Sitecore and Optimizely - Differences that make a big difference

Sitecore and Optimizely share several surface-level similarities.

Both are Scandinavian-born companies with a content management system (CMS) heritage and strong connections to the Microsoft ecosystem. And both have added digital commerce, customer-data management, and other marketing capabilities to their CMS foundations.

But start scratching beneath the surface, and you’ll quickly see the similarities end there.

When it comes to empowering content, marketing, and commerce teams to create and deliver customer experiences that are personal, memorable, and drive ROI, there are critical differences you should be aware of.

As a quick review of each brand’s products makes clear, Sitecore offers many more solutions and functionalities than Optimizely. But the biggest difference is in our overall approach. With Optimizely, you get a full-suite solution — including the functionality you neither need nor want. However, as customer reviews make clear, actually getting the features you need to work requires a lot of building.

With Sitecore’s composable approach, you can build the suite you need now, with the confidence that you can add or subtract new solutions and functionality with ease. No more painful upgrades or re-platforms — just the tools you need, when you need them.

But the truth is understanding the difference between Sitecore and Optimizely is not, unfortunately, as simple as scanning a chart. It requires considering each as a whole.

Below we cover five key differences between the two to help you assess which is a better fit for your needs.

1: Sitecore - Leading the CMS market for over two decades requires constant innovation

Relevant content sits at the heart of every brilliant experience. And today it’s more critical than ever for brands to create content efficiently, get it in market quickly, and optimize it with as little friction as possible.

While Optimizely traditionally focused on content management, with the merger of Episerver with Optimizely, and the taking on of the Optimizely name, we can’t help but question where their product and capability focus currently lies.

Whatever the case, this much remains true: just like any other content management system (CMS), Optimizely enables you to write or upload content, format it, add headlines and images, and do several behind-the-scenes things like SEO.

But in a multi-device, user-centric world, that’s not enough. Digital marketing has evolved, focusing more deeply on customer experience while incorporating mobile apps, the Internet of Things, and more.

Sitecore was founded as a CMS, so content has always been at the core of what we do. In our 21-year history, Sitecore has been recognized as a leader in the CMS space more than 13 times across various analyst reports. We’re steadily praised for our completeness of vision, ability to execute, and focus on innovation. (And we’re also consistently recognized as a leader in the DXP and many other spaces.)

Takeaway: Leaders in the CMS market are prepared for the future with a clear vision and awareness of the ecosystem and market and where they’re headed. This is why customers say Sitecore is the clear frontrunner for content management.

With templated layouts, pre-built components, visual editing, built-in personalization, and other innovations taking our CMS to full SaaS — we continue to raise the bar for content management today. And we offer some of the most robust analytics in the market — making it easy for both marketers and technologists to see what’s working and what’s not.

With Optimizely, it’s almost the opposite.

For one, customization is not easy. Want to add a new template, content type, or make a column layout change? You probably want to have a developer handy, as adding elements, creating content blocks, and customizing layouts all require developer intervention.

This is why public reviews emphasize it’s a good fit only for a website with a simple blog or webpage focus, teams willing to be test rats, or those only looking to take advantage of a headless approach for ~10% of the solution’s offerings.

When it comes to analytics, Optimizely is also lacking. In fact, getting even slightly valuable metrics requires a Google “add-in.” Of course, Google analytics can also be used with Sitecore, but our analytics offer much more in-depth information about your customer’s behaviour and intent.

While it’s a bit technical, you should be aware that something as simple as changing the database schema is a bad idea in Optimizely. The reason? Even a small change will prevent future upgrades. This means every new data requirement needs a separate database and class libraries. Again, if you have developer resources to spare, this won’t be an issue. If not, good luck.

Sitecore Named a Leader in CMS by the IDC MarketScape

2: The solution for the future of customer experience

When it comes to customer experience (CX), a crucial aspect of meeting the expectations or today and tomorrow is moving to SaaS — now a part of almost all leading software development. According to a Deloitte survey, 93% of CIOs have either adopted or plan to adopt SaaS. Agility and scalability are cited as top drivers for adoption.

That’s why Sitecore’s acquisitions, R&D, and innovation paths have been focused on helping our customers move to the cloud — offering more SaaS solutions than most other vendors. As part of our move to SaaS, we’ve made composability a central aspect of our solutions. At Sitecore, we offer a range of composable SaaS digital experience solutions — including CMS, DAM, content operations, marketing automation, testing and personalization, commerce and product search — while still offering a full-suite DXP.

Meanwhile, Optimizely’s SaaS strategy is unclear. Optimizely calls their various products modules. But don’t be fooled into thinking “modules” translates to composable solutions that integrate easily.

When it comes to true composability — which enables you to plug in (or pull out) the solutions you need (or no longer need) when you need (or don’t need) them — the correct architecture is crucial. Our composable solutions are possible because of our long-term commitment to a headless, API-first approach.

Takeaway: Forward-thinking companies are moving to SaaS. With Sitecore you can start small and add in SaaS functionality as needed or convert your entire DXP to SaaS today, with the capability to plug in or pull out functionality as needed. Make sure Optimizely can offer the same.

Preparing for the future means investing in a composable platform that can grow fluidly and easily alongside your business, not one that, according to customer reviews, still seems to be poorly integrated.

It’s worth asking yourself this question: what are our digital aspirations and how confident are we that the Optimizely platform and ecosystem can grow with us as the market and consumer demands change?

Read more about Why SaaS and the cloud matter for the future of content management

3: The Optimizely ecosystem - Skilled resources in short supply

While Optimizely boasts a good number of solution partners, it’s important to heed the adage about quantity and quality.

Their partner program consists of 5 tiers. But the top two tiers, Premier Platinum and Platinum — defined by Optimizely as having “extensive” or “comprehensive” (respectively) “competency, product expertise and implementation experience…” — only feature 7 partners. Four of those partners are in the Nordics, while the other three are in the US.

That’s not particularly helpful if you’re an Optimizely customer trying to get attention from the limited top-tier partner resources, much less if you’re a customer in Southern Europe or Asia-Pacific.

It’s no surprise then that many Optimizely customers report the platform is more difficult to implement than they imagined and that they didn’t receive the responsive support they required. 

Sitecore’s Solution Provider Partner program includes upwards of 500 partners and 20,000+ Sitecore certified developers. It’s an unrivaled global network of system integrators, agencies, and local solution partners. And we have dozens of partners across the North America, EMEA, and APAC regions that have the competency, commitment, and resources to be named Platinum Partners.

So, no matter where you’re located, we have the right-sized partner to support you with the tailored resources and geographic proximity to meet your unique needs.

We also have our MVP program (a vital aspect of our thriving developer community), large training and support programs, technical consulting networks, customer success teams, and a new Sitecore 360 program that offers an enhanced support experience that helps you maintain a high-performing system and realize maximum value.

These programs and teams all share one goal: enabling our partners and customers to use the full power of the Sitecore platform to put their customers at the center of world-class digital experiences.

Takeaway: Don’t be taken in by Optimizely’s claims to across-the-board simplicity. Their platform requires significant development work to deploy and maintain, and their partner ecosystem is not mature enough to support this in many important locations.

Sitecore understands the value a large, dynamic partner ecosystem provides customers. We continually invest in our partners, our MVP program, training and support, and more so we can offer a comprehensive range of partnerships to support our customers.

Explore Sitecore’s partner ecosystem of digital transformation allies

4: Optimizely - Trying to fit a square peg in a round hole

According to Gartner, the number of marketers who prefer an integrated-suite approach has declined to just 29%. There are two main reasons.

First, every brand is different, and every team has a unique way of working — one-size solutions do not fit all. Second, in our ever-changing world no one wants to lock themselves into a rigid, full-suite solution. Are you willing to? Because that’s what Optimizely has to offer — an all-in-one DXP with no real composable option.

We offer a full range of solutions at Sitecore.

While some might think it makes more sense to only sell customers monolithic solutions, forcing them to pay for functionalities they don’t need. We are actively invested in the success of our customers and are committed to building long-term, high-value relationships. We know composability is the future, but we also realize some businesses aren’t ready and others could still benefit from an all-inclusive solution.

For those who still prefer a full-suite PaaS solution, we offer that. But for those who want to build their own platform with solutions that will integrate smoothly with the other solutions in their stack, we offer composable SaaS solutions for specific business challenges. We offer options, because we realize our success is incumbent on your success, not our short-term profit.

Takeaway: Don’t buy it all when you don’t need it all. Make a list of the problems you’re trying to solve, and the functionality that will help solve them now and into the future.

It’s your business, your customers, and your brand. You should have the freedom to deliver your customer experiences with the tools that work best for your teams and business. Sitecore allows you to build a custom stack, in the way and at the pace that is best suited for you. Our solutions empower you to grow, evolve, and pivot in ways that Optimizely simply can’t.

5: Sitecore - Delivering ease of use for your day-to-day

Optimizely’s marketing proclaims, “Content, Commerce, and Marketing on One Screen.”

It is a good message particularly for the small and mid-market companies Optimizely targets, but is getting to that “one screen” as easy as Optimizely would like you to believe? And is just integrating a single screen enough?

Whenever a company grows through merger and acquisitions, it is important to keep a close eye on how they integrate solutions, teams, and how they continue to support their pre-acquisition customers. As a company that recently acquired four companies, we can speak to the effort needed to continue to deliver a seamless experience from a product, service, and support perspective.

Many moons ago, Optimizely was Episerver. Under that name, they acquired a competitor of theirs – Ektron - and it wasn’t the smoothest of acquisitions.

Ektron software was abruptly put on an end-of-life track — leaving customer upgrades halted, migrations from Ektron to Episerver forced, and implementation partners confused about how to move forward.

Acquisitions can be challenging, but they can be done well by maintaining a focus on customer success, which requires a consistent customer experience.

We don’t acquire products to get rid of competition. We acquire products that will fit our stack, offer customers incredible benefits, and push the experience market forward.

Alongside the development of APIs and integrations, we have remained committed to those customers who joined the Sitecore family through our acquisitions. We have dedicated customer success teams that have helped make these transitions smooth for our customers, and we continue to innovate on those acquired products — no end of life and no leaving people high and dry.

The reality of “one screen”

Optimizely boasts “one screen.” It’s an open question of whether it can be achieved with their platform.

But one screen will make a difference.

This is why we developed Sitecore Cloud Portal. It offers a unified administrative experience for our composable DX solutions where users can easily collaborate on provisioning, managing, and connecting Sitecore products and services.

Optimizely’s products are more siloed than seamless. They include different logins for different tools, outdated interfaces in acquired products that haven’t seen much development support, and clunky workarounds for disparate and disjointed functions.

Sitecore Cloud Portal

Takeaway: Compared to an integration-focused vendor like Sitecore, Optimizely is closer to a provider of multiple siloed tools – particularly when it comes to campaigns and personalization.

Cloud Portal connects the digital experience portfolio of each customer with a single sign-on centralized location to manage team members and partners. It also offers a user interface and navigation that connects each composable solution to unlock more potential for our customers.

This unified experience supports IT and business collaboration, and it simplifies Sitecore products and services onboarding for all team members involved.


Selecting a tech vendor or software is no small effort. Take your time to do your research and find the right vendor for you. One who can be here for you today, tomorrow, and into the future as your business grows and evolves.

Why choose Sitecore over Optimizely?

When it comes to delivering superior customer experiences, you can’t waste time with solutions that are fragmented, hard to integrate across your ecosystem, or aren’t equipped with enterprise-grade features that empower teams to deliver relevance in every moment.

That’s why leading brands around the globe choose Sitecore over Optimizely.

Sitecore is the only company to manage the end-to-end content lifecycle with a suite of composable and tightly integrated solutions — uniting content, personalization, commerce, and customer data.