Personalization: Your Website Content Doesn’t Have to be One Size Fits All

Personalization. If you shop online at major retailers or have an account with Netflix, you probably already know what it is – it’s the “Because You Purchased” section below the stuff you’re currently looking at, or the list of movies you’ll like because you watched Muppets Take Manhattan (don’t judge, it’s a great movie!). A more technical definition: personalization involves using tools like Sitecore’s DMS to display content on a website that is directly related to what a user would like to see – based on analytics criteria like location, current or past user behavior, or an action that the user took before they even got to your website.

Muppets Website Personalization

For those of us not running gigantic retail or media consumption websites, setting up personalization should still pay off. Just like at Target.com or Netflix, displaying content that’s more appropriate to the user should increase conversions and/or engagement rates by eliminating the guesswork of a “one size fits all” content approach to User Experience.

The thinking is, if the content is more familiar or relevant to a user, then they’re more likely to buy/give information/take action/remain engaged on your website. This isn’t a new concept – successful email programs have been doing this for years through segmentation. Now, smart marketers are doing it onsite. Give the people what they want, right?

Where can Personalization Happen on Your Website?

There are lots of types of personalization, and an easy place to think about where it can happen on your website is the homepage banner. Here are a few scenarios:

  • GEO PERSONALIZATION – if a user is located in Florida when he or she visits your website, then the banner would include a picture of palm trees. If a user is in Vermont (and it’s winter), the banner would include picture of a snowy day.
  • RULES-BASED PERSONALIZATION – if a user comes to your website from a Paid Search ad, then the banner would include a CTA that connects back to the user’s keyword search.
  • PERSONA-BASED PERSONALIZATION – if a user takes a series of actions throughout the site to place them into a specific persona “bucket,” then they’d see the homepage banner connected to that bucket upon returning to the homepage within that session – or possibly (depending on technology) if they returned to the site within a certain timeframe.

This is just one way to personalize; you can also personalize content on your website’s sidebar promos, on-page imagery, copy – you can even show one user an entirely different design than another, and see which one helps reach your marketing goals faster. The list is long and the possibilities are plentiful.

How Do You Know What Type of Content a User Would Like to “See?”

Take a look at the data. Here are your personalization examples again, along with the examples of analytics tools you might use to get to that information:

  • GEO: Use an IP lookup tool like Maxmind to identify a user’s location (or close to it), which will then allow you to display which homepage banner that user would see by connecting that information to a GEO persona in Sitecore’s DMS.
  • RULES-BASED: Use Google Adwords to send a unique UTM tracking parameter to Sitecore when a user visits your website from a Paid Search ad. Then, connect that url with the DMS to serve up the appropriate banner.
  • PERSONA-BASED: Through Sitecore’s DMS, assign actions that a user takes throughout their visit to a Persona bucket. Then, relate that persona to the appropriate homepage banner…and serve it up.

Now that you know a few ways to personalize your website content and what tools you’ll be needing to implement, take the time to create a personalization plan so that everyone understands the process before you begin. Just like with Persona Planning, website personalization is not a small undertaking, so be sure to approach this tactic as thoughtfully as possible. As always, we’re here to help – so feel free to reach out in the comments below or shoot us an email.

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