Sitecore 9: The Case for Upgrading.

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Sitecore has evolved from a simple web-experience platform, to a platform that enables marketers to tailor their content to their customers and provide the ultimate engagement strategy across all marketing channels and devices.

I’m going to be looking at the main reasons for upgrading from your existing version to Sitecore Experience Platform 9:


Upgrading from Sitecore 6.x to Sitecore 9

Sitecore 6.x took users from a basic web content management system to something that could create a web-experience, however, Sitecore 9 has built upon these features tenfold and offers so much more than the CMS you’re used to.

Support

If you’re currently using Sitecore 6.x it’s likely that over the last year or so you’ve had to face unexpected behaviour, errors, compatibility issues and defects that haven’t been supported by the Sitecore team (support for 6.6 ended in December 2015 and June 2015 for 6.5). In this case the upgrade to Sitecore 9 is crucial for business development which has the added benefit of reinstating a Sitecore support network.

Better for marketers

Whilst Sitecore 6.x was every developer’s dream, it was a content marketing nightmare with very basic content management features and rudimentary personalisation. Sitecore 9 puts the user experience back into the hands of your marketers and added functionality including the ability to drag and drop fields in form creation means it’s easier than ever!

Data extraction

Sitecore 6.x relies on your IT and analytics team to extract visitor data from multiple sources with various reports. Sitecore 9 with xConnect effortlessly interchanges data with the systems that matter, putting all of that information in one place for you to analyse and measure.

Data confidence

Web crawlers, spiders and bots are continually evolving with new ways to index; causing headaches for many analytic professionals with reporting discrepancies; Sitecore 9 gives you confidence in your visitor data allowing you to track and report effortlessly.


Upgrading from 7.x to Sitecore 9

The release of Sitecore 7.x changed the marketing game; it shifted the platform from a ‘web-only’ system, to something that could create omnichannel digital experiences which opened many doors for marketers.

Sitecore 9 takes this experience one step further with the ability to a true cross-channel, multiple device omnichannel marketing journey. With Sitecore 9 it doesn’t matter how your customers interact with your brand: online, in store, through an app or via their mobiles, all of this data is linked and stored to create a seamless user experience.

Contextual personalisation

Not only does Sitecore 9 recognise how your users are interacting with your brand, you can also personalise their journey based on pre-set personas which each visitor is segmented into. As they move through the customer journey they trigger pre-set goals that continue to personalise this journey based on their interests and ignites follow up emails to ensure they’re always engaged.

Enhanced email performance

Sitecore 9’s email manager has dramatically improved with the release of new tools such as List Manager and Campaign Creator as well as integration with Experience Database (xDB) making it easier than ever to manage your email marketing efforts.

Sitecore Cortex

With Sitecore Cortex you don’t have to worry about finding the time to analyse and calculate new customer personas. Cortex automatically identifies the common attributes of visitor behaviour and suggests personalisation criterias and segments for them, meaning all you need to do is accept or skip.


Upgrading from Sitecore 8.x to Sitecore 9

Sitecore 8.x built upon Sitecore 7.x’s foundation of business and marketing empowerment whilst focusing on offering more advanced cloud deployment models for IT teams.

Sitecore Experience Cloud

The Sitecore 9 upgrade continues to develop this idea with the release of the overarching brand: Sitecore Experience Cloud. The cloud itself encompasses all of the Sitecore applications, putting everything in one place for marketers and providing them with richer data.

Connected data

Sitecore 9 gives you the ability to collect and connect data from anywhere, whilst machine learning analytics allow you to predict behaviours and possess true omnichannel data. Experience Database collects and connects this data in real-time from in-store visit and phone calls to online and mobile activity; giving you the opportunity to better personalise your marketing efforts. The new release also gives you the ability to integrate with external data sources including Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SQL Azure, MongoDB or Cosmos DB.

Sitecore forms and marketing automation

Forms and marketing automation features have been completely redesigned to promote the collection of quality data and include a drag and drop functionality for improved usability. Whilst marketing automation allows you to send out automatic customer-nurturing and follow up emails to customers that have triggered pre-set goals or not completed desired actions.

Federated authentication and Headless Javascript

With Sitecore 9 you can now add enterprise authentication to your websites for single sign-on or social login; providing a much smoother, seamless login experience for users. Whilst Headless Javascript allows developers to use external applications to build scripts with minimal Sitecore experience.

Thinking about upgrading your Sitecore platform? Learn more about the latest release here.

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?

 
Thumbnail-Naomi-Harper
Naomi Harper
Head of Marketing & Communications
Naomi is the agency's Head of Marketing & Communications with a strong background in Public Relations, events, Marketing and Brand campaigns.

Naomi joined Sagittarius in January 2021 to deliver exceptional external brand experiences, engaging internal communications and to assist with the driving of sales and the developing of relationships with key strategic suppliers.
 

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Naomi Harper

28 Nov 2017 - 7 minute read
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