Sitecore 8 & the Experience Profile

With the new year upon us many Sitecore customers are pondering whether to embark on an upgrade to Sitecore 8.  The exciting major release was previewed in Las Vegas in November at Sitecore Symposium.  Since then, many of us have been chomping at the bit, thinking about how we’d use the advances in marketing functionality.  This post focuses on the Experience Database (xDB) and Experience Profile functionality inside Sitecore 8. 

If Sitecore 8 puts the customer at the center of the conversation, the Experience Database is the hub of the new system – since the customer, and all customer intelligence is stored there.

Before we inventory the functionality within the Experience Profile we need to talk a little about how xDB captures and stores contact information.  First, the language -- xDB refers to visitors as contacts, and it refers to events (page view, goal, campaign, etc.) as interactions.  In any browsing session contacts are captured and interactions are generated.    Adding contacts and interactions to xDB is not limited to web browsing.  External systems like CRM and POS can write activities to xDB.  So, an in-store order could be reported on within Sitecore, and the visitors upstream web activity can be displayed in the same customer timeline.  That’s a powerful feature. 

A previous limitation of the DMS was its inability to recognize that a single visitor on two devices is in fact, a single visitor.  xDB solves that issue.  The illustration below depicts two visitor sessions.  In session 1, we start with an anonymous visitor who registers for a newsletter.  At that point we know the user as Joe.  In session 2 Joe comes back, but on a different device.  He receives his newsletter and follows a story.  Once we’ve made the association of Joe (on his iPad) any previous browsing activity is appended with the newly found awareness that this is Joe.  So, now we have a complete picture of Joe, the devices that he uses, the campaigns that he’s responding to and the goals that he’s triggering. 

The Experience Profile

Now that we’ve covered a bit of how xDB captures activity let’s look at the display.

The Timeline

The timeline is a visual linear representation of a contact’s activity, both online and offline.  It includes web visit activity, goals, campaigns, channels, engagement value generated, visit profile matches – everything you need to understand your visitor.

Overview

The overview tab includes the latest web activity, general stats, recent campaigns and best pattern matches (think persona).

Activity

The activity tab provides details on web visit activity, triggered events, outcomes achieved, campaigns used, channels accessed, goals triggered, engagement plans that the visitor belongs to and keywords that were used in internal and external searches.

Profiling

The profile tab shows the pattern matches that the contact has triggered, based on their activity.  The pattern match includes a radar chart of the profile keys, which is a helpful visual display of the contacts traits. 

Details

The details tab contains all the membership information we have on the contact.  This typically includes personal information, email address, etc.  The details section can be expanded to include any membership information by using Sitecore’s contact facets.

Social

The social tab displays the contacts recent social activity for Facebook, Twitter, G+ and Linked in.  This functionality requires that you have the Sitecore Social Connected module installed. 

Summary

For marketers that take the time to connect all their systems to xDB the results should be powerful.  The Experience Profile represents a big step towards the elusive single view of the customer that we all talk about.  The visual analysis capabilities in the context of the user journey is something that marketers have been seeking for years.  I expect the new capabilities of Sitecore 8 will generate exciting new insights across industries.