autumn experience

Sitecore just released version 8.1 of its Experience Platform. But this update to its flagship product is not, to coin a phrase, your father's dot release.

New features suggest Sitecore is significantly shifting its approach to the market. For example:

  1. The Experience Platform is entirely context-focused now. In earlier versions, including the most recent before this release, it focused on customer lifetime value and engagement value along with context.
  2. The Experience Platform is all about contextualizing experiences. Previous releases emphasized the value of connecting experiences of customers so as to put them in the proper perspective for marketers.
  3. Venue has become a key way to view a customer and design a campaign to target him or her. Venue refers to where, literally, the customer is — in a store for example, or online or reading an email on a desktop or mobile device. It is not that mobile has been deemed unimportant. Indeed, this release includes new features for the mobile channel, including baked-in device detection, analytics, device adaptation and real time personalization based on historical behaviors. But the overall effect allows the marketer to incorporate the customer’s device automatically and without much thinking — all so it can concentrate on the larger point of venue.

(Editor's note: Sitecore is one of the sponsors of CMSWire's DX Summit, which will be held in Chicago on Nov. 3 and 4. Find out more here.)

What Stays the Same

Not everything has changed, of course. 

Sitecore's main differentiator, its one-stack Experience Database, is still core to its offerings.

The new version also deliverers functionality promised earlier by the company, such as the  full integration between Sitecore Commerce and Sitecore Experience Platform. The integration has led to new features including the availability of commerce-specific interactions in the Sitecore Experience Profile and the ability to edit merchandise in bulk. There is also an option to deploy in Microsoft Azure.

The goal of this release, both the new features and its continuing focus on the Experience Database, is to provide a better contextual experience for customers, Nate Barad, director of product strategy at Sitecore, told CMSWire.

Venue as a Context

Consider the new focus on venue, he said. "Where the customer is — in a Brooks Brothers store in an airport on in the retail store on West 65th Street in Manhattan makes all the difference in deciding how to approach him."

A customer in a store in the airport is likely in a hurry and won't appreciate being solicited to open up a credit card with the retailer he said. The customer in the West 65th store is probably shopping more at his leisure and won't mind the offer —  especially if it is after work hours and he is no longer in a rush to get somewhere.

"The notion of venue — that immediately has context for both the marketer and the customer," Barad said.

Face Palm Moments

Sitecore's decision to make this shift came after a few face-to-palm moments working with its customer base, Barad said. 

"We would talk to our customers and hear about their day. They would talk about going to meetings about optimization demographics or ad buying and we asked ourselves, 'is our software supporting these activities in the best way?'"

Sometimes, executives noticed, it didn't. One palm-to-face moment was when it looked closely at how the campaign-building sequence its clients followed.

"Most customers will pick up from a previous campaign activity in one place, say with the analytics generated for a recent campaign or results from a recent A/V test," Barad said.

"Now think of every demo of any marketing product you've ever seen — they assume the process starts from scratch each and every time. Maybe they have different starting points, say at a mobile page, but few make it easy to pick and choose where to begin a campaign."

That one anecdote illustrates the hard thinking executives at Sitecore have been doing for the past two years as they worked on the release. "This is what we have been hearing from both consumers and marketers," Barad said. "There is too much science in this process now. I am not a data scientist who sidelines as a marketer."

Title image by Davide Ragusa