Sitecore xConnect

Sitecore xConnect
5th February 2019

Find out how xConnect helps organisations get the most out of their data and why it’s critical for building great customer experiences

What is Sitecore xConnect?

Sitecore xConnect is the interface between your raw data analytics (also known as xDB) and the rest of your organisation’s digital infrastructure.

In the past, when web developers talked about analytics, it had been in reference to basic website analytics. Usually Javascript-based trackers, like Google Analytics, or Chartbeat. But for the old-school amongst us, this could even be as simple as just processing website logs to examine what had happened on the site.

Most of this data was gathered up and kept in a web analytics silo – with the closest thing to integration, being an Excel graph that was drawn and shared via email.

This gave a blinkered view of what was going on for modern businesses. What about all the interactions that happen in offline stores? Via mobile phone apps? In kiosks? Or IoT project devices?  And what about integration with other business systems? If the data that’s been gathered up is restricted to the silo of that one website analytics tool, it’s not giving the best benefit to the organisation either.

How do organisations benefit from Sitecore xConnect?

Businesses want a unified view of their data, and that’s where Sitecore xConnect comes in. It provides organisations with an API on top of the raw analytics collection that can be used for two purposes:

  1. Recording analytics data from any interaction. It doesn’t matter where these events are sourced from. They could be page requests on a website, actions on a mobile app, offline sales or email interactions. All that’s needed is some data you want to record about a customer and then Sitecore xConnect can provide a tracking API that your organisation’s other systems can send data to.
  2. Integrating that data with other systems. CRM or print marketing tools are able to query the information that Sitecore xConnect captures as it exposes APIs. For example, xConnect allows users to extract a customer segment that has made use of a specific offer and sets them up as a list in your CRM to target with print advertising. xConnect understands standard query techniques, like the open data protocol (oData), which allows other systems to extract the data they need.

Sitecore analytics has been providing this sort of tracking for some time, but in previous versions it has been tightly coupled to the Sitecore CMS. Having realised that this limits the scalability of the software and the sort of data that can be tracked, Sitecore have reworked their systems to include the brilliant xConnect interface.

It may not look like much on the diagram, but its central positioning between your organisation’s raw analytics data and other systems means that xConnect becomes an essential part of the company’s IT systems.

Technical features that keep it secure and stable

  • Sitecore xConnect is set up as “secure by default” It’s possible to integrate other systems that can access your xConnect data, but it will only answer requests from systems which have the correct security certificate. This prevents unauthorised requests for your data. To ensure privacy is upheld, all communications between xConnect and other systems are sent over HTTPS.
  • It’s designed for scalability While xConnect ships as part of the Sitecore Experience Platform, it’s a separate piece of software. Organisations can deploy and scale the xConnect infrastructure separately to their website or other systems. This gives users the ability to load-balance multiple servers for reliability and performance. Deployment is also flexible, with the capability to be deployed to both traditional on-premise hardware or to cloud infrastructure.
  • It supports multiple data storage technologies Depending on your organisation’s preference for the infrastructure behind xConnect, it’s possible to choose to store your analytics data in either MongoDB or SQL Server.
  • It’s integrated with Sitecore’s personalisation technologies out-of-the-box Marketers can utilise Sitecore’s rules engine and email marketing behaviours with captured data via xConnect, to providing personalised experiences for their customers.

Data privacy and GDPR

You can’t discuss analytics and data capture without considering data privacy and GDPR. xConnect has been built with an understanding of these requirements, to reduce the effort needed to comply with the rules. Under the surface, xConnect understands that some bits of the data organisations are recording are personal – any bits of data added to the analytics models can be flagged as “personally identifiable information” when your development team customise the model to suit your business.  xConnect provides APIs that can purge these PII fields for specific users, as well as delete entire users from the analytics data to fulfil the right to be forgotten. It’s also easy to query data about specific users to discover what data is held about them.

How to start using Sitecore xConnect for your organisation

If you’re wondering, how do I make better use of the data that my organisation’s website and other interactions generates? How do I start using personalisation for great customer experiences?

Talk to some Sitecore experts – get in touch with us today and find out how we can help you get the most out of your Sitecore solution. We’d love to hear from you.