Sitecore Optimization Guide
What it really takes to optimize your Sitecore solution
Companies often choose Sitecore as part of their digital transformation technology stacks because of its promise to unify content and deliver robust, state-of-the-art digital customer experiences. However, implementing and maintaining the platform presents a complex challenge. Many marketing teams wind up frustrated when they can’t leverage Sitecore’s many promised features.
To truly get the most out of your Sitecore investment, you need a roadmap customized to your organization, team structure, and goals. In this collection of resources, we unpack what it really takes to optimize your Sitecore solution and help you unleash the power of your data and content to drive results.
Key steps to Sitecore experience optimization
- Digital ecosystem alignment
- Custom configuration
- Component-based design
- Strategic platform integration
- User-driven goals and personalization
- Curiosity and commitment
Take full advantage of your powerhouse digital experience platform by starting with the right foundation and maturing into the most complex features of Sitecore XP. Let’s get started.
Feeling stuck with Sitecore?
Sitecore experience optimization can be a frustrating process. If you’re running into Sitecore performance issues, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Take our maturity quiz to see how you stack up and quickly pinpoint action steps to grow your Sitecore XP capabilities.
Step 1: Align Sitecore with your existing digital ecosystem
No matter where you are on your digital transformation journey, you’ve probably discovered that no tool or system truly stands alone. For most companies, Sitecore is just one piece of the puzzle.
As you consider your approach to Sitecore experience optimization, make sure your roadmap aligns with digital strategy across the business. Identify where Sitecore may present overlaps with your existing marketing technology stack, and negotiate if you don’t plan to leverage those features. This critical step prevents costly duplication of effort and ensures that you get the most out of your Sitecore investment.
Helpful questions to ask about Sitecore implementation
Whether you’re just getting started with your Sitecore implementation or you’ve been using it for years, it’s helpful to take a step back and see how the solution fits in with your overall environment. You may want to start with questions like:
- Where is our organization now in terms of persona development, market understanding, positioning, and content? Take our diagnostic quiz >>
- How does Sitecore help us execute against our digital strategy objectives?
- How does Sitecore fit in with our existing enterprise IT architecture?
- How does Sitecore support our martech strategy and long-term roadmap?
The best martech strategies constantly evolve to meet changing markets, circumstances, and goals. Taking a people-driven approach to your martech stack can help your organization stay nimble, even if you’ve already made tool and platform investments.
Not sure how to take stock given limited time and capacity? Consultation from an unbiased third party could be a good solution.
Step 2: Prioritize custom configuration
Sitecore recommends an extremely robust architecture, with server counts easily expanding into the dozens across testing and production environments. When you add in a complex web of databases and multiple hosting solutions, it’s easy for configuration to become an issue.
To ensure that your marketing team can use the full suite of tools that Sitecore XP offers, it’s important that your implementation partner — whether that be your internal IT team or an external vendor — validates the architecture to avoid unanticipated roadblocks.
Signs you need a Sitecore architecture audit
If you’re running into Sitecore performance issues, it might be time to conduct an architecture audit. A few signs that your Sitecore instance was not architected to scale include:
- Issues with basic authoring capabilities, including staging environments and workflows
- Loss of Sitecore Experience Analytics’ ability to capture data from website interactions
- Missing out on valuable user profile and interaction data
- Inability to associate user sessions, profiles, and patterns
- Failure to log and capture goals and value scores to assist with A/B testing, personalization, and automation
What to know before, during, and after your Sitecore implementation
Sitecore’s intuitive interface often belies its complexity, leaving marketing teams surprised by how much planning and how many resources are required for an effective implementation. Unfortunately, when it comes to your Sitecore solution, what you don’t see early on can create obstacles down the road.
If your current set-up isn’t working, you may not know who to ask for help. Even if you do have an internal IT team on the job, it’s natural to run into roadblocks. Sitecore implementations and upgrades are complicated, but there are solutions!
Step 3: Create a component-based design system
Once you have a solid foundation in place in the form of a validated architecture, you’re ready to move into Sitecore tools. Most Sitecore implementations leverage front-end editing tools like Sitecore’s WYSIWYG Experience Editor and Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA), which are based on the concept of components.
What are Sitecore components?
Think of components like widgets that allow marketers and UX designers to build pages out of common pieces and patterns. Arranging components on a page is a lot like playing a game of Tetris or building something out of LEGOs.
Why do Sitecore components matter?
In Sitecore, components live inside of layouts, which help add guardrails or rules around which components can be placed in certain areas of a page. However, when inexperienced IT or implementation partners take shortcuts or overlook components in the design stage, marketers can be locked out of some of Sitecore’s most exciting capabilities.
- If templates are too rigid or code-heavy, marketers must rely on IT to make any changes.
- If templates are too flexible, site code becomes vulnerable to too much risk.
Without component-based design, marketers can’t use Sitecore personalization and testing tools. To get the most out of Sitecore, finding the sweet spot between flexibility and templated structure is key.
Step 4: Approach integration strategically
Your customers don’t know — or care — which tools and platforms you use to create your online footprint. Behind the scenes, however, your marketing, brand, and support teams know exactly how critical your technology stack is to deliver a seamless omnichannel experience that converts.
How to optimize your martech stack
Your martech stack is only one part of your digital ecosystem. If one team works with Sitecore, while another performs similar functions with another tool, your organization risks losing data, missing opportunities, and overspending.
To avoid operational silos, use your digital roadmap to limit functionality overlap and maximize each tool or platform’s strengths. Being strategic about your digital landscape helps you get more out of your time, resources, and technology.
Common integrations that make sense with Sitecore
Sitecore’s API frameworks make nearly any integration possible, although some come with a price. Work with your IT team or external partner to determine what makes the most sense for your organization.
Organizations often find overlapping functionality in tools like:
- Sitecore Experience Analytics and Google Analytics
- Sitecore Marketing Automation and Salesforce Marketing Cloud
- Sitecore Email Experience Manager and Salesforce Marketing Cloud
- Sitecore Optimization and Optimizely
- Sitecore Testing and Optimizely
Your CRM platform, such as Dynamics 365 or Salesforce, should be a top consideration for integration. Tapping into your CRM data allows you to sync valuable website information with your existing customer datasets, and to leverage all of your data in Sitecore’s personalization and automation tools.
Step 5: Define the right goals and scoring parameters
To take advantage of Sitecore’s most advanced marketing features, it helps to start with a limited set of goals and personalization factors, then iterate toward more sophisticated value scoring.
What are Sitecore goals and how many Sitecore goals should I set?
Goals are user actions with assigned values along the conversion funnel. The more goals a user accomplishes during a site visit, the higher their value total goes, leading to better targeting of additional Sitecore features and tools, as well as helping your marketing team improve overall site value.
Using goals helps you:
- Set personalization parameters
- Get better reports in Experience Analytics
- Analyze the customer journey
- Define marketing automation rules
We recommend that you start out with no more than a dozen goals, accompanied by a hierarchy of value scores. It’s often most helpful to start with broad categories like low-, medium-, and high-impact values.
How can I improve Sitecore personalization results?
While Sitecore’s impressive personalization capabilities often sell the platform, going overboard on personalization can have a net negative effect on your marketing efforts. In fact, Sitecore personalization doesn’t make sense for every company! Before you start setting up personalization in your Sitecore solution, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Consider your business case. How does the work involved in creating, testing, and maintaining personalization rules at scale amplify your value proposition?
- Start with explicit yes/no values. Begin your testing with a simplified baseline.
- Test first. Test the results of your pattern recognition before you personalize against them.
- Work from custom content. Make sure that each pattern personalization is backed up with truly customized content.
- Create a value matrix. Have a clear plan for measuring and determining the value of the personalization.
- Test again. Before committing time and resources, test each feature and scenario first, then test again and again throughout the process to continue refining for better results.
Do I really have to do that much testing?
Short answer: yes. To deliver Sitecore experience optimization, your team needs a culture of iterative review. Each new idea needs a pilot project, and even established goals, patterns, and values should be regularly reviewed to keep your approach fresh and relevant.
You may find that some goals are triggered too often to be meaningful, some patterns prove confusing to the user, and some scenarios just aren’t worth the effort to maintain at scale. It’s very easy to lose the meaning behind why you are segmenting your customers or what you are trying to achieve with personalized content.
Not sure how to set up a testing cycle that makes sense for your needs? Putting a plan together may be easier than you think. A Sitecore expert can help you think through your capacity and Sitecore solution, and set you up with a smart testing cycle, in one free 30-minute consultation.
Step 6: Stay curious and committed
Instead of starting with all that Sitecore can possibly offer and doing too much at once, successful Sitecore users start with their organization’s digital vision and available resources then build a unique Sitecore solution from the inside out.
Sitecore is not a one-size-fits-all platform. To maximize your investment, don’t be afraid to personalize and customize it to fit your organizational structure, technical capabilities, and digital footprint.
Imagine. Test. Evolve.
Sitecore experience optimization relies on a new frame of reference. If you’ve built a solid foundational architecture and infrastructure, you can do a lot with Sitecore, but you’ll still need to be rigorous in planning, prioritizing, and aligning each new move with your overall strategy.
Big picture steps to maintaining a robust Sitecore solution include:
- Openness to new ideas: What might work?
- Alignment to existing architecture: How does this fit?
- Commitment to the process: What is the business case?
- Designing a pilot: What will this take?
- Testing the concept: Is this effective?
- Continual improvement: What did we learn?
Get help when you need it
If you’re having Sitecore performance issues or just aren’t sure if you’re getting what you need out of the platform, it’s ok to ask for help. When it comes to Sitecore usage, maturity is measured against features and capabilities, not time since implementation. No matter where you are on your Sitecore journey, it’s never too late to start making improvements.
A capsule project can help your marketing and IT teams get on the right track. Whether you’re starting to plan for your Sitecore implementation or need to press reset, having an outside expert lend a hand can be invaluable. A program like Fusion’s Sitecore Accelerator Program can help you focus on high-impact, near-term wins that you can put in place right away and continue to leverage long afterwards.
Meet Fusion’s Sitecore Practice Lead
As a Digital Solutions Director and Sitecore Practice Lead at Fusion Alliance, Amy Brown helps clients craft experiences that make brands and customers more valuable to one another. She excels at bridging the technical to the practical and has worked with Fortune 100 clients on highly complex projects within and around the martech space.
Learn more about Fusion Alliance
Fusion Alliance is your digital transformation partner. We create exceptional customer experiences by leveraging data insights, experience design, and technology to transform the way you connect with your customers.