Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Sitecore Symposium DMS Learnings, Part 1

With ten sessions and seven concurrent tracks, you have to have a strategy to tackle the Sitecore Symposium.  Mine was to take in as much DMS wisdom as I could, and although Profiles, Personas and Patterns are still gurgling through my head, I came away with a clearer idea of how DMS works, how it can be leveraged, and how it fits in within Sitecore's roadmap.

The Big Picture

Michael Seifert's keynote was built around the idea of using data to build a lifetime relationship with the customer.  As in any good presentation, he framed the discussion in terms of a problem and a solution. The problem: customers want things to be "Immediate, Relevant, and Predictive." We will not tolerate a wait of even a few seconds for a web page or mobile application to load, we expect to be able to access content that is of direct interest to us, and we expect our devices to anticipate our needs, to "get" us.  (The blowback that Apple experienced with Siri, which promised a level of service it couldn't deliver, shows how strong our expectations of inanimate comprehension have become.  This service went from unimaginable to unimaginably frustrating in nothing flat.  And take away relevance and predictiveness from customers who are used to having it, and you have an Apple Maps fiasco on your hands.  My observations on Apple, not Seifert's.)

The largest obstacle to delivering this level of service is the degree to which our data and processes are segregated.  You can't get your customer if you can't see your customer, and you can't see your customer if your website, CRM, email, and analytics are not tightly bound with data-flows in two directions.  If your email communications can't use what your website has learned, you are missing an opportunity to communicate in relevant terms to your customer.  And it's fine to have your analytics data serve your business needs, but if you want to truly serve your customer, and build a long term relationship with her, you should leverage this data to make the website more relevant and responsive to her.  This realization drives the need to have CMS, Analytics, and Engagement Automation unified in a single software product.

And if we accept the premise that we should have a single piece of Engagement Software to rule them all, then it's a small step to want a single measure of Engagement Value for this software to measure and optimize.  DMS provides this capability by enabling you to assign goals for customer actions, and assign engagement points to these goals.  Determining a consistent measure of value for all visitor activity is a daunting proposition - it requires a clear-eyed and precise vision about what your website is there to do.  But  if you accomplish this, Sitecore will reward you in the next year or so with an impressive set of tools:
  • A Marketing Optimization Matrix that plots campaigns by volume and value, and allows drill down into specific visits.  So you can go from seeing that a campaign produced a lot of value to seeing why it did so.
  • A Path Analyzer that shows which paths through your website produce the most value.  This shows which pages are succeeding and which are failing, and how your most valuable visitors are using your site.
  • Alerting logic that can detect drops in engagement value, and either recommend or take corrective action.  With this functionality, Sitecore will become a self-tuning optimizer of engagement value.
The benefits of precisely defining engagement value were brought home to me later that day by Ian Lowe's excellent talk, Integrating Google AdWords & Sitecore DMS.  He explained that Sitecore internally knows the exact value of an engagement point in terms of potential for a future sale, so they can use engagement points to assign a dollar value to each visit.  This allows reporting with AdWord cost in one column, and Engagement benefit in another, so that an exact dollar benefit can be calculated for each AdWord campaign.  As is often the case, rigorous methodology leads to clear vision and decisive action.  If you know what your engagement value is, you know whether you are succeeding, and you can measure the benefits of specific actions. You can optimize and tune.

Next week, I'll look at DMS Data Structures and leveraging the personalization API. 

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