Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) vs Sitecore Comparison Guide
Ever get to the store in search of something…only to find out there are five different brands of it competing for your attention? (Of course, you have.)
For a lot of us, that’s a good enough reason to avoid buying anything and try to get by without it just a bit longer. But let’s face it…we still need it.
Picking a CMS platform that’s the right investment for your business isn’t much different. For most companies, the right CMS means the difference between scale and stagnation.
And since no one wants to perpetuate the latter longer than necessary, we’ve put together this Sitecore vs. Adobe Experience Manager analysis, to help you get closer to a confident CMS decision.
To get things started, let’s take a deeper look at Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). Below, you’ll find a high-level review of AEM, including features, benefits, drawbacks, and some hints to help you decide if AEM is the best route for you.
AEM is a globally recognized industry leader in the experience management space, often praised for its customizability and scalability. It’s available as an on-premise, managed services, and Adobe-hosted cloud solution.
As a whole, AEM features:
- Site management (AEM Sites).
- Digital asset management (AEM Assets).
- Form management (AEM Forms).
- Cross-screen experience management (AEM Screens).
- Community management (AEM Communities).
AEM’s robust set of features and development capabilities make it a versatile toolbox for developers, while its user-friendly interface still makes navigation, authoring, and publishing easy for content creators.
Now, to get into the nitty-gritty. AEM packs a punch and comes with a wide array of possible features intended to make experience management easier, faster, and more secure.
Among AEM’s key features, you’ll find:
- Automated asset management and versioning tools that utilize Adobe Sensei (AI)
- Smart cropping, smart tagging, and bulk uploading of assets
- Smart content creation tools
- Baked-in connectivity to apps your creative team already uses, like Creative Cloud
- Dynamic cloud scalability
- Robust security compliance
- Drill-downs into asset performance with intuitive real-time analytics
- Streamlined multi-site management, all in one place
- Powerful form creation tools with automation features, like legacy to adaptive form conversion.
AEM pros and cons
Ultimately, we know that for many businesses, deciding on the right CMS to adopt for the long term hinges heavily on the cons. Let’s be real—the benefits and positives of a platform are great, but being aware of the cons often plays a pivotal role in making sure your choice is future-proof.
That said, here’s a look at what AEM excels at, and what some of its pain points are.
- High capability for customization to meet your business’s unique needs.
- The Cloud Service enables dynamic scalability and downtime avoidance.
- Powerful asset management features built to save you time.
- High cross-channel, cross-device, and cross-audience site adaptability.
- Personalized site version deliverability across varying audience segments.
- Robust enough for IT to get creative, and user-friendly enough to be used by content teams without IT assistance.
- Powerful bulk processing that can handle large asset loads.
- Cost-wise, it’s a significant investment yearly, which may not be feasible for smaller businesses.
- Hosting and maintaining the on-premise version can be costly, and require an investment in capable hardware.
- Unless you invest in AEM as a Cloud Service, updating to new versions is complex.
- Migration to the CMS takes time and requires technical knowledge to do so effectively.
- It’s a powerful platform, meaning a steep learning curve for your teams at the get-go.
- There’s some potential for vendor lock due to migration difficulty (stemming from Adobe’s proprietary features and infrastructure).
When to choose Adobe Experience Manager vs Sitecore
AEM is known for its scalability, which makes it a popular fit for enterprise businesses that often expect rapid growth or variability in site traffic, and need a CMS that can keep up. Additionally, AEM tends to be a wise choice for enterprises with fast-moving content creation needs.
Companies using Adobe Experience Manager
According to BuiltWith, AEM holds 4th place among the most used CMS solutions among the top 10k high-traffic enterprise websites worldwide. You’ll find a multitude of familiar household names taking advantage of AEM’s robust feature list, including Ford, UnitedHealth Group, FedEx, Intel, Caterpillar, etc.
Adobe Experience Manager Usage Statistics
This usage statistics is a strong testament to AEM’s ability to handle large brands’ websites that frequently experience heavy and diverse traffic loads.
Now, it’s time to shift the spotlight and give Sitecore the same treatment. If you’re wondering how Sitecore’s features, benefits, and drawbacks line up with AEM’s, we’re on it.
Similar to AEM, Sitecore is a feature-rich CMS platform that enables businesses to build personalized experiences for their customers. Sitecore is also renowned for its robust customizability and scalability, and appeals to both the needs of developers as well as content creators.
Currently, Sitecore features on-premise and managed cloud service options (Platform DXP), as well as a full SaaS cloud option (SaaS DXP).
While the on-premise version depends solely on your hardware and relies on you to manage the infrastructure, the managed cloud service enables users to select a cloud infrastructure to host and have Sitecore manage and optimize it. The SaaS option comes with an infrastructure fully hosted and maintained by Sitecore.
As a whole, Sitecore’s feature list is every bit as impressive and robust as AEM’s. There are slight differences in how each platform functions and what each offers, but you’ll notice a lot of similarities in their overarching feature lists.
Some of the cornerstone features of Sitecore are:
- Intuitive baked-in marketing automation tools
- Tagging (profiling) assets to help attribute characteristics to visitors of the site who express interest in those assets
- A/B testing features and multivariate testing features
- Multi-locale solutions for product feeds and domains
- Simplified form creation
- Natural language processing to help generate relevant results in response to user queries
- Built-in scalability for heavy site traffic loads
- Intuitive content author-friendly interface that’s also robust enough for developers
- Omni-channel content delivery is designed to make experiences seamless
- Frictionless integrations with ecommerce platforms.
Sitecore pros and cons
Sitecore hits a lot of the same notes as AEM in terms of the software’s biggest pros. But where you’ll start to see differences between the two platforms is in their list of cons.
It’s good to keep in mind that none of these cons are necessarily deal-breakers. Ultimately, deciding which platform to choose will depend on how either of their cons will affect your business. Some of these points we’ve identified as cons might not be cons at all for some!
That said, here’s what Sitecore has to offer:
- Powerful, interconnected features for experience management, marketing automation, and reporting.
- Advanced personalization and profiling features that enable granular content tailoring to different segments.
- Scalable with large sites and demanding volumes of traffic.
- Features focused on keeping site experiences consistent across devices and channels.
- High customizability to unique business needs.
- Compliant with industry-standard security practices.
- Expansive features and capabilities can make for a steep learning curve.
- While potentially less costly than AEM, it’s still a large investment and is potentially unsuitable for smaller businesses.
- Reliance on the .NET framework (upon which it’s built) makes it most useful for Microsoft-familiar development teams.
- Updates, upgrades, and migration to the platform can be complex and take time.
- Having the resources needed to build on the infrastructure and manage platform health can be costly.
When to choose Sitecore vs Adobe Experience Manager
Sitecore tends to be suitable for slower-scaling businesses, or businesses with more predictable traffic quarter-over-quarter.
While Sitecore is certainly scalable, it’s important to bear in mind that it doesn’t feature fully dynamic scalability, meaning it’s more prone to sluggishness if traffic reaches beyond its limits. Additionally, Sitecore also tends to have a longer time-to-market for new content.
So, for businesses that experience high traffic loads, expect explosive growth, and need quicker content launches, Sitecore may become a bottleneck.
One key difference we’d like to highlight with Sitecore is the .NET framework. This framework makes more sense to adopt for IT teams that are already familiar with it.
Typically, businesses that rely heavily on Microsoft will have IT teams familiar with .NET. If they are, then it’s a good chance you’ve met your match in Sitecore. But if your team is Java-savvy, and .NET is uncharted water for them, Sitecore probably isn’t the best fit.
Companies using Sitecore
Sitecore has seen its fair share of large companies come through its doors. The list of enterprise companies among the top 10k high-traffic websites using Sitecore isn’t that long. Yet, there are well-known brands out there doing amazing things with Sitecore, such as Under Armour, General Mills, AutoNation, Allstate, Amgen, etc.
Sitecore CMS Usage Statistics
The overall Sitecore CMS usage statistics show that although it’s quite popular among large companies (20th place in the category), yet, its popularity for high-traffic websites declined.
AEM vs Sitecore: Comparative Analysis
Now, we know that all the best comparisons come in the form of charts. That’s why we’ve put them side-by-side to help highlight the key differences around Adobe’s AEM vs Sitecore.
In terms of high-end customer market share, Sitecore CMS lags behind Adobe Experience Manager despite both being known to be geared toward enterprises. Let’s compare their key differences to understand why:
- AEM’s positioning as an all-in-one CMS might appeal more to enterprises looking for a comprehensive solution.
- AEM’s flexibility and customization options could be more attractive to larger enterprises with the resources to leverage these capabilities, contributing to its higher adoption in this segment.
- Sitecore has its ecosystem and integrates well with third-party tools, but AEM’s robust integration with Adobe Experience Cloud makes it more appealing to enterprises already invested in the Adobe ecosystem.
- Sitecore has a strong presence in the .NET community but AEM is part of a broader Java and Adobe community of tech consultants and integrators.
Let’s compare the CMS solutions by several key characteristics.
|Can be deployed as a Headless CMS that allows for horizontal scaling, with dynamic scaling capabilities in the Cloud.
|Can be deployed as a Headless CMS that allows for horizontal and vertical scaling, but without dynamic scaling.
|Strong security compliance, audit trails, encryption, and vulnerability management.
|Strong security compliance, encryption, and vulnerability management.
|Adobe Experience Manager has a subscription-based licensing model, with higher costs to implement and maintain.
|Sitecore has a perpetual licensing model with lower implementation and maintenance costs.
|Built on Java, Apache Sling framework, Java Content Repository, and OSGi.J.
|Built on C# and the Microsoft ASP.NET framework.
|AEM On-Premise, Managed Service, or Cloud Service, AEM Sites, AEM Assets, AEM Forms, AEM Screens, AEM Communities
|Sitecore Platform DXP (On-premise)Experience ManagerExperience PlatformManaged Cloud
Sitecore SaaS DXP (Cloud Service)Content CloudEngagement CloudCommerce Cloud
So, which is better: AEM or Sitecore?
Our hot take: When it comes down to flexible scalability, fast site creation, and a widely familiar framework, AEM is the winner for enterprise businesses.
That’s not to say that Sitecore doesn’t have its merits—it’s certainly a close call. However enterprise businesses rely on the speed and flexibility of their CMS to tackle periods of rapid growth and heavy traffic, and AEM is a bit more reliable in that respect.
That said, as we’ve mentioned earlier, there is one contingency around the Adobe CMS vs Sitecore decision: AEM would make less sense for IT teams specializing in .NET.
Now, before you get too excited about acquiring an AEM license—how much thought have you given to the implementation process?
Remember, migration can be difficult and complex, even for experienced IT teams. So, If you’ve got questions about the timeline and process for AEM adoption, we’re here to help fill you in!