Cisco reimagines the center of its omnichannel solar system.
Increase in clicks to "How to Buy" on Cisco.com
Improvement in page load time
Reduction in bounce rate
Increase in visits to the Cisco.com home page
Click-through increase for personalized offers
“We want to make everyone who is engaging with us in this transformation initiative a hero.”
Senior Director, Digital Marketing Platforms & Activation, Cisco
Cisco Systems Inc. has never been afraid of change. When Todd Shimizu joined the company three years ago as the vice president of global digital marketing & media, he was looking forward to helping develop a digital strategy for the dynamic business. But what really excited him was the opportunity to work with an experienced team of top performers.
Chad Reese began his career at Cisco as a web program manager nearly 23 years ago. Today, he’s senior director of digital marketing platforms and activation. His colleagues Venkat Krishnamurthy and Rune Olslund came on board around the same time; Krishnamurthy is now Cisco’s director of growth marketing technology solutions and chief marketing technologist, while Olslund is senior director, omnichannel experiences and demand gen. Their counterpart Monica Koedel, senior director of digital customer experience, is in her fifteenth year, and Shilpa Sardar, director of Cisco.com digital experience, recently celebrated 23 years at Cisco.
Those are some impressive employee retention stats, especially for a company that always has its eye on the future and is constantly innovating. If you consider that the tech industry is notorious for high employee turnover and that the “Great Resignation” continues to roar, Cisco’s success at retaining highly skilled employees becomes even more remarkable.
Reese will tell you that Cisco’s secret sauce is “making a hero out of everyone.” Giving them the autonomy to do their job and do it well. Creating a company culture that understands and appreciates people. And keeping collaboration flowing between different departments and teams amid transformation and change.
While we know Cisco is full of noteworthy heroes, we’re focusing today’s story on leaders from two teams who embody the company’s commitment to progress, creativity, and connection.
Their quest? To embark on a three-year digital transformation of Cisco.com — an initiative they call “Cisco.com Reimagined” — and create simple, meaningful digital customer experiences that showcase innovation and drive growth.
A website fit for Cisco's reach
As one of the world’s leading information technology and networking companies, Cisco connects people, computing devices, and computer networks around the world. This enduring tech company has leaned into change and expansion, helping businesses transform their infrastructure, power hybrid work, reimagine their applications, and keep their data secure end to end.
Life would be very different for us all were it not for Cisco’s ingenuity. The company came onto the tech scene in 1984, just a year after the official birth of the internet. Back then, networks could connect computers but couldn’t connect to each other. That required gateways or routers, which was Cisco’s forte. Cisco routers were built to run internet protocols. You could say Cisco built the internet. In fact, 85% of internet traffic travels across Cisco’s systems to this day.
But if you’d traveled to the center of Cisco’s “omnichannel solar system,” Cisco.com, prior to its digital transformation, you would have found a website that lacked the personalization, modern software as a service (SaaS), and commerce experiences you’d expect from such a pioneering enterprise. Especially considering Cisco.com is one of the company’s most valuable assets, receiving over 100 million visitors a year and spanning 59 country sites in 27 languages.
The digital marketing team and OneX customer experience team were especially eager to reimagine Cisco.com and were waiting for the opportunity to rebuild the website and design a customer-first immersive experience.
“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time. We’ve had the vision of uniting the company and creating intuitive, easy customer experiences, but we haven’t had the mechanism to change it…until now.”
Senior Director, Digital Customer Experience, Cisco
From reimagination to action
Cisco.com Reimagined is part of an enterprise transformation that kicked off in August 2021 to support two company-wide aims — move more of Cisco’s offerings towards a SaaS distribution model and bring more cross-portfolio customer solutions to market to highlight Cisco’s impressive portfolio (they’ve acquired over 218 companies to date).
The teams set out to modernize Cisco.com, making it simpler and more meaningful with a contemporary design system and an experience foundation built for scale. That meant moving away from tech speak to more engaging, customer-friendly language with clear benefits and calls to action. It also meant completely rearchitecting and future-proofing its platform and capabilities with agile technology that adapts to changing customer and business needs and doesn’t keep the customer waiting with long load times or bore them with generic experiences.
"The website is the center of everything we wanted to do at Cisco,” says Shimizu. “It’s a product showcase, demand engine, and customer service portal all in one. We needed everyone to come together: the digital marketing team with myself, Chad, Rune, and Venkat; and the OneX team with Monica and Shilpa. Only by working together as one team could we transform the digital journey.”
Koedel echoes that sentiment. “We have this parallel effort where all the experience elements as well as the platform and data elements, front stage and backstage, are being transformed together in lockstep. It covers all the bases and gets everyone on board.”
The teams met biweekly with important stakeholders from across the company to bring everyone into alignment throughout this complex transformation project. Getting everyone on board with moving from a complex legacy system, one with painstakingly crafted customizations, to an agile cloud platform is the biggest win so far in Krishnamurthy’s view. He serves as the digital strategist helping to translate marketing’s business needs into a supportive tech stack.
“The mindset is much harder than the technology aspect of it,” he says. “Over the years, things become organically complicated. To get people to think out of the box, you have to make it personal and give them the power to see the possibilities for themselves.”
As a groundbreaking tech company, Cisco is no stranger to growth, and it has an entire change management team to help usher in new initiatives. The team takes the time to conduct interviews to understand what each person’s needs are and what they care most about, and then construct messaging accordingly so the entire company can embark on the journey together.
For Cisco.com Reimagined, they took a “crawl, walk, run” approach. To start, the team put new features to market as prototype HTML experiences to track customer engagement. Those early efforts brought a four-fold increase in daily visits to free trials, an 86% increase in how-to-buy traffic, and a 28% increase in clicks to activate products thanks to enhanced personalization. From there, they were ready to run, and they turned to Adobe to provide the robust, agile, scalable technology infrastructure they needed.
Making the move to the cloud
Cisco has been a longtime Adobe customer, and this latest partnership involved migrating Cisco.com from an on-prem Adobe Experience Manager environment to a cloud environment. Its on-prem, highly customized platform made it difficult to add integrations and functions quickly, and it wasn’t set up to deliver personalized, one-to-one experiences at scale to the businesses and consumers they serve. Krishnamurthy explained, “Everything else was on cloud. Everything else was bleeding edge. But Cisco.com was not. And that’s where the most engagements are.”
“We had years of legacy, technical debt, and customizations that just became unwieldy. This was an opportunity for us to start with a clean slate, and that’s had significant benefits in terms of customer experience, performance, and scalability.”
Senior Director, Digital Marketing Platforms & Activation, Cisco
Sardar and her team rearchitected the Cisco.com tech stack, including 20+ integrations, and worked with Adobe Professional Services to build the pipes between Cisco’s internal system and Experience Manager as a Cloud Service. They set up hybrid cloud architecture to scale publishing globally and provide seamless customer experiences.
“We saw an immediate effect. The pages we’ve moved to the cloud have a faster response time, faster load time, and we’re seeing it work better. We saw that work right away,” says Koedel.
Cisco is now benefiting from a speedier time to market, moving from monthly to weekly release cycles. Performance on desktops and mobile phones has improved with a 33% increase in page load time. And Cisco can now take advantage of the latest Adobe innovations as soon as they come to market. And that’s just in the first year of transformation.
“Migrating to Experience Manager as a Cloud Service has allowed us to redesign and rethink end-to-end architecture, drive faster time to market in terms of releases, and power reimagined connected customer experiences.”
IT Director, Cisco
Investing in B2B personalization at scale
Adopting nearly the full suite of Adobe data, content, and journey solutions, Cisco has laid the foundation for B2B personalization at scale.
Olslund worked closely with business units to define what information and content they needed on the website. He then transformed this insight into a design system built on Experience Manager Assets and Quick Sites.
“The design system includes editable templates, layout patterns, drag-and-drop design components, colors, fonts, and any other digital content our content authors might need. This framework improves publishing speed to help us create enticing, always-on-brand content that converts.”
Sr. Director, Experience Strategy & Digital Studio, Cisco
Experience Manager Multi-Site Manager streamlines the global self-service authoring and publishing process, allowing Cisco to scale across 59 country sites. Companies that join Cisco as part of a merger or acquisition (M&A) will be able to grab the components they need to build new website pages quickly while adhering to Cisco’s look and feel.
With Adobe Target, Cisco is starting to see great success by creating and delivering personalized content for different accounts. In one early example, Cisco changed the messaging around Cisco SecureX depending on the customer. Accounts already using at least one security solution received messaging about unlocking more value with SecureX, while other accounts received an offer for a free trial. Just by changing the messaging, Cisco saw excellent click-through rates and conversions.
“If you want to go from one-off personalization to personalization at scale, you must build digital assets and offer management in a consistent way, and then make sure A/B and multivariate testing happen synonymously. We can do that with Adobe Audience Manager.”
Director, Growth Marketing Technology Solutions, Chief Marketing Technologist, Cisco
Adobe Workfront, a leading work management solution, supports Cisco’s publishing and activation operations and workflows by optimizing content production. And with Workfront, Cisco is poised to expand to all facets of campaign management as well. The company has also integrated with Adobe Analytics to gain richer insights into customer journey patterns and determine where to invest in the website. Adobe Marketo Measure attribution models make it possible to pinpoint the most effective engagement methods and adjust campaigns and strategies accordingly.
“One of the biggest benefits of working with Adobe has always been the way apps and platforms work together. It was always imperative to me that we aim for a true transformation – that means people, process, and technology. There was never any question about what platform we were going to use. We wanted to be best-in-class and that meant working with Adobe in the cloud.”
Vice President, Global Digital Marketing & Media, Cisco
Becoming one Cisco
Years two and three of Cisco.com Reimagined will build upon these efforts with the intent to unify the experience across the entire customer lifecycle. Cisco is in the process of enabling SaaS-based trial provisioning and try-and-buy offers in support of its enterprise-wide software model transformation. And because Sardar and her team have architected Experience Manager as a headless CMS, Cisco is on its way to giving customers a seamlessly integrated content and commerce experience.
“As we begin to scale those experiences, those new, reimagined experiences across the site, we want to show up as one Cisco,” says Reese.
It’s a Cisco.com that truly matches the scale of the company’s customer base and product lines. And with people like Shimizu, Reese, Krishnamurthy, Olslund, Koedel, and Sardar on the job, it promises to unite the customer experience across Cisco products, customers, and partners — and encapsulate Cisco’s reputation as an innovator.