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A pragmatic approach to the Sitecore Experience Management platform

Sitecore contains a comprehensive Experience Management suite. Unfortunately, it is underused. We outline a pragmatic approach to tying the tool to your business objectives.

The Sitecore Experience Platform combines CMS functionalities with customer experience management. Many organisations benefit greatly from the comprehensive CMS toolset, but there are few who are able to leverage the customer experience features.

In this article we’ll help you discover how the platform can unlock value for you, your business and ultimately your customers. The methodology that will be outlined here is based on past experience with clients in translating business objectives to online assets as well as more theoretical frameworks studied over the years.

The Digital Maturity Model

One of the eye-catching features of Sitecore’s Experience Management is personalization. We have yet to encounter a marketer that did not care at all about the many possibilities personalization offers. Beware of the wizard apprentice effect however: the technology can make you dream, but careless use can lead to suboptimal results (and that’s putting it mildly).

Sitecore’s Customer Experience Maturity Model is a good guide for assessing where you are today and what steps you should take before relying on tactics such as personalization. (Most medium to large businesses in Belgium are somewhere between the second and third step in this model).

Regardless of your position on the model’s scale, the tactics you are currently employing and the ones you hope to be using in the future all serve a single purpose: your business objectives. The sustainable deployment of the experience management tools therefore begins at that level. This also means that a project of this kind absolutely requires the participation of higher management.

Defining the objectives

Every company has a mission, a timeless statement about its purpose. Rare are those that are as succinct and engaging as Disney’s “Make people happy”, but the company mission statement in any case fuels the company vision, the future state it wants to achieve. In Disney’s case, that vision could very well be to “be the leader in the delivery of entertainment experiences”.

To realize the vision, you’ll need strategic objectives. For Disney, an objective might be to “create at least one kids movie per year that surpasses all that came before it in both quality and profitability”.

To have digital marketing contribute to the realization of these strategic objectives, it needs its own set of objectives (one could be to “attract audiences to the new movie section on website”).

Turning objectives into goals

The next step is to categorize the many possible digital interactions there are into digital marketing goals. In the Disney example, these could be:

  • Register interest in upcoming movie;
  • New movie content consumption;
  • Click-through to participating cinemas;
  • Etc.

These goals are what you will be using the many tactics of the Sitecore platform for: personalization, A/B and multivariate testing, rule-based targeting, and many more.

Typically, you will assign each of these goals a value. On the one hand, this forces everyone to attach importance to each goal (instead of saying “we want all of it”, rendering each goal in fact valueless) and on the other hand, it helps you configure the system itself (the so-called Engagement Value).

A major consequence of assigning values to goals is that Sitecore optimizes for those goals. This is more important than it initially sounds: it allows you to control the behaviour of the Sitecore Experience Platform in a holistic way. Imagine having a website with about 10 different personalization rules, all working against each other, with no clear guidelines or hierarchical structure. Having the Sitecore algorithms decide based on that what experience to offer the visitor based on a pyramidal values-based system will allow you to macro-manage the complexity and even increase it without losing control.

This is also the principal reason why you should start from the abstract realm of company mission and vision: what you want the visitor to experience online must be as much in sync with your overall company DNA. This cannot be achieved by working from the bottom-up, tactics first.

Assigning KPI’s to goals

A final step in the preparation of the Sitecore Experience Platform configuration is assigning Key Performance Indicators to the different marketing goals. In order to keep it manageable, you’d typically only select the goals you have attached the most value to.

Priming for continuous optimization

After configuring the platform (defining the goals and engagement values in Sitecore), you now have a framework (blessed by management!) for further optimization through the deployment of more and more tactics across more and more channels. A handy guide for choosing what to do next is the Customer Experience Maturity Model.

Addendum

Although the above focuses on the Sitecore Experience Platform, this methodology can of course be used by anyone looking to develop a framework for digital marketing effectiveness in line with the company strategy.

 

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