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Sitecore 9.3: what's new

by Koen Roos, Dec 1

My jetlag is almost gone so so it’s time for a wrap up of the Sitecore Symposium 2019!

During this year's Sitecore Symposium it became clear that it’s not only important to deliver experiences but what’s most important is to bring value to your customers. Sitecore’s purpose is to provide human connections in order to deliver this value.

As we all know by now, personalization is the technique to deliver the right message at the right time to deliver value to the customer. What we also know is that we need the data to provide these personalized messages. But what’s most important is to have the content that needs to be provided.

Gartner says that by 2020, 90% of brands will practice at least one form of marketing personalization. However, content – not data – will be the bottleneck and primary cause of failure.

This is what is meant with the content crisis. Sitecore has included the Sitecore Content Hub in their portfolio which is now the full platform to solve your content crisis:

During the Sitecore Symposium, of course some new features have been announced – here’s a recap with my takeaways, including:

  • What's new in Sitecore 9.3?

  • Sitecore AI

  • Sitecore SaaS

Please not that this article contains pictures i took with my phone, so quality isn't always great. Also, some material from Pieter Brinkman's presentation is included.

What’s new in Sitecore 9.3?

Sitecore revealed version 9.3 of their Experience Platform with a bunch of new features. I’m highlighting a few of them: The long-awaited new content editing experience (also known as Horizon), enhanced EXM templates and Sitecore AI.

Horizon: the next generation editing environment

Horizon’s philosophy to have everything one click away and can be installed as a module on Sitecore 9.3 and includes simple page editing, analytical insights (overview of page performance) and a preview in simulator (different device types and date selection).

Finally, we have a first version of Horizon available with basic functionalities. I hope additional functionalities will become available soon (including Zenith and the marketing toolbox dashboard interface).

EXM: Enhanced template management

Yes! The out of the box available email templates have been modernized. New templates have been released: Announcement, Alternating Columns and Call To Action Focus including out of the box components to be used in your EXM email messages.

Marketing Automation: Scheduled plan enrollment

A new feature for marketing automation plans is the enrollment of contacts in a segmented list based on a schedule: a certain time of the day, a certain day of the week or at a given date.

Sitecore AI

This is big news! Sitecore will launch Sitecore AI (expected launch is in December this year), which is an AI-as-a-service (yes, it is a SaaS module) that you can plug into your Experience Platform from version 9.0 and above.

Currently, applying personalization rules is manual work. Rules are static and people are dynamic, so we constantly need to learn from the analytics and apply new rules based on insights. Designing, producing and verifying personalization rules is complex and time consuming.

Sitecore AI is a brand-new product family and the first functionality, Auto Personalization, will automatically manage personalization for you. No need to think about the segments to set up personalization rules for, Sitecore AI will detect new segments and show personalized content automatically.

You only need to add content (variations) to a component and select “Use Auto Personalization”. You can combine the existing rules as well.

The dashboard will show new segments, what visitor attributes are most influential, how the algorithm grouped customers together into audience segments displayed and how the offerings that would resonate most with those audience segments were selected.

Sitecore AI has been tested on Microsoft’s Partner Network website which is built on Sitecore 9.

For Microsoft, the Auto Personalization solution from Sitecore enables them to quickly customize content based on the individual user – for example, differentiating between a developer versus a marketer. Highlights are below, the full details about the pilot can be found on this Microsoft Sitecore Case Study.

During one of the breakout sessions, it became clear that a minimum of 12 million visits per year is needed for the AI engine to be able to learn, and an additional license cost is involved to plug in the Sitecore AI engine to your Sitecore Experience Platform. It will be possible to import existing data from your Experience Database to the AI engine in order to learn from historic data.

Next on the Sitecore AI product family roadmap is Content AI – predicting which content will perform based on the segment you present it to - and Journey AI, cool stuff to look forward to!

Sitecore SaaS

Sitecore is launching a SaaS digital experience management platform, planned to come out next summer in 2020.

At first, I thought that Sitecore would provide the full Experience Platform hosted in Sitecore’s Managed Cloud “as a service”. However, it appears to be a brand-new product with its foundation version focusing on content management.

Mark Frost, unveiling the Sitecore SaaS Strategy

This is exciting news. Sitecore has SaaS experience now inhouse with Sitecore Content Hub and with Sitecore’s extensive knowledge about scalable experience platforms the time is right to start building this new product as they don’t have a SaaS offering up until now.

What the product initially will offer is not clear yet, but the initial release will focus on providing core content management features in line with Experience Management and my guess is the user interface will be in line with Horizon that will come out with Sitecore XP 9.3.

Sitecore EVP Product Management, Desta Price, explained that with the first version the goal is to provide clients the ability to quickly set up microsites or campaign websites and grow the platform’s functionalities overtime. The long-term vision is to have a modern platform with a faster time to value, better usability, seamless upgrades but still supporting extensibility.

This extensibility will work with a newly announced Developer Experience which will be available for Sitecore SaaS as well as the Sitecore Experience Platform (which would make a transition from XP to SaaS easy, if wanted).

The new Developer Experience is in line with the JSS Headless approach and will support the use of ASP.NET Core as well as JavaScript.

Sitecore SaaS will be an “easy to use, configurable, and extensible platform”. More information about Sitecore SaaS can be found on the Sitecore SaaS FAQ page.


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