Thinking about upgrading to Sitecore 9? The latest version of Sitecore’s Experience Platform is all about drag-and-drop features, AI insights and efficient content delivery. And with Sitecore sunsetting mainstream support for Sitecore 8.2 on December 31, your business could be susceptible to customer experience (CX) issues if you decide to hold off on the upgrade.
That being said, an upgrade of this magnitude is a huge commitment and involves lots of moving pieces. Here are seven key questions to explore before you greenlight your Sitecore 9 implementation.
What are the risks of not upgrading from Sitecore 8?
In a sense, upgrading your Sitecore platform is like clearing out your fridge. Tidying up on a regular basis enables you to toss expired products taking up space and replace them with fresh, up-to-date features.
While Sitecore 8 delivered a unified user interface (UI) and other powerful solutions for both marketing and IT, technology continues to evolve. On December 31, 2019, Sitecore’s Product Support Lifecycle officially ends mainstream support for Sitecore 8.2.
As this version transitions into the Extended Support Phase, Sitecore will still offer support for online documentation, IT helpdesk tickets and security updates and fixes. However, most other support will only be available on a for-pay basis. This includes assistance with issues during installation and development, compatibility fixes for supported tech platforms (Windows, SQL, Apache Solr, etc.) and hot-fixes and patches for software defects.
Bottom line—if you stick with Sitecore 8, you may encounter bugs that are resolved in the Sitecore 9 upgrade. It may take a longer time to fix issues, which could lead to rendering problems and other gaps in your CX. Ultimately, these issues could harm your pipeline and revenue.
How does Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA) get websites to market faster?
When you upgrade to Sitecore 9, you get access to SXA. This user-friendly forms framework is geared to marketers and speeds up website development and production. SXA includes 70 out-of-the-box components—headers, footers, image blocks and more. By enabling marketers to drag and drop reusable content blocks during the build phase, you can shave off development costs or reallocate them to value-add features.
SXA eliminates haphazard project changes and moving deadline dates. This keeps developers, designers and content editors in the loop from project kickoff to completion. By separating structure from design, front-end designers, creative designers, content authors and developers can work simultaneously. Before Sitecore 9, SXA was an add-on for all previous versions of the platform.
What are the differences between Sitecore Forms and Web Forms for Marketers (WFFM)?
WFFM has helped countless marketing teams generate leads and drive conversions in Sitecore 8 and before. But the new Sitecore Forms tool in Sitecore 9 is a serious upgrade in many ways.
The form builder interface is configured with drag-and-drop functionality to create forms with ease.
Sitecore Forms also supports multi-step forms. These include a progress bar to show customers how much headway they’re making—ideal for surveys, questionnaires and membership sign-ups. In addition, you can track the performance of individual fields. You can easily diagnose and edit any fields that are causing a higher than average drop-off or taking customers extra time to complete.
While you can still download WFFM for Sitecore 9, you get Sitecore Forms out of the box. If you already have a huge library of forms with custom fields and save actions, it might make sense for you to stick with WFFM after you upgrade. But eventually you should consider migrating your data to harness the power of Sitecore Forms.
How does a headless CMS increase efficiency?
With a headless CMS, you can create content in Sitecore and publish it elsewhere. This Sitecore 9.1 feature eliminates the need to develop systems to present digital content across multiple channels. For example, if your business is having a BOGO sale on plastic skeletons for Halloween, a headless CMS keeps everything coordinated across all customer touchpoints. From websites and apps to email and social media campaigns, inconsistent messaging can damage your brand. In a headless system, content presentation is delivered by developers—not the CMS. Ultimately, headless delivers a holistic, real-time view of your customer journeys.
What is Cortex capable of?
Cortex utilizes AI machine learning algorithms to glean insights from your customer data and identify the highest value market segments to target. For example, Cortex has the power to identify a swathe of customers who are moving from Florida to Chicago for work and need to buy a winter coat.
And that’s just the start. This Sitecore 9.2 feature can also suggest A/B testing opportunities, track engagement across customer touchpoints and switch content and calls to action based on consumer behavior. Content can be tested and optimized on-the-fly to increase traffic, leads and revenue.
How does Sitecore 9’s marketing automation tool work?
Sitecore 9 introduces a much more user-friendly marketing automation tool. This tool has a drag-and-drop interface for building automated marketing campaigns and engagement plans. This tool is a major improvement from the Engagement Plan toolset available in Sitecore 8 and before—it even comes with pre-equipped sample templates.
Using this tool, marketers can easily set triggers to enter new contacts into their engagement plan and track them throughout the journey. Marketers can factor in data points like demographics, contact attributes and preferred device to communicate better and deliver a more personalized online experience. For example, you can trigger an automated 10% off email to send when a user abandons their shopping cart.
Deployment and hosting: Is an on-premise platform or a cloud-based subscription model right for me?
In the past, Sitecore could only be deployed and hosted on-premise. You’d purchase a perpetual license tailored to your business needs—number of software installations, servers, databases and content management requirements. However, on-prem includes a high upfront cost and requires you to manage maintenance and uptime.
But with Sitecore 9’s cloud-based subscription model, you can offload these responsibilities and let Sitecore deploy, host and manage your platform for you. It’s much more like a SaaS environment. And while you end up paying extra in the long run to renew your subscription, you get an unlimited number of seats for your team. Keep in mind—SXA is only offered to subscription customers. On-prem users have to purchase it as a line item.
And while the highly customized capabilities of on-prem might still make sense for some businesses, Sitecore’s endgame is to shepherd customers into the cloud. You need to add a bunch of new roles for Sitecore 9 to deploy, which puts customers with a perpetual license out of compliance.
Ready to upgrade? Horizontal Integration is a Platinum Sitecore Partner with over 15 years of CRM and CMS expertise under our belts. Let’s talk. We’d love to hear about your ambitions and help you determine which tools you need for your business. Schedule your consultation to learn how we can provide a seamless implementation and help you harness the power of Sitecore 9.