Content & Commerce – Sitecore

Introduction

In the fall of 2015, Gartner research made it clear that providing consumers with personalized content was paramount for a brand’s digital strategy.  They shared that by 2018, companies that have “fully invested in all types of personalization” will outsell their competitors that have not pursued personalization by as much as 20 percent.  The important take away from the Gartner study was that personalization should not be limited to the content marketing experience, and that for brands pursuing ecommerce, it is equally important that the shopping experience shares the same level of personalization.

While ecommerce generally refers to the selling of products online, content tends to be the key ingredient and driving motivator that leads to successful conversions. Both content and commerce are crucial elements in a customers shopping experience, yet for many brands, they’re not easily connected because data is often silo-ed between disparate enterprise systems and teams.  This makes it difficult for marketers to effectively communicate with new and existing customers as they navigate through the transaction funnel.

During the 2017 Sitecore Symposium keynote address, CEO Mark Frost, introduced the Sitecore Experience Cloud, which is comprised of the Sitecore Experience Manager (XM), the Sitecore Experience Platform (XP), and Sitecore Experience Commerce (XC). Being the industries first truly integrated content and commerce platform, Sitecore Experience Commerce uses customer data procured from the Experience Platform and enriched with content from the Experience Manager, to deliver shopping experiences that are shaped by existing interaction history and context, transforming potential customers into raving fans.

Integrated Content & Commerce Delivery

With personalization becoming mission critical for business, the burden on creators to create content based on segment and behavior is becoming exponentially more complex. As content marketers navigate between consumer preferences, they will have little choice but to rely on their technology platform to interpret all of this data. Selecting the best technology solution to fulfill your companies needs will not be easy. Enterprise ecommerce is expensive and depending upon your needs, these solutions can require a huge amount of time and labor to implement, run, and maintain.

While Sitecore Experience Commerce is a relatively new offering, Sitecore’s path to personalized ecommerce has been both measured and tested. Beginning with the acquisition of the commerceserver.net product in 2014, Sitecore provided customers with a commerce solution with roots reaching back to Microsoft Merchant Server. The one draw back to this early offering was that commerce server was not fully integrated into the Sitecore Experience Platform and lacked seamless personalized content.

Since this initial acquisition, Sitecore has invested heavily in redeveloping their product and integrating it into their larger cloud ecosystem. Sitecore Commerce 8.2.1 Update 1, released in February 2017, being the first release that fully realized the benefits of the investment Sitecore has made to create a compelling commerce product for its Sitecore customers.

As content marketing platforms such as Sitecore continue to evolve, marketing professionals should expect to see a continuing convergence of content and commerce. With content integrated directly into the ecommerce ecosystem, digital marketers can rely on these systems to provide the contextual intelligence that will inform them about how their customers are interacting with their brand before, during, and after purchase in order to deliver an effective personalized commerce experience.

Considerations

When considering Sitecore Experience Commerce, it is imperative that you understand your companies goals and business objectives. Given the importance of personalization and the growing complexity associated with these systems, we strongly recommend the integrated content & commerce approach provided by the Sitecore Experience Cloud. As you begin to plan your own long term strategy, we recommend you consider the following benefits:

Simplify your Enterprise Architecture: The Sitecore Experience Cloud reduces the overall complexity of your content and commerce ecosystem. Enable content marketers and commerce merchandisers to work seamlessly together with content and media assets that can be easily associated to product and/or service catalogs. Disparate platforms will increase cost, time to market, and potential points of failure. Each integration in an ecosystem is additional risk to stability of a transactional system and additional effort to manage.

By limiting the number of technologies within the enterprise, we are able to:

  • Achieve a smaller relative effort for regression testing upgrades, patches, and code deployments
  • Achieve a smaller relative cost for IT, development overhead, and training costs to manage a singular technology stack
  • Diagnose and remediate production impacting support incidents faster
  • Leverage investments in highly redundant and scalable infrastructure

Create a Cohesive User Experience: Simply put, a cohesive and unified user experience results in higher customer satisfaction which equates to higher conversion rates. According to Sitecore, 40% of companies surveyed in 2017 have seen increased revenues by focusing on the customer experience, which is why Sitecore Commerce is integrated natively with Sitecore XP. The ideal user experience is more than a clean design, it is the ability to employ personalized content that will cater to specific user personas.

Unify Commerce & Experience Analytics: With the Sitecore Experience Platform coupled tightly to the Sitecore Experience Commerce, marketers and merchandisers will have access to analytics data that spans the entire customer journey, from the home page to the thank you page. By implementing an architecture wherein your content marketing platform owns the end-to-end user experience, it will capture end-to-end experience analytics and deliver actionable insights through the advanced analytics toolset. This will also allow innovative marketing tactics, such as personalization and A/B testing, to occur across the breadth of the user journey, including commerce.

  • Validate and optimize digital marketing strategy and tactics via insights and data-driven decisions derived from state-of-the-art analytics​​
  • Provide improved analytics from which we can derive meaningful, actionable user insights

Reducing Dependency on Custom Development: This one should be a no brainer, custom development increases cost, time to market, and the risk of a successful launch. Selecting a platform solution that has both content and commerce integrated out of the box allows companies to focus more on the experience and less on the implementation of those experiences.

Lowering Costs & Increasing ROI: Businesses need to consider how much it will cost to implement and maintain their commerce solution. Implementation and maintenance fees can include everything from on-going development and dev ops work to things like platform support, SEO, analytics, data management etc. Working with an integrated solution can make it easier for organizations to understand the costs with considerations to support contracts and SLAs when deciding upon a platform and suppliers. According to Sitecore, 34% of companies surveyed that have invested in customer experience have seen increased profitability while 34% have seen in,proved sales cycles. The important take away from this is that overall costs go down while the return on your technology investment goes up.

Summary

There is still a little time before Gartner’s premise regarding personalization can be validated, when reviewing the content marketing space it is becoming very clear that personalized content and commerce are no longer mutually exclusive. Sitecore has reinvented their product line to capitalize on this trend and has invested a significant amount of time and development expense to create a product ecosystem that will empower your digital strategies. Brands that take this message to heart sooner rather than latter will be in a much better position in the market to capture and retain consumers bent on finding experiences that tailor to their needs, thus turning consumer loyalty into successful conversions.

By: Matt Fairchild

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