Data Driven Experiences with Sitecore 8 xDB

Author: Sachin Gupta | Categories: CMS, Digital Analytics, Sitecore CMS

One of the main objectives of digital marketers is to extend exceptional digital experiences to prospects and customers across channels and devices to generate more conversions and advocacy. Providing personalized experience across interactions is not easy as it needs collection and assessment of large sets of information.

In today’s changing digital technology paradigm, marketers are keen to reduce their dependence on IT. One of the ways in which they can do so is through data driven Insights about customers on/for:

  • What is my customer looking for?
  • Way to quickly filter and present information to shorten conversion cycle
  • Target content based on customer/visitor behavior
  • Identify the places where my customers interact with my digital properties

This wish list is not new and there are several technology platforms available to achieve this. But there are few platforms that are able to extend a single and personalized view of the customer across channels.

Are you wondering how will you meet your wishes and get insights on customer behavior from rapidly increasing customer interactions and volumes?

Sitecore understands the philosophy of digital marketers and has hence introduced a technology shift in their latest release – Sitecore 8 – to allow marketers to:

  • Better manage large set of customer interactions; and
  • Better understand their customers

Sitecore 8 comes with xDB (Experience Database) that provides powerful insights on individual customer behavior, segmentation and customer profile.

The Sitecore Experience Database is a data repository that collects information related to customer interactions across all channels, defines unified view of the individual customer, makes it immediately available to marketers for analysis, and provides truly personalized experiences to customers.

Connected data is needed to extend exceptional customer experience. But that brings the challenge of huge interactions by date/time and classification of such data to better target personalization based on behavior.

Before we move on, it is important to understand the term 'Interactions';

An interaction is the way in which a person communicates or engages with an organization.

1 Interaction = 1 visit / session

All interactions from the first anonymous visit to customers showing higher levels of engagement and commitment are recorded in the collection database.

Why is Sitecore 8 xDB a game changer?

  • One single view of the customer through collection of data from other platforms e.g. CRM, external sites, partner sites, non-Sitecore websites in the Sitecore Experience database.
  • Multiple tools including Experience Analytics and Path Analyzer help in understanding how prospects & customers have interacted in particular with your organization’s digital properties.
  • Easy to collect any experience data inside Sitecore, understand customers and provide highly relevant, personalized experiences.
  • Individual view of the customer helps to understand their needs and expectations.
  • xDB avoids the need of having multiple analytics tools and makes the data analysis process simple.
  • The xDB connects seamlessly with the Sitecore Experience Platform, providing a single source of customer intelligence that can power every interaction across every channel in real-time.
  • With a flexible data model, the Sitecore xDB can run either on premise or in the cloud.

Already using Digital Analytics products, wondering why Sitecore Analytics (based on xDB) is important?

You must be wondering that all applications are integrated with web analytics tools e.g. Google Analytics then why would you duplicate and integrate all applications with Sitecore Analytics (based on xDB)?

Traditional digital analytics tools keep information such as page click data at an aggregate level and are unable to translate those into a view of the customer. That’s why such tools are more the domain of Web analysts instead of marketers.

In contrast, Sitecore Analytics captures the complete on­line behavior of customers at a detailed level and can associate it with existing offline customer data sources – e.g., promotional, demographic – to provide a complete profile of the customer known as Experience Profile in Sitecore 8.

By combining these typically disparate data sources into a unified view of the customer, you’ll gain valuable insight into a customer’s true needs. This translates into more relevant offers, bet­ter targeted outbound campaigns and more efficient use of your marketing resources.

Technology Shift – Sitecore Analytics from SQL to NoSQL

xDB is based on Mongo DB (NoSQL Database) to manage billions of records in a big data repository and deliver optimal performance.

Don’t think pf Sitecore from only an individual website perspective, rather think of it at an enterprise level where you have multiple websites, microsites, external sites, partner sites, CRM, campaigns, multi-channel platforms, where visitors/customers interact, and you target to engage them. Three aspects are important here:

  • Volume – Number of interactions. More volume with more points of interaction
  • Integrations – Integration of customer behavior data from multiple technology platforms
  • Analysis – Targeted marketing and re-marketing

From Sitecore database point of view, the collection database is the central repository for storing contact, interaction, history, and automation data.

More and more information will now be associated with the individual contact, such as pages viewed, automation plan states, profiles scored, engagement value triggered.

The change to NoSQL architecture provides the following key advantages:

  • High flexibility & scalability – Move from single server to highly scalable solutions as demand on your website increases
  • Huge storage capacity – All customer data is stored in a NoSQL database – nothing is deleted – and is made available to Sitecore reporting applications

Mongo DB scales horizontally through a technique known as ‘Sharding’. When scaled, a Mongo DB database consists of many Shards. Each Shard is a complete database that contains unique data. Data is not replicated between Shards.

Few examples of NoSQL DBs include Mongo DB, Hbase, Cassandra and CouchDB

There are 4 types of NoSQL DBs:

  • Key-value Store
  • Column Family Store
  • Document Databases
  • Graph Databases

Here are some of the reports you can access from Sitecore Analytics:

  • Top languages, countries, regions, cities by visit and value per visit
  • Channels by visit
  • Top campaign by visits
  • Facebook top keywords by visits
  • YouTube searches by visits and value per visits
  • LinkedIn searches by visits and value per visits
  • Other searches by visits and value per visits
  • Google searches by visits and value per visits
  • Top referring sites
  • Top download assets
  • Top entry pages by count
  • Top pages by count
  • Top internal keywords by count
  • Top Internal keywords by conversions rate
  • Top exit pages
  • Conversions by visit
  • Top goals by count
  • Top goals by conversion rate