Sitecore 8.1 – Overview of the exciting new Marketing Features

We’re excited about this week’s Sitecore 8.1 launch, and as a strategist, I’m extremely pleased with the enhancements to marketing features. I look forward to working with our clients to implement them.

Most importantly, this release demonstrates Sitecore’s commitment to improving and evolving the marketing features that give you a 360-degree view of customers.

Below are excerpts from the official 8.1 release notes and my thoughts on what these mean for Sitecore marketers.

Experience Analytics:

  • New reports reflecting the full taxonomy provided in the Marketing Control Panel have been added.
  • The following new dimensions and reports have been added:
    • Outcomes
    • Assets
    • Asset facets
    • Goals facets
    • Campaign facets
  • Device detection dimensions and reports have been added.
  • Experience Analytics has added pie charts to support data analysis.
  • The pie chart type supports all existing metrics and dimensions, and it can work with multiple segments.
  • Drill-down functionality has been implemented to allow a user to open a new report based on a specific segment of a chart.
    • This functionality is supported on bar and pie-charts.
    • The header title can now be added to ListControls. It is hidden by default if no title has been added.
  • Several small bug fixes and corrections on reports have been implemented.

One of the first Experience Analytics questions I get from clients is, “Can this replace Google Analytics and Omniture?” With the 8.1 improvements, we’re getting closer to that being a reality. Pie charts and drill-down functionality help bring the data that xDB collects to life. The new built-in device detection is one of the highlights of the release. I anticipate the Analytics dashboard will continue to be a priority for Sitecore, and we’ll continue to see more built in reports in the future.

Experience Optimization:

  • Enhancements to the Personalize the Component dialog have been implemented.
  • Two KPIs have been added to each rule in the dialog:
    • Effect measures how the rule improves Engagement Value based on the original test results.
    • Reach measures the percentage of site visitors that have seen the rule in the past 30 days.
  • The data visualization in the Personalization dialog has been improved to better communicate which rules are the best performers.
    • Improvements to the index bars have been made to make the effect of each rule easier to understand.
    • Several improvements to calculations and data storage have been implemented.
  • Improved test logic across languages and devices has been implemented.
    • Enhancements have been added to facilitate setting up tests in specific languages.
    • The ability to run individual tests on the same page in different languages has been implemented.
    • Content tests now run across devices, whereas other tests are device-specific.
  • The Cancel test feature has been implemented.
    • Test creators can now cancel tests without selecting a winner or consulting an administrator.
    • Tests can be cancelled from both the Experience Editor and Experience Optimization applications.
  • List improvements:
    • Improved UX consistency when selecting a test within a list.
    • Device and language information has been added to the lists.
  • Starting tests on variables and personalization rules without using workflows has been implemented

The initial 8.0 upgrade improved the testing process and made it easier for content authors to set up tests—it even suggested tests that they could perform. I like that you’ll now be able to see the percentage of site visitors that have seen a personalization rule in the past 30 days. It’s important to monitor your ruleset to ensure you’re reaching the audience you want to. If you add too many parameters and no one is seeing it, it’s time to optimize. Overall, the features demonstrate Sitecore’s focus on gaining insight on customers and achieving a context-driven marketing program.

Campaign Creator:

  • Provides a unified, user-friendly interface to create, classify and manage campaigns.
  • Provides easy access to campaign codes to facilitate and enable the tracking of online marketing activities such as email campaigns or traffic from external websites.
  • Contains links directly to Experience Analytics for quick access to campaign performance reports.
  • Uses the marketing taxonomies to organize and filter campaign activities.
    • Utilizes new Marketing Foundation APIs to facilitate quick taxonomy facet searching.
  • Enables creation and management of campaign activities without using the Marketing Control Panel or the Content Editor.
  • Allows the organization and filtering of campaign activities by date and time, as well as provisioning for open-ended campaign activities.
  • Automatically publishes campaign activities upon creation and unpublishes upon deletion.

Previously a separate application, the campaign creator is now integrated into the platform. For those not familiar, campaigns can be added to inbound marketing activities to target and measure users arriving at the site. Campaigns are very similar to Google Analytics URL Builder—they include a query string that ensures inbound links are tracked properly. With multiple inbound marketing activities, the Campaign Creator makes it incredibly easy to manage Sitecore campaigns and access reports on what activities are driving conversions without using the Marketing Control Panel or the Content Editor.

Path Analyzer:

  • New map types covering outcomes, channels, goals and assets from the Marketing Taxonomy facets have been added.
  • The Outcome map type shows the paths that generate the most revenue, outcomes, and revenue per outcome.
  • The Channel map type shows the paths that contacts take through a website coming from different channels. Eight maps including the most common channels are included by default.
  • The Reverse goal and asset map types show the paths that lead to a specific goal or asset.
  • The Experience map type allows for custom maps to be created across sequences of pages, progressions across channels, campaigns, events and outcomes.
    • Three experience maps are included by default. One provides an overview of the channels that drive visitors to a particular goal or landing page. Three experience maps are included by default. One provide an overview of the channels that drive visitors to a particular goal or landing page.
  • If CMS-only mode is enabled then Path Analyzer will not be accessible. All requests will be denied and an appropriate status page showing that CMS-only mode is enabled is displayed.

The Path Analyzer was the showstopper of the initial 8.0 upgrade. It’s an incredibly powerful tool that lets you understand how people arrive at an item, where they went, and the effectiveness of the paths that they took. The improvements really take the tool to the next level. They give insight into goal conversion and the paths that users took to trigger those goals. With these improvements, the tool is now on par with (if not better than) Google Analytics Behavior Flow and Goal Flow reporting.

We’ll continue to keep you posted as our clients upgrade to and capitalize on 8.1. In the meantime, contact us if you have any questions on upgrading and implementing 8.1.