Sitecore Cortex – Three Basic Concepts

Was fortunate to attend an excellent presentation by John Hobart and Michael Thompson from Coria Inc on Sitecore Cortex at Sitecore UG Manchester, NH in February 2018 meetup. Though my first but such an informative session on Sitecore Cortex with some funny punch lines by John. 😉

As my first baby step towards the powerful Sitecore Cortex, thought of penning a blog on my understanding so far.

Sitecore Cortex

Original Image Credit: Sitecore Symposium 2017

Every time when I think of Sitecore Cortex it reminds of a story which I listened way back and recently popped up on some google link.

A young guy from Texas moves to California and goes to a big department store looking for a job. The manager says, “Do you have any sales experience?” The kid says, “Yeah, I was a salesman back home in Texas.” The boss liked the kid so he gave him the job. “You start tomorrow. I’ll come down after we close and see how you did.” His first day on the job was rough but he got through it. After the store was locked up, the boss came down.
“How many sales did you make today?”
Kid says, “One.”
Boss says, “Just one? Our sales people average 20 or 30 sales a day.
How much was the sale for?”
Kid says “$201,237.64.
Boss says “$201,237.64?? What the heck did you sell?”
Kid says, “First I sold him a small fish hook. Then I sold him a medium fish hook. Then I sold him a larger fish hook. Then I sold him a new fishing rod. Then I asked him where he was going fishing and he said down at the coast, so I told him he was gonna need a boat; we went down to the boat department and I sold him that twin engine Chris Craft. Then he said he didn’t think his Mercedes would pull it, so I took him down to the automotive department and sold him an Escalade.”
The boss said, “A guy came in here to buy a fish hook and you sold him a boat and truck?”
Kid says, “No, he came in here to buy a box of tampons for his wife and I said, your weekends shot, you might as well go fishing.”

So, what is the moral of story? If you understand your customer, you can make him purchase what you want him to purchase not only what he needs. But it takes a lot to understand your customer, analyze his behavior and advertise the products which he will surely show interest in.

Although the story above was about a clever human being working as a salesman but what if your digital marketing system also thinks like him? Capable enough to read the minds of million visitors browsing your site, finding out the potential customers out of those visitors. And also on the other hand, analyzing the buying patterns of the current customers and proactively suggesting relevant products them to purchase.

Now think about a system collecting all meaningful data configured by you, a strict policing system inspecting that ONLY the correct and relevant data is being captured and an intelligent system utilizing the data to automate those tedious processes required to achieve your digital marketing goals.

Like Chief Marketing Officer of Sitecore Scott Anderson said in his one of the presentations at Symposium 2017:

“Think of Sitecore Cortex as your own personal data scientist, but it’s available to you 24/7, 365 days a year, there to help you identify opportunities, and to avoid cautions and hazard areas, making recommendations to help you to improve the performance of your programs and your campaigns, and to deliver better experiences for your customers.”

The entire theory behind Sitecore Cortex is based on three key concepts. If anyone of these three is missing or not working properly, can cause malfunctioning on Sitecore Cortex and obviously your Digital Marketing Automation.

Hence let’s talk about these three key concepts:

Start collecting the data

This is the foundation. Those Sitecore implementations today who are not using xDB, are automatically out of race. As a very basic concept we need to start collecting meaningful data for the business having xDB as the repository. Whereas xConnect will help you collecting data from those third parties like legacy systems or CRMs, so that we can feed Mind of the Machine the data it need. Which means just enabling xDB is not sufficient, configuring is equally important that what data we want to collect. Sitecore comes OOTB with a lot of digital marketing features which helps us configuring the data to be collected:

  • Content Profiling – Profile, Profile Keys and Profile Cards
  • Personas
  • Goals, Campaigns an Events
  • Pattern and Patterns Cards
  • Federated Experience Manager
  • xConnect

Police the data

Tit for tat. Surprisingly but even computer follow this basic concept. If you feed garbage, expect garbage in outcome. Hence only collecting the data is not sufficient, we need to continuously police the data to make sure that we are not collecting something not relevant to our need. Reference

  • Assess Visitor Engagement – Not all visitors are equal – score them differently.
  • Lead Scoring – Rate a lead based on behavior
  • A|B and Multivariate Testing – Find out what works
  • Path Analyzer – An underrated tool.
  • Rules-based Implicit Personalization – Target content based on geography, organization
  • Explicit Personalization – Target content based on data in your CRM
  • Engagement Plans – Automate marketing post initial contact

Time to Model and Process the data

From last couple of years we are talking about collecting the data in xDB via various sources and using various tools. But WHY? Is it worth to collect data in gigs if we are not getting benefits out of it? When we are collecting the data in gigs, it is very tedious for a human to analyze the data and process it to automate the Digital Marketing operation.

A great example by Amanda Shiga – “A classic marketing example would be the automation of image tagging via image recognition techniques – instead of a human looking at each image and tagging “flower” or “car”, a computer could do that instead, and get smarter and smarter about it.” That is where machine learning can pitch in to automate all those decisions using predictions or pattern recognition, which are currently performed by humans (Marketing strategists). Therefore, Sitecore Cortex uses machine learning to automate a lot possible tasks in Sitecore which are manual in Marketing Workflow as of now.

To wrap up, whenever there is mind in the machine, miracle happens. We are forecasting miracles in Digital Marketing World by utilizing the power of Mind in the Marketing Machine.


Following are some worth readings on Sitecore Cortex and machine learning:

And obviously:

Hope this helps.

3 thoughts on “Sitecore Cortex – Three Basic Concepts

Add yours

  1. Wow that was unusual. I just wrote an extremely long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over again. Anyway, just wanted to say excellent blog!


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    Jan Zac


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