Using xDB Peek to test your Sitecore marketing configurations

Let’s be honest - Configuring marketing operations in Sitecore can be tricky. There are a lot of knobs to turn and levers to flip. And, you can’t always tell right away whether your actions had the desired effect. The initial complexity of marketing operations configuration is a barrier that many marketers never get past. Most of the configuration problems that I see fall into one of two buckets.

#1. The thing I want to do is set-up wrong: personalization, marketing automation function, MV test, etc. - or -

#2. The trigger for the thing I want to do is not triggering: goal, campaign, pattern card, etc.

Since the Sitecore marketing functionality configuration is available to the marketer (via Launchpad) it’s often times assumed that the marketer has the ability to configure & troubleshoot. Not many of today’s marketers are technically savvy enough to troubleshoot a system as complex as Sitecore. People buy Sitecore for the promise of personalization, but not everyone gets to that.

Here’s a common marketing operations problem that I see all the time - ‘I set-up my first personalization. It doesn’t work and I don’t know where to start’. So, where’s the problem? Is the personalization set-up wrong? Is something misconfigured? Did your session not trigger the necessary goal, pattern card, etc.? When I troubleshoot, I tend to look at the marketing trigger first. To do that, I use xDB Peek.

Introducing xDB Peek

xDB Peek is a Sitecore community contribution brought to you by Bonfire. It’s a Chris Auer idea and execution. He built the first version after he got tired of trolling through MongoDB collection data to see if the correct xDB data was captured.

xDB Peek has 2 main functions for accessing visitor level xDB data:

  • Visitor details: A hidden page that shows what xDB information is stored for the current visitor session. This enables marketers to simulate user journeys of target visitors and validate that everything that should be tracked, is being tracked.

  • End session: A function that enables marketers to force the current session to end. Many marketing functions occur once a session ends. It’s frustrating to wait for your session to self expire, wondering whether happened or not. This function removes the wait.

Let’s take a deeper dive into the tabs of the visitor details.

  • Contact: This is mostly data tied to the contact facet. Things like name, email, phone, etc.

  • Visit Data: This is data on the visit itself. Things like location, device, browser, etc.

  • Pages: This is a listing of all the pages visited.

  • Goals: This is a listing of all goals triggered in the current session, and in past sessions.

  • Engagement Plans: This is a list of engagement plans that the visitor is enrolled in, along with the step of the plan.

  • Campaigns: This is a list of any campaigns that the visitor has triggered.

  • Facets: This is the tab that we use to catch any miscellaneous data.

  • Profiles: This is a list of any profile value and patterns cards that the visitor may have earned.

If you’re going to be active with Sitecore marketing operations, you’re going to want this module. Ask your favorite dev to read about it (here) and install it (from here) on all your projects. We’ll be adding more functionality to xDB Peek as we get time. Some items on our backlog include List Manager visibility, custom interaction detail visibility and the ability to manually trigger marketing functions (goals, campaigns, etc.) from within the tool. If you have ideas or things you’d like to see, let Chris or I know.