A few years ago, during the days of Sitecore 7, the Experience Database (xDB) was introduced to solve the challenge of scaling analytics. Instead of writing data to a single SQL database with no real option to scale, the xDB was built to write it to a MongoDB collection database and process it into formats used for analytics reporting. The result—every component of the xDB became scalable.
But the MongoDB route wasn’t watertight. As a new infrastructural element, it muddied the overall solution landscape and increased the cost of servers and IT maintenance. What’s more, MongoDB required additional tooling (i.e. RoboMongo) to enable developers to query data for debugging purposes and additional monitoring tools and scripts for administrators to handle the servers.
The Sitecore 9+ solution: SQL server
Fortunately, Sitecore has overhauled the way xDB data is harvested. Today, Sitecore data is collected in a SQL server. This is a gamechanger. Not only does it provide a massive performance gain, it allows you to query a service layer (xConnect API) rather than querying your data directly in MongoDB. And via another key feature—Sitecore xConnect—your collection of customer data is enabled across channels at scale, dramatically improving your xDB performance and opening the door to new data sharing possibilities.
Scaling analytics starts with a goal
I often get asked for my recommendation: Google Analytics (GA) or Sitecore Analytics? My answer is both. To achieve a 360-degree customer view, you need to use everything in your locker. With the new features introduced in Sitecore 9+, the ability to scale analytics and use data in new ways is endless. This post isn’t intended to be an apples-to-apples breakdown of these two analytics platforms, but I’m going to showcase features that can be shared across both. First things first—let’s identify our goals:
- What are you trying to accomplish by sharing the data? Most clients want to pour their browsing history into their data lake, but they also have the ability to share Sitecore Engagement Values and Sitecore Goals with GA.
- Do you want to share your email initiatives by packaging up your Email Experience Manager (EXM) data to get a better view of your marketing touchpoints?
- Do you want to transfer data back into Sitecore to reinforce your personalization efforts?
- Who do you want to share this data with? Are you using it for simple reporting in GA? Or do you want to share it with Salesforce or another CRM?
These quick questions should help you get started, but keep in mind this much larger question: do you have a long-term plan for your data? Don’t worry if you can’t answer this today—many of my clients come up empty here. It will likely take several planning sessions to map out your evergreen data strategy.
9 xDB benefits in Sitecore 9+
Now that you’ve jotted down a few goals, let’s review xDB’s biggest benefits in Sitecore 9+:
- Marketing analytics
- The ability to personalize a user experience from data received
- Data integration
- The ability to track multiple user sessions
- High performance
- Speed to market
- GDPR compliant
- Most importantly—you own the analytics data
Benefits of Google Analytics
On the GA side, you reap the benefit of a deep-rooted platform that’s been around since 2005. The GA platform features largescale adoption and outstanding historical reporting functionality. It’s also easy to add tagging to your site via Tag Manager. However—Google owns the data. Yes, you can export data subsets, but ultimately, they own the data.
Bring it all together with xConnect
Within the Sitecore Experience Platform, xConnect functions as a set of APIs and services that create the opportunity to deliver deeper personalization. How? By allowing Sitecore xDB to exchange data with your company’s additional data sources (Salesforce Marketing Cloud, CRM, ERP, etc.).
In other words, this service layer allows a client to securely consume analytics data in an easy, flexible way. It also shares Sitecore data from user actions and campaigns across every channel—letting your teams know exactly what the customer or prospect is doing in real-time. Plus, if you’ve set up a data lake, you can share this data bidirectionally with a wide range of tools as you gather it:
- Share engagement values with GA
- Share personas with GA
- Share browser and EXM analytics data with Salesforce or Microsoft Dynamics
- Share Google Ads campaigns with Sitecore campaigns
Unlock bidirectional data sharing across your CRM
When it comes to your CRM of choice, bidirectional data sharing is possible with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 360. With Tableau and Power BI, you have the ability to collect and report on all your data.
Adding AI to the mix via Coveo
This machine learning tool learns from user searches to help you discover actionable trends and patterns. If a search doesn’t uncover any results, it returns suggested results based on similar keywords. This could help your teams build out better content tagging within Sitecore.
Get more ROI from your data lake
Assemble the tools you need to adopt a data-driven approach can be costly—but the benefits could be a real eye opener. Ultimately, your investment during the set-up phase comes down to understanding the high-value information you want to add to your data lake. The data is there—you just need to challenge your teams to expand their use cases. With more data at your fingertips, you’ll be equipped with the firepower to quickly identify new ways to market to your clients.