Sitecore 8.1 – Features and Functionality

15th October 2015

Sitecore 8.1 is the latest version of Sitecore's market leading customer experience platform

Sitecore 8.1 is here. Sitecore has been locked in a battle with Adobe for web content management supremacy – reflected in the WCM Gartner Magic Quadrant 2015.  Not surprisingly, Sitecore 8.1 features major enhancements designed to keep Sitecore on top. To help you better understand Sitecore’s latest release we take a closer look at the changes.

Marketing Foundation

A new Sitecore brand term that replaces Experience Marketing (previously Sitecore DMS), this is where the Sitecore Experience Database (xDB) now resides.

Sitecore 7.5 and Sitecore 8.0 introduced xDB. A database for storing data collected from multiple channels in one place. There are many benefits to xDB, but it adds complexity and cost that some businesses just aren’t ready for.

Sitecore 8.1 CMS only mode

Although you lose some of Sitecore’s more powerful marketing capabilities, CMS only mode makes Sitecore a savvy investment for businesses keen to increase their digital maturity. You don’t want to be constantly re-platforming. With the CMS only mode you can move to Sitecore and get your feet wet.

There will be new dedicated licensing to reflect the CMS only mode offering. With CMS only mode your server requirements are lower, so there’s a cost saving there too.

CMS only mode is fully compatible with:

  • Content editing
  • Experience Explorer
  • Device detection
  • IP Geolocation detection

It’s compatible with limited functionality with:

  • Campaign Creator Tool
    • Runs without Experience Analytics functionality
    • Personalisation
      • In session personalisation works. But personalisation based on historical date isn’t possible

The following won’t work with CMS only mode:

  • Email Experience Manager
  • Federated Experience Manager
  • Content testing
  • Experience Analytics
  • Experience Profile
  • List Manager
  • Path Analyser
  • Segmentation

Businesses on CMS only mode can upgrade to get xDB functionality when they’re ready.

Personalisation based on a user’s historical activity

Previous versions of SItecore only let you personalise user experience on a per session basis. Sitecore 8.1 introduces personalisation based on a user’s historical activity that’ll decay with age. A huge deal for marketers.  The current session will provide the most relevant data for personalisation. But content based around interests from past sessions can be sprinkled in for better engagement.

Venue tracking

This has been added to complete omni-channel marketing support. A venue is the physical location of a customer interaction. An example of Sitecore’s aim to let you track customer’s offline as well as online. And build up a single view of all their activity with your brand.

Detection Services

IP Geolocation

For the first time Sitecore has IP Geolocation built into the platform without needing a third party provider. The available data returned includes: city, country, region, latitude, longitude, area code, metro code, postal code, timezone, business name, ISP name, DNS address and IP address.

IP Geolocation is fully supported and integrated to:

  • xDB
  • Experience Analytics
  • Experience Profile
  • List manager

IP Geolocation is also available for Sitecore users on earlier versions 6.4 to 8.0 through the Sitecore App Centre.

Device Detection

Also backwards compatible with Sitecore 8. You can set rules for:

  • Identifying site visitor’s devices and specifying page layouts.
  • Personalisation engine, goals and events triggering and engagement automation

For marketers these added detection services enrich the data that you can collect on visitors and add to your personalisation options.

Campaign Creator

Sitecore 8.1 introduces a revised Campaign Creator. A marketer can easily create and manage campaigns through a new interface. You’ll have a filterable view of all campaigns. And it integrates with Experience Analytics.

Experience Analytics

There are lots of improvements and new features added to Experience Analytics including:

  • New and updated graphs
  • Updated reports
  • User experience and user interface improvements

These will let you drill down further into charts and reports to get richer data on your customers or campaigns.

Content Testing

The ability to test content is essential for marketers. And Sitecore have ramped up their content testing features with:

  • Two KPIs have been added to each testing rule.
    • Effect measures how the rule improves engagement value based on past tests
    • Reach measures the percentage of site visitors that have seen the rule
    • Various user experience and user interface improvements including:
      • The effect of each rule is easier to understand
      • You can cancel ongoing tests
      • Better test logic – users can run individual tests on the same page in different languages. And test content changes across devices

These changes will make content testing simpler for marketers. You’ll have a better visibility of what’s working and what isn’t.

Experience Editor

Small enhancements have been made to the experience editor. These are to the manage version functionality and shared layouts. Plus page validation notification errors or warnings now appear in page editor.

Not a big deal but they help make life easier for content editors.

Federated Experience Manager

For those using Sitecore to manage external non Sitecore sites FXM will now let you use Web Forms for Marketers. There’s also support for Google Tag Manager. And new features for capturing custom data values on external sites.

Path Analyser

Path analyser is very handy for marketers looking to track customer journeys through their site. Sitecore 8.1 lets you create custom maps built from the sequences you choose. You can see which channels drive to a goal or landing page. It’s easy to see which campaigns bring most value per visit or which channels lead to more goals. Gold dust to a marketer.

Content Foundation

The central Sitecore CMS will now feature fall back language as default. This is very useful for businesses operating multi-nationally. For example, if you have operations in the UK and the US some content may apply to both. So instead of needing separate content for each you can fall back to an English language version.

Sitecore 8.1 Summary

This is a significant update from Sitecore. They’ve broadened their offering with the CMS only option. Sitecore is now a tantalising proposition for businesses that may have previously dismissed it as too complex and costly. At the same time they’ve added a raft of powerful marketing features for their core platform. It’s safe to say the market leading customer experience platform is even stronger with this release.

We’re one of the UK’s leading Sitecore partners. If you’re new to Sitecore and want to see how it can benefit you, contact us and arrange a Sitecore demo. If you’re already on a version of Sitecore 7 or earlier now may be a good time to upgrade. For more get in touch with our award-winning team.