How Sitecore harnesses AI and Machine Learning to deliver intelligent marketing platforms
In its latest Sitecore Symposium, when CEO Mark Frost hinted at the things to come for the latest version of Sitecore, Artificial Intelligence was high on the list. Marketing AI is not a new concept. At a time when customer engagement is highly contextual, getting the right messages in the correct medium in the right time is of paramount importance.
Marketing AI – What is it, anyway?
Imagine a large corporation – they have multiple departments and teams receiving data about their customers on an ongoing basis. Whether its sales data, marketing information, or demographic insights, companies rarely have a coordinated approach to engage with their prospective leads and convert them into satisfied customers. For instance, take Epson America. They used to receive about 40,000 – 60,000 leads through their various marketing campaigns. When they manually followed up on the leads, their sales reps would get responses from only two out of a hundred leads. Not what you would call a successful strategy.
This is where Artificial Intelligence can help. With its Machine Learning algorithms, AI queries can deep-dive in to data to unearth insights about customers from a company’s CRM, ERP, or other third-party applications. A significant portion of marketing can also be automated and personalized to suit the tailored requirements of its customers. For instance, Epson began using Marketing AI tools and was able to increase lead response to 51% (from the erstwhile 2%), producing an incremental revenue of $2 million in three months. Many other companies are following suit. It is with these factors in mind Sitecore has revamped its Engagement Platform into an Experience Cloud to ensure it caters to marketing in the Intelligent Age.
Artificial Intelligence and More: Sitecore 9 XP
Sitecore 9 is not just about AI. Be it offering new data integration APIs or harnessing cloud potential for data storage, Sitecore is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to give marketers the right tools to craft rich customer experiences. Two features stand out in Sitecore’s latest release: Sitecore xConnect and Sitecore Cortex. These tools allow marketers to have robust and seamless data flowing in from multiple sources to be analyzed for insights using ML algorithms. In addition to having these tools, the fact that everything is stored in the cloud facilitates near real-time and seamless analytics.
xConnect: Sitecore’s xConnect offers marketers a powerful set of APIs and services that allows its xDB (Sitecore’s Experience Database) to freely exchange data with internal or external data sources, namely a company’s CRM, ERP or other third-party applications. For instance, Sitecore offers delivering connectors to Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamics CRM. By offering these integrations and facilitating seamless exchange of data between systems, companies can create a 360 degree view of their customer. It also helps from a machine learning perspective, as the increased volume of data allows deeper analysis and better insights.
Sitecore Cortex: Cortex is the Intelligent Marketing Assistant built into the Sitecore Experience Cloud. In the words of Sitecore CMO Scott Anderson, Cortex is “your own personal data scientist, available to you 24/7, 365 days a year… ” Cortex leverages the power of machine learning to provide contextual insights into every purchase, helps integrate content and ecommerce features so customers can get a rich experience before, during and after every purchase, and enables an omni-channel distribution strategy. It provides a host of features such as
- Analyzing and predicting customer journeys and experiences
- Profiling customers based on their content consumption patterns
- Building smarter attribution models
- Providing intelligent recommendation through automatic content tagging
The Story of Habitat: Sitecore’s Cortex in Action
Todd Mitchell, Product Manager of Sitecore’s Machine Learning Practices, illustrates the use case of Sitecore Cortex with a fictional consumer electronics company called Habitat and one of its customers who had recently moved to a new home and was interested in purchasing a home theater. The use case shows how Sitecore’s AI and ML tools facilitated Habitat to enhance customer engagement, leverage multi-channel content delivery and provide personalized recommendations to ensure their customer makes the purchase decision. But the power of AI lies not just with closing one sale; Cortex can provide insights into behavior patterns to identify cohorts or new sets of customers with similar needs and requirements as well. In addition to this, here’s what the new feature can help marketers with:
- Contextual Engagement: Understanding the context within which companies engage with their customers is equally important as the content itself. For instance, in the use case, it was found that one of Habitat’s customers had purchased a new house and was moving in. Cortex’s algorithms were able to establish a correlation between new home buyers and their tendency to purchase home theaters. This enabled Habitat to personalize their landing page according to the need of the customer and show relevant information on home theaters.
- Multi-channel Content Delivery: Sitecore’s capabilities extend to a multi-channel presence; so even when the customer is using multiple devices, the connection is never lost and information continues to be personalized and targeted as they move down the sales funnel.
- Personalized Recommendations: Sitecore understands that to complete a purchase, customers must be incentivized to act. Its AI tools are able to automate personalized engagement to nudge the customer to close the deal. In this case, Habitat was able to deliver a dynamic tool, which would help the customer select the right home theater based on different attributes such as the size of the living room, where the TV would be situated, the distance between the TV and the seating area, etc. To finally close the deal, Habitat offers the customer a special discount on the product.
Sitecore is betting big on Artificial Intelligence and Cloud in its latest version. The benefits are obvious. Over 75% of customers prefer shopping with retailers who provide personalized recommendations, of which 58% are more likely to make a purchase when they receive relevant recommendations, according to a study by Accenture. But Adobe’s survey offers a much needed reality check – while the majority of marketers agree it’s essential, about 60% admit they struggle to personalize and automate customer engagement. Sitecore’s AI capabilities could not be better timed, as it comes at a time when marketers are prepared to leap into the future.
If you wish to know more about Sitecore’s capabilities and what it can do for your business, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.