The thinking behind Sitecore’s Online Marketing Suite (OMS)
Posted by dguarnaccia on June 3, 2009
Over the last several months, as we’ve been preparing to launch the new version of Sitecore CMS 6.1 and the new Online Marketing Suite (OMS), I’ve talked a lot about the “why” behind the direction we’ve taken our products. In speaking with analysts, partners and customers, some of the same questions came up over and over again, and I’d like to share some of those questions and their answers with you, and give you a idea of why we’re taking the direction we’re taking. Firstly, for those of you who aren’t sure what I’m talking about, see the Siteore Press Release about Sitecore’s new Online Marketing Suite. In a nutshell, we’re bringing together 3 distinct software categories into a single, integrated platform. Now, the first question I get is “Why build your own analytics technology when there are some very good technologies out in the market”. I promise I’ll answer that one a bit later. I suggest, that’s the wrong question to ask. The right question we should all be asking is “What are the business results that companies trying to achieve with their websites today?” This is the primary questions we should be asking, everyone of us. I started to try to answer that question in a previous blog post a while back called Whither goes WCM. When you step back and ask yourself that question for your organization, it starts to clarify what you need to be successful. As I started to ask myself that question on how WCM technology could impact the success of companies getting better business results from their websites, the answer, in the past has pretty marginal. Because at the end of the day, WCM was a glorified editor for pages and sites. It was a tool at best, a framework in some cases. Sure, you could build some amazing things with the tool, with some blood sweat and tears, but when is the last time someone credited the development tool when they built an amazing application. WCM can only really help with productivity of developers and editors. Important, sure, but bottom line, WCM by itself doesn’t help companies improve their business results on the web.
So what can be done to help companies improve their business results online. Well, that depends on what you want out of your website. For organization that want to increase customer acquisition, grow revenue, and serve and expand their existing customer relationships, the answer is to enable organizations to use their websites to proactively engage customers (b2b or b2c) throughout the entire the sales process, tie into their all of their marketing and sales channels and help organizations understand their customers’ experience and behavior to improve the way they engage their customers. How do you do that? Online customer engagement happens in serveral places: Your website, emails, advertisements, microsites, landing pages and community sites to name a few. Web content management has always owned this part of the process. Sitecore as a technology been doing this for years, and has had some email newsletter capabilies that leveraged WCM-base content as well but it wasn’t enough. To do this right, we needed to add full fledged campaign management, and email campaign tools that could do nurture marketing. We needed to tie the email experience tightly to the web experience. How you react to emails should inform the website experience, and visa versa. Adding personalization to the mix was also important, so consistent experience could be delivered, regardless of channel (email, web, rss, mobile). We wanted to be able to do episodic email and web campaigns as well, so each time you recieve a new message, it would be a new message, or call to action, and it would move you further into the sales or consideration process. Lastly, we needed to add in website optimization technology into the product for message testing. A/B split testing and multivariate testing were important features to add because marketing organizations need the ability to try different messages and see what works and what doesn’t. The marketplace is constantly evolving, and segments are constantly shifting, so it’s important to be able to do this continously.
Now, I promised I’d answer why we created our own analytics technology instead of just leveraging a 3rd party technology like Omniture, Webtrends or Coremetrics. There are a few parts to this answer. First, we wanted to own the data. Why? So you could use it. I don’t mean in some nice looking reports, I mean actually use it. On your site, to affect user experience. It’s your data afterall, shouldn’t it be working for you? CMS Watch has a great article about data ownership, and I tend to agree with them. It turns out though, that an even bigger benefit to capturing analytics information locally is that we can record all sorts or rich context about the visitor and their session that we can use to target and deliver content to user, as well as other users. Amazon does a great job of this sort of thing with their collaborative filtering technology. Once you own the data, you can start to do some very intersting things with it, some that require no human intervention (non-deterministic rules for the geeks reading this). On top of that, there is the data quality arguments. While some don’t care about this, argueing that it’s statistically insignificant, today’s web analytics misses a great deal of information due to the nature of how “page tagging” or “web bugs” work. There is also the issue that analytics systems don’t understand how your site is built, or how the technology works. So you get lots of extraneous data; double pages from postbacks, fragemented data from the same page having multiple URLS, etc. Sure, there are mechanisms in most web analytics system to try to rationalize this, but it’s a lot of work, and it’s not often done. The net effect is that most organization still don’t get a lot of value out of web analytics applications. So by implementing an embedded analytics engine inside of Sitecore, we’ve overcome these issues. Sitecore reports the exact user experience a person receives. No extra pages, no fragemented page counts across languages, and since we capture page requests at the server, privacy aware browser aren’t hidden. While we were at it, we also layered in a content profiling system, so as users are consuming content and engageing on a Sitecore site, the analytics is also capturing the kinds of content the user is consuming, actions they are taking (searching for certain keywords, rating pages, answering a blog post) and building out a comprehenive profile of that user. All of this data can of course be used to deliver content to users, and Sitecore analytics can capture that as well. If a user gets a page because of a personalization rule, that too is noted. If a user receives a piece of content due to a multivariate test, the analytics records that as well. Having the context of the users session, and full understanding of the user experience being delivered is very valuable for web analytics. So that’s why we needed to build our own. It allowed us to create much more meaningful, and actionable analtics that site owners could use to improve their website’s ability to engage users.
Beyond the web engagement story, we also knew that to increase customer acquisition and revenue, websites needed to tackle the notion of lead generation directly. In the WCM world, we often dance around this notion of “conversion” and how that’s creating leads. Ask any salesperson about webleads and they’ll often mutter words like “unqualified”, “tire-kickers”, or other words of endearment. Why is that? Because in most cases, the leads are just too early in the funnel for a sales person to engage with. This is where we looked at the Marketing Automation space and realized that most of what these companies do is dance around the edges of the web. These vendors can often only manage landing pages, or microsites at best, but the don’t really own the real web experience of the site itself. However, they do some very interesting things. They do lead scoring, to make sure leads are actually ready to engage with your company based on their visitor behavior. They also do a nice job of managing your campaigns (advertising, email, etc) and tracking conversion. Some can even can track the company names of their web visitors for B2B companies, which gives an organization’s sales team valuable insight into customer behavior durring the sales process. We realize that there would be tremendous value if we could bring all these capabilites right into the WCM, the very place where we could manage the customer experience on the web and in email. We were already doing campaign management, and adding in GeoIP loopup and getting prospect data on the fly was a no brainer. So now we’re getting close to that goal of increasing revenue and customer acquisition. We can start to improve lead quality, and start to do nurture marketing across web and email. Let’s add in CRM connectors so we can take all this information also syncronize it with an organization’s customer records. Once we realized we could allow an organization to tie their web visitor’s session to CRM contacts and accounts, it meant that we could start to map campaigns and web leads to revenue. This would be a marketer’s (and sales vp’s) dream.
The last bit of the equation here came from bridging the action chasm as Forrester likes to call it. While a lot of organizations are using analytics and even optimization and marketing automation tools, it’s a ton of work to get them integrated. In fact, most organizations don’t bother. In truth, a lot of these tools are little islands of customer experience data, never to be integrated with the rest of the customer experience data set. Our goal with OMS was to bring everything together in one package, in a pre-integrated fashion that give marketers the tools to understand and improve user experience, run campaigns that improve lead generation results in terms of volume and quality, marry online and offline customer experiences from a marketing and sales perspective and provide sales with deeper customer insight and understanding. In a nutshell, we built an solution that will help organization “move the needle” more directly.
One of my favorite quotes is that “Customers don’t buy products, they buy business outcomes”. Well folks, with Sitecore’s OMS, we’re all about the better business outcomes and improved business rules.
You can learn more about Sitecore OMS on the Sitecore website at http://www.sitecore.net/en/Products/Sitecore-Online-Marketing-Suite.aspx