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Sitecore makes personalization, e-commerce acquisitions

Sitecore's $1.2 billion investment plan for cloud modernization kicks off with the acquisition of Boxever and Four51.

This story was updated on April 6, 2021:

Sitecore, a tech vendor with roots in web content management that continues to build its digital experience cloud, acquired the Boxever customer data platform and Four51, a headless e-commerce company.

Boxever brings customer data handling tools to enable Sitecore personalization of web content for marketing campaigns and e-commerce applications.

Four51 brings with it a bundle of headless commerce APIs that facilitate the decoupling of back-end content systems from front-end e-commerce websites. The advantage to headless is that it enables agile deployment -- through those APIs -- to a constantly changing universe of mobile devices without relaunching a whole e-commerce site.

Both the acquisitions advance Sitecore's ongoing cloud modernization efforts, Forrester Research analyst Joe Cicman said. They also help keep Sitecore in a place where it can cater to both users who are still in the process of migrating operations from on premises to the cloud, as well as court more advanced, cloud-ready customers who have in-house developer teams.

"These capabilities are going to get more integrated over time -- and they picked vendors that are dramatically more integratable than if they'd made other acquisitions or tried to do it themselves," Cicman said. "It sets them up for faster innovation."

Sitecore has been around for two decades, launching in 2001. The acquisitions are the first under new CEO Steve Tzikakis, a former SAP executive who joined the company last September. He said that Sitecore personalization tools are the key to solving the "data crisis," or the overwhelming, sometimes off-topic, barrage of choices buyers see on e-commerce platforms when data, content and marketing tools aren't in sync. The customer data platform (CDP) and headless commerce tools are the first components of several to come.

"We're developing a lot of things ourselves; we've hired a few hundred developers," Tzikakis said. "But we're also opening up and growing."

They picked vendors that are dramatically more integratable than if they'd made other acquisitions or tried to do it themselves.
Joe CicmanAnalyst, Forrester Research

CDP M&As white hot

Boxever is an interesting acquisition, CDP Institute founder David Raab said, because while it is a strong company in the CDP space, its specialty is in the airline sector. He said he expects Sitecore to generalize Boxever technology for users in all industries. The Four51 acquisition helps Sitecore compete with such other digital experience platforms emerging from acquisitions as Twilio, which bought Segment last year, he added.

The Boxever deal, announced one day after Upland Software acquired the BlueVenn CDP, reflects a bigger trend of standalone CDP vendors hitting growth ceilings on their own. Some realize they need to partner with digital experience platform vendors to move forward.

"It does feel like musical chairs now, as midtier CDPs pair up with would-be DX/CX suite vendors," Raab said. "There are more CDPs than DX/CX vendors, so some will be left out in the cold."

Part of larger plan

Financial details for the Boxever and Four51 deals were not disclosed, although Sitecore said it begins a planned growth spree after a $1.2 billion private investment round earlier this year and alluded to possible future acquisitions coming soon. While the company hasn't spelled out where the cash influx came from, some reports claim that it came from a combination of majority stakeholder EQT, a Swedish private equity firm, and other investors.

Cicman pointed out that companies sometimes make acquisitions for the technology, and other times for the developer talent that comes with it. In Sitecore's case, he said he believes this latest deal was intended both to gain the technologies and an acquihire.

"One of the big challenges for vendors that have been around a while is getting modern tech teams to build modern stuff," Cicman said. "Other vendors may try to retrain all their developers or hire in a small team to modernize existing stuff. Those strategies have largely not panned out."

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