A new CEO, AI for everyone and Yoga - Sitecore’s annual conference takes it up a level.

AI For Everyone

As the dust settles on this week’s 2-day annual Sitecore Symposium I thought I’d share some of its highlights - and it had plenty.

This year’s theme was ‘Moments make experiences’ and was building on last year’s theme of ‘Human Connections in a Digital World’. It's’ fair to say, the challenge of trying to make our digital experiences more human has never been more critical. And Sitecore once again leads the way.

This was brought to life in the opening keynote by the author of one of my favourite books, ‘The Power of Moments’, Dan Heath. He highlighted that in order for your digital experience to be ‘remarkable’ it doesn’t need to be perfect - but it does need emotional ‘peaks’ in order to create magical moments and therefore be both enjoyable and memorable. Interestingly other speakers also made the point that sometimes adding a little ‘friction’ (like gamification) can create ‘cognitive strain’ and perversely improve customer enjoyment and engagement with the brand. Sitecore 10 really opens up deeper insights to help us understand and craft the ever-intriguing world of User Experience.

Along with CMO, Paige O’Neill we got to meet the new CEO, Steve Tzykakis in his first public appearance for Sitecore. They both reflected on the increasing number of global enterprises using the Sitecore platform with knockout case studies from John Hopkins Medicine, Triumph Motorcycles, Microsoft and Soho House to name but a few.

Steve was proud to announce Sitecore’s commitment to accelerate the innovation within the product and extend its lead as the undisputed leader in the ‘content to commerce’ market. Sitecore is a niche player and will continue to be the best digital experience and personalisation platform available. In a crowded DXP market, Sitecore has grown to be a mature and truly end-to-end platform - as opposed to competitors who are playing catchup by rebranding acquired & disjointed assets.

Steve Tzikakis Symposium 

It will be doubling-down on its market presence with twice as many field personnel and working harder to support its partners in strategic verticals.

Unsurprisingly the obvious challenges of 2020 were as expected the context for many presentations and during a time where ‘online experience became the only experience,’ it is now clearly on every board’s agenda.

So what’s new?

From a Sitecore ‘product’ point of view there were 3 key launches to summarise:

Sitecore AI for all
After Sitecore launched its AI engine (named Cortex) back in 2017, subsequent releases have seen elements of AI creeping into various parts of the Sitecore feature set. Last year they released AI-driven auto-personalisation and segmentation to high volume sites but the upcoming release will see AI Personalisation available to all Sitecore customers on Sitecore 10.x for PaaS and SaaS.

Sitecore AI is potentially the single click 1:1 personalisation dream that we've all been dreaming of. Yes, you still need to give it content options but you can, in theory, and in practice now, click something like a masthead banner on a home page, click the 'auto-personalise' button and give it a folder full of relevant content items and it will do the rest.

‘Sitecore AI Auto Personalisation Standard’ enables users to start personalisation right away, without manually defining user segments and with no minimum traffic required, while also:

  • Enabling auto personalisation, such as images, text snippets and calls to action for sites
  • Providing immediate personalisation performance visibility with AI analytics embedded in XP
  • Tracking critical KPIs, such as engagement value and bounce rates, to measure success

“The ability to personalise at scale is now a must-have, and the only real way for brands to accomplish this while accelerating time to value is to leverage AI,” said Desta Price, executive vice president of product, Sitecore. “We want to make it easy and cost-manageable for our customers to benefit from the power of AI, so we’re integrating our personalisation innovation directly into our digital experience platform, giving customers access to the tools they need to quickly share personalised messages en masse.”

Tools to make life easier
The latest release of Sitecore will see the new ‘Horizon’ administration interface which is far more user friendly and contextual. It was used to demo many of the new feature enhancements like:

  • Auto Segmentation
  • Content Suggestions
  • Product Suggestions in Commerce
Horizon Screenshot 20201027 at 175958 

 

For Sitecore developers, significant announcements included Sitecore Containers making it easier to spin up environments, share disc images and improve deployments.

High Performing Content Delivery
Sitecore also announced its new content delivery capabilities, coming in early 2021, that will bring additional options for brands to deliver scalable, high performing experiences while meeting the growing needs of today’s demanding consumers and accelerating a brand’s time to value, including:

  • Sitecore Experience Manager® (XM), which will have an added option for customers to leverage a highly scalable delivery platform for static publishing of Sitecore JSS sites and runtime content delivery for headless sites
  • Sitecore Content as a Service (CaaS) capabilities built upon the Sitecore Content Hub™ SaaS platform, enabling brands to perfect their content strategy with centralised planning and collaboration tools and publish atomic content to an extremely scalable delivery platform through high-performing APIs to any channel, on-demand. 

“These new offerings will provide customers additional options to deliver superior experiences, enable options for JAMstack architecture across Sitecore XM and Content Hub, and empower development teams with exceedingly flexible solutions,” said Tom De Ridder, CTO, Sitecore.

It's part of Content Hub and already available for you to publish your Content Hub entities (think items in Sitecore world) and consume via the Content Hub Cloud API - so a bit like Contentful and great for quick POCs and Apps.

And finally
This was a first for me but on both days Sitecore imaginatively gave us all a ‘half time’ break from the back-to-back presentations with a virtual Yoga session! Something to help us all relax and re-energise for the second half of each epic day. I joined in for a while, honest!

Yoga 


Day 2 was brought to a close with stellar presentations by Rusty Warner from Forester on the need for an agile multi-disciplinary team (much like our Business Transformation Retainers) to support the future proof Martech stack. This was then followed by an interview (and live performances) with Tony & Grammy Award-winning performer Leslie Odom Jr. (yes him of Hamilton fame).

Never let it be said that Sitecore doesn’t know how to put on a show!

So, there are lots of new tools in the Sitecore toolbox to be excited about and if you want to know how we and Sitecore can help make your digital experience magical, pick your channel of choice and get in touch!

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.

 

Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?

 
Paul Stephen
Paul Stephen
Co-Founder & Joint CEO
With over 25 years in marketing, Paul is one of the UK's leading experts on digital marketing. He oversees the agency and often lectures and consults within the industry on digital and marketing related subjects and has a particular interest and skills in the travel and tourism sectors.

Paul operates nationally and internationally, helping brands to think outside the traditional horizontal and vertical channels and transform their business with creative multi-channel marketing and digital re-invention.
Paul Stephen

Paul Stephen

02 Nov 2020 - 10 minute read
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