Q: Welcome Craig, it’s good to have you. To start, please tell us about Ecolab and your role there.

A: Ecolab is the global leader in water, hygiene, and infection prevention solutions and services for the food, healthcare, hospitality and industrial markets. Our 44,000 associates work to serve nearly three million customer locations in more than 170 countries. We have annual sales of $12 billion.

My role is multi-faceted – I lead digital business marketing strategy, as well as drive our Sitecore practices, and run day-to-day operations for our public-facing Ecolab.com websites. We serve up 52 websites in 29 languages that support 148 experiences based on country, language and brand.

Q: Buy-in can be the hardest part of a major platform change, but Ecolab’s senior leadership led the initiative to upgrade from a CMS to a full digital experience platform. Why was upgrading to Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) so important to Ecolab?

A: The decision was driven by senior leadership because Ecolab.com had the potential to be a significant revenue engine. Upgrading to XP is our largest investment in Sitecore since we first deployed Experience Manager (XM) in 2011.

Q: What were some of the challenges that made you invest in a new digital platform?

A: Ecolab is comprised of 12 divisions and many subdivisions that provide products and services to many B2B customer segments in many global markets. The brands under Ecolab, including Nalco Water, each had multiple websites to communicate their various offerings.

We have global marketing teams, as well as all our corporate functions. Working across functions, divisions and markets in a large enterprise can lead to time lag and conflict, which can slow a website project. The aim of all our website projects is to provide one point of contact and utilize our brand to continue to grow its influence and sales.

We had two main objectives:

  • First was to make the global, yet local, Ecolab customer offering accessible, understandable, and actionable
  • Secondly, going forward, we want our website to be a source of public information that demonstrates Ecolab’s market expertise and leadership

Q: Would you give us a brief overview of the Sitecore solution you deployed?

A: Our Sitecore upgrade path has taken us from XM to XP hosted on Microsoft Azure, with some stops at earlier XP versions over the years. One key part of upgrading was Sitecore Experience Database (xDB), which is important for capturing customer data as well as personalization.

Q: You’ve shared how xDB and personalization help support Ecolab's goal of delivering a global experience that also feels local and tailored to different regions and users. Would you tell us a bit more about your personalization?

A: Every page has a default version that applies to a broad audience. We then personalize based on local division or persona needs. This default allows us to minimize page variations, so the country, division, and persona versions become the exception, not the rule.  We make sure all views (region, division, and persona) are captured in the default. Then there is wordsmithing, hiding or emphasizing something to the country, division, or persona visitor in a specific variation.

Personalization is achieved with specific taxonomy, which “tells” each page which country or company website to target, and taxonomy to drive each to one of two user experiences – Ecolab or Nalco Water customers. Market patterns allow us to profile users throughout the website while parameters control content presentation. For example, our persona patterns contain three possible true values for visitor personalization. If they match the pattern on a return site visit or during a current visit and return to the homepage, they see their pattern’s homepage variant.

Our marketeers use parameter links in communications (social, email, etc.) so when the link is clicked, it fires a personalized homepage on the first website visit. This application of parameter rules is our biggest power in driving future success of the websites.

Q: What are key lessons learned for a large, complex environment going through an upgrade?

A: Communication about timeline is key so that related resources across the organization don’t miss important milestones. Timeline slippage is almost inevitable with such a large project, so communicating the “why” is always important.

Also important is organizing a group of key marketing leaders to brainstorm with and provide consensus on product decisions, such as our Interactive Marketing Steer Team, which functions as an advisory council. This helps to get stakeholder buy-in as well as understand and collect business requirements. We meet monthly and share project awareness, progress, and success stories.

Q: How has the upgrade solution met original objectives and business case?

A: For the most part, very well. Our original concept of building content once and pushing it out via different websites has been a great success. There have been several successes around content management such as ease of content entry, deployment and maintenance, and simplified content training procedures.

One big benefit has been a dramatic cut in resources required to build, deploy, and maintain websites. Building 13 websites in 13 languages across 14 divisions used to take a very large team and thousands of hours. Now, more than 70 websites in 29 languages requires a much smaller team and takes just weeks compared to six months or a year.

Q: How has XP helped your organization become more customer-centric?

A: Essentially, XP and the use of xDB has helped us better understand what people do on our websites and how often. We used to conduct customer needs and buying intention surveys. Now we are using the capabilities of XP and the data that is available around audiences, marketing, and campaign performance, etc.

Q: To close, let’s go back to your original objective. How would you summarize how upgrading to a DXP has impacted the customer experience?

A: I’d say the most important impact is personalization. A personalized homepage cuts through the general nature of a legacy homepage. Because the home page has to try to speak to a hundred different customer markets, a customer from one market can see it as irrelevant or overwhelmingly confusing. Having personalization-driven homepages, along with the proper rules to deliver them on first and subsequent visits, sends out the message that we care about your experience.

Customer satisfaction is number one for us. Sitecore eases the friction of finding information and enhances the experience of buying from us across all our touchpoints – website, customer service, and sales rep.

Craig Burkart is Senior Manager, Interactive Marketing for Ecolab Inc., a $12B+ company based in Saint Paul, Minnesota, that provides comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and personalized service to advance food safety, maintain clean and safe environments, optimize water and energy use, and improve operational efficiencies and sustainability for customers in more than 40 industries.

A 36-year industry veteran, Burkart is currently the lead strategist and operational manager focused on the company’s public-facing websites. Burkart leads strategy, design, agile development, and day-to-day operations for Ecolab.com, including global content management, analytics, and local-language website delivery.

Find Craig on LinkedIn. See also Ecolab’s Sitecore Experience Award story.