This year, Sitecore opened the doors to a symposium again – this time to present the latest initiatives and strategic views for 2018 to their partners and customers. This year this took place in Las Vegas, and it was not just The Strip's skyline that flashed - also Sitecore cemented their well-deserved position as one of the market's strongest and most visionary CMSs with lots of news and a strong roadmap.
The slogan of this year was "Drive Your Digital Destiny" - it might sound a bit vainglorious in someone's ears, but nevertheless there were more than twice as many participants as last year, which shows that Sitecore continues to offer some of the industry's strongest visions in the future's digital customer experiences.
The most important news of this year’s symposium was the launch of the soon-coming version 9.0. But what significance does this latest version really have for you as a Sitecore customer, and what new options and improvements does it contain?
Briefly, Sitecore is pursuing and strengthening this vision of delivering a comprehensive digital experience platform. Through a number of new services, it is now more possible to develop highly personalized dialogue programs and context-driven customer experiences across platforms and digital touch points. The use and integration of data has become more prioritized in all services offered.
And then, Sitecore raises significantly in the cloud. Not that there is any big news in that. Sitecore has long been offering various cloud-based services through their App Center. However, with the latest versions, the system is offered as a full cloud-based Platform as a Service, which, in addition to faster time-to-market and more efficient scaling, means easier access to more cloud-based services - including their new approaches to Machine Learning.
Xconnect is an integration tool that makes it significantly easier to create and manage deep integrations for various external systems. The tool promises that you can connect its Sitecore Experience platform and its data with virtually any external system. You can either enrich your xDB data by extracting external data into Sitecore or sending data to other systems. In other words, Sitecore takes this tool a decisive step, but as a marketer, you can create true, coherent user experiences - not just on your own Sitecore-supported platform, but also throughout the user's journey and customer cycle.
In this version, Xconnect offers two standard connectors - one for Salesforces Sales Cloud and one for Microsoft Dynamics. There are probably many more, but the essential is that you can easily connect Xconnect with its own connectors to virtually any system. In addition to CRM, there could be In-store systems, call-center systems, IoT platforms –briefly, any third-party system.
But let's take a look closer on three of the news:
And here it comes, Sitecore's most catchy news - Cortex - which is their bid on a Machine Learning tool. Machine Learning is a data-based approach to Artificial Intelligence, which denotes the ability of a computer, using complex algorithms and large amounts of data, to learn without being explicitly programmed to it.
As the amount of customer data becomes larger and significantly more complex, they also become much more enormous. Thus, we risk that there is a lot of valuable knowledge we never get in touch with. Here, machine learning becomes highly relevant, as this may cause the system to "discover" and define customer segments, trends and other complex contexts you can use to refine your customers digital experiences.
An example could be a personalized commerce experience where Sitecore Cortex proactively offers related product recommendations and most likely can predict a particular user's next need and present them to a suitable product - before they actually think about it themselves. This could be based on a complex set of data collected through Xconnect across widely different data sources such as analytics data, CRM data, xDB profiles, search history, customer service data, and other digital sources.
3. GDPR Compliance
One of the major issues of this year, and next year, is the GDPR – EU’s new General Data Protection Regulation. Sitecore had no firm response to the handling of this particular issue at last year's symposium, which was critical considering the amount of personal data the whole Experience Platform is based on. This is how Sitecore now begins to remedy in version 9.0 that has a built-in GDPR compliance. Especially in the form of two features:
- Right to be forgotten
- Encryption of sensitive data in xDB
An integrated, strategic and intelligent marketing software suite
In addition to the three highlighted improvements, version 9.0 also offers a redesign of their Forms tool, a significantly improved email marketing automation module, better migration and conversion tools and more.
All in All, with this 9.0 version Sitecore provides a more integrated, strategic and intelligent marketing software suite than seen before, which, in its fullest utilization, offers virtually endless possibilities that offer each and every one of your customers meaningful digital experiences while ensuring strong business performance.
As a Sitecore Gold Partner, we are excited about the new opportunities Sitecore 9 accommodates, and we look forward to bringing some of these new initiatives to live with our customers.