Our take: Sitecore adds Boxever and Four51 to digital experience platform

With a $1.2 Billion war chest at his disposal, new Sitecore CEO Steve Tzikakis was not shy in making an impact or slow in putting the money to work by making the double acquisition of Boxever and Four51 in March of this year. In doing so, Tzikakis showed that he is not afraid to go on the offensive, thinking long-term about building out Sitecore’s core product and strengthening it as a platform. With this in mind, Horizontal Digital’s Dave Michela – VP of Digital Solutions, George Smith – Regional MD of the Middle East, India, and Africa, and Sheetal Jain – VP of Technology for Experience Platform, got together on a webinar to talk about what Boxever and Four51 actually are, and what these acquisitions mean for Sitecore‘s product map and the industry in general.

Introducing the new guys

For the uninitiated, Boxever is a Customer Data Platform (CDP) that brings together real-time behavioural insights and customer data so that clients can understand and engage every customer individually and instantly. But Boxever is not just any old CDP, according to Dave Michela, “Boxever has a very forward-thinking approach, and I would call them kind of CDP Plus.”

Four51 on the other hand is an API-driven B2B commerce platform, that compliments from a capabilities perspective what Sitecore already has in place in terms of their existing experience commerce platform which is primarily focused on the B2C capability set. As Michela outlines, “Four51 delivers more on the B2B capabilities that aren’t native to Sitecore’s Experience Commerce, and they do that in a way that is entirely headless, API-driven, and cloud-native”.

An evolving market 

If you take Sitecore’s value proposition in the market over the long-term, the leaders of the market like Sitecore or Adobe, were focused on building relatively monolithic solutions that could deliver experiences across the entire journey, including commerce, analytics, CMS, etc. Everything that was required to deliver digital experiences properly was built into a single platform that was to be leading class and best in breed. The reason that they took this monolithic strategy was because the cost, time and effort involved in integrating a whole bunch of different solutions to deliver those capabilities was extremely time consuming, extremely expensive, often risky, and hard to keep up-to-date. The idea was to do all of those things in an all-in-one platform.

What’s happened since then in a relatively short period of time is that the advent of headless capability, API-driven solutions, microservices, cloud-native platforms, and SaaS solutions, have all made the integration question a bit more moot than it used to be. It’s a lot easier to get systems to talk to one another and exchange data with one another, so it’s no longer a problem that needs solving.

According to Michela, “Where Sitecore is headed with their roadmap, and with these acquisitions, is to begin to create decoupled options for their clients so that they don’t necessarily have to buy a monolithic suite of capabilities, they can buy pieces of capabilities that intersect with their own stack and their own suite very readily and easily. So it’s not just about buying one big massive thing, it’s about buying pieces of things. That’s where we see the market heading and that’s clearly where we see Sitecore heading with these acquisitions”.

And this fits into a wider theme from Sitecore from the last couple of years. If you look at the recent innovation and product launches, things like Sitecore Content Hub, Experience Edge, and even Sitecore AI, one of the common aspects of all of these is that they are all cloud-native solutions that help the customer deliver value faster, while increasing the application scalability and resilience.

According to Sheetal Jain, “The goal is pretty simple – that it’s neither all or none – it’s that now customers can choose the solution they want on cloud, and the rest of the solution stack can stay as-is. It will be an iteratively-modeled adoption. The customer will have the ability to choose what applications and services to transition, and at what time.”

Clients lie at the heart of the strategy

Sitecore is co-evolving alongside both its customers and agencies like us at Horizontal Digital. We are all changing, but we are fundamentally moving together. So what Sitecore is trying to do is solve the big problems for clients, and the main problem of the last 5 or 10 years is how to bring all of these new pieces of technology together and how to orchestrate these experiences in a way that they have never been able to do before. The introduction of technologies like SaaS, APIs, microservices, and headless capabilities etc. have actually removed those barriers for brands and lets them just stick it all in the cloud and have a smorgasbord of things to pick from. And that changes the reason to buy Sitecore.

As George Smith outlines, “what we’re seeing here is a kind of first-mover advantage by Sitecore to really get out there and say that we don’t care about the problems of monolithic platforms anymore. What we care about is how we can offer that best of breed across numerous areas like data, design, development, and how we can bring all that together and take care of all that in the cloud, and give the opportunity to the client to pick the best of breed.”

The lines between features are starting to blur

The elephant in the room is that there is somewhat of an overlap between some of the features and capabilities that Sitecore already has, and those of the newly acquired companies. For example between Boxever’s personalisation capabilities and Sitecore’s Personalisation engine – even Sitecore AI. But it isn’t a competition to see which features are better. It’s about making sure that complimentary features can be understood and integrated in the most efficient way possible and to give the most choice and flexibility to the client.

As Sheetal Jain explains, “There are a lot of similarities, and as a technologist, our goal is to be able to make sure that the lines become clear and the integrations become clear to understand where the real value is. So you have to watch out to really know what the deeper details of the Boxever features are and how they map to the existing Sitecore features.”

Dave Michela expands, “If you say DAM, people have a picture in their mind of what that is. If you say CMS, people have a picture in their mind of what that is. Same with CDP and so on. What’s interesting here is that we’re starting to see these lines blur a bit. And it started with Content Hub. A lot of clients, when you mention Content Hub to them say ‘That’s a DAM’. But while it does have DAM capabilities, that’s only one piece of a much broader array of capabilities which mix and mingle in ways that maybe the market isn’t quite used to. So one of the interesting things going forward is helping clients understand the blurred lines between some of what we would traditionally consider CDP, DAM, CMS, Commerce etc. As these things start to intersect with one another, having these disconnected, headless, API-driven solutions allows you to mix and match much more efficiently.”

Eyes on the future

According to George Smith, these acquisitions tie very much into the long term vision of Sitecore and help it to build itself into a more broad and value-adding platform for clients to be part of. “This isn’t a commodity play from Sitecore. This isn’t a market share play. This isn’t about saying that they think that the market has matured, in what we used to call a CMS space and that now they can just buy the competition and own the big bubble. They think that the market is continuing to evolve and, what looks good now might not necessarily be best in the future.”

In short, Sitecore wants to build the future rather than just buy a leading position in today’s market. As Wayne Gretzky might say, they are skating to where the puck is going, not where it has been. Horizontal Digital is very much ready to go along for the ride. Are you?