The digital transformation of a traditional business publisher

The digital transformation of a traditional business publisher

The old school Dutch business publisher Wolters Kluwer has been around for almost 200 years. Transforming such a well-established company into a savvy digital operation was not an easy task.

Amy Kolzow, VP of global digital marketing credits CEO Nancy McKinstry: “All they did was create books at one point in time and she saw the need to start to convert that into digital technology and digital products and services.”

Describing the business today, Kolzow said: “We solve real world problems for a variety of professionals, from doctors and nurses to lawyers, accountants and tech professionals. We help our customers make critical business decisions every day. We provide expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services. We do work with some professions that are still run in very traditional ways, so we have a variety of product styles. We still have books.”

Before the transformation project started, Wolters Kluwer had thousands of websites. “Nothing connected,” said Kozlow, “no cross-linking strategy, no common URLs, no common content strategy. Broken experiences.”

With 19,000 employees around the globe, including about 1,000 marketers, Wolters Kluwer searched for a solution that would scale to meet the needs of the organization. “I have an Adobe background,” Kozlow admitted, “so I felt really brave when we picked Sitecore because it was different; but the fact of the matter is that it was right.”

The partnership with the DXP, she said, has been like a marriage — it has its ups and downs, but the downs were always fixed.

Mike Shaw, platform manager, outlined other aspects of the challenge Wolters Kluwer faced. “1,000 marketers,” he confirmed, “but diverse. They were not equally mature in terms of experience. The hardest part I found was making the building of pages and that web experience simple for a marketer for very little experience — while flexible enough that someone with a lot of experience can build something too. It’s that balance we found with Sitecore that we couldn’t find elsewhere.”

Shaw has been at Wolters Kluwer for almost three-and-a-half years, but he has about twelve years of experience with Sitecore and briefly worked for them. “In 18 months, we built 30,000 pages; we publish about 100 pages a day now, all through the drag-and-drop components,” Shaw said.

There’s now a central online destination for users and for the marketing teams. Since Sitecore is a composable platform, not an all-or-nothing proposition, we asked what components Wolters Kluwer had adopted. “We use Content Hub,” said Shaw, “we use the DAM.” It took about six to eight weeks to migrate some 50,000 digital assets to Sitecore’s DAM solution. “We used Sitecore Services to help us through that transition, and we’re now about to launch the Content Marketing Plaform; the idea is to have a really strong workflow before moving everything out of emails.”

They plan to look at the headless CMS option but currently they’re working with the traditional CMS, and they’re not yet using the CDP.

One part of the transformation has been to group products by interest area or topics rather than by divisions within the company. “We have robust onsite search and a big initiative we will launch before the end of the year is personalization,” Kolzow told us. “We needed to prove to our legal compliance team that we had a secure website that would allow us to start to collect some of the data that is required for that.”

The goal is to offer a personalized experience based on previous behavior on the site. Initially, the only data to be collected is an IP address, so personalization will be very much session-based. “Eventually we’ll get to that area of first- and zero-party data,” said Shaw.

Feedback from users, Kolzow explained, comes in the form of behavior. “People are coming and taking the next-best-action; they’re filling out a form to download a white paper; they’re asking for some to call them and schedule a demo.”

The transition to the new way of working allows the company to now pay attention to content freshness, to SEO performance and page visits in general. Once the personalization module is set up, they will look at Sitecore’s testing module to experiment with content variants. “We will choose hypothesis-based tests,” said Kolzow. “We will measure against them and repeat them two or three times, and then have global learning so we don’t have to have 1,000 marketers repeating the same test 1,000 times.”

Dig deeper: Sitecore adds new products to its composable DXP

“We weren’t very mature in digital marketing when this project started,” Kolzow confesses.

That’s changed. The business now has an annual survey of their digital sales and marketing activities conducted by Accenture. “They hold us accountable to our benchmarks and goals as well as to industry standards. We’ve created something called ‘The Best of Wolters Kluwer’ which features people who are doing a great job.”

One of the benefits of the project has been to give widely dispersed marketing teams a reason to talk to each other. “When you think about the fact that we’re a global company, really run as individual businesses,” said Kolzow, “those marketers never talked to each other in the past. This project has pulled them all forward by understanding each other and learning from each other.”

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