Sitecore Personalization: the What, How and Why

Let’s be honest… showing the same content to every website visitor is a bit like serving the same meal for dinner every day. And for breakfast and lunch. Today’s digital marketing is all about context. The more you know about the context of your visitor, the more relevant you can make the experience. But how do you make this happen?

In this article we’ll explain how you can leverage the power of Sitecore to personalize the online experience and create value for your business.

Why website personalization is important

When people talk about personalization, they often think of adding the first name of their email subscribers into the subject of their monthly newsletter. Well, that’s great and everything, but the personalization we’re talking about is a whole different ballgame. Static websites have become the standard and we’re here to raise the bar and to put an end to that!

The moment a person visits your website, you get an abundance of information, even without them leaving an email address or reaching out. You know the visitor’s geolocation, the device type, browser, language, the channel they visit from and more. While they browse the site they leave more traces: the pages they looked at, the content they consumed and specific actions they triggered. On top of that we could even load 3rd party data based on the location, for instance, weather information.

With all the information available about a visitor, why would you show the same content to all users across the site? That doesn’t make sense. If your business has different locations, you can show information about a location near that person. Why would you show the same homepage banner to a new visitor and a returning visitor? When a user has browsed your career pages, is it useful to try and direct him to your product section? You’re not sending the same email message to your entire database either, so it makes no sense to do it for your website.

Providing relevant content to your visitors immediately increases the possibility of them doing business with you. You help them navigate your site more easily and guide them through the different stages of the customer journey. It’s an approach that delivers measurable, relevant experiences that improves performance, builds loyalty and drives results.

Define your audience and start profiling

Before you start tailoring a personalized experience, it’s important to know your audience. You don’t have to personalize every single interaction, so choose the customer segment with the highest potential. A good approach to targeting the right audience is asking yourself these questions:

  • Which customer segments have the highest business value?
  • How big is each segment in terms of visitors?
  • How easy can we identify each segment based on their interactions on the website?

You should start with the largest audience that has the highest potential value and that’s easiest to identify. Sounds difficult? Start by looking at these inbound sources:

  • Marketing campaigns that drive a lot of traffic. You can use personalization to align your marketing message across your site.
  • Your website content speaks to different audiences with different intentions. Look at high traffic pages designed for a specific intent. Match that content to customer segments.
  • Geolocation data in order to serve specific content based on where people live or work is always an interesting option to consider.
  • Email campaigns are typically segmented for a specific audience, usually aimed at existing customers or people that interacted with your content in the past. This is generally an interesting audience to serve personalized content.

The segments defined can give you the inspiration you need to come up with your personalization scenarios.

The next step is to define profiles to track users as they navigate through your site. When visitors browse through your website they will be collecting points for a specific profile. These profiles give us an insight in the visitor’s interests, intent, their stage in the buying cycle and the content they prefer.

For example, when a person comes to your website and visits your product page once, he will receive a number of points. On his next visit new points are collected and added to his existing profiles. When he visits the contact page or downloads a pdf, these actions can also collect points for a profile. You are now able to tailor the online experience based on the profile of that visitor.

The Sitecore Experience Platform allows you to define these profiles easily. They are different for every sector and even for every business. Here are some example profiles:

  • Focus based profiles: price, service, quality, location
  • Business type profiles: private, SME, NGO
  • Product category profiles: house & garden, health & beauty, clothes & fashion, shoes, jewelry & watches
  • Function based profiles: business manager, marketing manager, HR manager, sales manager, recruitment officer

Use Sitecore to measure website engagement

Most of the companies we work with have large websites with a high number of pages. It’s not hard to see that these pages deliver a different amount of value. For instance, a specific blog post might attract visitors to your site, while it will not result in a lot of direct e-commerce sales. But when someone is reading a number of blogs and is signing-up for your newsletter it’s pretty clear that this person is engaged and relates to what you’re talking about.

Now, how can you tell if someone is engaged and how do you decide how much value that brings to your business? These can be pretty hard questions to answer. Luckily, we’ve got some tricks up our sleeve to help you and one of them is the engagement value scale: a super fancy pyramid shaped scale that groups all user actions that indicate engagement on your website. Some examples:

  • Viewing a blog post
  • Looking at FAQ page
  • Watching a video
  • Signing up for newsletter
  • Placing an order
  • Downloading an e-book
  • Request a quote
  • Making an appointment
  • Requesting a call

Once all these interactions are defined, it’s a matter of adding a specific value to each one. Here’s an example of an engagement value scale:


Engagement Value Scale


Consider these as the digital conversions for your business and their respective engagement value. The only thing left to do is to configure these goals and engagement values in the Sitecore Experience Platform and you’re all set. These goals will play an important role in the personalization process.

One high impact, low effort example is to set a goal for people reaching the first step of your sales funnel (for instance the shopping basket). If you then configure a goal on the thank you page at the end of the funnel, you can target people who didn’t reach that thank you page. You can then alter your message and call to actions across your website to get people back to the funnel and finish the process.

Think big, start small

Sitecore offers a lot of different personalization opportunities, which can be summarized into three different categories:

  • Rule based personalization
  • Implicit personalization (based on what visitors are doing on your site)
  • Explicit personalization (based on specific user data)

Rule based personalization

SItecore’s rule engine is very powerful and offers numerous personalization rules out of the box. Some typical rule-based scenarios are:

  • Changing call to actions and after a specific goal is triggered
  • Showing different content to new vs returning visitors
  • Adapt the mobile experience by hiding or showing content based on device type

Implicit personalization

With the profiles and the engagement value scale we described, you have all the tools you need to start personalizing your website based on the implicit site behavior of your users. Capitalize on that to serve content relevant to their stage in the customer journey, their interests and intent. Adapt your site around their experience in real-time.

Explicit personalization

A more advanced way of personalization is using actual data that you gathered from your visitors, for instance through a form or a poll. Sitecore allows you to save that data to the users’ profile and to use that data for personalization.

To give you some more inspiration, check out these 9 personalization tactics.

Experiment, experiment, experiment

Personalization is not a one-time thing, nor is it a one-man band, it’s about adopting a mindset of constant experimentation and making personalization a team effort. There’s no one size fits all recipe for success. It’s a matter of looking at the data, being creative and putting yourself in your customer’s shoes. Get into their minds and be objective when evaluating the online journey. A/B test your assumptions, document your hypotheses and make data driven decisions.

Use the following steps to take your digital marketing efforts to the next level:

  • Gather ideas and look at the data you already have
  • Rank and prioritize ideas based on impact and effort
  • Outline and define your chosen experiments with a strong hypothesis
  • Work, work, work

Learn from your experiments and start the process again.

Need help with getting started? Don’t worry, we’ve done this before! We’re always eager to hear about your ideas, so be sure to drop us a line.


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