Shaping the Game with Sitecore Experience Platform

Shaping the Game with Sitecore Experience Platform

Last week we Nick Laidlaw and I attended a Sitecore Business Optimization Services workshop at their new Boston offices on Congress Street. The content of our full day session was an introduction to Sitecore Experience Platform and discussion about Customer Experience strategy. The training was provided by none other than Lars Birkholm Petersen, who may be the world’s leading expert on designing and delivering Customer Experience with Sitecore. Lars was also supported by Elan Bair, who acted as a facilitator.

Although we learned about exciting new features and developments in Sitecore 8 and the Sitecore Experience Platform, the product was only about 20% of the day’s material. Our curriculum was targeted toward digital strategists and marketers; Where we spent most of our time talking and learning about strategy, experience marketing, designing and delivering Customer Experience. The day included lots of interesting, practical examples of success.

It was very clear to us Lars developed this workshop to help partners and clients achieve their goals, and not just to show off Sitecore features. For instance, he shared exercises designed to help teams gather, define, and organize the necessary information to set up an engagement plan, begin measuring success, and continue optimizing as time unfolds. The exercises he shared have been designed to keep a team of stakeholders focused on organizational goals while driving towards consensus on the correct path forward in a fun and interactive way.

Interestingly, there was also recognition of a point integration partners have been dealing with for years: Rolling out a seamless, connected Customer Experience doesn’t just magically happen when you buy Sitecore. Success with experience marketing, like content management, is a program that requires a great deal of strategy, planning, and execution… It hinges on an organization’s ability to adopt new technologies, adapt their processes, and enable their people.

However, as previously mentioned, part of the day was focused on new features and functionality. The things we’re most excited about regarding Sitecore 8 can be categorized under one high-level theme: Progress.

Image of a Customer ProfileUnderstanding the Customer with Sitecore® Experience Profile™

What could be more central to delivering a seamless and cohesive Customer Experience then seeing a centralized view of all the data connected to our customers? Sitecore Experience Profile view makes it possible to see who a customer is, right alongside information about their behavior while interacting with all facets of our digital Customer Experience.

There’s a lot of really slick technology behind the Experience Profile but we were most interested in the ability to string together all the anonymous activity before a Customer provides identifying information and connect it with their profile on a timeline of outcomes. We’re also really excited about the ability to loop in social listening so we can look at a customer’s social activity alongside their interactions with owned aspects of the overall Customer Experience.

Excellent new ways to visualize and analyze data

If there’s one unfortunate truth about marketing in the 21st century it’s this: Marketers are drowning in a rising tide of data. As much as we don’t want to make things more difficult, it’s critical to understand that success with Customer Experience hinges on an organization’s ability to leverage data to support real-time personalization and experience marketing.

However, in a recent survey 62% of the respondents were overwhelmed by the volume of incoming data and 85% reported inability to extract the full value from the data sources they have access to. The research also showed that only 3% of the respondents felt that they had a strong capability when it comes to using cross-channel or cross-device data for real time website or mobile app personalization.

Sitecore 8 data visualization

Fortunately, Sitecore has put a lot of thought into delivering data that marketers can quickly and easily leverage to optimize the Customer Experience with the addition of Path Analyzer and Page Analyzer interfaces. They combine raw information about customer behavior with intelligent information design that’s squarely focused on what matters, when considering how to optimize the Customer Experience.

Sitecore + MongoDB

Many of the polished capabilities of Sitecore 8 have been in the works for some time.  For example Sitecore had the ability to personalize content, capture site interactions, and deploy engagement plans since Sitecore 6.  The release of Sitecore 7.5 addressed a core issue MSSQL’s ability to deal with Big Data; the database size ballooned quickly as Sitecore captured session data.  By incorporating MongoDB (a cross-platform, NoSQL database), Sitecore 7.5 offered the ability to store large quantities of data efficiently.

The efficient data repository combined with a completely overhauled user interfaced built on Sitecore’s SPEAK UI (based on HTML5, CSS3, jQuery, Backbone, Knockout and more) results in an enhanced ability to provide serious analytics reports that were not possible from previous versions of Sitecore.

Federated Experience Manager

Sitecore 8 offers a brand new feature coined Federated Experience Manager (FXM) to allow marketers to embed personalized content, test targeted content and capture analytics in non Sitecore enabled sites.  This is a great way to introduce Sitecore functionality and to unify reporting in legacy or affiliate sites that are not targeted for re-platforming.  Once configured, the administrative process is consistent with administering content within a native Sitecore site.

Digital Strategy as a Prerequisite to Development

In order to successfully deploy the new capabilities of Sitecore 8 it is important to recognize that planning and education is a requirement.  The SBOS training cemented the fact that Digital Strategy teams must work with marketing stakeholders to provide guidance and council prior to getting into Sitecore configuration.

This article was a collaborative effort by:

Nick Laidlaw, Partner and Chief Technology Officer, Agency Oasis

Jake DiMare, Digital Strategist, Agency Oasis

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