Sitecore is one of the world’s leading customer experience management companies and a platform to create content management systems (CMS). October 2017 was the release date of Sitecore 9 — the latest and the most powerful version of the platform.
The Sitecore 9 release was announced at the Symposium in Las Vegas. The creators revealed a number of upgrades, new features and amazing functionality for the Experience (XP) Platform 9.
The company strives to create an easy-to-use, scalable and accessible solution for developers, marketers and customers.
Launchpad default screen
What’s new in Sitecore 9? Here is a summary of the most exciting changes.
Sitecore Experience Cloud
Initially, Sitecore was an on-premises platform, but in 2017, the company completed migration to the cloud with Microsoft Azure, and, in Version 9, introduced the Experience Cloud. This is a really great opportunity for your cloud strategy. You can now choose a new subscription model, scale infrastructure depending on your demands and pay only for what you use, which is more cost-effective.
Currently, Microsoft Azure offers two options for Sitecore installation:
PaaS (Platform as a Service)
IaaS (Infrastructure as a Service)
Sitecore PaaS deployment on Azure provides more benefits to organizations:
- Complete flexibility
- Increased time-to-market
- Customer-centric engagement
- Azure Toolkit that simplifies preparing and deploying solutions
- High-level security
- Low initial investment
PaaS deployment is available for Version 8.2 as well, and upgrades for the previous versions to adapt and reconfigure to the cloud are also expected.
Sitecore Experience Database (xDB)
A new expanded xDB is a cloud-friendly data repository with a huge storage capacity. It monitors customer interactions, collects and analyzes external data from different channels (web history, call centers, external apps, CRM and ERP systems, IoT devices and other data sources), creating comprehensive individual customer profiles.
Thus, customer data is available anytime at massive scale and can be used to prepare marketing campaign s in accordance with client needs.
xDB main features:
- Data interchange with xConnect (imports and exports data from any source)
- Cooperation with Cortex to use machine learning power
- Security provided by encryption and personally identifiable information (PII) compliance
- Ability to extend and customize data
- Provides personalization, testing and optimization
- Analyzes the value of visits
- Supports multiple databases (SQL Server 2016 and above, SQL Azure, MongoDB, Azure CosmosDB)
xConnect is a new framework of APIs and services built from the ground up. It is directly integrated with the Experience Database (xDB) and allows for collecting and interchanging data about customers across third-party channels and external sources. This new service layer provides better integration between Sitecore 9 and CRM. xConnect keeps data transmission secure by default.
It would be impossible to continuously process the abundance of customer data that Version 9 collects without using Artificial Intelligence. Thus, Sitecore introduced Cortex — the incredibly powerful machine learning platform. Its advanced algorithms perform some of these meaningful functions:
- A/B testing
- Personalization management
- Tracking customer engagement
- Analyze data
- Automatically swap content
- Optimize user paths through the site
- Discover new customer segments
As a result, Cortex is able to improve marketing performance and give a business a competitive advantage. Moreover, the platform allows users with little Sitecore experience to achieve exceptional results.
Another important change in Sitecore 9 is Marketing Automation. This tool has an easy-to-use interface and helps create marketing scenarios easily with the help of drag-and-drop functionality. Setting triggers, conditions and rules, you’ll be able to automate responses and content, personalize the online experience and communicate with your clients more effectively.
Marketing Automation default screen
Commerce functionality is fully integrated into CMS in Version 9. Developers made use of microservices architecture to create a unified eCommerce platform. Unlike the previous versions, desktop apps or separated platforms are not needed to manage products, pricing, orders, promotions, customers, etc. This allows merchants to track an end-to-end customer journey, build a clear picture of customer behavior and make improvements quickly.
A new Experience Forms module was created to replace web forms for marketers (WFFM). The main features include:
- Drag-and-drop functionality
- UI focused on UX
- Multi-page forms
- Templates to quickly create reusable forms
WFFM module was also updated to Sitecore 9 and will be supported for some time.
The content tree default screen
These are not all of the features the company presented. Version 9 also includes new reporting and analytics tools, device detection, security improvements, dynamic placeholders with defining parameters and more.
Why Upgrade to Sitecore 9?
Sitecore’s latest release undoubtedly provides significant advancements. Nevertheless, for many organizations, it can be a challenge to upgrade, especially if the current system is stable and works seamlessly. Here are some solid considerations for upgrading:
- Customers demand more and more every day, so you should be on the cutting edge
- Previous versions are not able to provide a 360-degree view of customers, as data is stored in numerous apps
- Version 9 is about contextual marketing, which is the main trend today
- Easy migration of content from legacy versions 6.6, 7.2, 7.5 and 8.0 using the Migration Tool
- A single update package is needed to directly upgrade from versions 8.1 and 8.2
- Some old features (e.g. WFFM) are still supported by the new version
In our opinion, you should make a decision not about whether to upgrade or not, but rather when to upgrade.
SaM Solutions Offers Sitecore Accelerator
SaM Solutions has been providing CMS development services for more than five years. We developed the Sitecore Accelerator to perform cost- and time-efficient CMS development that allows companies to improve time-to-market and gain a bigger market share.
The accelerator integrates a start-up development project in Visual Studio with a set of ready-made components and features. This off-the-shelf framework may reduce development time by approximately two months since it fully substitutes the opening stages of CMS creation.
The Accelerator’s core features are:
- Based on the latest Sitecore version, which prevents upgrade issues
- Baked-in Glass.Mapper ORM for a wide choice of domain design, easy unit testing and significant reduction of development time
- Baked-in Bootstrap for highly responsive website design and easy customization
- Integrated Angular framework for streamlined and fast-tracked frontend development
- TDS- and Unicorn-based synchronization of updates for improved team integration and reduced deployment time
The SaM Solutions team has extensive Sitecore expertise that allows creating responsive and easily customized websites. Among our clients is The Instant Group — a world’s leading office booking service for the B2B sector. Currently, our team is updating their site to the latest Version 9, developing its functionality and providing technical support.
Sitecore 9 release notes prove that the platform has become smarter, more flexible and more powerful, and now it is able to provide a real-time view of your customers. If you are looking for a vendor to build Sitecore solutions or to upgrade your existing projects to the latest version, don’t hesitate to contact our specialists.