Monday, April 13, 2015

How to utilize marketing features in Sitecore to deliver a better web experience

Introduction

The common goal of many companies web sites is to sell a product/service or to provide information. In terms of selling a product or service each sale equates to revenue for the company, so ideally the web site needs to deliver a good experience that maximizes sale and minimizes bounces. When it comes to providing information, each user is different and may get disinterested if bombarded with too much information (including that which is irrelevant to their situation), therefore it becomes important to provide the right information at the right time. Sitecore comes with the AIDA platform (Analysis, Insights, Decisions and Automation) which provides a powerful set of features which ultimately can lead to higher sales and also provide a more personalized experience which tailors the web site (and it's content) to each individual user.

In this post I am going to explore a few of my personal favourite features available in Sitecore AIDA, and provide generalized examples of how they can be used to improve your Sitecore web site. It is also worth mentioning that Sitecore AIDA is available out of the box and does not require any additional licensing or cost. Many of the tools can be used by content editors and marketers with none to little developer effort required - however as with anything, more complex solutions can require developer effort.

A/B and multivariate testing

When it comes to design and even the specific wording used on a page, different people will have different ideas about what will work best. At times heated arguments can start based on what colour the buy now button should be, but A/B and multivariate testing can solve this issue. Sitecore allows you to use A/B testing to test multiple versions of an item (text, style, image, etc.) to see which has better results. Not only can these results be measured on number of clicks or a goal conversion, but Sitecore is uniquely able to measure which multivariate leads to more engagement (meeting more goals and scoring higher on Sitecore's experience analytics) of the users. 

This testing can be set-up easily in the content editor and does not require a developer write any code, and once the test is finished you can immediately use the best result. In terms of sales and goal conversion A/B testing is a great way to refine many areas of the web site to see what works and what doesn't when it comes to sales and lead generation. I have seen cases where the colour/text of a button, the style of logo and the wording of copy can directly increase the sales of a product or service. Sitecore adds more to the mix with their insight into user engagement and strong analytics tracking. 

Goal tracking

With Sitecore you are able to set numeric values to activities on your web site - such as downloading media, completing a form, or even visiting a given page. Once the user has hit the required goal, the marketing automation can then perform an activity. This activity may be as simple as sending an email, or creating an action in a CRM to have customer service call the user, personalized content can also be activated. These actions all happen in real time and once set-up require no intervention from developers or content editors alike. 

With goal tracking you could track that a user has made a support request and therefore prioritize FAQs and other support content. You could also track that someone is downloading marketing assets and schedule a sales call or even email. With shopping carts or checkouts, you could track users who enter the cart but don't checkout and send them an email with discount coupon. 

Rules based targeting

With Sitecore there are a number of rules available that allow you to display different content based on whether or not the user meets the rule. For example you could use the geo-location of the user's IP address to display different contact details on a contact page. Language selected can also be used to show different content (language based versions of the same content is by default, this would allow different blocks that might only be in that language). Even with anonymous users, Sitecore allows you to match the users to a specific pattern and personalize the content to their interests. Rules based targeting is again set-up at the content editor level and the only time you would need a developer would be if you had a custom rule or business logic that needed to be set-up. An example of a custom rule might be personalizing the content based on what version/type of product the customer owns.

Behavioural targeting

A web site can contain a multitude of information that varies across many categories and sub categories. As a user you might only be interested in content relating to one of those categories, but instead are forced to view content that does not interest you, or is completely irrelevant. With Sitecore's behavioural targeting, the CMS is able to detect what types/categories of content the user is visiting and then show them content/pages related to those types/categories. This personalization is a very powerful sales tool that allows you to target highly relevant content to users that you know they are actually interested in.

Sitecore tracks the user's movements and other variables building a customer profile (for both anonymous and registered users) which is then used for the behavioural targeting. This profile can then be used across other mediums such as email and social channels to further provide relevant content to the user. In the case of a vehicle sales web site, you could track what types of vehicle the customer is browsing (minivan or sports car for instance) and begin to promote that type of content on the web site. Furthermore if it was a registered user, you can begin to customize newsletters and other channels to further promote that type of vehicle.

Profile scoring

Using multiple parameters which include pages visited, emails clicked, media downloaded; Sitecore is able to build a profile score for each user. Profile cards allow content editors to assign attributes to each piece of content, which then allows site users to build a score and start getting matched against user defined customer profiles. Once they match a profile, you can personalize the entire web site specifically for that profile. Like rules based or behavioural targeting, profiles can change as the user's habits do, however the key benefit is that content personalization is linked to the profile, meaning if the profile changes you only need to update in one place (rather than each content personalization manually).

The profiles can also be used to pass leads onto sales teams via CRM. Not only are you sending through a qualified lead that you are sure is interested in the product, but the sales team can easily see what pages the user visited, what media they downloaded and what emails they have clicked.

Conclusion

Unlike many other content management systems, Sitecore is not another one trick pony that simply manages content. It has a large range of features which make it arguably the leading CMS, and this includes the AIDA platform. In this post I have covered just a few of the available features in Sitecore AIDA, yet it should now be very clear just how powerful they are for both sales and information based web sites. Don't get left behind of your competitors by providing a poor web experience for your customers and site browsers, utilise Sitecore and it's AIDA platform to deliver a better web experience.


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