Sitecore Experience Analytics AND Google Analytics 4

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.

Metric comparisons

PlatformMetricValue
Sitecore analyticsVisits65,500
GA4Engaged sessions56,618

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”.

PlatformMetricValue
Sitecore analyticsBounce rate65%
GA4Bounce rate29%

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. 

PlatformMetricValue
Sitecore analyticsMobile visits66%
GA4Mobile visits66%

I don’t know what I was expecting, but good to know these metrics match.

PlatformMetricValue
Sitecore analyticsOnline/Organic Search63%
GA4Default Channel Group/Organic search62%

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.

PlatformMetricValue
Sitecore analyticsConversion rate45%
GA4User conversion rate43%

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.

Sitecore CMS getting started

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.

Sitecore Learning

https://www.sitecore.com/knowledge-center/getting-started/training/learning-subscriptions

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.

Sitecore user group events

https://www.reddit.com/r/sitecore/wiki/user-groups/

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.

YouTube videos

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sitecore

Speaking of YouTube, what was learning like before YouTube and 1.5x playback speed? Learning certainly took a lot longer, and was a whol lot less convenient.

I have found the Discover Sitecore channel in particular to have some high quality and instructive content –https://www.youtube.com/@DiscoverSitecore. This channel is also good very learning the very basics – https://www.youtube.com/@unofficialsitecoremarketin680/videos

Sitecore Slack

https://sitecore.chat/

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.

Sitecore – Say Hello to the Composable Future

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.

Customer context

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.

Composable strategy

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.

XM Cloud

  • 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

Sitecore Search

  • 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

Connect

  • 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

Future direction

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.

Umbraco and uMarketingSuite – analytics, profiles & debugging

This is the 3rd instalment in a blog series on Umbraco and uMarketingSuite. Across this series we will be looking at how to use these platforms to build and deliver website personalisation, testing, analytics and all that good stuff. This final post will cover how to use uMarketingSuite analytics, profiles and the awesome debugging tool called ‘Cockpit’. If you are new to Umbraco and uMarketingSuite, please start with the first two blog posts.

This article was originally posted on aceik.com.au

Let’s look at the setup steps involved, using the Aceik website (aceik.com.au) as an example.

Analytics

uMarketingSuite generates both serverside (out-of-the-box) and clientside (via additional script) analytics. If you are familiar with Google Analytics, the breadth and type of analytics in uMarketingSuite will be easy to navigate. It has all the main types of reporting a website marketer will expect.

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I like how Analytics can be accessed from a central location within the Marketing menu but also specific to each content node as well.

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Additional data insight you get at the content node level is heatmaps. This report shows a visual representation of the scroll depth of users on each page.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be any way to export website analytics data out of Umbraco nor can you combine any offline or external data sources with your website data. Although there is an existing bridging javascript file for classic Google Analytics events, I have not been able to determine if there are currently or plans to be able to integrate Google Analytics 4 events into uMarketingSuite. This would be a handy feature.

Profiles

uMarketingSuite Profiles provides you with an overview of all the visitors that visited your website. This is kind of like a mini, simplified, and streamlined CDP (customer data platform). In Profiles, you can see the activity of each visitor, including whether they have identified or not, the goals they have completed, pages they have visited, and so forth. A visitor becomes identified when they submit any Umbraco form on your website containing identifying information such as name and email.

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Similarly to Analytics, it does not appear that you can do much with this profile data beyond the reports that are provided. You cannot export or integrate this data beyond the uMarketingSuite platform.

Settings

There are several configuration settings you can modify concerning the uMarketingSuite. Many of these options will be familiar to you based on Google Analytics. For example, you can set site cookie details, sub-domain options, site search settings, and IP filters for excluding internal site visitors. There are fewer options than what comes with Google Analytics, but they are easy to access and modify within a couple of screens.

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Debugging with Cockpit

One of the stand-out features of using uMarketingSuite for personalisation and testing is the debugging tool called Cockpit. Once cockpit is activated, it will appear as a widget whenever you are logged in to Umbraco and browsing your website.

Using cockpit you can

  • See live analytics data as it’s recorded while you browse
  • Delete uMarketingSuite cookies with 1 click
  • See live Persona, Journey and Segment data update in real-time as you browse
  • Click through to see your current Profile as recorded in Umbraco
  • Visit the website as any existing segment
  • Click through to edit any content node

What this means in practice is that debugging and previewing personalisations and tests in real-time is super easy. If something is not working as expected, it is easy to determine what is wrong. If you need to review any particular experience, it is quick to do.

Throughout any reasonably-sized optimisation project, this tool alone will save you hours, compared to manual testing and validating each variation.

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Using this tool, I realised that uMarketingSuite uses ‘control’ groups who do not see any particular test and personalisation even when their scores meet the threshold. In my experience, this is the reason 90% of the time why an experience is not appearing when you expect it to. If you find yourself in a control group, simply clear the uMarketingSuite cookie to reset this.

The other thing to note with uMarketingSuite personalisations is that visitors can only be active within 1 persona and journey group at a time. If you need users to be active across multiple personas, you will need to separate them into different groups.

Conclusion

Across these 3 short blog posts, we have covered the foundation work to set up and implement personalisation, A/B tests, analytics, profiles and more across your website using Umbraco and uMarketingSuite.

I hope this has been a useful series and if you want to talk more about your website optimisation needs, please feel free to get in touch!

Umbraco and uMarketingSuite – personalisation and A/B testing

This is the 2nd of a 3-part blog series on Umbraco and uMarketingSuite. Across this series we will be looking at how to use these platforms to build and deliver website personalisation, testing, analytics and all that good stuff. This 2nd post is on getting personalisation and testing up and running. If you are new to Umbraco and uMarketingSuite, please start on the first post.

This article was originally posted on Aceik.com.au

Let’s look at the setup steps involved, using the Aceik website (aceik.com.au) as an example.

Personalization

Scenario 1

When a visitor comes to our site and views content relating to working with Aceik, they should then experience personalised content as a potential future Aceik employee.

In the previous post in this series, we outlined the 3 pages of content that we would score with our ‘Clive the future colleague’ profile. A visitor who viewed these 3 pages would be profiled with this persona, as the value threshold of 25 is reached. This persona is used as the basis of a visitor segment called ‘Clive’. For all ‘Clive’ visitors, we want to show them a personalised welcome message on the homepage.

To do this, we navigate to the Home page in our content tree and go to Personalization and ‘Add a personalized variant’. Select our Clive segment to personalize for and give it a name. On the screen that follows, we can create modifications to our new home page variant, side-by-side with the Default experience. Umbraco makes it easy to copy components from the Default across to the Variant, and then modify them.

In our case, we want to modify the Header Banner message from the default of “Forward Thinking Digital” to “Work with us. We think you are great”. We also want to change the background image and call-to-action button. These modifications can all be made within the one Header Banner component.

Whilst of course this may not necessarily win us any new employees, we believe it demonstrates the point of easy personalisation using uMarketingSuite🙂

Default homepage

Personalised homepage for Clive segment

Of course, we can create similar variants for our other Personas/Visitor segments. In addition to modifying the content components on the page, you can also add custom CSS and JavaScript for each variant. This effectively provides unlimited ability to personalise the experience based on your user experience requirements.

Scenario 2

When a visitor comes to our Services page from a targeted online campaign, we should show them information specific to the digital service they are interested in.

This time, we will personalise the Services page based on an Explicit parameter. We have created a segment for all visitors who arrive on our site with the UTM campaign value of ‘promotion’.

Using that segment, we will create a personalised variant of our Services page. 

Assuming the promotion relates to Aceik’s website optimisation services, the variant will include modifications to the Head banner to change the hero image and text accordingly.

Default experience

Personalised experience for promotion visitors

A/B Testing

uMarketingSuite supports various kinds of A/B testing. You can test single pages, multiple pages at once or entire document types (to test global changes).

One of the goals of the Aceik website is to have visitors view the work we’ve delivered. We can create a simple sing page A/B test to measure how effective different headlines, images and calls-to-action are in generating views of our Work pages. To measure the effectiveness, we will use Goals, as set up in our first blog post in this series.

To do this, we navigate to the Work page in our content tree, go to A/B tests and Start a test.

As you can see in the screenshot, we have various parts to configure. Note you can include multiple page variants if you wish. We have selected the goal of ‘View our work pages’. This goal is set to fire when any of the sub-pages within Work are viewed. 

The modification of each test variant happens in the same way as each personalisation. You edit each variant alongside the default experience and modify the elements required.

Once the test is set to run, you can view data on how the test is progressing. The length of the test will vary depending on the volume of visitors/participants in the test. The variant with the highest conversion rate will be the winner.

Previewing changes

uMarketingSuite makes it easy to preview both personalisations and A/B tests at any point. There are prominent Preview links in appropriate locations for both. You can use these links to preview any changes before publishing or to review the current personalisations/tests once live also.

A topic for our next post in this series is the excellent de-bugger and preview tool that comes with uMarketingSuite. This tool, called ‘Cockpit’, makes it incredibly quick and easy to preview the site using any available Segments. It also lets you see lots of other cool things. Next post coming soon…

Sitecore Send (Moosend) – everything you wanted to know

Overview

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.

Getting started

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.

Sitecore Send email list dashboard

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.

Sitecore Send import members

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.

Sitecore Send segment templates

The tools to create your own segments are intuitive and powerful. Simply build your rules from a large range of dropdown options.

Sitecore send segment details

Growth tools

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.

Sitecore send sign up design options

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.

Sitecore send design template options

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.

Sitecore send landing page builder

Automation

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.

Sitecore send automation recipes

Sitecore integration

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.

Campaign

Sitecore Send makes marketing automation campaigns easy.

Sitecore send campaign options

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.

Sitecore email campaign templates

Reporting

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.

Sitecore campaign reporting dashboard

I think that’s all the main features and functionality. A pretty easy-to-use platform that covers all your basic marketing automation needs.

Sitecore User Group Conference (SUGCON) ANZ 2022 – Reflections and key takeaways

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.

Anthony Hook encouraged us all to read about the 2nd Age of Martech by Scott Brinker. I’ve googled his stuff and will follow this up as well.

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.