You want your website visitors to be in AWE?

I was recently talking to Guy Lepage about personalization. He commented that personalization didn’t really seem to accurately describe what happens when content viewed is adapted to the visitor based on their habits, interests etc. It’s personalized to some degree — but it seems like just another phrase that we understand in the industry but how much does it explain “personalization” to those outside the web industry?

So Guy challenged me to think of a more precise way of describing website personalization. So after brainstorming, debating, writing notes and quite literally walking around outside with my Blackberry and writing ideas in Yahoo Instant Messenger — we nailed it. Googling the new term identified that it’s not a new term — but a term that is highly under-utilized: Adaptive Web(site) Experience (AWE).

Fingerprint cartoon

Courtesy of Flckr via Tillwe

Adaptive is more accurate than personalization because the process doesn’t really involve any personal contact. Thinking of the Sitecore OMS for example (which stands for Online Marketing Suite…but I prefer to call Online Marketing Savior) on the backend the business user creates rules to push content to a website visitor according to the way they navigate. The website is not asking the user what they are interested in and serving up that content. The CMS is adapting to the behaviors of the website visitor.

I think the distinction is a key to explaining the process and value to potential CMS buyers and particularly marketers. Why? Subconsciously we probably think that personalizing content to an enormous volume of website visitors is questionable and at least a possibly overwhelming task — particularly when we think of B2C. But we understand target markets — adapting our messaging to a large group with similar expectations, needs, desires, etc. That’s attainable and easily understandable.

Where’s the value in AWE?

You land on a website from Google, Twitter, Facebook, an email newsletter, etc — and you start trying to find your way around the website: it can be frustrating. Sometimes we leave the website before finding what we were looking for — often because we assume the info we want does not exist on the website. But what if the website can start adapting to what you are looking at and how you are navigating and start providing an Adaptive Web Experience by pushing content to you that is relevant to your interaction? To quote Guy, “That’s HOT!” Suddenly, unbeknownst to you the website is adapting what you see to what you are looking for — the irrelevant content is falling to the side, no longer a barrier obstructing you from finding what you want. If you’ve ever shopped on you can liken it to other recommended books based on what other shoppers bought who purchased the book you are interested in. Guy is right — its HOT!!! So when are you going to start creating an Adaptive Web Experience to create a sense of AWE for you visitors?