrate nicely with other technology vendors. Leading vendors are assumed to have a specific capability or platform for these integrations such as a marketplace.
  • A capability for continuous learning and iteration of the platform through experimentation based around data and insight providing hyper-personalised experiences.

Combining reality and vision

In all these areas, Optimizely scores highly through a combination of reality and vision. Vision for the future of AI, a combination of reality and roadmap for the amalgamation of their recent acquisitions into a cohesive platform, and their market leading experimentation and data capabilities.

The Forrester Wave DXP Q4 2023

Across different criteria groupings, with different weightings, Forrester are looking at the current offering capabilities across a range of areas, strategy, and market presence. To gain their position, Optimizely are rating highly in a number of areas:

  • Current offering – 4.36/5, the highest rating
  • Strategy – 4.2/5, the second highest rating
  • Market presence – 3.5/5, the lowest rating for Optimizely and an area for improvement

Delving a bit deeper, Optimizely score top ratings in most areas of the current offering with room for improvement in Digital Commerce, extensibility and integration and application architecture within Forrester’s analysis. Forrester specifically recognise Optimizely’s strengths for the platform foundations, composable architecture and underlying infrastructure. Forrester also recognise the addition of the Content Marketing Platform helping to support end to end marketing operations from ideation, planning, creation and continuous optimisation.

The roadmap for Optimizely’s commerce capabilities continues to evolve with a clear vision of unifying some core capabilities between their two commerce platforms catering to the differing needs of customers.

Both commerce and the application architecture, how the acquisitions are being brought together under the banner of Optimizely One, I believe will demonstrate continued evolution and strengthening of Optimizely in this area.

Extensibility and Integration has, for me at least, always been a core capability of the Optimizely platform, back to the pre-Optimizely Episerver days. We’ve integrated Optimizely over the years with a plethora of other technology platforms and have always seen Optimizely as an extensible platform. With a focus on composability, I expect this to continue to develop and meet market needs.

Strength on data and content marketing capabilities

In assessing comparator platforms of Optimizely, the one platform on a similar level, as generally recognised by industry analysts, Adobe. Several of Adobe’s key strengths are clearly visible within Optimizely’s strategy or roadmap, specifically in the areas of customer data and analytics through Optimizely Data Platform and Adobe’s Workfront through Optimizely’s acquisition of the platform formerly known as Welcome, now known as Optimizely’s Content Marketing Platform.

Headless vendors

Other strong performers in the Forrester analysis include some of the headless only vendors in the marketplace with Forrester noting that, whilst they are strong in some areas, they are not yet really in the same place as vendors such as Optimizely when it comes to the capability to deliver an end-to-end platform to support marketing operations, something that Optimizely One strives to provide. It will be interesting to see how analysts such as Forrester view Optimizely’s own headless SaaS Core platform in the coming year with a more ready-made capability to fit into full marketing operations as part of Optimizely One.

Wrapping up, it’s both reassuring and exciting to see a leading analyst such as Forrester continue to recognise Optimizely’s strategy as delivering to the needs of the market whilst seeing that the opportunities for improvement are already within reach on the platform roadmap. 2024 promises to see Optimizely’s capabilities go from strength to strength.

Download a copy of the Forrester Wave Report here 

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