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Six Sitecore Strategies for 2021 & Beyond – Part 2

Dean Thrasher

Head of Sitecore Practice, EPAM
Blog

In part one of this two-part blog series, we explored how trends like decoupled digital systems, microservices and API-first development, and cloud-native architecture enable organizations to thrive in the wake of the global pandemic. Let’s now look at the next three strategic technology themes for 2021 and ways your organization can benefit by leveraging Sitecore to create a superior customer experience.

1. Optimized Digital Journeys

The recent pandemic underscored the primacy of digital channels for many organizations. And it’s clear that consumers reward organizations that provide the best digital experiences through increased sales, positive reviews and loyalty, among other measures. So how can we provide a better digital experience?

The short answer is to figure out what a visitor to your website is trying to do today and make it easy for them to do it. The emphasis is on ‘today’ because organizations often undertake massive data mining operations to study past behavior or try to apply artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced statistical techniques—or perhaps ignore the issue altogether because these projects seem too expensive or complicated. However, you don’t have to choose between either one of these extremes. You can start with the first question every customer service representative is trained to ask: “What can I help you with today?”

You can ask this question of your visitors explicitly, or you can use other signals to determine what a visitor is trying to do. For example, can you determine which link in an email was clicked by the visitor to bring them to the site, which social media post they followed, or if they landed on an article through an organic search? All of these are useful indicators that can help you guide and personalize the customer journey in real-time.

Another way to optimize the customer journey is by leveraging metrics. How long did it take the customer to register an account, check out their shopping cart or fill out the form? After engaging in one of these journeys, did they respond to your survey? Did they share the article with friends? Your organization is likely already collecting the information it needs to optimize the important journeys on the site. Often what organizations lack is time to reflect on these metrics and the know-how required to conduct small experiments.

If you can guess the visitor’s intent, a few rules in Sitecore’s personalization engine can often yield significant improvements in core KPIs. Suppose you know that mobile device users are often looking for driving directions, business hours or trying to book appointments on your site. You can use personalization rules to reveal specific calls to action for these activities near the top of the page where users of small screens can find them without scrolling. Or suppose you’ve created an email campaign targeting subscribers to upcoming events. By registering these campaign IDs in Sitecore, you can set personalization rules to display webinars prominently to the recipients that follow your email links.

Additional examples include:

Understanding your visitors’ context lets you tailor your website to the needs of your customers. In the first case, this might have improved traffic to your physical store locations or the number of appointments booked online. In the second scenario, the combination of the email campaign and prominent calls to action to register for webinars could yield increased attendance. Knowing visitor intent makes it easy to develop metrics that gauge how successful site visitors were in reaching their goal.

Personalization may seem like a daunting task for many organizations. It’s important to start small, with tactics that require minimal effort, and work your way to a more complex, high-effort strategy while keeping in mind that high-effort tactics may not always yield the most return. Look at the chart below and consider what low-effort personalization tactics you can implement in the near term. 

2. Unified Experience Profiles

Once you’ve embraced an experimental mindset and have begun optimizing your campaign, you’re ready for the next step: creating a unified experience profile across all your digital touchpoints.

There are many reasons why a unified, 360-degree view of the customer is beneficial to your organization. First and foremost, it enables you to serve your customers more effectively. For example, your sales team will know what a customer support representative told the customer about a particular question or issue. And when a customer updates their profile information, all your systems reflect that change. You can derive new insights about your customers by viewing their behaviors across different channels. And you can better manage sensitive personal information within a comprehensive system than by scattering it across numerous back-office systems.

This is a tall order, given the number of functions within your enterprise that rely on this data. Implementing a comprehensive view of customer data is a multi-year effort. But what makes this a powerful theme for 2021 is both the pandemic, which has emphasized the importance of digital touchpoints, and de-emphasized paper and face-to-face transactions, as well as privacy and confidentiality regulations worldwide.

Many organizations are well on their way to implementing a 360-view, but harnessing its benefits—not simply reacting to events—is the key to success. Sitecore has first-party connectors for leading customer relationship management systems, such as Salesforce CRM, Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Dynamics 365 Sales. As you will see below, these allow you to synchronize interactions between your digital experience platform with your records of other interactions, like those generated by your call center, sales representatives, email newsletters or other touchpoints. 

3. Applied Testing & Analytics

There’s a big difference between organizations that collect analytics to report status and those that apply them to drive improved business outcomes. And 2021 is the year you’ll see the latter kind of organization pull away from the former due to the disruption caused by the pandemic.

Consumers have had to break a lot of their old habits and adopt new ones. So, the companies that can ask smart, targeted questions about critical moments in the customer journey—and then act on their findings—will distinguish themselves in the marketplace.

There are a range of tools and techniques you can apply, such as A/B or multivariate tests, measuring click-through rates, performing path analysis, conducting focus groups or providing customer satisfaction surveys. Ultimately, however, the tools are less important than being curious and asking questions about the touchpoints that serve your customers’ needs.

Conclusion

Dramatic changes in the business climate and customer behavior have forced many organizations to rethink how they meet their customers’ needs. And with more of those customer touchpoints happening through digital channels, it’s easier to gather and analyze these interactions than ever before. 

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