The Sitecore Customer Experience Platform

As a leader in the world of customer experience management, new and exciting updates to Sitecore’s features and functionality are always hotly anticipated. None more so than Sitecore 8, which sees the platform step up its capabilities even further than before. 

In this post we will explore at some of the most important and exciting features that have been introduced from Sitecore 8 onwards - so strap in as the tour begins…

Customer Analytics

For those unfamiliar with the Sitecore Customer Experience Platform and its customer analytics capabilities, it’s a pretty powerful piece of kit. Encapsulating sophisticated content management and customer intelligence capabilities, and embracing a ‘test everything’ mentality, it’s perfect for organisations looking to get a holistic view picture of individual customers, and deliver cross-channel experiences tailored to their unique preferences, demographics and behaviours. (To find out more about the key features of Sitecore, check out our Sitecore service page). 

In their 7.5 update the underlying database technology from Microsoft SQL Server to the highly scalable MongoDB, and the reason for this change has now become clear. The analytics API has been opened up, making it possible for developer teams to collect and collate and disseminate data from non-Sitecore sites and services such as native mobile applications. All this data can now be pulled into a central dashboard; opening up limitless opportunities for cross-analysis, segmentation and filtering.

Cross-device tracking

Tracking is typically done through the use of cookies, which are dropped onto a user’s machine so that all visits from that device can then be linked to a visitor. However, with this approach there is no way to connect visits from different devices or visitor. Thus if a visitor visits your site on both a desktop and a tablet, these will be tracked as two completely separate journeys by completely separate visitors. However using the capabilities discussed above we can begin to move away from this model. By using a key, for example an email address, you can now identify individual visitors and record useful information in profile cards. This introduces a whole new range of capabilities such as personalisation, which enables you to deliver content you have identified as relevant to that visitor.

Enabling analysis

Now you have your data, how do you analyse it? Well thankfully a number of new reports have been introduced to provide instant insight, including Path Analyzer, which shows exactly how people have been journeying through your site. Highlighting popular paths and common drop-off points, when hooked up with well-defined goals this allows you to see what’s influencing people to complete important tasks - and factor this into your future plans.

Improvements have also been made to Sitecore’s ‘Experience Profile’ cards, which contain key information and statistics about individual users. In Sitecore 8 you can see, at a glance

  • How closely a user matches the various personas you have set up
  • Their interactions they’ve had across your various touch points
  • The goals they’ve triggered
  • The campaigns they’re part of
  • Any social activity to do with your brand and content (when the Sitecore Social Connected module is installed)
  • What happened once they converted, through integration with CRM systems such as Salesforce

Looking good!

The interface has been overhauled, introducing a tile-based desktop reminiscent of the Windows 8 start screen, greatly enhancing accessibility and usability. As a result content editors are able to identify and interact with tools and content, and developers can put custom applications directly in front of the system administrators, where in previous versions there were rather hidden away in other parts of the platform.

Testing, testing

A key strength of Sitecore is that it supports the delivery of highly personalised experiences, by enabling you to tailor the copy, images and features displayed at an incredibly granular level. It makes sense then that complementing the expanded analytical capabilities is a vastly improved approach to testing. Test management has now been automated; tests can be fired from the click of a button and you will be informed which version is performing best. What once was a multi-step tango is now a serene waltz.

Beyond these A/B tests, multivariate testing (where multiple page components are under test simultaneously) has also been improved. It’s easy to see now where these tests are running - and how many variations of the page are being displayed as a result. With screenshots also included, it’s incredibly easy for marketers and other perhaps less-technical people to optimise their brand’s digital experience, based on quantitative insight.

Before starting testing, marketers will likely have a good idea of how changes will affect results, and it is now possible to measure how well your predictions reflect reality. From the outset of a test, content editors can specify which version they think will perform best, building a profile up over time of how accurate they’ve been. While these elements of gamification may sound like just a bit of fun, there is real business benefit, as where testers or tests have proven to be consistently accurate the testing time or quantity of people required can be reduced, helping increase efficiency without jeopardising results. 

Encouraging exploration

Armed with all these tools to optimise the customer experience, it makes sense that you’ll want to see exactly how that experience is being presented to individual visitors. ‘Explore’ mode allows you to select particular personas, geographic regions, and journey through your site exactly as that specific demographic would. I hear some of you say “this feature was previously available as an add-on module”; that’s true, but it’s now been integrated right into the Experience Editor as well as being updated.

To find out more about Sitecore, and how Box UK can help you get the most out of your Sitecore project as a Silver Implementation Partner, visit the Sitecore section of our website. Alternatively, if you have any questions about any aspects of the award-winning Experience Platform, get in touch with a member of our team.

About the author

Charlie Afford

Charlie Afford

Charlie is a Sitecore Developer at Box UK. He is an avid supporter of Agile and Test Driven Development and believes that code quality and testability are key.

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