Sitecore Digital Platform Trends for 2017

By Venkata Phani Abburi 7 min read

How Your Business Can Capitalize on Sitecore’s Latest Features

The Customer Experience Renaissance

The buying experience has changed greatly in the consumer’s favor over the past decade. The modern smartphone has emerged and given consumers 24-hour access to instant information. Web technology and design have also matured; a typical business website now delivers an information-rich experience that’s fast and easy to navigate. A consumer can easily compare all of the different products or services available to satisfy any need.

According to Walker’s Customer 2020 Report, a typical consumer has completed as much as 70 percent of the decision making the process by the time a sales representative interacts with him. That’s because the consumer already understands his needs and knows what he can expect from the businesses he patronizes.

Deep Personalization Is Becoming the Norm

Customers expect more from your business today than ever before. If your company can’t meet the challenge and deliver the experience that customers expect, you may soon become irrelevant. From a technology standpoint, it is no longer enough to use a content management system that delivers the same experience to every customer. Even rule-based personalization that targets broad customer segments isn’t as effective as it once was.

A modern CMS targets the individual customer. It draws information from the customer’s website interactions, your advertising and email campaigns, user segments, public data sources and more to deliver the experience that the individual wants.

Delivering personalized experiences leads to:

  • Increased customer retention through the delivery of more satisfying experiences
  • Increased relevance because all personalization choices take the context of previous interactions into account
  • Increased customer acquisition because personalization results in more effective nurturing campaigns

Achieving Deep Personalization

Regardless of the channel through which a customer interacts with your brand, you need to tell the customer that you know him, remember his previous interactions and are ready to pick up where you left off. Only through full digital transformation — and not by using ad-hoc methods to transplant existing processes — is it possible for your company to deliver the experiences that modern consumers expect.

To deliver deeply personalized experiences, a CRM must have the ability to develop a comprehensive understanding of a customer through his web, mobile and in-person interactions. It needs to draw information from — and deploy content to — any channel including the web, mobile apps, SMS messages and in-store kiosks. It also needs to integrate with all of the other systems that power your business — whether they reside on in-house servers or in the cloud.

Latest Trends in Web Content Management

The global market for web content management systems was $3.89 billion in 2016. MarketsandMarkets estimates that the total size of the market will grow to $8.25 billion by 2020. Content management systems have leveraged machine learning and artificial intelligence to understand customers more deeply and predict their needs more accurately — and WCM technology continues to evolve rapidly. We believe that shareable micro-experiences and User Experience as a Service (UXaaS) are two emerging trends that will help forward-thinking businesses remain competitive in the coming years.

  • Shareable Micro-Experiences

To provide experiences that flow seamlessly from one channel to the next, a CMS has to have the ability to separate content from presentation. The shareable micro-experience is a natural evolution of that principle in that it is a small component that’s easy to share and provides the same experience regardless of the channel in which it appears.

  • User Experience as a Service

UXaaS is a concept that takes the decoupling of content and presentation to its furthest extent. We believe that the term will become more common as more marketers embrace the ability of the modern CMS to take data from multiple sources and deliver content over any channel. In short, UXaaS expresses the ability of a CMS to deliver a consistent experience regardless of how the user consumes it.

More companies than ever are attempting to deliver personalized experiences based on data gathered from customer interactions. Despite the prevalence of personalization, Hubspot reports that nearly half of marketers don’t fully understand what their customers want — and customers have little patience for irrelevant content. About 70 percent of consumers have reported experiencing frustration from viewing irrelevant content.

We find that poor content personalization is often the result of working with incomplete data. A CMS that’s only set up to personalize the content based on previous web interactions, for example, has an incomplete understanding of customers because the modern customer journey flows between channels.

How Sitecore Has Adapted to Customer Experience Trends

The Sitecore Experience Platform has adapted rapidly to changing customer experience trends. Let’s learn more about how Sitecore 8.2 can help your company achieve its marketing goals by delivering fuller experiences.

  • Sitecore Experience Accelerator Decreases Time to Market

SxA fully embraces the separation of content and presentation by allowing you to develop them separately. While one team develops the back-end architecture of a website, another team can focus on the website’s visual presentation. Whether your company is designing a customer-facing website or an internal demonstration, SxA can help you bring it to life more quickly. SxA includes an intuitive editor and allows you to drag and drop layout elements. It also includes all of the testing, optimization and personalization features that you expect from Sitecore.

  • New Sitecore Subscription Options Control Digital Marketing Costs

In the past, businesses could only obtain Sitecore by purchasing full licenses — a sales model that doesn’t work for every organization. To satisfy businesses that require a more flexible pricing model, Sitecore now has a consumption-based pricing structure available that’s similar to what you expect from other SaaS offerings. With a consumption-based Sitecore license, you pay only when people view your website. This pricing model also offers instant scaling during periods of heavy traffic.

  • Sitecore 8.2 Drives Deeply Personalized Experiences

Sitecore 8.2 links the Sitecore Web Experience Manager with the Sitecore Experience Database to create comprehensive customer profiles that grow in real time as interactions occur. The xDB collects and immediately uses data from both online and offline interactions. Sitecore can personalize a customer’s experience with an in-store kiosk, for example, based on his interactions with your company’s mobile website during the trip to the store. With the Sitecore Federated Experience Manager, you can even collect interaction data from — and display personalized content on — non-Sitecore websites.

  • Sitecore 8.2 Back End Unifies Marketing and IT

The new unified back end of Sitecore 8.2 is the culmination of a long trend toward providing a single interface for both marketing and IT. By allowing marketers and IT staff to work with Sitecore in the same way, Sitecore 8.2 does a better job than ever of unifying business departments in support of a single goal. Unifying marketing and IT results in a better end product, a healthier corporate culture and less need for IT support.

Upgrading to Sitecore 8.2: Best Practices

Although extensive documentation exists to guide companies through Sitecore upgrades, Sitecore is a platform that allows for extensive customization and integration. It is possible that a generalized Sitecore upgrade scenario wouldn’t be relevant to your business, so it is wise to develop a detailed upgrade plan before beginning.

  • License Transfer

When your organization migrates to Sitecore 8.2, you may also want to switch to Sitecore’s new consumption-based license. Before making the change, talk to your representative at Sitecore to confirm that your Sitecore implementation can handle the transfer seamlessly.

  • List All Modules

If your Sitecore instance uses modules to add extra features, you may have to download updates for those modules when you upgrade to Sitecore 8.2 to prevent incompatibility issues. Make a list of the modules you’re using, and check to see if updates are available for them. If a module doesn’t have a new version available, check with the maker to confirm that the module has undergone testing with Sitecore 8.2.

  • Review Code Changes

Check to confirm the version of Sitecore that your organization currently uses. Download it — and Sitecore 8.2 — from the official website. Unpack the two ZIP files, and compare their contents to identify changes in the code. Read the Sitecore 8.2 changelogs for a complete list of changes and known incompatibilities.

  • Migrate Your Analytics Data

Is your organization using a CMS older than Sitecore 7.5? Sitecore 7.5 marked the beginning of the transition to MongoDB as the new repository for saved analytics data. If your company hasn’t worked with a NoSQL database before, you’ll need to learn how to use the new database before upgrading to Sitecore 8.2. You’ll also need to devise a plan for transferring your old data.

  • Check for API Changes

In most cases, you can upgrade to a new version of Sitecore without breaking any of your custom code. Sitecore has depreciated some API calls over the years, though, so you should compare your custom code to the list of obsolete API calls to see if your developers will need to make changes.

  • Plan Your Management Framework

Before beginning the Sitecore upgrade process, plan a framework to allow back-end access for your developers, marketers and IT staff. Clearly defined roles and access levels give all of your organization’s departments quick access to the reports and templates that they require.

  • Plan Your Integration Strategy

Sitecore can integrate with many of your organization’s existing data sources including your CRM, mobile app, marketing automation platform and even non-Sitecore websites. Before you upgrade Sitecore, plan a strategy for integrating it with your other digital solutions.

  • Adopt a DevOps Culture

If you want to get the most out of your Sitecore implementation, your organization should remain in a constant state of development, testing and integration. Adopting DevOps ensures that your business will remain agile enough to add new features to Sitecore when necessary. It also ensures that you’ll have the ability to roll back failed changes with minimal disruption to the customer experience.

  • Partner With an Experienced Sitecore Developer

For a business with a complex IT infrastructure, upgrading to Sitecore 8.2 isn’t always an easy process. It’s wise to partner with an outside developer that specializes in Sitecore. Before choosing a partner for your Sitecore upgrade, ensure that the developer doesn’t outsource Sitecore duties to a third party. Working directly with an experienced Sitecore developer ensures that you’ll extract the most value from the platform’s capabilities.

  • Brush Up Your Team’s Sitecore Skills

Upgrading to a new version of Sitecore is a great opportunity to ensure that the members of your team are ready to operate at peak performance. Conduct periodic training sessions leading up to the deployment of the new Sitecore version. It’s also wise to designate a backup for each important Sitecore role in case a key person should decide to leave your company.

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Over the past 20 years, TA Digital has positioned clients to achieve digital maturity by focusing on data, customer-centricity and exponential return on investment; by melding exceptional user experience and data-driven methodologies with artificial intelligence and machine learning, we enable digital transformations that intelligently build upon the strategies we set into motion. We are known as a global leader that assists marketing and technology executives in understanding the digital ecosystem while identifying cultural and operational gaps within their business – ultimately ushering organizations toward a more mature model and profitable digital landscape.

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Venkata Phani Abburi

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Venkata Phani Abburi

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