Previous blogs have discussed the Sitecore Customer Experience Maturity Model and the Sitecore Digital Marketing System, or DMS. In this post, I would like to share some truly exciting news — Sitecore 7.5 has just been released, and the differences are highly noteworthy. However, it will be necessary to forget the term “DMS” as that is now called “Experience Marketing.” In fact, Sitecore has renamed virtually everything, and most of the new names include the word “experience” to highlight the refocus. For example, the former “Customer Engagement Platform” is now the “Sitecore Experience Platform,” while “Engagement Analytics” has become “Experience Analytics.” As a rule, software companies releasing new versions of successful products do not tend to make sweeping changes to a naming scheme unless there is something truly noteworthy involved. Sitecore 7.5 is indeed a new and improved product that merits the naming revisions.
Improved Database Capabilities
Former versions of Sitecore relied on SQL Server, which, although an excellent product, is simply too limited to handle the storage of big data well. Sitecore 7.5 uses MongoDB for storage, which can theoretically scale to handle petabytes of data. (SQL will still be the back-end database in Sitecore 7.5 Microsoft.) This new database structure has been named the Sitecore Experience Database, or xDB for short, and it is available in the cloud or as a local installation.
To further facilitate the handling of data, Sitecore 7.5 uses NoSQL architecture. Previous releases that relied on SQL could only store information as a relational database. Version 7.5 stores data as JSON objects, a much more flexible solution. NoSQL architecture also permits horizontal scaling, allowing the load to be shared by multiple parallel machines.
Independence of Visitor and Browser
Providing a great customer experience is relatively easy if each visitor accesses a site from the same device with the same browser each time. The old DMS relied on a persistent cookie to identify a visitor — which became rather meaningless once smartphones and phablets became numerous. Redirects and other workarounds were complicated and risky. Sitecore 7.5 replaces “Visitor” with “Contact,” and API calls are built in for sharing and merging contact information and session history across devices.
Why are the Changes Important?
Marketers need to have access to all data pertaining to their customers. Therefore, they amass a huge amount of data — but accessing it and using it in a meaningful manner can be a challenge. Limitations in data storage can prevent using the information collected to automate a personalized customer experience. As noted in the post about the Customer Experience Maturity Model, a customized experience is an essential part of engaging and nurturing the customers. The improvements in the new release, Sitecore 7.5, greatly facilitate the manipulation of data, allowing marketers to actually put the data to constructive use, not just collect it. Few companies can build lifetime customers if they treat them as if they were nothing more than a series of “1s” and “0s.” Treating customers like the individuals they are fosters a relationship. Sitecore 7.5 offers a single view of the customer that combines data from all interactions. This allows marketers to tailor interactions for each specific customer — something that today’s consumer not appreciates, but increasingly demands. Sitecore 7.5 allows each visitor’s session to be maintained across all devices and browsers. Having a website that can only be viewed properly on a desktop monitor is no longer an option. Furthermore, as new devices, such as phablets, are developed, the emphasis on the ability to access a site on any device will become even more important. A previous post discussed using the Sitecore DMS to achieve quick wins while working to secure a long-term relationship with the customer. DMS included built-in engagement analytics, called experience analytics in release 7.5. The analytics allow marketers to assign each type of interaction with a value to determine the level of engagement the customer currently experiences. In turn, this permits optimization to maximize the conversion rate — which is, after all, the ultimate goal.
Sitecore 7.5 offers a wealth of new features that can give meaning to big data, allowing companies to plan and execute effective marketing strategies. It is no secret to marketers that an engaged, nurtured customer is easier to convert to a lifetime customer than one who feels like little more than an account number. Sitecore 7.5 helps businesses achieve their marketing goals while building long-term relationships with customers. Images from sitecore.net