An Introduction to the Customer Experience Platform: Sitecore
Before I begin describing what the Sitecore Customer Experience Platform is, let’s talk about the evolution of websites in general and the need for a platform like Sitecore as the foundation of your modern websites.
Since the 1990s nearly every business has created a website to provide clients and partners information about their company. These early websites were mainly what we in the marketing world call “brochure-ware” – meaning a logo, some information about what your company sells, and some contact information. They may have served their purpose in attracting prospects who would search for the company name, product, or service with a major search engine like Google.
Over the years, websites have evolved drastically in function and importance. These basic websites have become web properties that are now the digital face of the company, a direct revenue generating tool, and a vehicle by which you can proactively engage and communicate with your prospects, customers, and partners.
Website Content Organization and Management Helps your Business
Websites have grown from a few pages in the brochure-ware era to thousands of pages in the case of Amazon.com, Microsoft.com, Wikipedia.org, and many other websites (Fpweb.net even has around 1000 pages of content when you factor in the blog and tutorials).
It’s not just eCommerce sites that require massive amounts of content, but enterprise websites as well. Multi-national websites typically require every page to be translated into many different languages in order to appeal to a larger client base. These multilingual sites can grow in size and management complexity very quickly. Also, it has become very common for businesses to incorporate a company blog to keep content fresh and interesting.
Other types of content additions may include forums, eBooks, tutorials, videos, and more which must not only be informative, but useful enough to attract search engine crawlers and repeat users. These growing websites with thousands of assets are not as easy as managing a folder structure on a web server anymore, they require tools and intelligence to maintain the site.
Understanding Web Content Management
Web Content Management or WCM is the heart of the Sitecore platform. WCM platforms allow you to build your website on top of a set of tools so that the websites are easier to manage, optimized for multiple languages and platforms, and enables marketing teams to own the customer experience.
Sitecore is an ASP.Net-based WCM web application technology which houses everything your marketing team needs to store, manage, analyze, and update your website content in a single unified solution. After the initial development of your website using ASP.NET MVC the management ownership is placed in the hands of your marketing team instead of IT to create content, forms, and articles and measure the value of the content throughout its life cycle.
There are many notable WCM Features in Sitecore which we’ll dive into deeper on future articles:
- Dynamic Personalization and Experience Editing
- Mobile Device Experience Optimization
- Social Media Engagement and Integration
- Regionalization and Localization
- E-Commerce Services
- Easy browser-based content authoring and editing
Mobile Compatibility and Optimization is Now Required for Any Legitimate Website
Not only are the websites growing in complexity due to massive amounts of content, but the end user platform must also be taken into account during the design, development, and deployment of the website.
Throughout the early 2000’s to today, the adoption and daily usage of smart phones and tablets has grown exponentially. People are always connected, always checking email, Facebook, movie times, weather, and surfing the web. In December 2013, John Heggestuen wrote in his Business Insider article that one in five people in the world own a smartphone and that one in every 17 own a tablet. Those numbers are pretty astounding and growing. Today nearly as many users view websites on mobile devices as do on normal laptops and computers. In this DazeInfo.com article, Anshul Srivastava details the growth of smartphones for internet usage:
“In 2012, around 1.58 billion users used their mobile phones for internet, which is around 67% of internet users. The number of users using mobile phones for internet grew by 21% to 1.91 billion users, which is around 74% of internet users. This number is further expected to increase by 17% in 2014 to 2.23 billion users, which is around 79% of total internet users. By 2017, around 2.97 billion users are expected to use the internet over their phones, which is around 91% of total internet users and 58% of mobile phone users. In the near future, the Smartphone would become our primary way of connecting to the internet and Smartphone users would access major applications and data from their mobile devices.”
Companies must be able to support the digital conversation with customers through mobile device channels and cannot afford to miss out on the potential business generated by users using mobile devices. If the website is not usable on a 4 inch screen, users (potential new and repeat customers) will immediately navigate away and go elsewhere. Mobile is the newest, biggest marketing channel.
Sitecore provides the ability to automatically detect mobile devices and provide a unified customer experience on any form factor. This content is not duplicated. It is dynamically and efficiently scaled and reused to the form factor dimensions automatically.
Other Sitecore Mobile Optimization Features:
- Mobile API for native Mobile Applications
- Sitecore CMS Presentation engine handles rendering for different devices
- Content editors can review and approve workflow changes from mobile devices
- Device-adaptive templates can be configured for any device
- Locale detection allows geography specific content targeting
- GPS awareness personalizes search results without a zip code
- Form factor awareness automatically makes navigation device appropriate
- Screen resolution awareness automatically determines appropriate content layout and quantity
- “Future-proofs” for future devices by separating content from presentation
Sitecore provides the tools for a successful website
Because our websites are so important to our businesses and continue to increase in complexity while evolving with changing technologies and content, we need a unified foundation on which to build the website, integrate with other systems, and efficiently manage the content and end user experience for any device.
A unified platform and strategy is needed by nearly every business to find, funnel, and convert prospects into life-long customers. Sitecore provides the tool set your marketing team needs to efficiently engage customers no matter the channel. We have only looked at a few features of Sitecore so far, but we will cover the many other capabilities like the Digital Marketing System (DMS), email campaign management, CRM integration, and more in future articles.
In the meantime, if your company is considering Sitecore for your website, then consider also the business advantage of hosting or managing your services with Fpweb.net. We can jump start your investment by hosting the Sitecore architecture and support for your new system so you can focus on winning business.