Gitex in Dubai: Sitecore leads from the front in offering 'composable solutions' amid big focus on the Middle East

The compnay is helping organisations around the world own the experiences they create for their customers, constituents, and supporters


Joydeep Sengupta

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Supplied photos
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Published: Fri 14 Oct 2022, 7:57 PM

In 1998, five friends – Thomas Albert, Jakob Christensen, Peter Christensen, Ole Thrane, and Michael Seifert — founded Pentia A/S, a systems integration company focused on implementing websites built with Microsoft technologies. Thrane, after developing one website after another, decided to write a script to automate aspects of the process. He didn’t know it then, but he had just written Sitecore’s first code.

While implementing websites, the team began to imagine a better future for digital marketers: What if marketers could deliver meaningful and engaging online brand experiences without leaning on developers? The next year, they released the first version of Sitecore – a new way to manage digital content.

In 2001, the Sitecore Corporation was founded, with Seifert as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and Sitecore began taking the content management system (CMS) market by storm.

A strategic path to international expansion

Sitecore opened offices in Copenhagen, Denmark, and Ukraine in 2002. But it was the company's early expansion into the United States (US) that set it apart from other Danish technology companies.

Since Sitecore’s inception, all software and documentation has been written in English. Thanks in large part to this intentional and strategic decision, the company was able to expand to the US in 2004, the United Kingdom (UK) in 2005, and Australia in 2007.

The use of English wasn’t the only strategic decision Sitecore made early on. When the company was formed, most of the major internet players were delivering content through static HTML pages. Led by a team of developers, Sitecore delivered dynamic pages and content from the start. We didn’t know it at the time, but this decision prepared the way for Sitecore to become the premier digital experience platform it is today.

At least, that’s what Seifert told Sitecore’s board in 2006. While Sitecore was a leader in the CMS market, Seifert was no longer satisfied simply making a “typewriter for the web”.

A new plan

After many discussions, the team came up with a new plan.

Many companies were using social media to communicate with their customers and prospects, discovering the importance of marketing analytics, and beginning to implement automation. But these systems were separate from their websites and often hard to integrate. Sitecore would combine them all.

There was only one problem. Sitecore didn’t have the money to do what most corporations do when they decide to expand services — acquire other companies. If Sitecore was going to provide these services, there was one route forward: build a connected platform from the ground up.

Many thought the company's founders were crazy for trying, but two years later, the team launched the first iteration of Sitecore’s digital experience platform. The platform created a central repository of information for each web visitor, which could be used to create and deliver personalized digital experiences. The foundation was laid for the Sitecore Experience Platform of today.

Global presence

As Sitecore’s technology expanded, so did its global presence. Following the opening of Australian offices in 2007, they opened offices in the Netherlands and Sweden in 2008, Japan in 2009, Canada and Germany in 2010, Singapore and France in 2012, Belgium, Malaysia, China, and Indonesia in 2015, Hong Kong in 2016, and the Middle East and India in 2017.

Today, Sitecore is leading the way in digital experience innovation. It’s receiving an array of awards, market-leadership recognition from top analyst firms, and numerous recommendations from clients spanning industries, business models, and locations. Sitecore is helping organisations around the world own the experiences they create for their customers, constituents, and supporters.

Regional focus

The UAE and the Middle East are important markets for Sitecore, and it has been growing its presence in the region. Earlier this year, Sitecore opened an office in Dubai Internet City to strengthen its presence and reinforce its relationships with local partners.

Gitex is an opportunity for Sitecore to showcase its newly expanded offerings, with two significant developments having taken place since last year’s event. In April this year, Sitecore announced that it had fully integrated the core products from Sitecore acquisitions of Boxever, Four51, Moosend and Reflektion into its Digital Experience Platform (DXP). This is a significant milestone that accelerates Sitecore's delivery of the industry’s most complete SaaS-based DXP. Sitecore’s composable DXP reimagines how content, experience orchestration, commerce and analytics support modern enterprises in becoming digital-first.

In July, it became the first company to completely transition our core content management system (CMS) solution, including personalisation and the content authoring experience, to a modern cloud architecture with the release of Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) Cloud.

Khaleej Times spoke with Mohammed Alkhotani, Sitecore’s Area Vice-President for the Middle East and Africa, on the sidelines of GITEX Global — the biggest technology show in the Middle East — that ended in Dubai on Friday.

Edited excerpts from the interview:

How do you think the Covid-19 pandemic has changed consumer behaviour and shopping habits in the region?

A survey commissioned by Sitecore this year found that, while brand loyalty has been put to the test since the onset of the pandemic, consumers in the UAE and the Middle East have tended to remain loyal to brands and also to their shopping habits.

We have seen an increase in online shopping, but it is notable that the majority of people surveyed in this region still preferred the experience of in-person shopping. This indicates that brands need to elevate the online experience across all of the customer touch points to replicate the excitement and satisfaction of the in-store experience.

Responding to questions on how online shopping in general had changed after the pandemic, consumers reported that payment processing, page speed, and simplification of the purchasing process had seen the most improvement. At the lower end of the scale, fewer people reported improvements in managing the supply of stock, accurate delivery estimates, and the quality of online chat.

Interestingly, 7 per cent of respondents believed the quality of online chat had actually decreased over the past two years.

What were some of the other trends to emerge from the Sitecore-commissioned survey?

The survey found that Middle Eastern consumers also have strong opinions about how brands can improve loyalty dynamics. Nine in 10 say brands need to prove that they treat their customers and their employees fairly. The same proportion of people agree that brands should make a conscious effort to ensure their customers feel represented in their marketing and communications. In addition, 85 per cent agree that it is important for brands they do business with to show how they are supporting causes they care about, and not just to say they care.

Similarly, the survey found people living in the Middle East are looking for brands that represent their values. It is important for brands to use imagery and language to represent the audience, with 90 per cent of respondents agreeing that brands should make a conscious effort to ensure their customers feel represented in their marketing and communications. Almost half of the consumers say they have chosen to shop at brands with ‘real life’ versus ‘perfect life’ experiences, while 4 in 10 say they chose to shop for brands with values that align with their own. However, fewer customers have taken the time to research this information – relying instead on information they receive passively or from the brand itself.

What changes should brands be making in a post-Covid-19 pandemic world?

Brands that will thrive in the future are those that connect intelligently and meet their customers with authentic experiences throughout the customer journey. They need to connect intelligently with their customers, compete with agility and distinguish themselves from others in the market.

Sitecore provides solutions that enable our clients to deliver more engaging, personalized content across all touchpoints. With Sitecore platforms, brands can learn faster, act sooner, and connect more effectively than ever.

With our composable DXP, brands pick and choose the platforms that meet their needs, and they can even integrate these with elements of their existing systems that are working well for them. Moreover, our solutions are cloud-based and headless, meaning they are easily adaptable for whatever the future brings.

Turning to the architecture of technology solutions, what do you mean when you talk about ‘composable’ platforms and why is Sitecore leading the way in offering composable solutions?”

A composable platform is one that is entirely modular, so that clients can choose only those components they need, and each of these components can be changed or updated individually as required. In the case of Sitecore’s composable Digital Experience Platform (DXP), the solution is agile, easy to use, and can help businesses to quickly catch up and keep up with the extraordinary pace of change in customer expectations.

Sitecore is leading the way in composable solutions as we realize agility is king in today’s evolving marketplace. Businesses that have thrived over the past few years are those that were ready and able to pivot at speed, and this will be true in the future.

Others are likely to follow Sitecore’s example as Gartner predicts that by 2023, 60 per cent of businesses will seek composability in new application investments.

What are some benefits of a composable platform?

Flexibility to integrate with existing marketing stack: Companies can enhance their existing platforms or build a new platform from scratch.

Specifically tailored end solution: Composable solutions are customer-centric and scalable.

Technology freedom: With new channels appearing and evolving all the time, businesses may prefer not to be locked into a specific vendor so that they can integrate technologies that optimize the customer experience.

Faster time to value: Composable tech architecture is agile, scalable, and quick to pivot, so that as customers’ needs change, businesses can act swiftly and recoup any investment costs sooner.

Best-of-breed approach: A composable DXP delivers the choice of the best technology on the market for each individual component and allows businesses to act efficiently and cost effectively.

Customer-centric: Composable DXPs enable businesses to truly prioritize their customers and create slick omni-channel experiences and personalised, consistent interactions.

What are Sitecore’s growth plans for the future?

We have doubled in size since mid-2020 and intend to continue this as we expand into the markets in which we have recently made acquisitions.

By continuing to grow our composable DXP strategy, we are on a strong growth trajectory that is enabling our customers to tailor their digital touchpoints to their audiences. Our continued innovation and collaboration with our customers is helping us do this.

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