How can you unleash the full potential of your Sitecore platform?

Sitecore's Digital Experience Platform intelligently brings content, commerce and data together in an optimal digital experience. With a rich set of tools and functionalities, Sitecore offers a mature solution at enterprise level. In practice, however, exploiting the full potential of Sitecore can sometimes be challenging. As an organisation, how do you get the most out of your Sitecore platform? In this article you will find practical tips that you can use immediately.

Sitecore blog | iO

As a digital experience platform, Sitecore promises a complete solution. Sitecore can deliver a personalised customer experience (CX) across any digital channel, device, or touchpoint. Visitors are offered content and promotions in real time, via their favourite channel, completely tailored to the phase of their customer journey. Sitecore offers solutions for content management, personalisation, optimisation and customer data management, with practical components such as email marketing, marketing automation, A/B testing and machine learning integrated as standard.

A leading DXP solution

Sitecore is highly regarded globally, and was named a leader for the fifth consecutive time in Gartner's 2022 Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms. Gartner praises Sitecore's capabilities for CX-centric scenarios and B2C use cases. Organisations with advanced digital marketing requirements and a solid CX strategy will find Sitecore a good fit, according to Gartner. Forrester calls Sitecore a strong performer in The Forrester Wave Digital Experiences Platforms Q3 2021, with good solutions for omnichannel experience management, customer analytics and marketing and a good match for companies looking for an integrated, all-in-one experience platform.

From on-premise to SaaS

Gartner and Forrester also looked at Sitecore's new SaaS proposition, the Composable DXP, which replaces the on-premise solution. Reference customers at Forrester, for example, said they appreciate Sitecore marketing, but would welcome usability and documentation improvements. Despite this welcome shift, the two market researchers still see areas of concern. According to Gartner, the transition to SaaS is a multi-year journey with the potential to disrupt the large installed base. Many users are using self-hosted IaaS or partner-managed PaaS cloud environments. A smooth transition to SaaS requires expertise. iO has drawn up several migration scenarios for this and will help you to develop a roadmap for a future-proof transition to a Composable SaaS architecture.

How about a bigger digital presence?

Gone are the days when a website was enough for a proper, digital presence. Our experts happily assist in bringing about a digital ecosystem - optimized and on-brand - fit to serve your business goals.

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Are you getting the most out of Sitecore? Only with a well-designed base

Whichever architecture you choose, at iO we often see that the full potential of Sitecore is not always exploited. For example, in order to extract value from the marketing functionality, it is important to set up the basis properly, such as personas and engagement value. Sitecore offers a complex range of possibilities so it is important to engage the right marketing and editing talents during the initial implementation. If you don’t do this, you might end up only utilising Sitecore’s content management capabilities. That, however, would be a missed opportunity, because once Sitecore is set up properly, it can be a very effective marketing tool.

“Once Sitecore is set up properly, it can be a very effective marketing tool.”

A mature platform requires a mature approach

One determining factor when measuring the success of Sitecore is the digital maturity of the organisation. Sitecore is based on customer centricity, which requires the bringing together of customer data and collaboration across departments and roles. If you do not take steps in this area, it will be difficult to fully utilise a powerful solution such as Sitecore.

Sitecore is an obvious choice because of the extensive DXP functionalities. You can better focus on your target group, making it easier to achieve your KPIs and realise a fast ROI. Sitecore requires a mature approach, which is not exclusively controlled by the business or IT. Otherwise, you run the risk, for example, that the system will be built with the personas omitted, or that the existing content will not be tagged with personas. As a result, the system cannot match the content with the personas, making personalisation less effective. In order to get a digital experience platform working properly, coordination of every part and every process is important.

“Sitecore requires a mature approach that is not exclusively driven by business or IT.”

4 best practices for a successful Sitecore platform

The challenges mentioned also include solutions: working in a multidisciplinary way, putting the customer first and bringing data together. The following four best practices will help you unlock the full potential of your Sitecore platform.

1. Focus on the customer journey

With Sitecore you can do much more than just publishing content. For example, you can also tag content for a specific target group, test how it is received with simple A/B testing and continuously tailor your content to the individual visitor. The change is in customer-oriented thinking:

  • How do my customers get to the website?

  • Through which paths?

  • What are they looking for?

  • How do I help them achieve their goals better?

This approach ignores pushing your products or the department-specific objectives. In short: inside-out should be outside-in . Sitecore can help you with that, because by collecting data you can discover what really engages your customers.

This also means that you’re not only focusing on commercial goals. You can also achieve organisational or communication objectives with Sitecore. We do this for non-profit organisations like the water company Dunea and the Province of Zeeland. For example, Dunea has sustainable objectives and focuses on informing customers and encouraging sustainable water consumption. The website Zeeland.com puts Zeeland on the map for all kinds of target groups: residents, students, entrepreneurs, investors and of course tourists. These personas are presented with appropriate content using Sitecore to support each of the target group’s objectives.

2. Collecting data outside Sitecore

A digital experience can only be properly personalised and optimised if it is data-driven. For a 360-degree view of customers, you need customer data, not just the data you collect with Sitecore.

This means connecting external data sources, like CRM or an ERP package, of course within GDPR privacy law guidelines. This makes it easier to recognise customer groups, display appropriate information and thus ensure that the website becomes more relevant. The parameters that you use to determine which information to show to whom can be adjusted much more accurately, so that you can better take personal situations into account. For example, an energy supplier can only offer central heating boilers to visitors that are resident outside an area with a centralised local heating system.

3. Thinking across channels

Customers don't think in channels, but in experiences. Whether they use an app, email, social, chat or the mobile or desktop site, customers expect a brand to keep the interaction relevant and therefore personal.

As an organisation, you will have to think beyond silos and more in terms of added value and ease of use, thus embracing customer centricity. Sitecore offers integrated solutions for this, such as email management, DAM (digital assets management) and offline and cross-channel tracking. The Composable DXP approach enables Sitecore to integrate well with other solutions, allowing you to implement a best-of-breed approach. For example, if a specific mail solution suits your organisation better, you can easily combine it with the other Sitecore Cloud products from a composable point of view, without being tied to the built-in variant in the all-in-one solution of Sitecore XP.

For many organisations, thinking across channels also means breaking through the mindset of thinking in terms of departments. In practice, marketers, editors and e-commerce specialists often have their own objectives, tools and strategies. However, if you put the customer first, you will automatically arrive at common goals. Everyone works together to create satisfied customers. Sitecore offers rock-solid support in this area.

4. From campaign to continuous improvement

With customer centricity comes the change from thinking in terms of transactions to relationships. This also changes your approach to marketing your organisation. Instead of campaigns with a beginning and end, the focus is on continuously improving the customer experience. In practice, this approach can be overwhelming: how do I label a particular page? Am I missing out on a persona when I omit a page? How do I organise the eight to ten variable components? The solution, however, lies in just getting started. Make some initial assumptions based on your insights and experiences, then A/B test them in the field. Gathering significant results gives you the new insights that you can then build on.

Rob Habraken
About the author
Rob Habraken
Technology Director - iO

Software expert Rob is what you get when you take a dedicated engineer and put him on that fine line between techy humans and human tech. His favourite view is helicopter and his mode of choice inspiration. DevOps, developer happiness and coaching get his attention today more than ever.

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