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Five P's of Sitecore Personalization

Sep 05, 2019
Suset Fernandez

One of the most attractive and empowering features of Sitecore Experience Platform is personalization. It represents an opportunity for both business and customer. Digital marketers can show their site visitors relevant content, as well as drive them to conversion points.

Personalization enables you to segment visitors and deliver individual messages to the defined audiences. A personalized experience consists of two pieces:

  1. A rule used to determine if the visitor matches a segment.
  2. A content variation for visitors that belong to the specified segment.

To set up personalization in Sitecore you use the Rule Set Editor. The Rule Set Editor evaluates the conditions to determine whether the visitor belongs to a segment and changes the content accordingly.

There are two major types of personalization:

  1. Explicit personalization: rules are based on known values. For example location, campaign origin, or previous visits actions.
  2. Implicit personalization: rules are based on assumed values due to the user’s interaction. For example, interest in product type A.

You can implement implicit personalization in Sitecore using different tactics:

  • Engagement value points
  • Content profiling
  • Pattern cards

We covered Engagement Value in a previous post. In this post I'll focus on explaining the pieces that make up content profiling and pattern cards. They are known as "the Sitecore's Ps":

  1. Profiles
  2. Profile keys
  3. Profile cards & Personas
  4. Profiling
  5. Patterns

The Adventure Company Website

To make it easier to understand, I'll use a fictitious website as an example: The Adventure Company. The purpose of this site is to sell sports equipment and promote events.

website example

The Adventure Company website

Profiles

Profiles are categories used to define the reason why you are tracking the visitor's behavior. In Sitecore's Marketing Panel content tree a profile is the parent item of profile keys, profile cards, and profile patterns.

Sitecore profile

For example, the Adventure Company website owners want to know what their visitors’ interests are, what's their skill level, and what events they are interested in. That will lead to 3 profiles as follows.

Profile

Description

Interest

Activities by which we identify what sport a visitor is interested in

Skill Level

Scale used to determine how experienced a visitor is in a determined sport

Event Type

Types by which we identify what events a visitor is interested in

Profile Keys

Your scoring system scale. What you want to measure. Attributes shared between profiles and patterns. It is recommended to use a scale that facilitates the math.

For example, the Interest profile of the Adventure Company website has as profile keys Climbing, Cycling, Hiking, and Skiing and use a scale from 0 to 10. This means you will be able to assign a score between 0 and 10 to each key.

Profile

Profile Keys

Scale

Interest

Climbing

0 to 10

Cycling

Hiking

Skiing

Profile Cards & Personas

Set of profile keys. The type of content consumed by your visitors.

For example we will use the profile cards: Climber, Cyclist, Hiker, and Skier to tag the Adventure Company website content. Each one of them will score 10 on the matching interest profile key and 0 for the other 3.

Climber: Content whose focus is climbing

sitecore profile card example

Hiker: Content whose focus is hiking

sitecore profile card example

Skier: Content whose focus is skiing

sitecore profile card example

Cyclist: Content whose focus is cycling

sitecore profile card example

Personas are just a different type of template. Sitecore will function the same if you define profile cards or personas, so it is a business decision which template to use. It is recommended to use personas instead of profile cards when you will use them to tag content specifically designed to target a known business persona.

Profiling

Profiling refers to the action of associating the defined profile cards to your web pages. For example, an article that describes climbing techniques is relevant to the Climber profile card, so you must associate the two.

Sitecore allows you to configure your profiles in three different ways: sum, average, and percentage. Besides that, you can use the values assigned to the cards or customize them per page. For example, in case you defined a 5 for the climber profile card but there is a page that should add 7 points to the visitor score you can change the value on that specific page.

It is recommended to work with your sitemap outside of the CMS. Creating a document where you map all your website pages to their corresponding profile cards will ease off your task and will give a complete picture of the end result.

sitecore content profiling spreadsheet

Patterns

A pattern is a set of profile keys by which you identify a visitor profile as it relates to other visitors. It represents a type of typical website activity, a type of visitor.

Continuing with the Adventure Company website example and the interest profile let's say that this website visitor types are the following:

Lily:

sitecore pattern example

Christina:

Sitecore pattern

Mario:

Sitecore pattern

Stefan:

Sitecore pattern

How it works

Sitecore uses all the elements previously explained to automatically map your site visitors to defined profiles. When a visitor navigates through your website, they accumulate the profile values of all the pages and resources that they request. Sitecore calculates the average score that the visitor has accumulated for each profile and maps the visitor to the pattern card that is the closest match in real time. A pattern won't be assigned to a visitor until there is a close enough match.

A visitor can only be mapped to one pattern card per profile at a time. However, as a visitor navigates through your website, the pattern card that they are mapped to can change as they interact with different items and resources. The more pages our users visit the more we'll know about their interests and the better Sitecore will be able to match them to the defined profiles.

Let's go back to the Adventure Company website example. After completing the content profiling of the site we ended up with:

  • 6 pages associated to the climber profile card

sitemap example

  • 5 pages related to the cyclist profile card

sitemap example

  • 5 pages tagged with the hiker profile card

sitemap example

  • 7 pages whose content was profiled as skier

sitemap example

Now let's check some fictitious interactions of an anonymous visitor to the Adventure Company website:

On the first visit this user visits the homepage, from there they navigate to a climbing page, two more climbing pages, and they goes back to the homepage. Then they visit a hiking page, and after that they decide that they are done for the day.

As they close their browser ending this visit, Sitecore looks at each page in that session and adds the profile keys. And we know that in this case it is 10 for each interest. So the visitor got 30 points for climbing, 30 is divided by the number of pages visited in this case 4, so after this visit they score 8 for climbing. And Sitecore does that for every profile card. So after this visit they also score 2 for hiking.

sitecore profile matching example

When Sitecore is done determining the user’s profile, it compares it to the pattern cards that we set up. Sitecore determines the shortest distance, or in more human terms, the difference between the visitor's profile and our patterns, and whichever pattern is more alike to the visitor's profile is the one that they are going to get assigned to.

In this case in their first visit, our anonymous user is matched to the Lily profile.

sitecore profile matching example

What you can do

You can use profile points and pattern matching as criteria to implement:

  • Personalization of content
  • Enter the visitor into an engagement plan
  • Send a notification to the sales team

For example, based on the accumulated profile points or the pattern we can now personalize the experience for our example visitor. Next time he/she visits the Adventure Company site there could be climbing specific content on the homepage hero.

website personalization example

Get started today

There is value in defining patterns even if you are not doing anything else with them. Let Sitecore gather data form your visitors' interactions, and map them to your defined profiles so that you can analyze it.

It is possible that there are profiles, visitors’ types, that you don't identify on your first attempt. To spot these patterns, use Sitecore Experience Analytics and Sitecore Experience Profile to look up:

  • Percentage of matches for defined patterns
  • Visitor interactions not matched to a pattern

Don't let another day pass. Start by planning your strategy outside of Sitecore the implement it in the Experience Platform:

  1. Identify Profiles
  2. Define Profile Keys
  3. Configure Profile Cards & Personas
  4. Profile Content
  5. Configure Predefined Visitor Patterns

Reach out to us below if you need help getting started...