Sitecore 9.3 is the latest release from Sitecore, the leading Digital Experience Platform. As well as having inherited features from versions 9.0, 9.1, and 9.2 such as Cortex, AI and xConnect, Sitecore 9.3 has enhanced capabilities that benefits its users.
Let’s take a closer look at the reasons why you should be thinking about a Sitecore upgrade to 9.3.
Reasons to upgrade to Sitecore 9.3
- Horizon UI
- Artificial Intelligence
- Hosting on Azure
- Enhanced search capabilities
- Publishing Service
- Sitecore Experience Accelerator (SXA)
- Headless CMS
- Device detection
- Active personalisation reporting
- New email templates
- Content Hub
- SQL Server for xDB collection database
- Scheduled plan enrolment
- Mainstream support
Brand new to Sitecore 9.3, Horizon will eventually replace the Experience Editor. For now though, Horizon is a separate module that offers more editing functionality:
- Undo / redo
- Easier navigation
- Drag & drop
- Visibility in different device layouts
- Visibility on each component's performance including projected improvements on conversions
- Ability to assign goals to click actions
As this is the first version of Horizon, there are a few things that aren’t included, such as uploading new files to the media library, personalisation, and A/B testing. It does, however, provide a great glimpse of things to come.
Introduced in Sitecore 9.0, Cortex uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning to drive digital strategy and marketing outcomes. It uses ‘Contextual Intelligence’ to drive AI- Auto personalisation by automatically identifying visitor trends, creating segments, and displaying personalised content. Cortex also offers:
- Valuable insights into visitor behaviour
- Automated personalisation and enhanced visitor engagement
- Engagement opportunities displayed in the analytics dashboard
- Faster ‘real-time’ data processing
- Session expiration batching support
As well as Cortex, there's also Sitecore's very own Artificial Intelligence engine.
Sitecore AI delivers personalised content using a process called Auto Personalisation.
The AI algorithm in Sitecore 9.3 analyses data, detects new segments and then auto-personalises content based on its findings. This process removes any guesswork and ensures the right content is delivered to the right visitors, at the right time, on the right channel - continuously. Sitecore AI benefits users by:
- Providing instant visitor insights
- Aligning personalisation with business goals
- Maintaining continuous optimisation
A Sitecore 9.3 upgrade offers scalable Microsoft Azure cloud computing.
Sitecore on Azure increases power, speed, and agility. It accommodates hosting on Azure Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Azure Package as a Service (PaaS).
Azure IaaS, also referred to as Virtual Machines (VM) offers:
- A cost-effective hosting solution that uses tailored servers based on exact requirement
- Lesser up-front costs than hosting on-premise (although maintenance is still required)
Azure PaaS also has minimal up-front costs than on-premise but requires less server maintenance. The benefits of hosting on Azure PaaS are:
- Up to an 80% reduction in IT admin time required to manage applications deployed on the platform
- An average 1-day reduction in developing and testing Azure PaaS applications
- A 50% reduction in deployment time
Sitecore 9.3 no longer uses Lucene as its search provider. Instead, Azure Search is the default search engine.
- Azure Search: Developed for cloud deployments on Azure PaaS. Azure Search can only be used for a scaled environment in the Azure environment
- Solr: For on-premise installations, Solr is used for content and xConnect. It is recommended to use Solr for on-premise scaled environments and in Azure environments
Also new to Sitecore 9.3 is Permission Enabled Search.This allows users to assign security to content they want surfaced in search results using the Sitecore Security Model.
In the event Users/Roles don't have Read permissions to particular items, those items wouldn't be displayed in the user's search results.
The Publishing Service is an additional module installed with version 9.3.
It reduces the time it takes to publish items in bulk and has an informative dashboard displaying Active, Queued, and Recent jobs. This module is ideal for large scale Sitecore websites that perform regular and large publishing cycles.
SXA speeds up the production of Sitecore websites. It does this by reusing responsive website components, templates and layouts across multiple websites.
By separating structure from design (Headless), developers, designers, and content authors can work collaboratively to build websites quickly using pre-installed themes and grids.
Users can create multiple websites and tenants (autonomous groupings in the business) for different company subsidiaries and/or regions. Each multiple website with unique content shares templates, renderings, content and media items.
SXA offers independent security access so users can manage multiple websites without affecting others within the same solution.
There’s also support for multi-tenant multisites so that each website can work as an individual physical website.
Even going back to older versions like Sitecore 7.2, Sitecore has always been a headless CMS. It separates content from presentation so that users can edit, store and manage content without affecting the design and delivery.
Sitecore's Headless CMS fits perfectly with today’s browsing habits. With so many ways to consume content (mobile, tablet, apps, Internet of Things (IoT) etc. having a headless CMS allows for the same content to be used on multiple channels for multiple devices, eliminating the need to create different content for different channels and devices.
Host handles aspects of a service or application not directly linked to functionality. For example, logging, configuration, and plug-ins.
In Host, the deployment of services and applications is the same, allowing them to have a common run-time, therefore reducing deployment time.
Identity works off a separate identity provider that enables Single Sign-On (SSO) across multiple Sitecore services and applications.
The Device Detection (DD) service allows users to configure customised device layouts to target personalised content to various viewports (mobile, tablets).
In addition to this, DD also enables users to:
- Configure device information provider details
- Set up the Device Detection service in the cloud and customise the DD database
- Configure cache settings
xConnect is the bridge between the Sitecore Experience Database (xDB) and the rest of the digital infrastructure.
It enables the Sitecore Experience Platform to connect with and store data from any third-party data system. This provides users with insightful views of website visitors and their user journeys.
Forms has been enhanced with some new additions. A Sitecore upgrade would enable users to publish within the Forms module itself, i.e. they don't need to exit the Forms module to enter the Publishing Wizard.
Users can also delete Form data from the form itself by selecting Delete Data from the Form options.
Other Forms additions include:
- The ability to upload a file with options to limit number, type and size
- Users can add an 'Email confirmation' field to forms
- Bot detection to verify if the input is from a human
- Redirecting to an external URL
- Database improvements
The Active Personalisation Report is an advanced Sitecore tool available in Sitecore 9.3.
Reporting is presented in a Personalisation Dashboard in Experience Optimisation. It displays all active personalisation experiences on the website. Users can see:
- Which pages have personalised components
- The number of personalised experiences on pages
- How many visits a personalised page had
- Top 5 personalised experiences
- The total number of goal conversions on personalised pages
The Email Experience Manager (EXM) has been refined. With a choice of 3 regular email templates, EXM in version 9.3 offers greater flexibility for users:
- Announcements: Balanced layout with text image and Call to Action (CTA)
- Alternating Columns: This is a newsletter layout with an image and CTA
- Call To Action Focus: This template focusses solely on a bold design and a single CTA
The Content Hub, is a single, integrated solution that allows users to manage every aspect of marketing content for all channels from one place.
It integrates Digital Asset Management (DAM) with Digital Rghts Management (DRM), marketing resource management (MRM), and product information management (PIM) in one platform.
The Experience Profile allows users to anonymise / delete a contact’s Personal Identifiable Information (PII) should a visitor request it.
Sitecore 9.3 handles unwanted data by giving more control over how it's managed. This is done by APIs that can delete or purge excessive data.
This latest addition to the Marketing Automation application allows users to enrol segmented contacts into automation campaigns on three criteria:
- A certain time of the day
- A certain day of the week
- At a given date
Every Sitecore release has a Support Lifecycle. If you’re on versions 8.0/8.1 or 8.2, mainstream support has already expired (31 Dec 2018 and Dec 2019, respectively), with version 9.0 due to expire on 31 December 2020.
The Sitecore upgrade path required to obtain 9.3 will vary depending on the (outgoing) Sitecore version you’re running. Our team will install all necessary packages using the Update Installation Wizard or the Sitecore Install Assistant to ensure a seamless Sitecore upgrade.