Sitecore Connects Content Management with eCommerce
Sitecore, a provider of digital experience management software, unveiled a new major version of its flagship Sitecore Commerce product. With the new release, the vendor aims at helping merchandisers and marketers deliver an end-to-end consumer shopping experience catered to each shopper, resulting in customer loyalty and leveraged business performance. Hot on the heels of the new release, CMS-Connected reached out Nate Barad, Director of Product Strategy at Sitecore, to inquire about the solutions offered in Sitecore Commerce and what this new release means for the future of commerce:
Although technology innovation and entrepreneurship wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Denmark, back in 2001, Michael Seifert joined forces with four fellow internet zealots and founded Sitecore in Copenhagen. Since then, the entity has grown much larger than its roots as a simple web content management system. Three years ago, the vendor got its foot in the door of the commerce world when it acquired commerceserver.net. Today’s release marks a “milestone” for the company, as Nate Barad put it in his interview with CMS-Connected, because the product has been rebuilt and rebranded as Sitecore Commerce which formerly, was called Sitecore commerce powered by commerceserver to give a credit to the acquisition.
The major issue Sitecore addressed with the new release is the gap between consumers and brands. The vendor believes that today’s retailers still utilize yesterday’s methods such as promotions, discount, flash sales, and so on. However, today’s tech-savvy customers are looking for more tailored experiences. According to Barad, the reason behind this gap is not that brands haven’t recognized consumers’ needs but they have treated digital commerce as a different channel whereas digital enhances all kinds of channels. Therefore, Sitecore believes that the new release will help them orchestrate all the touchpoints of the journey.
There are two major solutions offered in Sitecore Commerce: native personalization and native optimization. Native personalization is designed to enable merchandisers and marketers to deliver persona-driven content not only in the checkout phase of the shopping experience but throughout the customer journey. In this way, marketers and brands can offer their online visitors recommendations and contextualized content based on user behavior such as clicks, page views, and purchases, as well as demographic data like location, language, job role, and industry. In today’s marketplace, it is paramount for brands to support consumers’ personal journey through the sales funnel, right from the initial researching to the checkout if they want to set their businesses up to remain with or ahead of the curve over the next 5 to 10 years.
Another critical offering with the new release is native optimization, where users can test and optimize everything from content to discounts. This capability being a bolt-on enables marketers to understand what kind of approach works the best for what kind of audience, and from there, to optimize this fully tailored end-to-end shopping experience in order to reduce cart abandonment, accelerate order size and rebuy percentages. Now that all the features are baked into the system, more sophisticated intelligence is available to learn about each individual. To put this into perspective, Barad mentioned that with the new release, it is simple to find out whether an online visitor is price sensitive or needs more information about the product to make a purchase decision. In regards to content, it is also trouble-free to determine how helpful a video was related to the purchase or how influential the educational piece was to transform the customer into a brand advocate.
To me, the intelligence and testing capabilities are most important when it comes to digital commerce platforms in order to attain an accurate insight. It almost feels like they enable you to observe your audience as if you monitor them via surveillance cameras in the physical store, of course in a much more sophisticated way.
During his interview with CMS-Connected, Barad also stressed the importance of automating these personalized and optimized experiences for every single customer. He added that it is not an easy task thus that’s where the new release comes into play to make it much easier for marketers and merchandisers.
Here are the other innovative enhancements:
Full lifecycle order management capabilities, supporting edits, holds, and additions to a customer order at each step of the fulfillment journey
Entitlement support for digital products and goods
Complex pricing calculations in real time with high availability to increase average order revenue with dynamic and evolving pricing structures
Permissions and rules to grant use of a promotion in order to serve up the right promotion at the right time to a specific customer
A modernized developer experience with opt-in-complexity based on Microsoft's ASP.NET core framework
Path Analyzer and its resultant machine learning capabilities can easily assist conversion rate optimization by showing the most effective paths to purchase
Sitecore Commerce fully leverages Sitecore's already powerful mobile story allowing customers to easily build native or responsive Web mCommerce scenarios.
In addition, according to Sitecore, being natively engineered for Azure Platform as a Service (PaaS) is its unique differentiator among vendors, as the platform is taking full advantage of Azure's capabilities which makes it easy to scale-up and scale-out.
Commerce and digital experience go hand in hand. As Barad put, “the marriage of the two, commerce and experience is so natural.” Therefore, we see more and more content management system providers rebuilding their experience platforms around a commerce engine. While they do that, they also provide very viable personalization solutions either through acquisitions and strong partnerships or from building the capabilities in house, as marketers that deliver personalized web experiences are getting double digit returns in marketing performance and response.
From the retailers’ perspective, despite the fact that almost all major content management systems and e-commerce platforms provide a breadth of capabilities, brands are still struggling with delivering truly seamless digital experience to their prospects and existing customers, as orchestrating all the platforms along with translating a large amount of data into actionable insights are sophisticated and complex tasks. "Many retailers struggle with the challenge of delivering a seamless and personalized customer experience across touchpoints, especially amid a flood of competing technologies with different data sets across a host of new mobile, social, and wearable technologies," said Brendan O'Meara, Senior Director of Worldwide Retail at Microsoft, in a statement.
Personalization is arguably the hottest topic in the e-commerce industry but to me, if personalization isn’t done at the individual level, it shouldn’t really be considered so. On that note, it is also important to remember that personalization is only as effective as the weakest channel throughout the customer journey. Therefore, all the activities through the sales funnel, from initial browsing to final conversion for the sake of acquiring and nurturing consumers should be in great harmony. Knowing your audience to go beyond their needs is the fundamental step to delivering this seamless end-to-end digital experience. After all, it is almost like a dating game as you have to carefully craft your pickup lines through explicit and implicit insights to attain your consumers’ interest.
If you are interested in learning more about e-commerce, I highly recommend reading the other popular CMS-Connected articles entitled 7 Emerging eCommerce Technology Innovations, eCommerce Trends and Statistics, and How to Drive Sales with Your eCommerce Content Strategy.