Sitecore 9 – Your steer for 2018

The Challenge

To increase your customer’s consistency of experience with your company’s products and services.

The Direction

  • Understanding where the opportunities lie for collecting data within your company.
  • Collecting the right type of data (securely) from your interaction points
  • Reaping knowledge from the data to increase consistency across platforms
  • Analysing and acting on feedback to respond quickly and constantly

The Actions

Let’s assume you know where people experience you and yours, typically: adverts, at the tills, trade fairs, award ceremonies, social media, ticket collection point, email, website, product download, newspapers, in the shops, in the press, in the aisles etc. It was the lack of integration between them that was a major challenge.

Get on Sitecore 9 in the cloud

We’ve gone past the tipping point of cloud hosting, so you really should get on it soon grandma, if not your speed to market and feedback loop will get even slower. Sitecore are pushing Azure hard and the benefits of the partnership with Microsoft are there to see, however you’re always free to use AWS, GCP or a private cloud. Whether you’re upgrading, lifting-and-shifting, starting afresh or a hybrid, look at cloud hosting.

Collect data using Sitecore

Sitecore Experience Management/Platform © ™ ® includes:
– Multi-site and Multi-language management
– Marketing Automation
– A/B & multi-variant testing
– Machine-learning based optimisation

Which all brings useful and usable data into Sitecore’s Experience Database (xDB) © ™ ®. If Sitecore’s own features and modules don’t do it then…

Plug everything else into Sitecore

Bring together your data sources into xDB;  ticketing systems, internal databases, Salesforce, Eloqua, payment providers, this API and that API and all website interactions. Headless Sitecore is a beautiful thing, it’s not just an expensive CMS, it’s a door opener. If you’ve got multiple CMSs, fine, use Sitecore’s Federated Experience Manager (FXM) to correlate data.

Use the Data Luke

Personalisation is one way but it’s not the only way. Please don’t just focus on making Barry from Cardiff feeling special on a Tuesday morning as the buys a can of Special Brew. He feels special enough already, and he won’t remember anyway.

Use the data to be relevant, valuable and and remember the Challenge you should be focussing on, to provide a consistent experience. Re-visit the high value areas where you’ve touched each other, was it good, was it as expected, was it consistent, would they want to do it again? Hopefully it’s a yes to all of those but you will only find out through…

Constantly reviewing and acting on feedback

Not at a quarterly where Sharon in sales says she’s heard that someone said popcorn prices are too high. Did that recommendation work? Yes/No -> act. You have the data, you have the knowledge so what’s it saying that needs to be acted upon and then act upon it quickly, then again, then again until it’s happening so regularly that you wish a computer could do it for you.
If you’re not improving then what’s the point?


Although I work on Sitecore and it’s technology remember it’s not the technology that’s the driver behind this, it’s the people. Always maintain the human element of interacting with the customer.

About me – I’m an Account Director at True Clarity where we focus on getting the most out of Sitecore for our clients, who include easyJet, Dyson, ASOS, the Conservative Party and Sophos. I’ve also just come back from the most excellent 2017 Sitecore Symposium where Sitecore 9 was launched.


Graduating Soon?


We love hiring graduates!

We hire a lot and we’re getting pretty good at training them…

Over 50% of our company joined us straight out of Uni. Last year we have had 7 graduates join us in Development, Test and Project Management. Some of the developers we hired as graduates 10 years ago are still with us , including two of the computer scientists we first met at Bristol University, who are now Sitecore MVPs (an award given to only 0.53% of the Sitecore certified ecosystem).

Our graduate recruitment is under way and we are keen to see applications from budding software developers who would like to work in Bristol.

We’ll be at on the 8th May, come and say hello to me (and some of the team) to find out more.

If you can’t make it, feel free to drop me a line for an initial conversation about the roles on 0117 932 7700 or alternatively send a copy of your CV to:

Commerce and Digital Content Event

Feels like the year has just started but we’re over a month in and we’ve already held our first event.

The event was a great success, it was oversubscribed and we had a great list of brands speaking and attending. For those who missed out, or those who asked for the slides you can grab them below:

Econsultancy – The digital retailer, trends, opportunities and challenges

Fenwick – Avoiding creating content for vanity’s sake

Quill – Using e-commerce content to power growth

JLL – Food in fashion, a newsjacking case study

Now to get planning the next one 🙂

January 28th event – Commerce and Digital Content, Trends, successes and what to avoid

Ciprian Muresan - THE UNBELONGING

We invite you to hear from our panel of digital marketing experts on whether editorial content really is all it’s cracked up to be in driving web traffic and sales. Come and join in the discussion on their experiences across a variety of sectors including retail, fashion, travel, media and leisure.

Running Order: 

  • 13:00-14:00: Arrivals, lunch and drinks
  • 14:00-14:10: Welcome note
  • 14:10-14:30: Econsultancy, “The Digital Retailer: Trends, Opportunities and Challenges”
  • 14:30-14:50: Fenwick, “Avoiding creating content for vanity’s sake”
  • 14:50-15:10: Quill, “Using ecommerce content to power growth”
  • 15:10-15:30: JLL, “Food in Fashion” A newsjacking case study
  • 15:30-15:50: Panel Q&A, “Where should you be putting your efforts?”
  • 16:00-onwards: Networking and drinks

Who should come?

The event is aimed at sharing experiences across sectors from people who are responsible for driving their online sales and strategy. Heads of/Managers of – Digital, E-commerce, IT and Marketing will get the first pick of tickets.

Register now:

We hope to see you there!

Winning the Digital Election with

“True Clarity’s impressive team helped us – again – to deliver a website of the highest possible standard. Thanks to their input, played a key part in helping undecided voters understand exactly how our plan would secure a brighter future for Britain while also empowering supporters to help the campaign in a number of ways. True Clarity’s commitment to responsive design meant that the site worked seamlessly across all devices, and their hard work in the months leading up to polling day meant the site was both stable and secure in those crucial final days.”

Craig Elder, Digital Director, The Conservative Party

What was needed

5 years is a long time in politics. In 2010, we helped the Conservatives build what was widely recognised as the best of the UK political parties’ websites but for 2015 we needed to adapt to a changing digital landscape.

In particular, the huge shift towards consumption via mobile devices meant we’d have to approach the election with a “mobile first” mentality, and work to deliver simple user journeys that worked as well on a phone as they did a desktop.

We also had to focus on delivering a tightly-focused website that gave two key audiences what they needed: helping undecided voters understand exactly what the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan meant for them, while also giving Conservative supporters the tools they needed to get more involved in the campaign.

And of course, we had to achieve all of this while ensuring the site could cope under the huge amount of traffic we could expect during the busy election period (and on polling day itself).

How we tackled it

A responsive site for a mobile-first audience

Working with the Conservatives’ in-house design team, we created site templates that worked responsively across all devices – be it phone, tablet, laptop or desktop. This had to be achieved without compromising site editors’ ability to quickly add, edit and remove copy, content and widgets as required.

Giving undecided voters the information they need

Just as it was in 2010, we knew that would be one of the first places undecided voters would go to find out about the Party’s policies in the days leading up to the election.

Therefore it was imperative that the site focused on helping people understand not just what those policies were – but what they meant for them, their family and their area. We worked with the Conservatives to produce a series of interactive pages throughout the site that allowed users – upon answering questions on location, salary and so on – to find out exactly how the Conservatives’ plan would help them.

We took this approach as far as making the 404 page on the site an interactive “find out what our plan means for you” page to ensure even users who couldn’t find what they were looking for could learn what the Conservatives’ long-term economic plan meant for them and their family.

Making it easy for supporters to support

Of course, one of the other key audiences for a political party’s website is its supporters, and it was important that gave them the tools they’d need to make the campaign a success. We worked closely with the Conservatives’ team to optimise three key user journeys – membership, donations and volunteering – to ensure supporters could complete these actions as quickly and easily as possible. This was a huge success, with the donation page in particular seeing a huge leap in conversion rate, leading to the Party raising more money in small online donations than at any previous election. In addition, the new Volunteer page played a huge part in helping to assemble the ‘Team2015’ volunteer army which played a key part in winning the election.

Finally, we worked with Dynamic Signal to put gamification at the heart of a new ‘Share the Facts’ section of the website, which rewarded Conservative supporters every time they shared campaign images and videos on their own social networks – significantly increasing participation and reach for each piece of content.

The Value played an important part in the Party’s overall election efforts, which saw them win 331 seats and an overall majority – confounding the predictions of pollsters and commentators alike.

The Party raised more money in small online donations than ever before, and also assembled a 100,000+ strong ‘Team2015’ volunteer army thanks to people signing up via the website.

‘Share the Facts’ was hugely successful, helping Conservatives supporters reach an additional 3 million people every week – over and above the direct reach of the Conservatives’ existing digital channels – by empowering people to quickly and easily share campaign content.

And perhaps most importantly, the site performed seamlessly on polling day (just as it had in 2010), meaning voters in key constituencies all around the country were able to get the information they needed.

Designing the Customer Experience

Organisations are now thinking ahead to what their customer experience will look and feel like in years to come. These experiences will be personal, fluid and meaningful in ways we can only dream about today. They will be innately social. What friends are doing will drive the experience as much as individual behaviour. Don’t even count on the experience being screen based. Wearable devices, proximity systems combined with voice recognition and motion sensing will force brands to embrace the physical. All of this with no compromise in security, privacy or performance.

Happy and sad masks
How will your brand experience make customers feel?

Things used to be simple. One website. One device. A couple of browsers. A single user journey. It was possible to take a blank sheet and design your site from scratch. Handover the design to the developers and get it built in relative short-order.

Then things got complicated. You needed experts to build the content management systems. Designers need to be digital natives. Get the right experts together, put together a plan and execute. Sure there were more devices, more user journeys and often a legacy system or two to deal with. The methods got more structured, more governance was required to cope. Projects take longer. However the requirements are still relatively static over the lifetime of the delivery. They are also easy to understand at least by the experts involved.

The type of customer experience we are imagining will change things. The speed at which the expectations of the customers are changing is constantly increasing. Therefore projects must deliver in ever shorter timescales or risk delivering an experience that no-longer meets the customers needs. The ground is always shifting.

Even capturing what it is the customer wants is getting harder. Once customers were delighted just to have nice easy to use experience. Then the requirements were clear. I want to book a flight. I want to find a skirt for the weekend. I need a new vacuum cleaner.  However these new customer experiences are about being emotionally engaged. Making something meaningful isn’t so easy.

A tacit, intuitive connection is required between those creating the experience and the complex world of your customers. Often you will be co-creating an experience with your customers. In order to anticipate the future, your brand will need to help bring the dream into reality, by doing, by taking risks, by pushing the boundaries.

There are elements of your business that are easy to predict. You sell Flights, Vacuums or Fashion now, you will continue to sell them in the future. Your core business systems can continue being managed as they are now. Top-down design, expert guidance and detailed project plans work. You’re existing service-orientated architectures will do the job. You just need to keep these systems as independent as possible from the constantly changing world of your customer experience.

So what methods will organisations use to allow a more meaningful customer experience emerge from what exists today? The teams working on the new experiences will need a very close relationship with your customers. They need an innate understanding of their lives. They will understand tacitly what a good experiences feels like. That will allow them to make good decisions on a day-to-day basis.

Feedback will be critical to success. Testing ideas earlier. Failing fast. Performing well designed experiments whose sole purpose is to increase a teams knowledge of what kind of experience the customer will value over another. When success is an emotional response, even figuring out what to measure is going to be hard and ever changing.

The goal here is to remain adaptive. It is the speed at which we are learning about what makes a great customer experience that is key. Any idea that has potential to further this goal should be tested. It is the speed at which these tests can be done that will become the new measure of efficiency.

So the future is unknowable. Organisations will need to accept that the way they run their internal facing systems won’t work so well at the boundary with the customers. Not if that organisations wants to create meaningful and emotional experiences with their customers. That will take a new kind of team, one ready to anticipate their customers changing needs by learning faster than the competition.

What if your ROI is based on a false positive?

You have a large ecommerce website.You want to make small incremental improvements to the performance of the website. You can measure the impact via an increase in profits. Everything sounds pretty simple. Just run small experiments on everything from the user experience, pricing, pay-per-click ads etc. when you see something working do more of it. If things aren’t working then try something else.

This is age-old marketing know-how. I’ve seen this approach being used in direct-marketing since the start of my career. This is the beauty of digital. We can measure everything. Not like stodgy old media. But are these assumptions true?

Lets consider a simple model. The experiment could be anything from a new online ad campaign, an A/B test around button positioning or a good old fashioned bit of discounting. For the purpose of this discussion it doesn’t matter. We have a large customer base. We measure success based on a influencing the customers behaviour. We can expect a very low conversion rate. We also have a low cost total cost for the experiment.

We begin with a big cohort of customers. We then split these out into those who we were able to positively influence, and those who we didn’t and had a negative effect on. The second group were never going to buy, or were going to buy anyway. In each group we then consider the accuracy of our measurements, are the results we measure true or false.

This gets confusing really quick. So please stay with me.

When calculating our ROI the measurement we need to get a count of all the positives. This count is made up of two types. The true positives (i.e. people we correctly measure as being influenced by our actions) and false positives (i.e. people who weren’t influenced but because of inaccuracy in the measurement methods we think we’re).

Let’s assume we have a cohort of 100,000 customers. We have a 1% error rate in measuring false positives (people who weren’t actually influenced). Let’s also assume the true influence rate is 5%.

  • True Positives = 100,000 x 5% x 99% = 4950
  • False Negatives = 100,000 x 5% x 1% = 50
  • True Negatives = 100,000 x 95% x 99% = 94050
  • False Positives = 100,000 x 95% x 1% = 950

So our test results give the following.

  • Positives = 5,900 = 18% error
  • Negatives = 94100 = 1% error (as expected)

This is pretty worrying. We could easily be making a decision based on an ROI of 20%, while actually with a small error rate of just 1% that results are break-even.

False-Positive Paradox

Let’s consider some real world examples and some possible strategies for avoiding this effect (known as the False-Positive Paradox).

The first is a pay-per-click campaign. So here we just pay for clicks. Tracking purchases is pretty straight-forward most analysis tools give you revenue figures. However it is going to be pretty hard to measure definite cause and effect here unless we adopt a more scientific approach. Ideally we would have a pre-defined cohort of users to whom we show the advert, then we can measure real influence by comparing users who find the site organically vs. those clicking on the ad. Given most reporting tools don’t do this I’d argue the error rate here is much higher than our illustration of 1%. Ideally use cohorts, if not ensure you’re ROI barrier is raised high enough to lift you out of danger.

Next let us consider A/B testing of a new design. In this case we are running an experiment using a typical javascript based tool. We are looking for justification for doing some change to the platform. So it is the cost of the proposed changes to the platform we need to consider. Now in this example we can expect a little more scientific approach from the start. We are running the test in parallel which will remove a lot of noise from the results (for example a sale starting during the test period will have the same effect on both groups). However unlike the campaign example here are measurement is not based on absolute sales. We’re looking at a shift in buying patterns. The customers who didn’t buy something with the old design (A) who will now buy something with the new design (B). So unless you have a landslide victory with the new design take care.

The final example is implementing personalisation logic. In this case we are segmenting our customer base and to a certain group showing some different content. Again if carried out using A/B logic the results are more scientific. However in analysis of these kind of rules generally will only show the sales figures of the segmented group of users and any uplift seen in this group against the norm. If the rate of ‘influence’ is low then we can expect errors. To avoid this case personalisation rules should again lead to much higher influence rates. In a word keep it simple, creating multiple highly targeted rules based on non-cohort based analysis may be unwise.