Tag-arkiv: Personalization

Mapping data for personalization in Sitecore

Getting started with a new Sitecore solution, you are probably eager to get started with personalization. One of the first questions to address is of course what data to base these personalizations on.

It isn’t difficult to see the advantages of a full, seamless omni-channel experience but it requires alignment of data across systems. Something that is usually a goal – but also a progress that takes time.

Available data for personalization

I have previously written about having a pragmatic approach to what data to base personalizations upon. But how do you get started with personalization without having to wait for the holy grail of user data in your own organisation? A good starting point could be to create a data map for the different kinds of personalizations you want to achieve.

In short, you can base personalizations on four different types of data:

Using Sitecore data for personalization


1.      Data created by Sitecore

Sitecore has a lot of options to learn about your users behaviour. Luckily these tools are available without the need of additional code. Everything from goals to behaviour based “personas” can be created through configuration inside Sitecore. All data is stored in the Sitecore xDB.

2.      Data collected in Sitecore

Data, ie. from input fields, can be stored in Sitecores xDB. So, information like company, job title, e-mail, preferences and such could be stored in the xDB and used in the personalization rule editor.

3.      Data from connected systems

A lot of value is gained from using data from connected systems, such as a CRM, ERP or dialogue management software. In certain cases, a viable solution will be to look up data in connected systems on the fly. There can be certain pitfalls to assess before going this direction, such as performance and security.

4.      Single view of customer

This is often referred to as the holy grail of user data. The basic idea is that no matter which system is asking about the user, the answer is always consistent and up to date. The data could be collected and synchronised into the Sitecore xDB, a CRM or a data warehouse. The point is that you will be able to create a continuous, consistent experience for the users, across channels and devices.


If your road map has “single view of customer” as the end station, there are plenty of steps on the way in which to create real value for your users and business through personalization with real user data. So don’t let your ambitions be your own road block. Start with what’s already there, or map what you have and make the appropriate connections.


Every journey starts with a single step.

The relevancy gap

You probably know why you have a digital platform (a website, an app or whichever platform you deliver your services or products on). But guess what: your users also have a reason for using your website. What makes the users enter your website, is that you provide, what they are seeking. If you don’t provide it, they will probably find it somewhere else.

It makes good sense to design your products around a business model. After all if your only purpose was to satisfy customers, you might as well give anybody what they want for free. Instead we find ways to design solutions that help business grow by satisfying their user’s or customer’s needs.

If I own a coffee shop franchise, I’d like to use my website to support engagement for my mocca thirsty customers. I would love to make the loyal visitors. I would encourage them to be ambassadors on social media.

That would be my goal.

But that’s probably not the job at hand for a visitor on my website. Maybe they just want to find an address or opening hours. Maybe they want to see my amazing coffee menu. Or maybe they just googled “how to avoid a bitter cup of joe”.

There’s a relevancy gap. What the user want is not my end goal for the user.

So what should I do? If I only provided an address and prices, it wouldn’t support my digital strategy. And if I went to the extreme of what the user wants, I should probably just offer them free coffee.

But one thing is for sure: we are dependent on our customers, and we cannot change the task they have at hand. If they want to find an address, we can’t convince them, that they don’t need the address. Of course we should provide them what they come for, as long as it doesn’t interfere with our strategy. So maybe we should start by giving them what they want in a way that supports our strategy: “Find your local coffee pusher and see the daily special on their Facebook page”.

With optimization tools such as A/B-testing and engagement analytics, such as provided in Sitecore, you are able to explore what kinds of communication helps you drive your digital strategy the best. The goal is to close the gap. To make sure that your digital strategy and the user’s needs are aligned.

But, as you might have noticed this is a simplified example. You probably have a lot of different users with a lot of different “jobs to be done”. This makes things harder. And maybe you need to bring out heavier tools.

If you have worked with optimization, you know that small changes can make a big difference. But you can only come so far with optimization, since – all things considered – users are inherently different. They might be from different target groups, have different tasks, different history with your brand or they might need different things from your digital services at different times.

This is where personalization comes to play. By segmenting your users by what ever parameter is relevant, you are able to control your marketing to these segments giving you the opportunity to enhance the relevancy for the individual user.

The reason for using personalization is not that the tools are available or easy to use. It’s that they have the ability to make your website matter for the specific user.

Identity and relevancy

It’s a misconception that you need to know who a user is to improve the relevancy of the individual user. How did they find your website? We don’t need to know the name, address and Facebook friends to personalize content to our users. When working with personalization you can start out with as little data as single click on your website. Or you might be able to detect whether the user has visited your website before. What did they show interest in?

Sometimes the data isn’t specific to the user at all. Sometimes it describes a huge set of users. Often you can retrieve real gold in looking into your business intelligence. This could be data about churn, successful cross-selling strategies or other behavioral metrics.

Sometimes the most valuable piece of information is whether the user previously has signed up to a newsletter – simply because it indicates a level of interest.

Using Sitecores rules editor you can setup a lot of rules, without being able to uniquely identifying the user. Time of day, triggered goals, visited pages and so forth can help you display information with higher relevancy.

Sure, the more data the merrier, but don’t let the lack of specific user data stop you from trying to elevate the relevancy of your website to the individual user.

Personalization is not a quick fix

Personalization might be a quick win. With tools like Sitecore, setting up simple personalization rules can be done in minutes. But a quick win is not necessarily the same thing as a quick fix.

These days it seems everybody’s talking about Experience Marketing. And one of the main tools in the Customer Experience Managers utility belt is personalization. And not without reason. One case after the other is proving, that personalization works. It lifts conversion rates and impacts the users experience of relevancy.

Never the less it’s important to take steps towards an personalized website in the right order. Before we can utilize personalization we need to focus on having a solid foundation. But how do you know if you’re foundation is ok? Well, look at it this way: If you know what role your digital platform plays in your business strategy, and you know how to measure it’s success, then you’re on the right track. If you’re taking steps towards optimizing and testing your site, and you’re judging the results by looking at these measurements of success, it’s safe to assume that personalization is your next steps.

Because here’s the deal: If you’re websites already broken, if it does not provide the solution to the problem it’s there to solve personalization will not make a big difference. By working with personalization you can increase the relevancy of each users visit. Not change what you’re website does.

Whether or not you are using Sitecore, you can take a look at their maturity model to assess where you are, and whether you are ready to begin working with personalized content. Take the maturity test on Sitecores website, to assess yourself.

Personalization is not gaffers tape. It won’t hold something together that’s already apart. It’s lube. It makes the machine run more efficient by creating less friction.