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Kapil Oliveti Author's Perspective
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Sitecore Forms: An effective tool for marketers

Learn about the key features of Sitecore Forms and how it’s a great tool for marketers

More often than not, we come across websites that do not have any form to capture user data. Forms play a significant role and a key part of the funnel that helps to identify an anonymous visitor into a prospective client. Sitecore’s latest form module, ‘Sitecore Forms’ is a great tool for content marketers who use the platform, since it allows you to construct web forms that capture and report information that is provided by those who visit your website.

Using Sitecore Forms application, you can create forms from templates, create new Forms by dragging custom elements from the Form elements pane, apply Form validation or customize Forms with company styling, run reports on Form performance and export data from Forms to Excel.

WFFM vs Sitecore Forms

Web Form for Marketers or WFFM as its called is an effective tool for marketers and is free to use. You can create and publish simple forms within Sitecore using WFFM, which can help to capture valuable visitor information and generate leads - all without a developer’s help. Note: WFFM is supported only till the Sitecore 9 version. It needs to be installed as a Sitecore package and Sitecore 9.0 does not need to be installed separately.

Speaking of benefits, WFFM is a great way to generate leads, since it uses web forms to capture details such as name, email, phone number and location, whenever visitors download a white paper or asset or for that matter, request any information. It provides an easy wizard interface to define form fields with pre-set types, validation rules and save actions that determine what happens when you submit a form.  Secondly, Sitecore has a free connector to Microsoft Dynamics CRM. This means that all the data that’s captured from WFFM can be directly saved into Dynamics (XDB). Lastly, with WFFM, it becomes simpler for marketers to gain valuable insight using Sitecore Analytics.

You can:

  • Trigger a goal whenever a form is submitted
  • Add a ‘Tag Action’ to record the email address of the sender
  • ‘Assign a rule’ to hide the form, if the users visits your website a second time after submission of the form
  • ‘Assign rules’ to profile visitors who complete the form

You can access WFFM reports to analyse interaction of visitors with your website through forms. You can view the Data, Summary, Engagement Analytics, Dropout Report, Usability Report, Save Failure Report in Sitecore or export it to Excel.

To encapsulate, here are a few pros of WFFM:

  • Content authors and marketers can add forms anywhere on a website where they are permitted to.
  • There is a large list of Save Actions available out-of-the-box, including saving form information to a database, sending an email or kicking off an engagement plan.
  • Content authors have control over form fields integration, validation and configuration of the form
  • One can use some personalization of form display.
  • Limited integration of analytics and form reports

Coming to Sitecore Forms, while it is quite similar to WFFM, but it comes with the installation of Sitecore, which means one does not need to package explicitly for Sitecore 9 forms. That’s not all - it boasts updated functionality as well with multi-step forms, which is a huge improvement from WFFM.

Speaking of analytics, with Sitecore Forms, the visibility of the performance of your forms is greatly improved as well. Besides form level reporting, you can also report on the performance of individual fields. It is simpler to identify any fields that are causing a higher than average drop-off or what is taking users longer to fill in - this was earlier done by a third-party tool.

Key features of Sitecore 9 Forms

  • Improved security : Sitecore 9.0 supports SSL encryption for security of data. Using xConnect, it is simpler to manage user data including anonymous data, exporting records and updating preferences. That’s not all - there are some other GDPR compliance features, including the ability to enforce encryption and data across the whole architecture and enforcing the use of HTTPS.
  • New Sitecore xConnect API: Sitecore 9 has a new API insight called XConnect that helps to collect and share all data in Sitecore. This new feature replaces the current API that only supports sharing of core user data and content. Besides, it also aids in the transfer of bi-directional data to and from leading CRM systems, including current support for Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM and SalesForce CRM.
  • Streamlined Migration and Conversion Tools: It is way more streamlined as compared to previous versions of Sitecore. Sitecore has created a tool called XDB migration that uses the Sitecore Data Exchange Framework 2.0 and helps in reading from MongoDB (source system) and then writing to the xConnect server (target system).The xDB migration tool provides a pre-configured mapping of data from the MongoDB database to the xConnect server in the form of a DEF Tenant.
  • New Federated Authentication: You can use Sitecore federated authentication with the providers that Owin.Authentication supports. Owin.Authentication supports a large portfolio of providers, including Azure AD, Microsoft’s multi-tenant, cloud-based directory, Facebook, Google, and Twitter.
  • New Sitecore Cortex: So with version 9, Sitecore has introduced Sitecore cortex, which is a distinct machine learning algorithm that combines with a powerful ML engine that operates on XDB data to give businesses a great advantage in automation processing and intelligent insights. The cortex engine is a windows service composed of a series of specialized machine learning processing pipelines. For those that use Sitecore Cloud or Azure for hosting, you will be able to take advantage of the new cortex functionality.  Cortex uses the Microsoft machine learning API which generates insights and opportunities via your platform.

  • New Headless and JavaScript Service (JSS): Headless CMS support using the new JSON API and JSS supports the exposure of all content and presentation elements as JSON. This means that you can use Sitecore as a central content API for website and mobile apps. All content is shared by the JSON API and can be personalized and tested, resulting in the collation of analytics data into Sitecore analytics.

How to create Sitecore Form from the dashboard

1.To begin with, you open the Sitecore Forms application from the Sitecore Launchpad. The Sitecore Dashboard gives you access  to all the forms - those that you have created and also, the available templates. The right pane gives general details about all the forms as well as performance. If you want to create a new form, select Create from the menu.

2. If you want to create a new form from scratch, click Blank Form or select a template to choose from.

Add a form field

It is simple to add a field to a new form just by dragging a form element from the Form Elements pane onto the form canvas. When you place an element as a form field on your form, you can also change its settings on the General Tab in the pane.

1.In the Form Elements pane, go over to the element that you want to add and then drag it to the form canvas.

2.Next, when you find the right place for your element and a green line appears, drop the element.

3. If you want to change the settings of a new field, click the field on the canvas and make changes in the Form Elements pane.

4.When you are done changing the settings, click Apply to see the changes on the Form.

5.To add a list to your form, go over to the Form Elements pane and in the Lists section, drag the Dropdown list to the form.

6.In the Details section, you can add list items.

Always add a Field name, since it is the actual item name for the Sitecore definition item for the form field. When you give form elements meaningful names, it helps to distinguish them during tracking.

7.If you want to add a Submit button on your form, go over to the Form elements pane and in the Structure section, drag the Submit button element to the form.

8.In the Details section, write a name for your button and go over to the Navigation step field and select Submit.

9. Lastly, click Apply to see changes on the form.

10. To save your form, click Save to save and name the new form. Click on Save the selected form to save and name a copy of the form. Lastly, if you want to save the form as a template, click Save the form as a form template.

Ebook
Top 10 Sitecore 9 Form Features to Increase Lead Conversions

How is data saved in XDB?

The Sitecore Experience Database can be looked at as a big data marketing repository that collects and utilises customer interactions to create a comprehensive and a single-view of each individual customer. With XDB, it becomes easier for marketers to get a holistic view of the customer not just from your website, but also external apps, channels and devices. You can configure properties to determine whether the data of a form or field is saved in xDB or a custom SQL server database, primarily for security reasons.

WFFM data Storage and Export

1.In the content tree, navigate to the sitecore/System/Modules/Web Form For Marketers/Website Folder.

2. Select the relevant form or field item, and in the right pane.

For Form items, in the submit section, select save form data to storage.

  • You cannot see data directly in Sitecore (except in the case of exporting them to CSV file).
  • You can see stored data in SQL Server in sitecoreInstanceName_ExperienceForms database.

There are two tables:

FieldData - Here you can see actual posted data with the field name, value and field type.

FormEntry - Here you can find the relationship between FieldData and FormId.

Data stored for selected WFFM form can be also exported directly from the Sitecore Content Tree.

3.To avoid data redundancy and to keep personal data in xDB only, you can disable “Save Form Data To Storage” checkbox in WFFM form item and consider saving the data directly to Contact entity in xDB. There is a built-in “Update Contact Details” action, which maps form fields to contact’s facets. This only works for users who’ve logged in.

Sitecore 9 Data Storage and Export

In the Sitecore 9 Forms editor, you can control if the data will be saved to the database by adding the ‘Save Data’ submit action to your submit button. Besides, in the field settings, you can also take a call if a single form field must be saved to the database. This is especially helpful if you do not want to store important data outside xDB, but still persist different parts of the form. That’s not all - you can also export form data from the form app module.

Instead of saving personal data to Forms database, you should consider storing it in xDB through xConnect.

How to Create a Submit Action Item

1. Go over to /sitecore/system/Settings/Forms/Submit Actions
2. Right-click Submit Actions, click Insert, and click Insert from template.
3. Select the /System/Forms/Submit Action template, in the Item Name field, enter the name Update Contact Details and press Insert.
4. Go to the item you just created and in the Settings section, in the Model Type field, set the value to the class type name.
5. In the Error Message field, enter an error message.
6. In the Editor field, select the editor that you just created.
7. In the Appearance section, select the icon that you want to display in the Form elements pane.

In the Form elements pane, when you click Add a submit action, you can now select the Update Contact Details action.

At Altudo (formerly eDynamic), we help our clients deliver exceptional customer experiences through 1:1 personalization & enhanced engagement, to grow revenue streams.

As Sitecore Platinum implementation partners, our deep understanding of the Sitecore ecosystem goes beyond the basics of CMS, to unleash the true potential of a seamless, personalized website experiences & curating engagement analytics throughout the customer journey.

Kapil Oliveti


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