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Posted By ENGAGENCY on 04/01/2022

Battle of the DXPs: Optimizely vs. Sitecore

Battle of the DXPs: Optimizely vs. Sitecore

Choosing the right digital experience platform (DXP) to power your digital transformation is a weighty decision. With the right DXP, you can do everything to the moon and back – or so the marketing materials claim.

It’s true: today’s leading DXPs are packed with robust functionality. But to find the absolute best choice for your organization, you must consider your business goals, tech stack, and target audience. 

It goes without saying that you should talk to an implementation partner when choosing a DXP. The clients who carefully select a platform and a partner are much more successful than those who rely on tool-based selection alone. Digital transformation partners have the expertise and the experience to understand the unique benefits and drawbacks of each DXP for organizations of different sizes, sectors, and situations. They can work with you to understand your goals and requirements, and recommend the best platform to make your marketing dreams a reality. 

But, just for the fun of it, let’s take a look at two of the DXP market leaders: Optimizely and Sitecore. Are there things that Sitecore or Optimizely is definitely better at than the other? Where do these platforms shine? Is there one DXP to rule them all?

Read on to find out. When it comes to the key features that matter, here’s where things shake up in the battle of the DXPs: Optimizely vs. Sitecore. 

Ease of use (Winner: Optimizely)

There’s no question that Optimizely is the more user-friendly of the two DXPs. That may be why Gartner named Optimizely a Leader in its 2022 Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms

Most content editors and marketers prefer a smoother, WordPress-like experience that leverages drag-and-drop components. Optimizely’s Visual Editor is built around those principles. As a result, Optimizely may not go as deep as Sitecore (although it can be extended if needed with the right technology partner), but it is certainly easier to use.

Sitecore’s Content Editor, on the other hand, goes so deep it almost feels like end users are tiptoeing into the development. Of course, there are some cases where Sitecore’s setup is necessary – as it allows for deeper customization –  but it may not be ideal for all situations. And while marketers and end users can learn to confidently use Sitecore’s Content Editor, it requires training

However, hope is not lost for those looking to have a strong UI and the power of Sitecore underneath. Sitecore Horizon is a module that can be added to a Sitecore environment to transform a user experience to more expected drag/drop of modern editing experiences. 

It’s worth noting that Sitecore understands they have some catching up to do, which is why they launched Horizon, their next-generation editor, in December 2019. Horizon lays on top of the current Content Editor and makes it more WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) like Optimizely’s Visual Editor. It has a more user-friendly interface and even includes templates. But, it still has its drawbacks and needs some work before it can be considered fully competitive with Optimizely’s offering.

If you’re wondering why Optimizely’s UI is preferable to Sitecore’s, the answer is simple: time. Sitecore’s UI was developed years ago and has remained relatively unchanged whereas Optimizely developed their user experience more recently. This fact gave Optimizely a competitive edge in building an interface that is faster and more responsive from a content editing standpoint.

Content management (Winner: Sitecore)

Once you get the hang of using Sitecore, you’ll quickly realize how powerful its CMS truly is, which makes it the clear frontrunner for content management. Sure, the interface is more challenging than Optimizely’s to learn, but the robust data capabilities are undeniable.

With Sitecore, you can have a deep amount of inherited data from multiple sources. Instead of one giant page item, each page is made up of disparate items. The front-end page can be reflective of multiple items working together. This allows an incredible amount of flexibility for both developers and end users to control and switch out different parts of the page. 

With Sitecore – and the right development team – you can go as far down the rabbit hole as you like, whereas with Optimizely, you’re more limited in what you can do with content. 

Experimentation (Winner: Optimizely)

For years now, the Optimizely name has been synonymous with best-in-class experimentation, including multivariate and A/B testing. According to a Total Economic Impact™ (TEI) study conducted by Forrester, organizations that use Optimizely’s experimentation platform enjoy a 286% ROI and $1.5 million in savings (due to improved site performance and increased developer productivity) within just three years of using the digital experience platform.

Optimizely’s experimentation platform is the best in the business, and there’s no question that it’s easier to use than Sitecore’s testing platform. With Optimizely, it is very easy to set up split testing and weighting for different elements in a test. You simply select things on the page and test them. It couldn’t be more straightforward.

While Sitecore offers comparable functionality with their split testing, it’s a lot more technical and may be confusing to use, particularly for an end user who isn’t a developer (which describes the majority of marketers). Sitecore’s split testing requires a significant amount of upfront training – and even then, the process of setting up a test won’t feel intuitive the way it does with Optimizely’s clean, user-friendly UI. 

Personalization (Winner: Sitecore)

The main value proposition of Sitecore is its profound personalization. The personalization opportunities with Sitecore are, dare we say, unlimited. Its AI-powered personalization engine can pull in data from external sources so each user’s journey is personalized, in real-time, based on their behavior. 

For example, you can set up different triggering points as a user navigates through your site on a typical user journey. Based on the action they take (or don’t take) with each touchpoint, you can route them somewhere new or serve them up new content based on their next click. You can also personalize their experience based on their landing page, location, and more. 

Take a website for a healthcare provider, for instance. Based on the user’s location and a few other variables external to the platform, you can configure the site to show the open hours of the location nearest them. You can swap out the header image to represent a local landmark. You can even dynamically show a list of specific doctors they might be looking for based on the page they entered, or their previous behavior from internal or external data sources. 

With Sitecore, your user journey adjusts dynamically as they navigate your website and other marketing channels. Instead of taking them down a flat journey, your website suggests relevant, hyper-personalized content to them in real-time.

You can think of Sitecore like a huge rules engine. You can hide or show forms, or change the images on a page based on regional or cultural differences, or your split testing results. 

There is one caveat here, however: with great power comes great responsibility. For Sitecore to work as powerfully as it possibly can, you need to be mapping your user journeys and defining your personas. Of course, you should be doing that anyway as part of your user experience (UX) strategy. If you’re not, look for a digital transformation partner that has a team of both expert UX designers and Sitecore developers. They’ll be able to help you map those journeys and configure them correctly in the platform for maximum success. 

E-commerce (Winner: Tie, With Caveats)

At last, we have a tie – sort of. But first, a history lesson: back in the day, Optimizely was formerly known as Episerver. Episerver’s DNA began in European e-commerce. When Episerver rebranded as Optimizely in 2021, all of Episerver’s powerful e-commerce capabilities came baked into the stack, along with some new value-add features. Today, their e-commerce offering is known as Optimizely Commerce Cloud. With an extensive list of supported integrations, it is the most complete commerce suite available. 

Sitecore, on the other hand, has a more complicated history with commerce. Sitecore’s original commerce offering, Sitecore Commerce, was known for being more difficult to manage. The game changed when they announced Sitecore OrderCloud, a headless RESTful API. The SaaS-based commerce solution can be seamlessly integrated with your Sitecore stack. And, given its API-driven approach, Sitecore OrderCloud can provide a completely custom e-commerce experience.

Today, you really can’t go wrong with either Optimizely Commerce Cloud or Sitecore OrderCloud. Both Sitecore OrderCloud and Optimizely Commerce Cloud can power impressive e-commerce experiences. Talk to your implementation partner for guidance on the right option for you, based on your marketing and technical requirements.

Optimizely vs. Sitecore: Who Wins?

As you can see, both digital experience platforms have a lot to offer. When choosing a DXP, we recommend taking a requirements-driven approach first and letting your tool choice be a byproduct of that. In general, however, Optimizely is often the preferred choice for companies where commerce is a key priority, while Sitecore is the winner for those seeking the most robust content management system.

For help making this important decision, contact Engagency. As a Gold Sitecore Certified Partner and a Silver Optimizely Certified Partner, our team has extensive experience architecting, developing, and troubleshooting each platform. We know what can be achieved, and we’re here to help you get the absolute most out of your investment. Set up a time to talk today.

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