Stay Ahead of the Marketing Technology Curve and Upgrade to Sitecore 8.1

Friday, January 08, 2016 @ 02:30

Modern Marketers are Rock Stars and Sitecore 8 is the Stage

By: Matthew Russo, Digital Marketing Specialist – Modern technology gives marketers the ability to rapidly build, launch, and optimize marketing campaigns, with the goal of better connecting with customers in a meaningful and mutually beneficial way. Gone are the days of one-sided conversations where brands broadcast boilerplate sales pitches to the masses and hope for qualified leads to magically surface.

Modern marketers want real context around the conversations they have with customers; they analyze every interaction customers have with their brand, perpetually optimize their marketing programs, and personalize the customer experience so each interaction is as relevant as possible. They aim to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. Orchestrating these complex multi-channel customer experience strategies and personalizing marketing content requires a lot of work, a deep understanding of your customers’ activities, and digital marketing tools that are up to the challenge.

For most organizations this requires some transformation of business process. While people are likely the foundation of any meaningful transformation an organization will undertake, digital marketing tools that the hats of transformation are ultimately hung on, are of particular importance. Sitecore is an example of a tool that is essential for any enterprise looking to position sales and marketing programs for long-term success in a digital economy.

Whether you are a current Sitecore customer or are using other tools to manage your digital marketing, adoption and utilization of the right technology is just the first step. Digital marketing technologies evolve quickly and to stay ahead of the curve marketers need to evolve as well. Updating your marketing technology stack and recalibrating marketing programs is not easy, but it is a necessary step for capitalizing on new opportunities, improving efficiency and getting the best return on your technology investment.

A History Lesson in Staying Ahead of the Marketing Technology Lifecycle Curve

Sitecore 6.6 support officially ended in December 2015.

If you are still running Sitecore version 6, we highly recommend upgrading to a more current version.

Staying ahead of the marketing technology curve requires systems that are regularly updated and refined. Sitecore is a perfect example of one such technology. Partners like Paragon Consulting receive a lot of client requests for access to all the latest and greatest features of the platform. Sitecore’s best-of-breed customer experience platform was built on a vision of allowing users to manage the full customer experience, even though Sitecore admittedly was not born with the ability to do this out of the gate.

Sitecore made leaps and bounds down this path with the release of Sitecore version 6 in 2008. At the time, the iPhone had less than 15% market share and the need for multi-channel customer experience management was still growing. By 2011, the first iPad had been released and features like engagement automation, targeting, segmentation, analytics, and personalization were added to Sitecore, making it clear that the platform was well positioned for the future.

With the release of Sitecore 7 in 2013 came the ability to orchestrate multi-channel marketing conversations on an enterprise scale like never before. Millennials had entered the workforce and were now considered a legitimate target audience. Buyers engaged with brands on their mobile devices and across channels, and came to expect a seamless experience in their digital conversations. Sitecore made a huge leap in facilitating this sort of customer experience by adding features like item buckets and faceted search for more scalable content management, and the SPEAK UI which allowed Sitecore partners like Paragon to develop Sitecore applications with a consistent user interface faster and easier . This vastly improved user experience for marketing and business users, made Sitecore developers lives easier, and began laying the foundation for Sitecore 8.

Sitecore Evolution

xDB and the Future of Marketing Automation

With the release of Sitecore 7.5, Sitecore added the Experience Database (xDB) as a foundation for its vision for the future and Sitecore 8. The NoSQL architecture behind xDB allowed the platform to capture and record every interaction customers had with a brand in a single data repository. This made the ability to collect, consume, and analyze customer interaction data virtually limitless.

Siloed marketing applications and the need to cobble together fragmented data is a major issue for the modern marketer. Sitecore’s xDB alleviates that by providing a central repository for aggregating data across various marketing channels. The ability to include data from other back office systems (ERP, CRM, etc.) and leverage that information in website profiling, personalization, and automation is a game changer. Few other platforms allow this sort of marketing agility, and even fewer do so seamlessly.

xDB and the Experience Profile – Know Your Customers

The xDB introduced the Experience Profile (xProfile), an interface that allows Sitecore users to drill down into audience segments to see who those website visitors really are. User interactions across all marketing channels are aggregated and displayed in the xProfile giving business users a central view of visitors. Other Sitecore channels such as email, print, commerce, and social all use the xDB and xProfile information to orchestrate and optimize the customer experience.

xDB and Experience Analytics – Know the Visitor Experience

The xDB also introduced expanded experience analytics and reporting capabilities. All visitor experience data collected can be leveraged to better understand website performance and glean new insights into business process. This holistic view of customer experience data allows you to analyze every interaction with your brand and understand the real story of what customers’ experience.

xDB and Experience Automation – Turn Insight Into Action

xDB data is also used to make the decisions that inform your marketing automation activities. Demographic and behavioral insights get used to dynamically building and recalibrating customer segments, allowing marketers to easily define the conditions that lead to success and automate the customer experience. Marketers can build intimate relationships with individual customers and scale those interactions by the thousands. Good marketing automation is achieved by continuously listening, testing, measuring, and acting on deep customer insights in real time across every marketing channel. The introduction of the experience database provided this capability to Sitecore users.

Sitecore 8 – Moving Beyond the Technical Users

While Sitecore 7 features like centralized customer data and enterprise-scale content management are part of the DNA from which Sitecore 8 was born, version 7 was still a bit cumbersome and overly technical for the average business user. The dated UI and its lack of access to these advanced features required users to have a technical aptitude that most marketing and business users simply did not. IT resources and Sitecore developers were still a bottleneck and in order to fully realize Sitecore’s vision for a modern marketer’s dream-system, one more giant leap was needed.

Sitecore 8, with its completely revamped UI and enhanced cloud-deployment options, ushered in the era of the modern marketer. All the features marketers need and want most are easily accessible- just a click away. The SPEAK interface is used extensively throughout the platform and enables business users and system implementers like Paragon to harness the true power of the xDB.

Sitecore 8 Launchpad

Sitecore 8’s intuitive interface, extensive analytics and reporting capabilities, experience optimization, campaign and contact management, unprecedented multi-channel management and true scalability are just a few ways Sitecore has redefined the modern marketer’s toolkit. By combining the rock-solid stability and flexibility of Sitecore’s enterprise-class, .NET content management system with powerful marketing tools, the comprehensive Sitecore Experience Platform provides an elegant, integrated solution that puts the marketer in control.

To learn more about how Sitecore 8 helps the modern marketer drive exceptional customer experiences, download the Sitecore Experience Platform brochure, follow Paragon Consulting online and connect with a member of our team. We look forward to continuing the conversation and when it comes to the Sitecore 8 Customer Experience Platform, there is a lot more to talk about.

 

 

Matt Russo
Matt is a Sitecore Certified Developer who works for Paragon Consulting as their Digital Marketing Specialist. He looks after the Paragon brand’s digital marketing initiatives, and consults with Paragon clients to help them better leverage their Sitecore platforms digital marketing capabilities.