Using Sitecore to deliver innovation

Development Team Leader Colin Robertson discusses the various customisation options available in the Sitecore content management system.

Content management systems (CMS) are a dime a dozen – chances are, no matter what you are trying to do there will be a CMS that caters to your needs.

However, most of the differences are things only you as the site owner will see, and the end result for your visitors will be a site with some static content. In this article, we’ll take a look at Sitecore and how this can be customised to suit different requirements.

Customer Focused

Sitecore does things differently. It has been built from the ground up to be customer focused, providing the site owner with the tools to customise the site to suit the individual visitor and their end goal.

Sitecore uses the idea of profiles to categorise each visitor. These profiles and how each page affects them are defined by the site owner. As the visitor navigates around the site, their history on the site is used to build up an idea of what sort of customer they could be. Custom events can also be created to categorise visitors based on their actions. If the visitor has purchased something through the site they can be identified as a returning customer. If the visitor has come to the site through a specific Google search query, then that can affect their profile as well.

All of this profiling is good, but where the real power comes from is being able to customise the site based on these profiles. Customers that have shown an interest in the environment can be directed towards the more “green” products. Customers that have already bought products can be directed to buy accessories or service products. So rather than having one “goal” for the site and filtering everyone towards that one goal, different goals can be set up specific to customer types.

Testing

Sitecore takes the customisation of the site further than just profiles – it also provides the functionality for multivariate testing. The same customisation of content that is used for profiles can be used to serve up multiple versions of the same site for different visitors. Sitecore will then track the amount of visitors that made it to the defined goal from each version of the site. Multivariate Tests can be set to run for a specific period of time or until a certain number of visitors have completed the journey.

Multivariate testing allows analysis of differences in content and provides statistics that prove which variant is more successful, rather than having to rely on feeling or anecdotal evidence. It allows site owners to state confidently, “this new content will result in X% more conversions than the old content”.

Content

Finally, Sitecore allows the Site Owner to make changes to the layout of the pages, swapping components out with others which display completely different information. A lot of content management systems will allow these changes, but Sitecore provides the “Experience Editor”. This is a view of the site as the visitors will see it, but allow the edition of the page “in-line”.

Development Focus

From the point of view of a developer, Sitecore isn’t doing anything earth-shattering, but it is providing it all in an easy to use interface, integrated with content management. It provides functionality to site owners that would normally require a full-time development team. For Equator, this means that on day one we can deliver a full CMS with customisation features, which then allows us to focus purely on doing development that will differentiate the site from competitors. It’s a bonus for us as this will be more interesting development, and it’s a bonus for our customers as we’re delivering innovative sites that lead to more conversions.

By Colin Robertson, Development Team Leader