Sitecore is a leading digital experience software that allows businesses to create seamless and exceptional customer experiences. Since it was introduced to the market over two decades ago, it’s consistently been at the forefront of content and experiential technologies. Sitecore’s creators have continued to evolve the software, and every new iteration offers developers and marketers a wide array of innovative, intuitive tools that allow them to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time.
Forrester, a well-known market research company, acknowledged Sitecore as a “Strong Performer” in its The Forrester Wave™: Content Marketing Platforms for B2C Marketers, Q2 2019) report. And Sitecore OrderCloud was named a Leader in the Forrester New Wave™: Marketplace Development Platforms, Q4 2021.
Since 2018, the Gartner® Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms (DXP) has recognized vendors in the digital engagement space, offering valuable information for business leaders looking for technology solutions that best meet their current and long-term needs. The 2022 edition of the DXP Magic Quadrant report has just been published, and Sitecore has again been positioned as a Leader. Sitecore is one of only two companies that have been in the Leaders quadrant in every edition since 2018. So, it’s not surprising that many organizations with high-traffic websites in various industries rely on a Sitecore content management system to deliver memorable brand experiences across multiple customer touchpoints.
In this article, we’ll explore Sitecore from all angles, address common questions, and highlight why it’s the digital experience software of choice for businesses across the globe.
What Is Sitecore?
Sitecore is an enterprise-level .NET-based Content Management System (CMS). The Sitecore content management system (or Web CMS) is known as the Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) or Sitecore Web Experience Manager.
With Sitecore Experience Manager™ (XM) CMS (or Sitecore Web Experience Manager), brands can:
- Write scalable, optimized content once, preview it in the WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor, and then distribute it to every relevant marketing channel
- Tailor content with customizable rules
- Simplify multi-site integrations and management, even for non-Sitecore websites and data
- Create websites in multiple languages
- Create mobile-ready content and websites
Launched in 2001, the Sitecore platform takes advantage of the flexibility, scalability, and security offered by the .NET framework. Sitecore XM incorporates a fully customizable, role-based access control system and a powerful desktop interface similar to a Windows desktop’s look, feel, and functionality. This feature makes it easy for new Sitecore users to learn the system and effectively leverage it for their brand’s marketing goals.
There’s much more to the Sitecore platform than its multi-functional, powerful CMS. Sitecore also offers an integrated Digital Experience Platform (DXP) that helps organizations create seamless, personalized digital experiences for their audience over multiple channels and devices.
With Sitecore, you can not only ‘manage’ your brand’s digital content; you can also test, optimize, and personalize it. Furthermore, by combining contextual intelligence with omnichannel automation, the platform enables you to automate the content creation and publishing process. Finally, by collecting and analyzing all customer interaction data, both online and offline, Sitecore enables brands like yours to further improve and optimize their content marketing strategy.
So, the million-dollar question is: is Sitecore a Content Management System (CMS) or a Digital Experience Platform (DXP)?
We’ll answer this question in a later section. But first…
What are the Benefits of Sitecore?
Sitecore XM includes a comprehensive suite of features to help brands control their content capabilities, from editorial, workflow, and reporting to organization, security, and user administration. With these tools, Sitecore provides a robust foundation to support a brand’s digital identity, strategy, and engagement.
Here are some of the benefits that differentiate Sitecore from other CMS:
Scalable Content Creation with Omnichannel Delivery
With Sitecore XM, you no longer need to re-create content for each website, platform, or channel. The Sitecore Experience Platform offers total flexibility to create extractable, decoupled content once and then display it across all devices, including mobile, and additional channels including IoT, VR, and AR. Sitecore’s API supports dynamic content delivery, so you can make this content as personalized as you need to.
Other advanced features like robust testing scenarios, analytics, and behavioral tracking retain online and offline customer data across all devices. This provides a 360° view of customer interactions so you can further personalize your communications and engage with your customers when they want, where they want.
Intuitive Tools for Faster Content Creation and Deployment
Sitecore XM makes it easy to quickly create and deploy web content across multiple channels. Editing this content is also easy with:
- Drag-and-drop functionality with Sitecore® Experience Accelerator (SXA), which is perfect for non-technical content authors
- 100+ pre-built and fully customizable components, templates, and layouts for a full range of devices, including mobile
- WYSIWYG editor for custom development with text, graphics, and more
- Reusable media library with images, documents, video, and audio files
- Content preview feature for easy viewing and simulation by persona, situation, or device
- Sitecore Publishing Service to quickly publish high-volume content
Multilingual, Multi-site Content Creation
With Sitecore XM, you can create multiple sites across different languages. Sitecore XM offers smooth integrations with localization/translations services and hundreds of other systems, extensions, plug-ins, and modules. This feature makes it easy to manage multilingual content while complying with evolving data regulations.
Furthermore, Sitecore XM enables you to focus on your customers by:
- Creating ‘global’ content that’s easily shared on local websites in their language
- Managing all your multilingual content on websites, intranets, portals, and landing pages from the centralized, easy-to-use Sitecore platform
- Publishing freely and safely with customizable workflows, versioning, and approvals, plus the assurance that legal has already reviewed your localized material
Who’s Using Sitecore?
Sitecore is the preferred CMS for many different industries, including financial services, insurance, healthcare, government, energy, and many more.
Within these industries, customer experience is a primary concern. Today’s most successful businesses are customer-centric. The Sitecore Experience Platform allows them to reach customers in meaningful ways across all customer touchpoints and gain meaningful insights from those interactions.
Though most industries can benefit from Sitecore solutions, its strong focus on international enterprise is one of Sitecore’s biggest differentiators. If your company is expanding into new markets, you’ve got plenty of complexities to navigate. One of the most significant ones is how you’ll translate your message to a new audience and onboard new teams in those markets.
Sitecore removes many of these complexities, helping maintain an on-brand experience through every employee and customer touchpoint through multi-language support, deep integration capabilities, and flexible, connected workflows.
Do I Need Sitecore CMS?
Sitecore CMS is a holistic solution, helping you manage everything from content management to conversions and everything in between. But how do you know if you need Sitecore? Below, we’ll explore a few reasons companies choose Sitecore over other CMS.
First off, let’s talk about content management. Sitecore makes content creation and distribution pretty easy. If you’re working with distributed or international teams, your workflows couldn’t be easier. You can track the lifecycles of your content from start to finish, assign role-based access, and publish from within the Sitecore platform.
Sitecore also helps you deliver incredibly personalized customer experiences to delight your audience. You’ll benefit from the detailed data collected from these interactions, helping you gain deep insights that support continual improvements.
Multilingual support has always been a key differentiator with Sitecore, so if you’re getting ready to launch a global brand, no CMS does it better.
Bottom line—Sitecore CMS is the complete package. It’s deep and multi-layered, and we might go so far as to say it’s future-proof.
However, don’t choose Sitecore solutions just because you want the biggest and the best. It’s a complex solution for complex needs—meaning it might not be the most practical choice for all organizations. But if you’re looking for a powerful, all-in-one CMS that will transport you to the next level of global greatness, Sitecore is the solution you’ve been after.
Sitecore for Developers
Developers favor Sitecore for several reasons, including:
Ease of Deployment
Sitecore’s architecture allows developers to deploy and manage unlimited amounts of code across various sites within a single instance.
Sitecore’s EXM (Email Experience Manager) makes it easy for developers to apply new features, plug-ins, and extensions to the existing software and modify their websites or create new ones. This is particularly important for businesses growing fast, as their developers can make changes quickly and cost-effectively.
Design and Content Are Separate
In Sitecore, content management and content delivery are separated into distinct environments. For developers, this means quick scalability and better security, administration, and overall performance.
Sitecore’s CMS allows developers to perform their work more quickly while reducing the likelihood of errors creeping in. It also supports the use of external tools and the integration of debugging tools and code completion improvements.
With Sitecore, developers can restrict users’ access at the account or item level, which is useful for projects that involve multiple stakeholders and content-user capabilities. Sitecore’s security model also features an Inheritance access right, which governs how security rights can be passed from parent items to child items.
The latest version of Sitecore (version 10.0) supports containerization – a flexible approach to deploying and running software. Now, developers can use an Azure-based Kubernetes container orchestration service, the Docker engine, and image repositories. This makes the installation process easier and expedites the onboarding process for new development team members.
Sitecore for Marketers
Marketers love the user experience offered by the Sitecore digital marketing system, particularly the following features:
Advanced, Real-time Personalization
Sitecore CMS is ideal for marketing teams seeking to deliver highly personalized content tailored to customers’ wants, needs, and behaviors.
Sitecore’s hybrid headless CMS capability makes it easy for marketers to distribute content through any desired channel. Content management isn’t limited to a website or mobile device. Now, it can extend kiosks and digital signage all the way to emerging channels such as virtual reality.
With Sitecore’s EXM, marketers can automate the process of sending emails by leveraging scheduling tools and reusable content features – all of which save time and effort.
Sitecore’s Top Features
We’ve shared a lot of information about Sitecore CMS, but what are its top features?
Let’s break it down into bite-sized chunks:
1. Powerful Content Management
Content management is a complex beast in an enterprise. Sitecore CMS simplifies content creation, management, and organization. Even when working with distributed teams, multilingual teams, freelancers, and content creators, Sitecore makes it easy to do so at scale. Multiple websites and complex ecosystems? No problem. Manage it all from a central interface and deliver an on-brand content experience every time.
Sitecore can automate your campaigns, helping your marketing teams stay productive and ensuring you never miss another opportunity to meet or exceed customer expectations. Whether your business model is B2B or B2C, you need to provide a highly personalized experience throughout the buying journey—which means putting the right message in front of the right people at the right time. Automation takes the guesswork out of marketing, ensuring customer needs are met at every touchpoint and ensuring you’re never leaving money on the table.
3. Customer Data Management
When you understand your audience at an intrinsic level, it’s easier to give them what they want. Sitecore helps you track customer behaviors across all channels, integrate customer data, and instantly share it with key stakeholders. Omnichannel data is consolidated and democratized, breaking down informational silos and delivering actionable insights that help you forecast, plan, and prepare for what comes next. With Sitecore’s data insights, you may even discover “hidden” audiences you were previously unaware of, helping you focus on new growth opportunities.
4. Multi-language and Multi-site Content Support
Global expansion brings a myriad of complexities to manage. One of the most challenging is delivering an on-brand experience to new customers and employees in new regions. Sitecore provides multi-language support, shortening time-to-market and helping you keep moving forward – no matter where in the world you’re headed. This feature is especially helpful in the travel and hospitality industry, where organizations need to appeal to travelers worldwide.
5. Headless Commerce
Headless commerce is fast emerging as the “way of the future” in ecommerce, but it has implications for many use-cases, including content delivery. Headless enables the separation of the front end from the back-end commerce layer, helping brands achieve agility and take advantage of emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), voice commerce, and virtual reality (VR). Headless allows you to deliver new content quickly without rewriting the CMS architecture.
Sitecore Architecture: Critical Elements
The architecture of Sitecore XM consists of these main elements:
- Programming framework
- Item folders
- Sitecore API
- Application layers
Sitecore Programming Framework
To generate final HTML pages, Sitecore uses either ASP.NET Web Forms or ASP.NET MVC. This gives developers the flexibility to use any programming language supported by the .NET Framework. C# is one of the most popular with VB.NET, but other .NET framework languages like F# can also be used.
Currently on its 10th (10.1) major version, Sitecore runs on:
- .NET Framework 4.7.1 Developer Pack
- ASP.NET MVC 5.2 or later
- ASP.NET Core 2.0
- .NET Core Windows Server Hosting 2.0.0
- OData 7.2.0
Sitecore provides a rich, extensive developer framework with 1,300 classes, 5,000 methods, three databases, and a web application. The three databases are:
- Core database: Used by Sitecore to manage memberships, handle system settings, and hold all application configurations
- Master database: To store every new piece of content that is created, edited, or deleted, including content in ‘preview’ mode
- Web database: Live content for the web application is located here
In a production environment, only the first and third databases are hosted in the SQL server instance, making the application more secure.
Sitecore Item Folders
The content contained in a Sitecore web application is stored in the ‘content tree,’ which contains all the content and media library items required by content editors as well as all the layouts, system, and templates folders needed by developers and system administrators.
With the powerful Sitecore API, developers can easily query Sitecore items using various technologies, from standard .NET web forms to XSLT and MVC.
Sitecore Application Layers
Sitecore XM CMS has two ‘application layers’:
- Content layer to manage content, with functions like editing, management, and storage
- Delivery layer to assemble this content into a layout and deliver it
An Application Programming Interface (API) enables the delivery layer to request content from the content layer. A third layer, the presentation layer, takes what the delivery layer produces and renders it on a screen.
Unlike many other CMS where all three layers are just one layer, in Sitecore XM CMS, these three layers are ‘decoupled’ from each other. As a result, ‘back-end’ functions like content creation, management, and storage are separated from front-end content functions, like presentation and delivery. This is why Sitecore XM CMS is also known as a ‘headless’ CMS.
This aspect of the Sitecore solution presents several advantages:
- Content can be stored in smaller chunks called ‘items’ or ‘objects,’ making it easier to reuse content across multiple pages, applications, and devices
- Developers can quickly code and design front-end experiences without being bound by restrictive back-end technologies
- Creators can preview and publish content easily without developer support
- CMS gathers useful analytics from users’ web engagement
The most significant advantage of Sitecore XM’s hybrid headless CMS is that it combines the flexibility and extensibility of a headless CMS with the personalization and content analytics capabilities of a traditional coupled CMS. That means you can easily create and publish personalized, responsive, and interactive content and deliver it on all kinds of interfaces, including smartphones, wearables, AI-enabled voice assistants, and even virtual reality headsets. This gives you complete control over your future-proof content, decreases your time-to-market, and enables you to create on-brand, cohesive, and responsive user experiences.
What’s the Difference between Sitecore XM CMS and Sitecore DXP?
Sitecore XM CMS gives brands the power to create, publish, and manage content for their external, customer-facing websites and applications. It provides the workflow, reporting, organizational, and user administration tools required for effective and seamless digital content management.
Sitecore Digital Experience Platform (DXP) – also known as Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) – goes beyond content creation and delivery. It combines CMS capabilities with marketing automation, customer data, and analytics capabilities into an integrated platform intended to:
- Streamline customer engagement experiences across multiple touchpoints
- Deliver rich, actionable insights with machine learning about these experiences
- Provide a 360° view of customers across channels at an ultra-personalized level
Sitecore Experience Platform and its various modules, like Sitecore Experience Commerce and other Sitecore solutions, combine into an integrated platform that helps you nurture customers throughout their journey with personalized content in real-time and across any channel.
Some of the powerful functionalities included in the platform include:
- Experience Manager (XM) CMS for scalable, multilingual, multi-site content creation and delivery
- Integration with Sitecore Experience Commerce™ and Sitecore Content Hub™ for control over the entire marketing lifecycle
- Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SxA) with reusable templates and built-in best practices to accelerate page builds, edit content quickly, and control layout and functionality
- Sitecore® Experience Database™ (xDB) for storing real-time customer data from all campaigns, sources, and third-party systems
- Sitecore xConnect™, a framework of APIs and services leveraged by xDB, to support integration and data interchange with CRM systems like Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365
- Sitecore® Experience Profile™ to better understand customers and your relationships with them
- Sitecore Cortex™ machine learning to provide personalization suggestions, add semantic tags to content to improve search visibility, and generate real-time actionable insights
- User rights and workflow to control all content with extensive user rights and multi-step workflow management
With its easy integrations, future-oriented extensibility, and an ever-expanding expansive partner ecosystem, Sitecore Experience Platform provides a powerful digital marketing platform where you can easily manage all your content, products, and assets from one place.
Its full suite of tools that power the delivery of personalized customer experiences—across channels, geographies, and languages—enables you to build brand equity and boost customer confidence, no matter where they are.
Sitecore Implementation with WayPath
We hope that this guide has answered all your questions about Sitecore.
Sitecore Experience Manager CMS is a great choice if you’re looking for a world-class CMS with robust workflow capabilities that enable you to:
- Nurture customer relationships with personalized content and tailored real-time recommendations
- Engage with your audience in multiple languages and across different devices and channels
- Leverage reusable layouts, modules, and content that speeds up your content delivery
- Utilize commerce capabilities to connect the experiences throughout your customers’ shopping journey and maximize their lifetime value
- Integrate with APIs and third-party systems like CRM, eCommerce, marketing automation, A/B testing, and more
- Effortlessly maintain corporate brand standards across all your sites and applications
To get the maximum value out of your Sitecore content management system, you need a partner you can trust. WayPath is a Sitecore Silver Partner with a highly skilled and experienced team of developers, architects, project managers, and MVPs.
We’ve successfully implemented, integrated, and customized Sitecore XM CMS and Sitecore DXP for organizations of every size and industry. We have the technical expertise and the business acumen needed to understand our clients’ business goals and support them at every stage of their Sitecore solution project, from discovery to delivery.
WayPath Sitecore Client Success Stories
WayPath has a solid track record in helping our clients achieve great things with Sitecore. Here are two of our recent success stories:
Case Study: Utilities Company Reduces Support Calls with a Full Site Redesign and Sitecore CMS
Despite its past successes, this utility firm was falling behind its competitors in one crucial area – its digital presence. Its old-fashioned website was consistently failing to deliver the unified experiences its customers demanded – a serious disadvantage in an increasingly digitized world.
The utility company urgently needed to overhaul its website in order to provide a user-friendly, personalized online experience to its customers. But due to its legacy Sitecore content management system, it was unable to quickly create or publish the high-quality content needed to do so consistently and to scale. These drawbacks were affecting the firm’s customer relationships, as well as its financial health and market reputation.
WayPath initially provided maintenance services for the utilities client’s legacy Sitecore platform. Later, we performed a data-led technical and feature-based analysis to show that their existing platform would not help them meet their website transformation goals. Following this, our cross-functional team of project managers, business analysts, designers, and Sitecore experts drew up a multi-phased project roadmap. They defined a new technical architecture and planned the end-to-end migration and deployment. They also set up four workstreams to efficiently manage content, design, development, and change management.
Based on this plan and our time-tested build/test/demo/deploy process, we completed the systematic deployment and migration of over 800 pages of web-based content to the latest Sitecore platform. We also helped formulate a robust content strategy and redesigned the current website with the new Sitecore content management system.
WayPath delivered a new customer-facing website that’s now a crucial element of the client’s digital presence. Just a few months later, it received a prestigious MarCom award, edging out a number of other websites – thanks to its intuitive interface, up-to-date copy, and unstinting focus on value delivery.
And since customers no longer call support as often, the internal team can now concentrate on more future-focused, revenue-generating activities.
Read the full case study.
Case Study: WestRock Upgrades to Sitecore CMS for Enhanced Digital Engagement and Security
WestRock’s customer-facing business website is one of its most valuable digital assets. Since it was first set up in 2016, it has undergone several additions and updates. Historically, many of these changes have been done very haphazardly, with little or no attention given to important aspects like intuitiveness, usability, and accessibility. By 2019, the site had grown to a 1000+ page behemoth that struggled to meet its goals with regard to digital thought leadership and customer communications.
Moreover, due to its legacy Content Management System (CMS), security and data privacy had become serious issues, leaving WestRock vulnerable to cyber-attacks and legal risks. Site stability was down, while maintenance costs and downtime were on the rise.
Due to the many advantages of Sitecore XM, WayPath recommended this CMS to WestRock. Based on an analysis of their existing website, its current challenges, and their future needs, we drew up a multi-phased project plan. We also defined a new technical architecture and planned the end-to-end upgrade to Sitecore (migration and deployment).
Along the way, our multi-functional team of developers, Sitecore experts, and project managers addressed all back-end and front-end website issues and also implemented enhancements and numerous ancillary microsites. They formulated a robust content strategy and a redesigned roadmap for the current website. While developing the website, they used a storytelling canvas to ensure that the end-user remained the focal point of the project. Since usability and accessibility were key requirements for the new website, our team performed UX testing to identify the enhancement potential for new web features, content, and functionalities. They also thoroughly refreshed the information architecture and UI design to match the latest WCAG 2.1 accessibility standards.
WayPath successfully upgraded WestRock to Sitecore XM and also delivered a more user-friendly and accessible website. Now, WestRock’s content creators can quickly create high-quality copy and tailor it with customizable rules to effectively manage their brand’s digital presence. They can also test and optimize it to deliver personalized digital experiences to their audience consistently without needing to rely on in-house developers.
With the new website, WestRock’s customers can find the information they need thanks to its clean layout and well-organized sections. The content can be easily audited and updated to ensure that it is always relevant, engaging, and on-brand. In addition to the initial Sitecore upgrade and website redesign, WayPath also supports WestRock with day-to-day maintenance tasks.
Read the full case study.