While we've been looking closely at Web Engagement Management lately, Web CMS vendors were perfecting their WEM offerings.

Sitecore (news, site), for example, released a new module today. The main concept here is around how email is fitting in WEM beyond click-throughs and open rates.

WEM Perspectives: The Challenges of Email Management

We spoke to Darren Guarnaccia, VP Product Marketing, (see his latest post we published on CMSWire on relevance of relevance). Guarnaccia describes email as a triggering mechanism to keep the conversation going. It can be useful to warm up prospects, or to keep ongoing engaging conversations with existing customers.

And while there're quite a few options out there for email tech, the goal is to prevent customers from ignoring everything we send them. How to do it? Sitecore's answer it to make email meaningful and personally relevant to customers, get them to open it. This brings us to thinking of email less from a technology perspective, but more from a vision behind email campaign management standpoint.

First things first: who the customer is and what does he/she care about? This is the time to loop in WCM and leverage your website and everything you know about it to dialog and engage with customers and specific segments of them over email.

Lather, rinse, repeat -- as you go through the iterative process of managing email campaigns and gathering customer intelligence and testing to fine-tune your messages.

The ability to tie in CRM that is transparent to marketers is the next logical step. But what happens quite often is that there are too many manual steps in that process, as marketers have to import contacts into their email system and then do segmentation.

Sitecore's Take on Solving These Challenges

One of the features in the new Email Campaign Manager release -- which is tied closely to both Sitecore CMS and the Sitecore Online Marketing Suite (OMS) -- is the ability to expose contacts in CRM as users in Sitecore Web CMS, where CRM lists are manifested as Sitecore user groups.

sitecore email message disppatch.jpg
Sitecore email message dispatch architecture

By binding people in CRM to site sessions, marketers are able to bind the data they know about customers back into the CRM. In cases where there's no CRM system used to begin with, contacts can still be imported and treated as Sitecore users with all the bells and whistles of applying security and permissions.

managing crm contacts as sitecore users.jpg
Managing CRM contacts as Sitecore users

What happens next is that you can create marketing lists in the CRM, map to Sitecore groups, and as you send out your email blasts all links included are auto-generated and encoded to cater to specific individual interests. Click on a link binds the data from CRM to WCM.

One of the challenges is to figure out where the money is being spent on and how effective that marketing spend is. This is when you as a marketeer would want to truly understand your website visitors across website and email and merge that sessions data to get more qualitative measures.

Speaking of metrics, a lot of the data marketers get through the use of web analytics and other measurement tools is mostly purely quantitative. Sitecore's OMS is trying to expand those capabilities and measure the actual quality. Fill out a web form, get 25 points. These action scores are gathered from the website and can also be tied with emails. And you get an average engagement score of X, that translates into a number of dollars per influence score of Y.

Other features that marketeers may find useful include:

  • Reporting on behavioral data across emails and website
  • Inherited from the Web CMS in-context editing tools and the rules engine
  • Built-in MVT
  • Inherited from OMS GeoIP lookup for some demographics data
  • The ability to use the email campaign engine to create the right set of messages
  • Email campaign being treated in the CMS as just another content type, i.e. anything you can do on a web page can be done in the email
  • Support for email standards, such as double opt-in requirements.

Test and target emails using OMS multivariate testing tools.jpg
Test and target emails using OMS multivariate testing too

Pros and Cons, and Things to Consider

Several topics that are on the downside of this release... While you can publish email campaigns from Sitecore's Web CMS as HTML, all the tricky email renderings for various devices and email clients are not done natively by Sitecore, but rather by a third-party provider.

Should you want to give Sitecore's Email Campaign Manager a try, you'd be bound to the same delivery mechanism, unless you find your own email delivery providers. The first release can deliver only standard HTML or text.

At this time, there's no support for rendering email designs and layouts for different mobile devices. But Sitecore is planning to address these device- and client-specific issues in upcoming releases.
mobile next release

Also, think about scalability implications. Since Sitecore will be rendering every email individually to get to that Holy Grail of ultimate personalization, yo'd want to think of that from an email rendering farm perspective, using Sitecore's rendering engine. And while the vendor says it has the architecture to scale in place, they also admit that performance issues may arise depending on the complexity and volumes of email campaigns.

The rendering engine can handle about 1-2 million personalized emails a day, optimistically said Guarnaccia. More than that -- something up to the 10 million range -- might be problematic to handle.

Overall, we are seeing Sitecore's WCM capabilities merge with marketing automation, analytics and CRM, which is not necessarily a bad thing for all things WEM.