Sitecore global CEO on composable and the blurring of the line between content and commerce

Global chief talks through the martech vendor's ambitious technology development efforts and why creativity and technology need to come together

A bullish belief in cloud-based, composable architecture, the convergence of content and commerce and personalisation are what Sitecore’s global CEO believes will help the martech vendor continue to win market share.

In the lead-up to this year’s global Sitecore Symposium, Sitecore CEO, Steve Tzikakis, caught up with CMO to discuss the vendor’s broadening product offering, as well as how it’s looking to continue carving out a differentiated position in the complex martech ecosystem by becoming a progressive, ‘friendly neighbour’ to mission-critical business systems.

During the symposium, the digital experience software vendor unveiled a suite of fully composable offerings as well as platform updates. These include Sitecore Search, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered search and content discovery tool that offers predictive capabilities for digital search. Content Hub One, meanwhile, is an agile headless content management system (CMS), which combines content modelling, authoring and consumption across Web, mobile, smart displays, voice assistants and marketplaces into a single interface.

As a further nod to composability, Sitecore Connect, which can be accessed via a drag-and-drop user interface, aims to help brands more seamlessly connect Sitecore products to an existing technology stack of third-party tools through more than 1000 connectors. Sitecore Connect is being pitched as a low code / no code interface for building custom recipes, or otherwise offers more than 400,000 community recipes to define a target system, set the flow and publish.

In addition, Sitecore has further enhancements to XM Cloud, its cloud-native CMS, on their way, including new editing interfaces, native personalisation and testing capabilities. The latest solutions are part of Sitecore’s broader push to offer a portfolio of solutions for digital marketing. They’re supported by Sitecore 360, a customisable plan for brands to access tools, people and principles to help with tech migration, management and optimisation.

The product innovations come 18 months after Sitecore raised $1.2 billion in investment to fuel its ambitious expansion plans. Funds have gone towards tripling the vendor’s R&D spend and development as well as acquisition of five businesses, taking the total portfolio of products from two to 12. Acquisitions included personalisation engine, Boxever, which has since become Sitecore Customer Data Platform (CDP); digital messaging player, Moosend, now grouped under Sitecore Marketing Automation; and headless ecommerce solution, Four51, which forms part of Sitecore Commerce.  

“Two years ago, we made the decision to be the first tech company to have all of its stack in a modern cloud architecture and to make it composable,” Tzikakis told CMO, adding Sitecore has invested in local datacentres as a further nod to local support.

“We saw marketing technology as a market growing by 20 per cent. But it was not innovative; you had some innovative companies serving the low or mid-market but not the larger enterprise or mega brands.

“We knew we could only do certain things ourselves and others we’d have to acquire. So we made two important steps. We launched the growth fund, a $1.2 billion fund, and we said we’re going to triple R&D spend as well as acquire certain businesses.

“And we felt strongly our products should be tightly coupled together through open APIs, on a microservices platform, but that our customers would also have flexibility acquiring these products on a standalone basis too. That would give them the opportunity to grow with us, as opposed to us forcing clients down one path.”

Composable is a hot term now, but Tzikakis stressed it’s been a two-year game for Sitecore. Similarly, he noted Sitecore’s long-term commitment to headless commerce, which started back in 2014. Composable architecture and headless commerce decouple technology front and back end in order for application components to be reused more quickly and easily for different purposes.

“It’s great to see the whole market is joining forces with us [on composable] – it’s a bit like electric vehicles. You want to have competition as it helps growth in the market, as opposed to just one company,” Tzikakis continued.

“And we are a friendly neighbour. We don’t believe we should own the whole landscape, and we’re very respectful of the fact companies have their unique architectural landscapes. They have their website, internal CRM, ERP and all the things around it, execution systems, which could be retail, manufacturing or utilities. They often have 4-5 big islands of technology. Under each island there could be 100 companies. That causes problem, particularly when some of those are mission critical.”

In complement, Tzikakis noted the value of content is only getting more significant, citing figures that companies on average spend 1 per cent of their global revenue on content.

“If you are a $1bn business, that’s a lot of money. If you’re earning $10bn, it’s even more money. So our customers are investing heavily in content. But vendors out there are sitting on a dated stack,” he claimed.

“Marketers have to spend a lot of their budget keeping the lights on as opposed to differentiating, innovating and bringing their brands and experiences into their online offering. This is why you see these beautiful brands with commerce sites that are like a supply chain system with no affiliation with what the brand is trying to do, their purpose or what they are trying to represent. It’s just multiple pages and options to click here and there. And half the time content doesn’t work on different devices, or you’re asked to accept cookies every time.

“With this in mind, we decided companies should now have choice. I’m sure others will follow suit and put everything in the public cloud… We also see from our customers that as budget pressure rises, there is going to be consolidation of applications.”

As a result of its composable, cloud-based and integrated approach, Tzikakis claimed Sitecore had consistently outgrown its nearest competitor, Adobe, in the last six quarters by a factor of 3-4 times.

“That has given us a lot of momentum in the marketplace,” he added.

According to SimilarTech figures, there has been strong growth of Sitecore CMS adoption in the market, although figures show Adobe Experience Manager remains the dominant player across most categories and regions in 2022. Sitecore's annual report stated revenue of DKK722.8 million (AUD: $151.7m) in 2020-2021, up from DKK444m in 2019-2020.

Merging content and commerce

What Sitecore's technology approach is also designed to do is address what Tzikakis described as the necessary merger of creativity and technology.

“The winners will be those who will bring creativity all the way to the ‘buy’ button. This is why our strategy is ‘content to commerce’,” he said. “We feel content is in the epicentre of all of this. People come to see the content and walk away with the content. The buy button is just a bridge from learning to acquiring – it’s the destination. But content needs to be personalised, optimised and the same needs to happen during the buying experience. When I click that buy button, content personalisation needs to become buyer personalisation. I need to be in an environment where I can still feel that white glove treatment.”  

For Tzikakis, this seamless integration of content and commerce will be even more pronounced in the world of Web 3.0 and the metaverse.

“Firstly I’m not sure if it’s going to be the metaverse, Web 3.0 or something else. There is definitely virtual reality, which is proliferation of content capabilities, and that will continue to evolve, whether we have to wear glasses or we can just watch something,” he commented.

“The generation growing up right now have more fun watching others unpacking boxes and gifts. That’s the generation that will have the buying power in a decade or two. They will be the ones orchestrating the trends. I’m not sure someone can safely predict what things will look like yet.

“But what we can safely say is content will continue being relevant. Personalisation - metaverse is all about how I want to build my world – plus first-party data and content will be critical. And I feel commerce will be elevated.”

Tzikakis pointed out Sitecore customers such as Papa John’s are already selling pizzas through video games or Instagram and as end customers are browsing digitally.

“Those spending a lot of time doing basic B2C will die. There may not be a buy button anymore. It will be so integrated, which is why we only do headless commerce,” he added. “The metaverse will be headless commerce – there won’t be the choice of clicking a buy button.”

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