SearchStax and IFS present on the Future of Website Search at Sitecore Symposium 2022
Are you ready for the composable future? Learn how Sitecore and SearchStax customer IFS delivers powerful search results using SearchStax Studio. Watch as Pete Navarra, VP, DXP Solutions at SearchStax and Bashi Nisar, Director, Centre of Excellence for Web & Apps at IFS present at Sitecore Symposium 2022.
Check out our Sitecore Symposium 2022 recap blog post.
Or, learn more about SearchStax Studio by getting a free evaluation and demo or by starting a free trial.
Pete Navarra: So we’re really excited about the direction that Sitecore is headed with XM Cloud and more so with the composable nature of the products coming onto the marketplace. My name is Pete Navarra. I’m the VP of DXP Solutions at SearchStax. I’ve been in the Sitecore space for more than 15 years and I am now a five times Sitecore MVP. I’m joined by one of our great customers, Bashi Nisar from IFS.
Bashi Nisar: Hello everyone. My name is Bashi. I’m also known as the director of web at Centre of Excellence. I’ve been in the web industry for over 15 years. I’m here with Pete to share about our experiences.
Navarra: Thank you for that. So for this session, we’re going to do a quick introduction or recap of SearchStax and then Bashi is going to take us on their Sitecore journey and showcase how they keep using our search product, SearchStax Studio.
I’m going to dive into a review of our Studio product to show how we’re delivering powerful search results made easy. Lastly, we’ll discuss the future of Sitecore with XM Cloud and the composable DXP future and how SearchStax is already ready for the headless world.
If you haven’t yet, stop by our booth tomorrow morning to see a live demo of Studio and React in a headless environment.
So at SearchStax our goal is to provide search and indexing services to the marketer that take the burden off having one-off technical capabilities and make marketing’s job easier. For those of you who know SearchStax, you are probably already familiar with our product, SearchStax Cloud, which used to be called Managed Solr. We take the burden of running your Solr environment, in which Sitecore requires, and provide a platform as a service solution to that. But we’re also really excited to bring to you today our website search results platform, SearchStax Studio. Our easy-to-use, Saas-based website search result and analytic platform that provides the marketing team with all the tools they need to create a powerful search experience. But enough about SearchStax, I’m happy to turn the stage over to Bashi who’s going to take us down their memory lane.
Nisar: Alright. Thanks. Before I share that experience with the product, let me talk a little bit about IFS. IFS is a software company and we take pride in our humble beginnings, starting from an attempt back in Sweden in the 1980s. Since then, especially in the last few years, we’ve grown exponentially. Now with a prevalence in more than 50 countries around the world with just over 5,000 employees, and the revenue of just over $4 million USD last year. Our main product is an ERP solution, and our vision is to make it a market-leading product. But we also expanded our offerings in soft enterprise service management, field service management, and enterprise asset management. We serve in many different sectors, aerospace and defense, construction, energy, manufacturing, and service industries. Some of our customers, at least global brands needs no introduction, especially from me. But any Formula One fans out here? We proudly sponsor Aston Martin.
So let me switch gears and share our journey with Sitecore and SearchStax. At IFS, we’re dedicated in creating a delightful moment of service. Whether you’re a prospect, customer or partner, our mission is to ensure that your experience with us is fruitful. And at the centerpiece of that engagement is our website, IFS.com. As a potential customer, your journey with IFS will begin from going to our website to learn about our product, to know a little bit about our company, download assets like white papers. And then age with us from there.
Being a global organization, I first saw content translated into nine different languages other than English and we attract more than about 4.7 million views every year, and the website is powered by Sitecore and uses Solr.
Solr plays a very important part in consolidating that information and creating those different views, because it brings useful information that users need from anywhere on our website using search. Traditionally we’ve used Solr, or as I like to call it, do-it-yourself. It presented us with a lot of operational business continuity and security challenges. That was primarily because of lack of knowledge or enhancement of the two. The same time, the steep learning curve that need for us to get to grips with the product. Solr actually is flexible in a way that it provides you that flexibility to create whatever solution to accommodate your ever-evolving business requirements.
But finding the skillset and finding those people to do that job is quite challenging. If you’re new to Solr, like IFS, the experience can be daunting, to say the least. With its non-intuitive dashboards, lack of useful insights and logs, it meant that troubleshooting any issue was an immense task. When we eventually managed to get to grips with the product, we ended up with a heavily customized solution which was difficult to maintain, especially when people who actually designed the solution moved on.
In September last year, we started a project to transform our website with the objective of rebranding and creating that consistent user experience. It was also an opportunity for us to upgrade the internet infrastructure. We moved from Sitecore 9 to Sitecore 10. We’ve also introduced the language automation on our website. It was at that time then we also had to rethink search. Then we got introduced to SearchStax.
Our first impression of the product was that you’re getting all the bells and whistles without having to do a lot of heavy lifting, or perform those tasks ourselves. It sounded too good to be true initially. Having used it for about a year, I can confidently say that’s possibly the best decision that we’ve made.
Here are some other snapshots you can see that we managed to create those views using out-of-the-box features. Now things like automatic scaling, monitoring, logs, alerts, and analytics – which are no-brainers in this day and age and makes sense are available in the tool. Sharing more snapshots from the aggregate dashboards, all the features and capabilities you can see were intuitively consolidated, and creating and fixing solutions just makes it a walk in the park. Things like auto suggest, related search, and relevance can be configured with a few simple clicks. And most importantly, it provides you the capability to create those proof of concepts and then see the results without having to develop in your sandbox. So you can completely avoid the change management process, and the experience is very refreshing. We also get useful insight which helps us understand how our end users interact with our website. This helps us make informed decisions on how we can continuously enhance our web presence to meet their needs.
Now beyond the product and its capabilities, I want to share how SearchStax demonstrated the “show we care ” attitude. It was back in March when we were about to go live with different languages, other than English, and then we realized that the decided nine languages that we needed to go live, weren’t actually supported by SearchStax. So we got in a real panic and reached out to SearchStax to help us out. To our surprise, within four weeks, the product team turned around and provided the languages that we needed to hit our legal timelines.
Now we know when and if things go wrong – which in IT things do go wrong – we can rely on the incredible team at SearchStax to help us troubleshoot our issues, as well as provide that training that we need sometimes to get involved.
At IFS, we invest a lot in creating that moment of service. If we do understand and that we acknowledge, that other organizations demonstrate the same. And I can comfortably say that SearchStax have demonstrated in providing that moment of service. So I thank the team for their ongoing support and looking forward to creating many success stories like this.
Navarra: So Bashi, thanks so much for taking us on that journey with you. That brings me to the pleasure of introducing you to our SearchStax Studio product. It’s a composable website search platform that brings powerful search results to the hands of marketers. SearchStax Studio is a SaaS-based search results platform engineered to harness the power of Solr indexing. It combines that with an easy-to-use dashboard that brings insights and analytics that allow marketers to see how their search is performing, as well as the ability to react to those insights all without the need for bringing development back to the table to make those changes.
With Studio, you’re getting access to a search experience preview that he was talking about that allows you to see how your search is going to behave before publishing any changes. It also has the configuration tools to set which fields are going to show up on the front end, setting up facets and creating sorting mechanisms that make sense for your website users.
Access to basic relevance settings, like stop words, synonyms, and spell check, all come included with an extremely powerful relevance modeling system. That’s where the power of getting the control of the search experience in the marketer’s hand is the most important. While we can have a number of relevance models, we can also plug it into Sitecore and start to match different personas that Sitecore is coming up with and match that to a different relevance model.
Here you can create models, like customize which fields to search for and setting model-specific global filters to include or exclude results based on needs, as well as the ability to set your boost rankings and any rules that you might have to use.
These rules can also become quite complex. You can specify promoted results that will float to the top of the search results page based on the model and the keyword search that users are using. For instance, if you want to bump your content up for something like “Sitecore” and you have something complex to talk about, we’ll pump that content to the top using promotions.
This brings us to our AI-powered recommendation engine that will bring your type-ahead, auto-suggested keywords and related searches. So as people are using the search bar, you’re going to see type-ahead keywords start to come up as users are using the site. The machine learning is going to understand which keywords people are typing and start to suggest the right keywords. In addition, the related searches are going to come around. If someone is using a search query, they might get presented a list of other related searches that are from a machine-learning algorithm perspective.
This brings us to a best-in-breed solution to the market that allows for scalable searching guides, insights, and analytics that allow marketers to react quickly and UX accelerators based on best practices to jumpstart a headless or non headless implementation.
So why is search so important? For a majority of websites, the search experience is the first interaction that visitors use when interacting with the website. Being able to quickly and easily find what you’re looking for leads to a better conversion and users are more willing to come back to your site to search for more. Now, a recent Harris Poll survey conducted earlier this year looked at 200 websites across 10,000 customers. They found that companies continue to fail at optimizing their search experience on their websites. This led to more than $300 billion in abandonment costs in the U.S. alone. Eighty-four percent of the companies surveyed failed to measure and optimize their website search leading to almost a 1.8 net loss in conversions.
So that brings me to our composable DXP future. Sitecore is quickly moving to a composable future with the introduction of XM Cloud. So what is a composable DXP? So the definition of composable DXP is a digital experience platform that’s assembled from a series of best-of-breed solutions that work together via a series of APIs and leverages microservices architecture. It’s not one product with a system that links different products together and organizes assets as editable modules that are easy to find and update. Here provides a really nice image. This sums up how the DXP architecture can be made up. It’s a set of really diverse products. When you look at this architecture, you can see there’s a number of different brands and a number of different products. We’re using Sitecore for a headless CMS. We’re using Sitecore Commerce for site headless commerce. We are using Moosend for email.o you can use any number of different products and just a couple of these are examples. But you can also deploy that as a different solution. Maybe it’s Angular or something else. And you can deploy that to either Azure or Vercel, or one of your deployment technologies. All of these are communicating across a common API framework, generally restful APIs with JSON contracts. This also leads to options in the marketplace, which creates competition.
And lastly generally speaking, replacing one component of this architecture will not require a full-blown rewrite. If anyone’s done Sitecore anywhere in the last 10 years, and you’ve done an upgrade, it seemed like the common pattern is “Oh you are going to have to rewrite your site.”
We moved from web forms to MVC, or MVC to JSS. There’s all these different patterns. And for some reasons, we get to the point where we see things that have to keep on rewriting. In the composable headless future, we’re done with that. You write your website in React headless deployment. And no matter what backend system, if you want to replace Sitecore or set up your CMS, you can continue to use your React site. It’s all based on having this common framework.
With SearchStax Studio, we’re ready for XM Cloud in a composable future. Now if you’re not able to check out one of my demos this week, I have one more tomorrow morning where I’m going to show you a preview of how we’re capable of taking a headless React application, hosted on Vercel, and quickly implement a fully featured website search experience that delivers powerful search results. Now you might have also heard that there was some interesting news about other products in the marketplace. A common question that we got this week was how to set restrictions with Studio. I think that we welcomed the competition, welcomed that there’s additional options in the marketplace. When you’re looking at a composable future, having options is healthy because not every product is right for every customer and not every customer is right for every product. Being able to have these options in the marketplace means that we can really look at the business requirements that the customer needs and create the proper architecture that meets their needs or doesn’t exceed their needs. Now if you can’t make that demo, you can reach out to me and I’ll be happy to set up any kind of personalized demo for you or your technical and marketing teams to showcase how SearchStax can help with your cloud journey.