Published: 03 November 2017
In October 2017, I was fortunate enough to be able to make the journey to Sitecore’s 2017 Symposium. Amongst the usual buzz of a Sitecore Symposium it’s fair to say that the big topic of conversation was Sitecore 9 and all the awesome functionality that it now contains. So, this is my review of the top 5 features and functions coming in Sitecore 9.
#1. Sitecore Commerce - fully integrated
Sitecore 9 is the first fully integrated version of Sitecore’s already brilliant and comprehensive commerce solution. What does this mean? Well, it means that all Commerce functionality is now integrated into the CMS including Product, Catalogue and Inventory management, Pricing and Promotions, Customers and Prospects and Order Management. Unlike in previous versions of Commerce Server, this means no more desktop apps!
Also, Sitecore Commerce under 9 is fully integrated into the Sitecore Experience Cloud’s unique marketing and authoring features. This means product pages can be A/B tested, authored, and approved and personalised. This is great news for marketers and merchandisers who can now change the layout and emphasis of their product pages and listing pages based on a user’s audience profile (aka persona, i.e. behaviour), interactions and engagement to date.
#2. xConnect - joining up all your data
xConnect is the new data API layer for xDB, the experience database that drives many of Sitecore’s marketing and personalisation features. For the first time, developers can integrate directly with xDB, adding to and working with all the rich profile and analytics data that Sitecore collects about your customers.
This also means that Sitecore 9 is better equipped for CRM integrations, allowing you to merge your call centre, offline and digital profile data. In fact, Sitecore 9 now ships with connectors for Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics. For brands that use these, or that use xConnect to connect their CRM to Sitecore 9, it means that you will have a full 360-degree view of your customers.
#3. Marketing Automation for Today
I spent quite a lot of time at Symposium, and in the exclusive Digital Strategy MVP Summit that followed, learning about the latest version of the Marketing Automation suite within Sitecore 9.0. What I learned is that it has come on leaps and bounds from the Engagement Planning and Automation tool set of Sitecore 8.x and before.
The new Marketing Automation tools allow CMS users to quickly drag and drop engagement plans together, building out complete workflows with automation triggers based on any combination of goals triggered, time passes, emails responded to, or not, and engagement points scored.
For the first time, I could see that my clients would be able to deal with common marketing scenarios quickly and efficiently being able to build automated emails when people download specific documents, abandon shopping baskets, don’t open registration or promotional emails etc.
#4. Cortex - the new (AI) brain behind Sitecore
The launch of Cortex at Sitecore 9.0 was met with a bit of awe and wonder by both technical and marketing folk. Cortex is the new Machine Learning platform built into Sitecore 9.0 and, from a first glance, it looks incredibly powerful. Under Cortex not only will the platform be able to suggest A/B Testing opportunities, it will also be able to actively manage personalisation for you, tracking engagement across a range of dynamic parameters (goals, engagement value and profile matches, for example) and then automatically swap content and calls to action for you.
It will also analyse your analytics and find new segments based on users who exhibit similar behaviours - ones that you might not have predicted yourself, based on workshop led profiling and persona definition.
I have a feeling that a lot more will be written about Cortex over the coming year from Sitecore 9’s launch and it really will be fascinating to see how it develops within the platform.
#5. PaaS, The Cloud and new Licensing Subscription Models
Historically, Sitecore has been offered as an ‘on-premise’ platform, with a licensing model based on upfront cost to match. Under Sitecore 9.0 and the new Subscription Model, you can now buy licenses and hosting on a cloud consumption model.
Depending on the volumes of traffic that your website has to deal, or, in other words, your own digital success, you can now license Sitecore in a more cost-effective way. The functionality that you get is the same, regardless of your size, and so you can enjoy the benefits of Sitecore straight away and you only pay more as you grow. This makes the ROI potential of Sitecore 9.0 better than it’s ever been.
Couple this with new Azure based app hosting services and suddenly you can be on Sitecore 9.0, paying only for what you use from both a software licensing and hosting perspective - all supported by Sitecore and Microsoft Azure’s support SLAs.
To be fair to Sitecore, there were loads of other great new features presented too including more analytics and reporting tools, better mobile device detection, all-inclusive Geo-IP detection and the new Forms Designer. However, the five items above were the standout features for me as I believe that it is these elements that take Sitecore from being a great content management and marketing performance platform to being the best integrated, digital customer experience platform available on the market today.
And those are my 5 top features of Sitecore 9 from this year’s Symposium, if you’d like to find out more about Sitecore or upgrading your site you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 01233 467800.