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Sitecore Symposium 2020: New product innovations

by Koen Roos, Nov 2

This year’s Sitecore Symposium was a virtual one, and the conference theme was “Moments that make experiences”. To establish human connections, brands can create moments with their customers to build experiences and a long relationship with the customers.

Traditionally, the Symposium started with a keynote from the CEO of Sitecore. Steve Tzikakis talked about the ambition to be the number one Digital Experience Platform in the world. He also talked about the acceleration to the cloud in the next coming months.

Here are the most exciting new announced features and things to come! Spoiler keywords: SaaS, CaaS, Jamstack, AI, Headless!

The Content Hub Roadmap

Content Hub now includes Engagement Value and Impact scale.

The engagement value represents the performance specifically on the web channel and with Content Insights, you can see the total average engagement value per region:

As you might have noticed there’s a new button “Sitecore AI” in the Strategy dashboard. Sitecore AI Content Coverage is on the roadmap to indicate what the top content is for which (new) segments:

This shows a graphical overview of the segments with a color to indicate if the content coverage is good or bad. When clicking the segment, you can see the top content items. Later on this graphical overview will come back in Sitecore XM/XP as well.

Roadmap of Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) and Sitecore Experience Platform (XP)

Talking about Sitecore XM/XP, let’s see what’s happening there?

Sitecore AI Auto Personalization

We all know personalization takes a lot of effort to set up. You need to analyze audiences, put op a content plan, create modular content and set up personalization techniques on your components. Often, we see that personalization is a key element to choose for Sitecore but is kept for “phase 2”.

That’s the reason Sitecore announced Sitecore AI Auto Personalization on last year’s Symposium.

This year, Sitecore announced Sitecore AI Auto Personalization Standard. This means that the Auto Personalization features will be included in Sitecore XP (as from Sitecore XP 10.0) without additional license cost. And, even more important, without the need of a minimum amount of traffic! Of course, the more data the machine learning engine can learn from the better.

In the demo of the Auto Personalization features we got a glimpse of the new Launchpad that will be included in the Sitecore 10.1 release, which is planned for early 2021, in line with Horizon’s layout:

In the demo, we got the new Lighthouse demo environment (formerly known as Habitat Home) to show how the hero banner can be auto personalized:

Here we saw that, when selecting a content item, we can now multi-select content items:

And, we can select “Auto Personalization” toggle at the bottom right:

Now, we see that the hero banner has been auto-personalized:

And that’s it! No personalization rules to be configured, Sitecore AI will do that for you and will show the most relevant selected content item for the visitor of the website.

Sitecore AI learns from the historical data in your Sitecore XP Experience Database and a machine learning model gets trained. It learns based on the engagement value on your Sitecore platform so it’s really important to have this metric configured with goals and outcomes. Do know that Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) is required and Sitecore AI cannot work with Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) as you need historical data in the Experience Database.

This will be released “beginning of 2021” and will be available as from version Sitecore XP 10.0.

In a later session, we got some more details and screenshots from how this works in the Sitecore Experience Editor as well:

Here, we see the button “Auto-personalize Component” to automate the personalization for the full component. If you have existing configuration of personalization rules you can mix auto personalization and manual personalization rules as well:

In Experience Optimization, a new “Auto Personalization Standard” dashboard becomes available to see the performance of Auto Personalization (Engagement Value, Bounce Rate):

Sitecore AI Auto Personlization Standard does not require a minimum amount of traffic. If you have more than 12 million annual visits you are able to use Auto Personalization Premium. Here’s an overview of the Standard vs Premium features and requirements:

Sitecore AI Content Suggestions

Similar to the Content Coverage we saw in Content Hub, Sitecore AI will also help with finding the best content for your component or campaign. When selecting a content item, there will be a “Content Suggestions” tab where you see the same graphical interface of user segments and suggested content items to improve the Content Coverage.

Note that the white space in the suggestion map indicates a cluster / audience that has no personalized content configured. You can improve the content for the cluster by selecting the suggested content items:

A nice dashboard will be included to show the metrics for your personalizations:

It is clear that Content Suggestions is not available yet, if you want to participate in a pilot you can contact your Sitecore account manager.

Headless is the way forward!

No one can deny that Sitecore’s vision is that headless is the way forward. We see this in the new innovations that were announced for developers as well.

Headless SDK for NextJS

Next to the Headless SDK’s for Vue, Angular, React and .NET Core a new SDK will be added for Next.js.

Benefits of Next.js are the flexible delivery models (static site generation, server-side rendering or a hybrid approach), the acceleration of Sitecore implementations with OOTB TypeScript support, script bundling, environment variable management.

This will most probably be released early 2021 with Sitecore 10.1 – until then you can enjoy the newest release of Sitecore JSS 15.0 for Sitecore 10.

Content as a Service (CaaS)

At last year’s Symposium Sitecore unveiled their plans to launch a SaaS platform. With the appointment of Tom De Ridder as overall Sitecore CTO, who is the founder of the SaaS Content Hub platform, it became clear that they are going for SaaS on full force.

This resembles in a new Content as a Service (CaaS) offering which enables you to build headless applications consuming content from a new Content Delivery Platform.

Behind this layer you can build your content models on Sitecore Content Hub or Sitecore XM.

This means that you can leverage Content Hub’s strategy, planning and collaboration capabilities and publish atomic content to a scalable delivery platform to be able to consume this on any channel on demand with a GraphQL endpoint.

For Sitecore XM we will have the delivery platform for static publishing of Sitecore JSS sites and runtime content delivery for headless sites. A Layout Service as a Service if you will.

This enables options for JAMStack architecture going full force on headless!

Interested how Sitecore can elevate your business?

Blastic is a Sitecore Platinum Partner with extensive knowledge about all aspects of Sitecore. We have 19 Sitecore certified developers and 3 Sitecore MVPs.

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