Author: Darius Dumitrescu – Senior CMS Consultant, OSF Commerce.
Maybe you are already a Sitecore® user? Or perhaps you’re considering replatforming over to take advantage of all that this powerful software has to offer. There’s no time like the present to make a move. With the launch of Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 at the NRF 2018 Retail’s Big Show, the innovations made to this platform offer significant gains for those who are looking to harness the power of all that Sitecore provides.
As the global leader in experience management, Sitecore allows brands to customize the end-to-end customer experience. With this latest version, merchandisers and marketers have the ability to personalize the customer’s experience. Content and commerce are integrated, ensuring that the journey before, during and after purchase is individualized to meet a shopper’s exacting requirements.
The modifications to this latest version of Sitecore are plentiful, so we wanted to distill this into a list of 9 reasons to choose Sitecore Experience Commerce™ 9.
Cortex is the new machine learning (ML) component that’s now part of Sitecore Experience Commerce 9. It works with Experience Database (xDB) and XConnect – the new cloud-enabled service layer that crunches data via the RESTful API framework. The information it works with comes from any third-party data source such as a CRM, commerce, wearable, or IoT to name but a few available areas of origin. This component offers the complete view of a user’s interactions with a brand across many different touchpoints.
Sitecore Cortex aims to help developers streamline their processes, saving valuable time and offering businesses the chance to deliver marketing solutions faster than before. Configuration requires a bit of work upfront to determine what your business goals or the problems you wish to address are, and then you’ll be able to evaluate if machine learning can help to solve this. You will then need to evaluate if quality data that meets your specific needs can be gathered from this effort.
Once this upfront planning work has been completed, you can then create machine learning models that integrate this information into Cortex for processing. The result would be the launch of an ML-based project to determine if this project solves the initial problem you set out to use it for. You’ll want to repeat your testing and iterate until you have a solid answer as to whether your ML efforts are of use.
One of the main new features of Sitecore 9 is the new API layer for the Experience Database (xDB), referred to as Sitecore xConnect. It provides several new services that can be scaled further to create a higher-performant architecture to interact with xDB.
A variety of Experience Platform (XP) services are now combined with xConnect and make up the Experience Platform Foundation (XPF). These services include:
Sitecore Experience Commerce can run on Azure, which removes the lengthy setup and configuration phase. All you need to do is just sign up, and you’ll immediately have access to begin development on your solution. Sitecore Cloud will also help you to save money on storage costs since your information is stored in the cloud rather than in-house. Managed Cloud services is also an option should you wish to use Sitecore’s Cloud-based hosting services. Depending on your needs, you can choose between their Standard or Premium services.
Sitecore® Experience Accelerator (SXA) Storefront is also a part of the revamped new product. In short, this is the SXA (Sitecore Experience Accelerator) applied on commerce sites. SXA Storefront creates a standard set of page layouts based on best practices that can be reused across websites. There are more than 40 commerce specific components out of the box, all based on Helix that provide examples of how to construct your storefront using drag and drop functionality and customizable unique layouts.
This improvement will help you develop and deploy storefronts faster, ensuring that you are able to go to market rapidly. You’ll be able to skip the wireframing stage and content editors can get started inputting information much earlier than usual. The development and deployment of ecommerce storefronts are made faster through either Microsoft Azure PaaS or on-premises installations. Content is reusable and can be slightly altered rather than needing new builds for all of the different components that make up each variation.
Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 offers a new way to perform marketing automation with a dedicated Launchpad application. This is a much more robust version of this offering compared to the Engagement Planning and Automation toolset of Sitecore 8x and earlier versions. CMS users can now drag and drop engagement plans and build out workflows with automation triggers based on goals, time passed, emails responded – or not responded to, and engagement points scored. They can also easily build email campaigns that relate to common triggers undertaken on a website.
This automation removes the need to spend valuable time doing manual work in processing vast amounts of data on potential and existing customers. It also supports interaction with customers at every stage of the buying journey to foster meaningful relationships. Purchases are encouraged as you can now give the added push that’s sometimes needed to help a shopper make a decision. You can offer customized service and personalized and effective campaigns based on tailored and segmented audience data.
With its support of microservices architecture, Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 is entirely plug-in based, providing both flexibility and extensibility. This means you have greater control over your platform, it suits your unique needs and will grow with our over time. Out of the box, Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 can be as heavy or as light as you need it to be - and if you ever need to add or edit new features, you have complete control.
Sitecore engaged in the incremental re-architecture of its stack around to Microsoft’s .NET Core platform – a coding standard that is focused on microservices. This framework is considerably more light-weight and allows multiple stakeholders to work on design, development and content entry at the same time, rather than waiting for each stage to be completed before hand-off.
Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 marks a shift from being hosted on Commerce Server towards becoming a highly extensible platform built on the latest ASP.NET Core 2.0 technology. It provides the opportunity to extend its functionality by leveraging either custom-built or third-party plug-ins to obtain additional benefits. One such example is the integration of Experience Manager and Experience Platform with Salesforce Marketing Cloud to assist marketers in building personalized marketing campaigns on the web, via email, mobile or using digital ads. Content from your Sitecore instance can be brought into Marketing Cloud for a variety of data-driven, consumer outreach efforts.
Sitecore now provides one clear view of their business tool that gathers relevant data on inventory management, catalog management, order management, customer profile, pricing, and managing promotions. Merchandisers and marketers can now easily navigate this information and rapidly act upon it. The business tool also supports role-based security, so users only have access or can see the tools that they are using.
The significant advancements that are seen with this latest release make a compelling argument for making the move to use Sitecore as your commerce platform of choice. It’s important to be aware that replatforming or upgrading can come with challenges. This is worth evaluating, especially if your current system is stable and functions according to your needs.
Some reasons to consider upgrading include:
If you do determine that the benefits of Sitecore Experience Commerce 9 are appealing, it’s worth finding an experienced partner who can help you to evaluate your requirements, ensure that your goals are met with a well-defined strategy, develop a plan and then take on the heavy lifting to ensure that your operations remain up and running during your move.