This series looks at what we can do with website personalization using the out-of-the-box (OOTB) conditions that come with Sitecore XM Cloud.
For these examples, I will be adding website personalization to the ‘Skate Park’ demo site available in XM Cloud Sandbox. This is a fictional skate product e-commerce site.
Website personalization using Point of Sale (aka Site Identifier)
In this video, we look at Point of Sale (POS). POS is otherwise referred to as ‘Site identifier’ within Sitecore XM CLoud.
Website personalization using geolocation
Geolocation in Sitecore XM Cloud is based on the users IP address. There are 2 geolocation conditions – region and country. I neglected to mention in the video that you can select more than one region or country, and so build more complicated geolocation audiences.
Website personalization using date-based conditions
There are 3 Date-based conditions that come OOTB with Sitecore XM CLoud – Visit day of the month, day of the week, and month of visit. In all 3 cases, the date is based on the time zone of the organisation publishing the XM Cloud site. Note you can combine conditions to create audiences based on, for example, visiting your site on 25 December, or every Tuesday in September, or the first day of each month.
Website personalization based on user interaction
There are 3 user interaction-based conditions for Sitecore XM Cloud personalisation. These conditions are: referring URL, UTM value and new or returning visitor. In this video, I show you how easy these are to use, including building audiences using multiple condition combinations.
Website personalization based on user device conditions
Sitecore’s XM Cloud lets you personalise website experiences based on a number of different conditions. In this video, we look at how we can personalize based on the users device and operating system.
Website personalization based on visit information
With Sitecore’s XM Cloud, you can personalize website visits based on specific page views, first pages viewed (landing page) and other view based conditions like number of times pages viewed, within a certain number of days. By combining conditions, you can build audiences to tailor your digital experience for many different types of visitor.
In today’s digital landscape, developing an optimisation strategy is essential for businesses looking to thrive online. Optimizing your digital presence can lead to
reduced bounce rates
greater customer loyalty
higher conversion rates
increased average order value.
Moreover, personalization has emerged as a key driver of revenue, with statistics showing that consumers are more likely to engage with and purchase from brands that offer tailored experiences. In this article, we will outline the comprehensive approach we use to develop an optimisation strategy that will not only enhance your online presence but also guide your growth in digital maturity.
Aceik is Australia’s leading Sitecore agency. Whilst we specialise in helping our clients optimise the business value from their Sitecore investment, our approach to optimisation strategy is not limited to the Sitecore ecosystem. The methodology we use below is based on Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies, however, the approach can be applied across whatever martech stack you use. We have had great success using this approach within Sitecore’s platform DXP environment as well as across a SaaS composable portfolio. We have also applied this approach using other platforms and tools, such as Umbraco CMS and the Google Suite. In fact, the methodology we use is most powerful when applied broadly across your entire digital ecosystem.
The Why: The Value of optimisation
Optimisation is not just a buzzword; it’s a proven method to achieve digital success. Here’s why it matters:
Improved Metrics: Optimisation leads to reduced bounce rates, increased engagement, greater customer loyalty, higher conversion rates, and increased average order values, resulting in better overall performance.
Personalization Drives Revenue: McKinsey research highlights the multiplying value of personalization in marketing and sales. Tailored experiences have become a significant revenue driver (Reference).
Consumer Preferences: A staggering 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that provide tailored experiences, showcasing the importance of personalization in capturing and retaining customers (Reference).
Loyalty Impact: Approximately 70% of consumers state that their loyalty to a brand is influenced by how well the brand understands their individual needs (Reference).
Developing Your optimisation Strategy
To create a successful optimisation strategy, we use the following methodology:
Audit and Analyze
Assess your current digital landscape, including customer data models and analytics tools.
Analyze existing data to understand things like traffic sources, engagement metrics, site paths to purchase, and campaign tracking. What insights can we derive from this data about what your site users expect, need, and hope to achieve on your website?
Build a clear picture of your current state – both in terms of the data, metrics, and analysis that already exists within your business, and also what your current site performance looks like. Consider in particular where the gaps and clear areas for improvement/quick wins are.
This will become your north star and ongoing guide as we implement your optimisation strategy
Your framework should be capped by your business vision, which is supported by a few key pillars of your topline business goals. Supporting those business goals, we identify key marketing objectives, which have their own supporting digital goals.
The framework thus provides the structure of a digital measurement model, where all your digital site goals ladder up to support marketing and business goals. No digital goals exist in isolation – they each have a clear context and purpose for tracking, measurement, and reporting.
Engagement Value Scale
Once we have identified your key digital goals, they can be evaluated in terms of their business value and customer importance. Rank the goals by assigning a numerical value to create a clear goal hierarchy.
In addition to value, we should establish clear goal benchmarks based on current performance, as well as set target metrics to aim for over time.
Reporting views of current value and conversion rate should enable you to leverage these measurement markers (current, benchmark, target) so that you can precisely track the relative impact of optimisation activities over time.
Note that the way you implement goal value will vary depending on which analytics tool you use.
Audience Journeys and Segments
Optimisation tactics require a clear understanding of your website users. We should identify all your key audience groups and their journeys through your site, including the key decision-making moments and conversion points.
Note that whilst most organisations will have some kind of audience personas, often these are based on human characteristics, such as age, demographics, stage of life etc. These may be a good starting point, but more useful for our optimisation strategy will be personas based on actual digital behaviours.
Using your existing analytics, combined with an understanding of your audiences and business goals, we can break down your audiences into smaller segments. We suggest considering a combination of implicit and explicit characteristics. Implicit characteristics can be derived from browsing behaviour, and patterns of site interaction. Explicit characteristics are clear data points we can extract from visitor activity, such as browser or device type, number of site visits, etc.
The end result is that we have a list of your key audience segments to be ranked in terms of priority for optimisation. The ranking should consider factors such as the potential volume of site visitors in this segment, the impact this segment has on your business success, and the ease by which we can identify this segment, using the explicit and implicit characteristics.
Digital Relevancy Map
Each of your prioritised audience segments will have a unique set of characteristics and requirements that can be captured in a digital relevancy map.
For this step, we will work with you to build a matrix for each segment that identifies the specific content needs, segmentation triggers, key goals, and other requirements that will be needed to build optimization experiences
The purpose of this step is to understand and scope out all the necessary supporting information required to build effective optimisations tailored for each segment.
Ideation and prioritisation
With all the hard work completed, it’s now time to have some fun!
With your key goals, audience segments, and strategic framework handy, we will work with you to generate a list of ideas on what you can do on your website that may positively impact (optimise!) the experience for each of your prioritized segments.
The goal here is to generate more than enough ideas – there are no limits for the purposes of brainstorming.
For each idea (or ‘tactic’), we need to specify the targeted segment, the goal (e.g., increasing newsletter sign-ups), and the details of the experience we want to provide. In working through these details, it may become obvious that some ideas are not feasible or not really that important.
Tactics may include personalizations or A/B tests, each grounded in a hypothesis (e.g., “By changing X to Y, we expect Z because…”).
Once we have a list, tactics should be prioritized. Again, we can use volume, impact and ease to guide this process.
Roadmap and playbook
With your tactics prioritised, we can map these into a schedule over time. Optimisation is an ongoing activity that should be informed by data and reflect a true iterative process where each result informs future tactics. Optimisation also requires the building of the internal ‘muscle’ to manage the implementation, smartly interpret the results, and effectively communicate the impact to your business stakeholders.
For these reasons, we will work with you to build a realistic roadmap of optimisation tactics over time that is realistic but achievable.
Everybody always wants ‘quick wins’, so this is a key inclusion in every optimisation roadmap we build.
And lastly, it’s important to keep your optimisation strategy together. We build a playbook with you that contains all your optimisation elements, ideas and outputs, including each tactic, the resulting insight, and all future ideas. This playbook is your ongoing source of optimisation truth.
Developing an optimisation strategy is a necessity for businesses looking to succeed in the digital landscape. It allows you to harness the power of personalization, meet consumer expectations, and drive revenue.
The good news is that whilst not necessarily easy, developing an effective optimisation strategy is very achievable. We would love to work with you to guide you through our methodology to enhance your online presence, improve your user experience, and help you achieve your business objectives, faster. Remember that the journey to digital maturity is an ongoing process, and continuous optimisation will keep you ahead in the ever-evolving digital world.
I’m old enough to remember when WordPress first shook-up the website publishing game, coming out with its famous ‘5-minute install’. Prior to that, even the most straightforward self-hosted website involved many steps, tools and processes, well beyond the ability of most non-technical users. Nowadays, there are plenty of basic ‘1 click’ hosted offerings, but still not many other legitimate enterprise-level site management and publishing tools that allow you to build and publish a new non-technical, author-friendly, website within 5 minutes, or less.
Enter XM Cloud…
Let me walk you through the key steps to have a brand-new, fully-functioning website in minutes. Start from Sitecore’s Cloud portal, and go to XM Cloud.
From XM Cloud app, click the big purple button to ‘Create website’
Let’s go ahead and choose the Skate Park basic site template.
You should get a message that says the building process may take up 2 minutes.
2 minutes later, your site is ready for WYSIWYG editing in Pages, Sitecore’s new easy drag-and-drop authoring platform.
Before you can share your new (default ‘Skate Park’) website with the world, you will need to setup hosting. For this, go to the Sitecore XM Cloud Deploy app, find your new site, select the 3 dots and select ‘Set up hosting’.
The easiest (quickest) way to get your site hosted is to setup a Vercel installation. Once you have done this once for the environment, including the XM Cloud / Github integration, you are good to go for future sites.
Because we have an existing Vercel installation, we just need to ‘Create and link’.
From the Deploy app, you should now be able to see a Hosting URL against your site. Hit ‘Publish all sites’, let the process run and try the URL.
And with just those few steps, in under 5 minutes, you should have a brand new demo ‘Skate Park’ XM Cloud website, just like me, built and published and ready for visitors.
In this blog post, I want to explore some quick comparisons between Sitecore Experience Analytics and Google Analytics 4 (GA4).
Why? There are other good articles out there that cover the differences and how the platforms complement each other (Link 1, Link 2, Link 3). But there is not much I can find that deals with GA4 specifically. And with the rapid and widespread shift to GA4 (by July this year), I’m interested in understanding how similar, or at least consistent, the two platforms are in how they measure website activity.
This is important because in the current age of martech proliferation and with the increasing challenge of data management, digital marketers want to know the best combination and stack of tools to power their data-driven marketing.
To lay my cards on the table upfront, even if all the metrics aligned perfectly across both platforms, there would still be good reasons for Sitecore uses to use Experience Analytics, as well as GA4. The bottom line is that the primary strength of Sitecore Experience Analytics is that the data is directly actionable within the platform, and used to power marketing optimisation activity. Whilst GA4 is ideally also actionable, this is usually through a manual process of deriving insights from the data that is then used to inform marketing activities, independently of the analytics platform itself (Google does offer a limited range of direct data integrations with it’s other marketing platform products, such as Google Ads, Optimize etc). Google Analytics is also more broadly accessible, customisable and extensible, and generally integrated into business reporting already.
For this exploration, I will be comparing 3 weeks of data from a Sitecore website using Experience Analytics and GA4. I have matched Sitecore goals with GA4 conversion events. For each of the conversion events, I have added an event value equal to the corresponding Sitecore goal value.
There is no direct comparison metric. Comparing Visits with Engaged sessions gives us a 14% variance. An engaged session is “a session that lasts longer than 10 seconds, has a conversion event, or has at least 2 pageviews or screenviews”.
In GA4, bounce rate is the difference between engaged sessions and total sessions. Given that engaged sessions, as described above, is a broader and more comprehensive measure of site engagement, the GA4 metric is probably a better indicator of actual bounces. For example, if a visitor comes from a Google search query and lands deep on a page in your site and spends 3mins reading the page, and then leaves, Sitecore would still count this as a bounce (a single page visit). GA4, however, will still count single-page visits as an engaged session, as long as they are longer than 10 seconds.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but good to know these metrics match.
Default Channel Group/Organic search
Sitecore only has two categories of online channel: Organic and Direct, whereas Google has many(e.g. Direct, Referral, Paid, Social). So I was surprised to see how close these metrics are.
User conversion rate
Note that as mentioned above, in order to create an accurate comparison, all Sitecore Goals have been matched with GA4 event conversions. Again, given the expected differences between the two platforms, I was surprised with this very similar result!
Comparisons between other general web analytics are also favourable. For example, both platforms record virtually the same top 20 referring sites, in the same order, albeit with some differences in visit values.
It is generally accepted that two areas where Sitecore Experience Analytics differs from GA is engagement value scoring and pattern matching analytics. In a future blog post, I want to explore specifically the differences and how GA4 can be used to also surface this kind of super useful marketing intelligence data.
As a marketing business user and digital strategist
It is quite possible, in my experience, to quickly acquire the knowledge and skills required to confidently utilise the Sitecore digital experience platform. In 4 months I have learnt a great deal and achieved a lot working with Sitecore, across both the composable and integrated platforms.
The following are the resources and approaches to learning and up-skilling that I have found most effective:
Sitecore White papers
Unfortunately there is not an easy way that I can find to browse all White Papers. However here is a list of specific resources that I have found useful. As you will see, most of these gravitate around the topic of Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies.
There are free and subscription-based learning options. The free Essentials courses are good for a foundational overview. However, the new on-demand learning plans for the composable products are excellent as they go into a lot of detail and include quizzes and other practical exercises as you progress.
According to the Statistics screen within the Sitecore Learning Home portal, I have spent a total of just under 31 hours across 46 active courses in the last 4 months, with a peak period in July where I accessed 66 different training materials.
Luckily for me, the ANZ Sitecore User Group Conference 2022 (SUGCON) happened in my city the month after I started working with Sitecore. Attending this event was very impactful in accelerating my familiarity with the overall Sitecore ecosystem, including getting to meet many Sitecore clients, vendors, and other representatives.
Since then, Melbourne had its own User Group night, which was another great chance to further establish relationships across the Sitecore network, as well as giving me the opportunity to present to my peers some of the work we have been doing in the Composable space.
Many of the Sitecore User Groups post videos of their presentations on YouTube. You can find some gold when searching for a specific topic. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of content from User Groups over the last 3 years as many were conducted remotely.
To be honest, the Slack forum has not been as valuable in my learning as the other options above. The reality is that there are not as many people in the Sitecore world doing digital strategy and optimisation as there are Developers and other technical people. Subsequently, most Sitecore Slack channels don’t discuss topics relevant to me (or that I can understand!)
The ‘Learning-at-Sitecore’ channel is good for keeping up with frequent learning updates. And on the occasions where I have asked a question, responses have been relatively speedy and helpful.
Getting on the tools
The learning options above assume you have access to Sitecore products. Whilst this may be difficult for people without a Sitecore licence or who is not a partner, there is nothing stopping anyone from signing up for Sitecore Send (Moosend). It’s free to create an account and start working with the software. https://www.sitecore.com/products/send and https://moosend.com/
Of course, there is nothing like learning ‘on the job’. For all the hours I’ve spent in Sitecore Learning and watching YouTube videos, working with real clients and implementing real optimisation use cases is the quickest and most effective way to accelerate from a newbie to a confident Sitecore digital strategist.
This blog post title borrows from the name of a series of Sitecore events that were held in Sydney and Melbourne during November 2022. The events were designed as a smaller, more informal version of Symposium. Presentations covered
the recent and upcoming Sitecore product innovations
a deep dive into some of the latest solutions, and
some example-based presentations that spoke to the application of these solutions in the real world.
It was great to see a focus throughout on customer experience, including topics of data-driven marketing, and privacy and personalisation, all whilst delivering on business outcomes. These are all topics of interest to me.
What follows below is a collection of my notes and reflections.
Thanks to the Uber and Amazon’s of the world, our customers expect fast, frictionless, and flawless experiences. All commercial businesses are under this increasing pressure to transform the experience they can offer. Very few brands can fully meet their customers expectation. This creates an opportunity for businesses that can ‘get it right’. To get it right, transformation is required across 3 dimensions – people, technology, and strategy.
Enter ‘composable’ – an approach that addresses the technology and strategy elements in a significant way. A composable approach enables you to adjust your technology in a fast and flexible way. The Gartner quote doing the rounds indicates that those with a composable strategy can expect an 80% faster speed to market for new features. A composable strategy also allows the flexibility to pick and choose the combination of solutions that are right for the unique characteristics of each business.
Dave O’Flanagan, Sitecore’s Chief Product Officer, spoke in some detail on Sitecore’s composable strategy. He acknowledged the challenge of keeping up with Sitecore over the last little while as it has expanded the breadth of its product offering. Sitecore itself has also struggled at times to effectively communicate its strategy.
The big idea is that Sitecore has built its composable DXP as a broad suite of capabilities based on a combination of product acquisitions and new product development. The acquisition strategy was to build a differentiated composable proposition based on products that were ‘born composable’, like Boxever. Essentially, Sitecore’s current composable DXP is an unbundling and expansion of its previous all-in-one platform approach. Sitecore is now pretty bought in to composable – it bought 4 companies to prove it!
According to Dave, Sitecore is committed to delivering composable products that can work standalone, or, operate as friendly-neighbours in a mixed technology and vendor ecosystem. The aspiration is that each product can compete for best-of-breed in its each product category, as well as work very well together as an integrated stack. The reality is that few businesses are faced with a martech greenfield, and so Sitecore is positioning itself to be able to offer options to all.
New solution deep dive
It’s not all composable though. Sitecore continues to invest in its all-in-one XP platform. Release planning for version 10.4 is underway. Dave reiterated that this platform offering remains part of Sitecore’s strategy for similar reasons to the above, as it provides an alternative offering for customers that can’t go composable. For example, there are industries and geographies that cannot at this point utilise a public cloud offering.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, Sitecore has simplified it’s composable offering into 3 clouds: Content, Engagement and Commerce. You can read more about that here. Sitecore’s ambition in this space is to be #1 leader in content, and a disruptor in engagement and commerce clouds.
A focus on content products remains the core and centre of Sitecore. Sitecore intends to continue to be best known for its market-leading CMS, but also wants to offer comprehensive end-to-end content products. Content experience is the customer experience, after all. 3 of the 4 new product announcements relate to the Content cloud offering.
Flagship enterprise headless CMS product rearchitected for cloud.
This will be the core thrust of Sitecore’s GTM. Examples were referenced of complete implementations in 6 weeks.
The product is at 90% feature parity with XM.
Advantages of cloud are well-known but the big one worth repeating is that upgrades just happen.
Comes with embedded personalisation and real-time analytics built in. These features utilise IP from the composable Personalize & CDP (Boxever) products. Here’s the good news: to upgrade from the lightweight built-in XM Cloud personalisation and analytics features, it is just a ‘click of a button’ to export and activate in Sitecore CDP & Personalize.
Completely new UI focussed on developer and marketer productivity
All the ease-of-use of some of the best-of-breed SME tools in an enterprise product, including the ability to visually build components in a drag-and-drop interface to assemble into pages and sites.
There are also DevOps improvements through tooling and APIs baked into XM Cloud to optimise developer productivity.
Content Hub One
This is a new product build of a headless CMS
Features simple functionality for content authoring, modelling, and delivery.
Fundamentally different from full enterprise CMS, and much simpler than anything Sitecore has done before
Built on capabilities of Content Hub engine, with simple interface and API options.
Really simple content authoring focussing on developer productivity, all content delivered by APIs.
Part of Content Hub family, with easy upgrade path to full Content Hub suite with enterprise capability
New content search product, built using the technology of Sitecore Discover
Incorporates predictive real-time AI
Provides tooling for marketers to boost, tailor results, tune etc.
Can index content any number of sites and federate results into single search interface.
Another product that is easy and quick to implement.
This is a critical new offering for Sitecore
Commerce and Content search will remain as separate products for the next 9 months or so, but are on a pathway to being more integrated and unified
Part of engagement cloud
Integrate products in no/low code environment
Comes with thousands of connectors e.g., Salesforce, Marketo
Addresses the additional integration cost that comes with a composable approach
An acquisition of a market leader in iPaaS solutions
Note the intention is Connect would not be required for integration between Sitecore products, as this should be enabled OOTB. However, there are some limited use cases where Connect could work within a Sitecore ecosystem as well
A few final notes on where Sitecore is going. Sitecore’s key product investment areas are in improving product performance, cost effectiveness, and privacy and security.
The composable DXP strategy will required strategic decisions about where to unify and integrate their products where it adds value, whilst maintaining a commitment to an overarching composable approach. A good example of this is the introduction of a unified tracking capability via a single script for all Sitecore products.
There are initial steps underway to rearchitect Sitecore Forms into a headless cloud offering
Sitecore pricing model has been redefined, but not made public yet. The model should feature more usage-based pricing bundled into tiers. More information to come.
Orchestrating digital experiences for the composable customer
The Aceik team recently built a website and set of customer experiences to demonstrate the new Sitecore composable tools. In particular, we wanted to show how they can be used together to deliver a modern, personalised, cross-channel digital experience. The following is a walkthrough of what we built.
A customer named Ally Davids visits our demo website, Luxury Hotel. The website is built in Sitecore XM with SXA (hosted in Azure PaaS) and uses Sitecore Headless Services (NextJS hosted in Vercel) for the front end.
Ally browses our site but does not complete any conversion actions. Later on, she is re-targeted on Facebook with an advertisement promoting a free airfare competition. Ally clicks the ad, which links back to our Luxury Hotel website. The link is appended with standard UTM parameters.
We have used these UTM values to personalise the website homepage. In Sitecore CDP, we have built a web template that swaps out the hero image, headline and call-to-action with tailored values.
We have also built an audience template that enables us to use UTM parameters as targeting values when building Experiences.
This experience is set to target the Homepage only. Real-time audiences trigger it with a UTM_campaign value of ‘island_competition’. This is the value set in our Facebook retargeting Ad.
The website also includes the Sitecore Send tracking script. With this script in place, we have used the Embed publishing option within Sitecore Send to load our web forms in a <div> tag, in any place on our website where we want a Sitecore Send form to appear.
In this island_competition personalisation, we have used another web template to swap out the default Sitecore Send form with a competition-specific form (using the FormID from Sitecore Send), based on the same UTM_campaign value targeting.
The result is that Ally sees a personalised homepage hero component and competition web form.
Ally submits her details in the web form. Her identity is sent to Sitecore CDP and her customer profile is added to existing Segments that have been created e.g. ‘Known customers’ and ‘Island competition customers’.
Ally’s details are also sent to Sitecore Send, into an existing Audience email list. This event triggers a Marketing automation flow that sends Ally an email to promote our Hotel rooms.
The email prompts Ally to click back to our website to view information on our Honeymoon room.
The Honeymoon link is appended with specific UTM parameters. Ally clicks the link and this is tracked in Sitecore Send as Open and Click activity.
Ally lands on the Honeymoon page. This action triggers a 2nd Automation which sends Ally a follow-up email on our ‘Luxury Services’. Ally is added to additional Segments in CDP relating to visits to the Honeymoon page.
When Ally clicks on a link in the 2nd email, she lands on our Services page with another (badly designed) personalisation showing a 50% discount message. This is triggered for visitors who land directly on this page with a specific UTM campaign value.
This personalisation is using one of the out-of-the-box (OOTB) templates available in Sitecore CDP & Personalize.
Ally is intrigued by the discount offer and so clicks through to view more information on the Deluxe King room. She views several pages but is still yet to convert. At this point, we trigger a further OOTB personalisation showing an email capture form. This personalisation is triggered for real-time users that view the same room page more than 5 times.
If Ally still has not converted, and re-visits the Hotel website, we will show her a final personalisation, based on customising the hero component, with a message targeted based on her profile in Sitecore CDP.
This set of experiences is for demo purposes only and illustrates the ways that the Sitecore composable products can work together to deliver personalised customer experiences.
Sitecore acquired Moosend in 2021. Moosend is an innovative SaaS-based marketing automation and campaign management platform. When you access the platform, it is still branded as Moosend, but for the sake of clarity (and longevity of this blog post), I’ll refer to the product as Sitecore Send.
Anyone can sign up for a free 30-day trial. If you work in the Sitecore or Marketing Automation space, why not dedicate a couple of hours and give it a spin? If you are familiar with marketing automation tools, you’ll be able to master all the key Sitecore Send features in that amount of time, no problems.
From here, I’ll walk through my first impressions of the tool for delivering the typical package of marketing automation capabilities, in approximate order as you would need to use them for a typical ‘sign up to email list and trigger nurture campaign’ use case.
Create your email list
Go to Audience > Email list. From here you can see existing lists, or create a ‘New’ list. Every list has a dashboard where you can see key stats like growth rate, member source, engagement rates etc.
Your new list will have no members. So the next step is to ‘Add a member’. You can add these manually or import from CSV, Excel or use a Google Contacts or Salesforce plugin. Nice.
You are then prompted to configure a couple of other important settings for your new list. You can set a URL to redirect users after they unsubscribe. This would be a nice opportunity to provide your users with alternative subscription options, next steps, or nice ‘sorry to see you go’ messaging.
You must also specify your opt-in settings e.g. single opt-in, soft double or strong double. Ensuring you have explicit customer permission is an important aspect of any email and marketing automation activity.
You can create any custom fields required for your new list. This can be customer-facing or hidden fields. For example, you may wish to capture phone, address, birthday, interest area etc.
Finally, you can create segments. Whilst this may not be as useful if you are starting your list from scratch, it looks like the product comes with 9 out-of-the-box (OOTB) templates you can pick from, which is pretty helpful. You also have the option of saving any segments you create as templates to re-use across other lists.
The tools to create your own segments are intuitive and powerful. Simply build your rules from a large range of dropdown options.
Once you have your list, you will want to grow your subscribers. The two main ways to do this are via a subscription form and/or landing page.
Firstly, create a subscription form. Again, there are some easy OOTB options for different types of form presentations and interactions. To make the right decision here, you will need to have thought out where and how you want users to subscribe. For example, do you want to embed a form on your current Contact us page, or do you want to fire a pop-up subscription form on targeted pages across your site? Depending on your choice, Sitecore Send offers a range of templates and simple options to choose from.
Then, there are plenty of options for fine-tuning the UI of your chosen subscription form type.
Depending on your chosen form type, there are various visibility and publishing options for configuring the UX of the form, such as where, when and how it appears on the page. Sitecore Send appears to have all the common use-cases covered, such as showing for first-time visitors only, time-delayed display, showing on user action or page exit. You can publish to an existing website, link to a stand-alone form URL or embed in a page using a <div> tag.
If you don’t already have a website to host the form, Sitecore Send allows you to create a landing page, hosted as part of its platform, or publish to a WordPress site using a connector plugin. Again, there are plenty of OOTB templates to choose from, and a plethora of other options such as sharing on Social, easy conversion tracking, and linking with a Google Universal Analytics account.
Once you have selected a template, or started from scratch, there is a simple drag-and-drop editor where you add your content and configure the page to your exact requirements.
Once you have your list and growth tools in place, setting up Automations is the next thing to consider. Sitecore Send gives you a head start in this area by offering a range of Automation ‘recipes’ to choose from, such as triggering reminders for abandoned cards, new customer thank you’s and re-engagement emails.
Whilst I’m not overly technical my understanding of the main integration options comes down to the following:
As mentioned above, you can simply embed Sitecore Send forms within any existing site, including a site managed by Sitecore XM. When using this method, you can use Sitecore CDP and/or Sitecore XM APIs to push data there on submit
Alternatively, you can continue to use Sitecore Forms within XM and push form data to Sitecore Send and Sitecore CDP APIs.
Sitecore Send makes marketing automation campaigns easy.
Select your campaign type and you will be guided through the necessary steps to configure your new campaign. Expect all the normal options like Subject line, email list, delivery schedule, GA integration, Sender details, send test emails and so on. And again, the range of OOTB email templates sets Sitecore Send apart. There are dozens of templates to choose from, across a broad range of categories. Of course you can also create from scratch.
With an email list built, new subscribers coming in, automations in place and emails getting delivered, the last thing you will want to take a look at is how your email campaigns are performing. Sitecore Send Reporting menu has you covered with all your expected marketing automation analytics in pre-built dashboards.
I think that’s all the main features and functionality. A pretty easy-to-use platform that covers all your basic marketing automation needs.
First things first, I am a Sitecore noob. My first login to Sitecore was last month, in July 2022. Since then, I’ve played with Content and Experience Editor, Experience Analytics, Experience Optimisation, and the Marketing Control Panel. Most of my time over the last few weeks was spent outside Sitecore, learning and delivering Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies with various Aceik clients (remotely), and getting to know my new Aceik A-Team (also remotely). Whilst I have worked in all things digital for a long time, the Sitecore solutions (both the integrated and composable flavours) are all new to me.
In this context, it was great that my Sitecore strategy mentor, the gregarious Greg Baxter was the first to kick things off. An engaged and expectant tone was suitably set, and Colin te Kempel didn’t disappoint. He went straight into addressing the big question(s) that I knew was hanging in the air coming into SUGCON; with all the talk about the new composable Sitecore stack, what is the future for Sitecore’s Platform DXP? The answer, as I understood it at least, is that whilst the future is composable, most customers should expect to keep rolling with Platform DXP for now. This is particularly appropriate if XP is working well and/or showing potential to deliver business value. To back this up, Colin talked through the various software enhancements, fixes, and service improvements scheduled for v10.3. Sitecore Symposium in October seems a likely release date. Beyond this year, Colin was keen to unpack a number of themes that would guide the further enhancements of the platform offering through to 2024. The introduction of a stand-alone SaaS content search solution was one item that particularly piqued my interest.
Andy Cohen worked through a demo of XM Cloud. A fair bit of the technical content in this session went beyond me, particularly all the stuff that involved pumping out commands in the CLI. However, it was good to get eyes on the new Cloud portal launchpad where all the composable apps can be accessed. I also noted the mention of Pages, a replacement for Horizon editor. Andy was clear, XM Cloud is headless only, so to be clear, it is headless only. XM Cloud does come with some kind of analytics built-in, as well as some kind of trimmed down personalisation and testing capability (a subset of features from CDP/Personalize?). I am keen to explore this.
My brain was getting pretty full by the afternoon tea break, but I’m glad I rallied for John King’s session on the Data puzzle. He threw down an impressively comprehensive playbook for getting the data strategy right. Mirk Roettgers then spoke about the need to move from transaction-centred to people-centric engagement. This is enabled through a deep understanding of the customer lifecycle combined with integrated and connected technology to bring the data, operations and reporting together effectively.
It hit 5pm on Day 1 but surprisingly the talks kept coming! Andy Parry finished the day with some detail on what delivering good Sitecore headless solutions looks like. He graciously answered my question and offered a couple of good ways to deliver personalisation using a headless XP setup.
On Friday morning there were 2 sessions delivered by the Aceik A-Team. Both were based on a POC website we built to show how we can deliver effective customer experiences using the new composable Sitecore tools. These sessions were so good that they deserve a post on their own 😉 Another notable session from Friday AM was Mike Marquette who talked through a framework for delivering optimised customer experiences through personalisation. Vincent Lui’s presentation was notable as a client-side example of delivering digital transformation initiatives using a blend of Sitecore and non-Sitecore solutions.
My final takeaways came from a session on the Sitecore community and the history of SUGCON. It was great to hear about the various ways that the community supports Sitecore users through forums, Slack channels and a MVP program. I got a strong sense that there is a network of Sitecore employees, partners, vendors, and users who are passionate about contributing value to their community and driving improvement in the practice of delivering digital solutions using Sitecore products.
All-in-all, an insightful and useful couple of days. It has accelerated my engagement with the community, built some solid knowledge about where the product suite is heading, and provided a healthy dose of inspiration for helping our client partners deliver some awesome digital experiences.