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A Fair Review of the Top Mid-Market CMS for 2020 — Sitecore

Gary Eisenstein

By Gary Eisenstein

January 16, 2020

Corporate Name: Sitecore Corporation Web: www.sitecore.com
Founded: 2001 Get in Touch: 1-855-SITECORE (748-3267)
Corporate Office: Copenhagen, Denmark Worldwide Locations: 27
CEO: Mark Frost — Since 2017 Worldwide Employees: 1,300
Platform Type: .NET Current Version: 9.2
Licensing Model: Subscription Based Licensing Cost: By Request
Support: Service Level Agreement GitHub Account: www.github.com/sitecore
Trial (Sandbox) Version: By Request Online Demo: By Request
North America Service Partners: 450-plus Certified Global Service Partners: 800-plus Certified

Sitecore delivers a digital experience platform empowering brands to build lifelong relationships with their customers. Sitecore brings together content, commerce, and data into one connected platform that delivers more than 500,000 digital experiences every day. Sitecore is composed of four products that work together seamlessly. When combined, they form Sitecore Experience Cloud: the end-to-end content, commerce, and personalization platform.

HISTORY

In 1998, five friends — Thomas Albert, Jakob Christensen, Peter Christensen, Ole Thrane, and Michael Seifert — founded Pentia A/S, a systems integration company focused on implementing websites built with Microsoft technologies. After developing one website after another, Thrane decided to write a script to automate aspects of the process. He didn’t know it then, but he had just written Sitecore’s first code.

While implementing websites, the team began to imagine a better future for digital marketers: What if marketers could deliver meaningful and engaging online brand experiences without leaning on developers? The next year, they released the first version of Sitecore – a new way to manage digital content. In 2001, the Sitecore Corporation was founded, with Seifert as the CEO. 

“Sitecore came out very early on with innovative approaches to the marketplace and the technology. Sitecore has always separated content from presentation, for example, and today, headless architectures and deployment capabilities are kind of the trend. But this is something that Sitecore has really zeroed in on for the entirety of its history”, stated Matt Krebsbach, Senior Director of Product Marketing.

According to Matt, Sitecore is also quite fortunate that they have a very active and participatory private equity owner in EQT Holdings. They are extremely invested in Sitecore’s business and continue to provide them with the resources they need as an organization to compete in the marketplace. Recent acquisitions of Stylelabs and Hedgehog are good examples of how private equity ownership has been an asset to Sitecore.

KEY CAPABILITIES

The Sitecore Experience Manager is a .NET CMS with enterprise-class security and reliability that can scale content creation for an optimized experience for any channel: mobile, voice, and emerging channels and easy integration with other systems and data.

Key features and functionalities include:

  • Headless Content Management
  • Accelerated Development Capabilities
  • Personalization & Analytics
  • Intuitive Authoring Experience
  • Enterprise-Class Search   
  • Drag & Drop Componentry
  • Sitecore JavaScript Services
  • Multisite & Multi-lingual Capabilities
  • Optimized Experience for Any Channel
  • Enterprise-class Security & Governance
 

ECOMMERCE CAPABILITIES

The Sitecore Experience Commerce platform natively merges content, commerce, and data in a single, enterprise-level commerce solution offering catalog and inventory management, customer and order management, and promotion and pricing management.

“We understand commerce as a broader goal within organizations that may have different requirements and objectives, and we built a commerce product accordingly. It’s a commerce product that is very well suited to meet the needs of the mid-market and upper mid-market, which I like to call lower enterprise. We are also moving further into the B2B space with the recent availability of a B2B accelerator that provides more of the traditional B2B transactional capabilities”, said Matt Krebsbach.

Key eCommerce features and functionalities include:

  • Migration Tools
  • Media Library
  • Experience (WYSIWYG) Editor
  • Product Management
  • Marketing Automation
  • Basket & Order Definition
  • Real-time Inventory
  • Machine Learning
  • Sitecore Experience Accelerator
  • Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Retail
 

DIGITAL EXPERIENCE CAPABILITIES

The Sitecore Experience Platform combines customer data, analytics, and marketing automation capabilities to nurture customers throughout their journey with personalized content in real-time, across any channel.

Key DXP features and functionalities include:

  • Experience Editor
  • Marketing Automation
  • Path Analyzer
  • Dynamics CRM Connect
  • Media Library  
  • Customizable Machine Learning
  • Data Repository Tracking
  • Campaign Creator
  • Optimization
  • Data Exchange Framework
 

TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS

Sitecore’s Technology Alliance Program provides third-party solutions for added functionality.

Sitecore's technology partners include:

  • Acrolinx (AI-Driven Governance)
  • Coveo (Enterprise Search)
  • Siteimprove (Analytics & SEO Insights)
  • Rackspace (Cloud Hosting)
  • Stackla (Social Content Marketing) 
  • Clicktale (Behavior Analytics)
  • Mobify (Web Apps)
  • Brightcove (Cloud-Content Services)
  • Lionbridge Technologies (Translation)
  • FuseIT (Salesforce Integration)
 

STRENGTHS

Sitecore’s Point of View

According to Sitecore, the key strengths, first and foremost, are its varied development model capability. Sitecore has three different content development models that provide a supreme amount of flexibility to their customers, enabling them to deploy experiences in the way that they want, with the speed and agility that they desire, in the places that they need.

Users can leverage SXA (Sitecore Experience Accelerator) for a drag-and-drop, user-friendly interface for non-technical content authors. Alongside that, headless and hybrid-headless capabilities provide the flexibility to move content when and where needed, and most importantly, users do not lose the connection to analytics and personalization, which is a common problem. Normally, when a user moves into headless deployments, they lose that connection to their analytics capabilities, which means they can't personalize that experience. But with Sitecore, they can.

Sitecore says they always look to be very perceptive in how it helps their clients understand and achieve their digital transformation goals and aspirations. Sitecore’s training and best practice programs help their customers understand their current digital maturity, how to grow it over time, and make full use of the Sitecore platform to achieve their objectives.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"The development flexibility and ability to integrate with other platforms and systems is a strong benefit of Sitecore from a Technical perspective. For instance, the integration of Sitecore & Salesforce works really well allowing us to unify CMS & CRM data to customize the experience. This has been crucial as we start to build connected experiences & unified views of customers."

"Sitecore’s personalization engine is robust, and if set up properly, is relatively easy-to-use. As well, their multi-site/multi-language ability is better than most, particularly if SXA is used for multi-site."

"Profile Cards: the ability to identify & categorize anonymous users and personalize to them is a huge win."

"The data set is rich with implicit & explicit data about the visitors, behavioral ticks, content performance, experience, and impact across business lines — it is a SQL server that works nicely in majority of client’s data ecosystems."

"There is a very strong and active community that provides a robust network of support."

WEAKNESSES

Sitecore’s Point of View

According to Sitecore, their Sitecore Experience Manager is a more complex platform than others in the market space and it certainly cannot be considered a stand-up, out-of-box solution. It requires multiple development cycles depending on how customers want to leverage the platform.

Additionally, the pricing structure is higher than most mid-market, lower-enterprise competitors. Although Sitecore is actively looking at ways to bring costs down in certain capacities, price is commensurate to the value that it believes it provides in the platform.

Sitecore feels it has come a long way in providing a cloud-enabled platform, but there is still room for them to make some further advancements in terms of complexity, cost, and adoption to the cloud.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"EXM [Experience Management]: I know of very few successful implementations of this, and users need development support. Fortunately, Sitecore plays well with other email platforms, but this is an obvious gap in their ecosystem."

"Sitecore is not a product you can hand over to a content author, and they will innately understand how to use it. There are vital training sessions we provide because the nuances to the platform (how to set up goals, tagging content, profile keys/pattern cards) are not intuitive, which could leave clients feeling overwhelmed and ultimately areas not utilized."

"Unless the client has strong plans for heavy content marketing, the Commerce platform is very complex. There is very limited out of the box commerce features and functionality; it requires extra overhead to build features, and development is slow and causes a time-to-market question for clients. Commerce also lacks third party support and has a limited number of commerce-related third party rebuilt connections and integrations compared with other platforms. Ultimately, there are major providers missing, and additional effort is required."

"Very limited documentation and difficult to find example solutions. References do not provide a great detail, and missing API documentation."

"Overall complexity/weight of the platform makes single, site content-only implementations hard to provide an ROI on."

KEY DIFFERENTIATORS

Sitecore’s Point of View

Sitecore says that one of its key differentiators is having the ability to manage a complete, end to end, content life cycle. Sitecore firmly believes that organizations can no longer think about web content management as the totality of how they deliver experiences across all channels. Web content management has to be a very flexible delivery system, but it really should no longer be the place where businesses plan, design and build content for all of those channels. Sitecore explains that this is precisely why it has acquired a market-leading set of capabilities around digital asset management, content marketing platforms, and marketing resource management solutions that sit in front of its web content management capabilities. That way, Sitecore feels it can better assist its clientele strategize, optimize, and build their content for a more personalized experience.

Sitecore also notes that taking a leadership role in understanding the evolution of the market, in becoming a digital experience platform many years ago, is a strong differentiator for them as well, whereas, some of Sitecore's competitors — up until just the last few months — did not believe that a digital experience platform was something that needed to be delivered to customers. Sitecore believes it has a strong lead in terms of providing that broad digital experience in a unified platform that is integrated seamlessly.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"The unification of xDB with the other Sitecore datasets is a win."

"Sitecore’s personalization engine is robust."

TRAINING & SUPPORT

Sitecore provides both instructor-led and online training courses. Once you’ve completed your training and are ready to become a Certified Sitecore Developer, you can sign up to take one of Sitecore’s Certified Professional exams.
 
With every Sitecore Maintenance Agreement, you automatically get Standard Support. With Standard Support, you’ll get a response within one to three business days, depending on the complexity of the issue. Users must take and pass the developer certification exam to get access to the Sitecore Support Portal. Premium Support includes faster response times for non-critical issues and immediate support by phone for business-critical issues, 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a response time of an hour for critical issues.

IMPLEMENTATION PARTNER PROCESS

At the time of this publication, Sitecore listed 450-plus trained and certified implementation partners in North America (800-plus globally) that have deployed at least one Sitecore project in the last 12-months. Sitecore has tiered partner classifications to help customers find the partners they need, plus reward partners as they evolve and mature in the Sitecore Solution Partner program. Finding and evaluating best-fit Sitecore implementation professionals in any region with experience in a specific industry and technology should be fairly easy. Regardless, I would still recommend contacting Sitecore directly to discuss your specific project and assistance in providing a shortlist of best-fit implementation partners.

CUSTOMERS

Worldwide Deployments: 5,200-plus

Top Market Sectors: 

  • Automotive
  • Consumer Goods
  • Education
  • Entertainment 
  • Financial 
  • Retail 
  • Nonprofit 
  • Manufacturing
  • Healthcare
  • Government


Notable Sitecore Brand-Name Customers:

  • American Express
  • ASOS
  • Carnival Cruise Lines
  • Kimberly -Clark
  • L'Oréal
  • Volvo

Customer Comments:

James Millett, Head of Digital at easyJet
“The sheer power of the tool out of the box has transformed the way we can change the site to react quickly to external factors. For example, during the recent wet spell, we had a series of ad banners encouraging users to escape the rain —such a simple premise but very difficult to achieve quickly before we implemented Sitecore. This power, coupled to the dynamic pricing and the increasing levels of personalization the site is beginning to offer, means we are able to offer ever-more relevant content to our visitors, which helps us drive our brand values — easyJet is passionate about making travel easy and affordable!”

Kent Oldham, Associate Director at Procter & Gamble
“By migrating our sites from various CMS platforms to Sitecore, we’ve streamlined, simplified, and standardized our digital marketing operations to deliver a better consumer experience."

Lubomira Rochet, Chief Digital Officer at L’Oréal Global
“L'Oréal has enjoyed great success as a result of the project, including significant cost savings and faster innovation for its customers worldwide. Today, the company can launch a new website in just ten days, the number of unique monthly visitors has increased by 35%, and customer satisfaction is up by 40%. One unexpected benefit is the effect the platform has on the ways countries interact with one another, giving rise to fresh interactions and new synergies within the company itself. We now have a worldwide website factory marketplace to make it easy for every brand and country to concentrate on providing the best experience for our consumers.”

 Customer comments and testimonials are all third-party verified

Featured Case Study

L’Oréal Deepens Brand Loyalty with Digital First Attitude

FUTURE ROADMAP

A topic of conversation for Sitecore going back to the Symposium in 2018 is its next-generation user interface, which is codenamed Horizon. This is a complete redevelopment of the editorial experience. Sitecore is rethinking and rebuilding that user experience that streamlines daily tasks and provides more intelligence through the incorporation of artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. Sitecore is also planning to advance the platform's ease of use through more streamlined workflows and tasks for more intelligence within the editorial experience. In addition, Sitecore is leaning towards lessening the number of steps required to complete particular tasks — getting closer to a one-click kind of capability.

“I would say that we're looking to lower the time to value by how we grow our ecosystem and really leverage personalization. So, one facet of that is how we continue to expand our technology partnerships and strategic alliances with organizations that provide complementary capabilities to Sitecore that are outside of our core capability set and where we are best suited to deliver but have class-leading capabilities that are meaningful to our customers”, states Matt Krebsbach.

Sitecore also plans to continue expanding Salesforce Marketing Cloud for multichannel campaign management, delivering web content management capabilities that integrate seamlessly with Salesforce and other Technology Alliance Program partners such as Microsoft.

Finally, the continued integration of Sitecore Content Hub capabilities, digital asset management, content marketing, and marketing resource management platform with the Sitecore experience platform, is going to be a core development area for them going forward. How does Sitecore plan to increase visibility? According to Matt, it will be with more enhanced analytics around segmentation, and other aspects of customer behavior, and increasing partnerships like Salesforce and other strategic alliances in the marketing technology stack.

PERFORMANCE GUIDE

CMS-Connected's performance guide is based on our interviews with the vendor, their implementation and technical partners, customers, and leading industry analysts.

Category Scoring: 5 = Excellent | 4 = Very Good | 3 = Good | 2 = Satisfactory | 1 = Unsatisfactory

Overall Performance Scoring: 57–70 = Excellent | 43–56 = Very Good | 29–42 = Good | 15–28 = Satisfactory | 1–14 = Unsatisfactory

Performance Category Scoring
Strong North American Footprint with a Global Presence 5
Leadership and Positive Industry Recognition 3
Wide Selection of Features and Functionalities 4
Well-defined Differentiators 3
Offers Headless and/or Decoupled Architectures 2
eCommerce Offering 3
Cloud Capabilities 3
Digital Experience Platform (DXP) Offerings 4
Ability to Integrate with Pairing Technologies 4
Stable Platform with an Active Number of Deployments 4
Strong Customer References 4
Presales and Post-sales Support 4
Trained, Certified, and Experienced Implementation Partners 4
Clear and Well-defined Future Roadmap 3
Overall Performance Score — Very Good 50

ANNUAL HOSTED EVENTS

Sitecore’s annual event is the Sitecore Symposium, which is a great place to get up to speed on all the latest platform and company developments form a notable lineup of keynote speakers, discussing content management, experience design, omnichannel experiences, and more.

Return to the main article to select another platform review

Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry for over 26-years and is a Principal Analyst at CMS-Connected Media Corp. and is the Founder and CEO of Falcon-Software Company. If you would like to receive additional advice or consultation on how to evolve your digital transformation journey, Gary can be reached at gary.eisenstein@cmscmedia.com.

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