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Rethinking Customer Portals with XM Cloud

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Customer Portals are inherently different from public facing websites.  They serve as private, secure gateways for users to access personalized information, interact with sensitive data, and perform specific tasks tailored to their needs, such as account management, order tracking and other customer self service functions. These features are inherently custom, requiring integration into backend systems using a variety of API’s and patterns.

These functions are typically organized into a pretty statically navigated structure. They don’t benefit from many of the publishing features of a traditional DXP, as components aren’t typically reused, and content is rarely shared. This is why I rarely saw customer portals built on Sitecore, and when I did, it was more opportunistic since Sitecore was being used somewhere else and there was some value in reusing the platform for delivering the portal application in addition to.

Instead of Sitecore, most portals were usually built as custom web applications. This approach removed the architectural limitations that Sitecore imposed, allowing teams to use more modern development frameworks and approaches. Especially over the last few years, since .Net Standard was no longer a preferred development platform, teams embraced not only .Net Core, but modern JavaScript frameworks like React, Angular and Vue. Taking this custom approach also allowed for shared architecture’s that supported custom mobile applications in addition to the web portal as some of those same web frameworks supported reuse between applications.

But portals almost always have content management specific needs. Even if they are not publishing documents and assets, portals will typically require managing content and translations for labels, alerts and help text, not to mention the need to integrate marketing messaging as part of the customer portal experience.

Portals in the era of XM Cloud

When looking at XM Cloud, we have a much different platform for building portals that XM and XP offered. And I’d argue there is a great case for building your customer portal on XM cloud instead of as a standalone custom web application. Here are some points to consider:

Ability to Leverage the exact same Modern Frameworks and Architectures that you would use if you were building it completely custom.

XM Cloud empowers developers to leverage modern frameworks like React, Angular, or Vue.js, enabling them to build customer portals with the same flexibility and agility as custom applications. They can reuse component libraries documented in tools like Storybook, across web and mobile applications. By utilizing familiar development tools and patterns, teams can streamline development processes and ensure scalability and maintainability in the long term.

Ability to seamlessly integrate marketing messages into your portal, turning it into a channel for nurturing customer value.

With XM Cloud providing controls over layout and component configuration, portals can seamlessly incorporate targeted marketing messages and campaigns into their customer portals. This transforms the portal into a dynamic channel for engaging and nurturing customer relationships, driving conversion, and maximizing the value of each customer interaction.

Ability to use Analytics to analyze performance and personalization to improve outcomes.

XM Cloud’s built-in analytics tools enable businesses to gain valuable insights into user behavior, engagement patterns, and performance metrics within their customer portals. By leveraging data-driven analytics, organizations can optimize content, personalize user experiences, and continuously improve outcomes to meet evolving customer needs and preferences.

Ability to use XM Cloud’s Component Builder to add customized promotions and messages without developer support.

XM Cloud’s Component Builder empowers marketers and portal owners to create and deploy customized promotions, messages, and interactive elements within the customer portal without relying on developer support. This streamlines the content management process, accelerates time-to-market for marketing initiatives, and ensures consistent branding and messaging across the portal.

Standardized Management and Deployment of the front-end application.

XM Cloud offers a streamlined approach to managing and deploying your portal. Because it’s SaaS, all the management tools are provided without having to invest or manage environments. With XM Cloud your front-end application will typically be deployed to serverless front-end cloud platforms like Vercel or Netlify. With these platforms, developers can easily package, deploy, and iterate on their customer portals without downtime or the need for extensive manual intervention. This streamlined process reduces the time and effort spent on supporting deployments, allowing developers to focus more on delivering functionality and enhancing the user experience. By automating deployment workflows and providing a seamless integration with XM Cloud, these tools and platforms allow teams to accelerate development cycles, improve collaboration, and ensure a consistent and reliable deployment experience for their customer portals.

Ready to Connect Additional Composable Solutions

XM Cloud’s composable architecture allows organizations to easily integrate additional solutions and services to extend the functionality of their customer portals. Whether looking to add capabilities from the rest of Sitecore’s composable offerings or looking at third party solutions, integrating these capabilities is easier given XM Cloud’s open architecture.
Whether integrating search solutions, adding e-commerce capabilities, or incorporating AI-driven personalization tools, XM Cloud provides the flexibility and scalability to adapt and grow alongside evolving business needs and technology trends.

Perficient can Help

XM Cloud can be a great foundation for your customer portal. It provides all the benefits we discussed without forcing development teams into unnatural patterns or adding additional overhead that would be easier to solve with custom code. And if you are already thinking about XM Cloud for you public facing websites, you can derive even more benefits of a shared codebase.

If you are considering implementing a customer portal on XM Cloud, we’d love to help. You can reach out to me on LinkedIn, Twitter or fill out our contact form.

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David San Filippo, Principal

David is the Prinicpal of the Sitecore and Optimizely practice at Perficient, David estimates, architects and delivers digital marketing solutions at scale on the Sitecore Platform. A 4X Sitecore Technology MVP, David has written articles for MSDN Magazine and the Microsoft Architecture Journal. He has spoken at Sitecore Symposium, Sitecore Virtual Developer Day, user group meetings and code camps.

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