Considerations When Implementing Sitecore Personalisation

Web ApplicationsWeb Applications
Web Applications | 12.04.17
Written by Ali Graham

One of Sitecore’s most valuable feature sets, personalisation allows marketers and content managers to create highly engaging interactions that blend offline and online experiences into captivating, and effective customer experiences.

With this opportunity to create completely bespoke web experiences, right down to the individual user level; taking into account their usage history, name, location and more or less any other information that can be captured there is often a temptation to tailor every aspect of your site.

However, just because you can – doesn’t mean you should. The following looks at some considerations when building out your Sitecore personalisation strategy.

Consider Your Audiences

Prior to building out any kind of personalisation is it crucial to consider your audiences.  

While personalisation can be built on (rules based) contextual indicators such as a visitor’s location, or referring campaign and is great as a ‘quick win’ technique, managing this type of personalisation if implemented widely across the site can be extremely difficult as you must keep a record of all rules across all components that they are implemented on.  On larger sites and with more complex user journeys managing this type of rules based personalisation becomes extremely cumbersome.

Behavioural personalisation can yield more accurate and well considered personalisation’s and if well considered, can significantly reduce management time and effort.
In light of this, it is critical to ensure that you segment your audiences into groups that reflect the goals of your site and maximise potential payoff when building out predictive personalisation in Sitecore.  This is best done by considering the following for each audience segment:

Value – Review how much a particular segment is likely to contribute to key conversions or site revenue and prioritise this segment. 

Volume - It’s also important to take into account user volume as illustrated, the higher the volume of users within a particular segment, the more value there is likely to be and the more accurately personalisation can be applied and measured.

 

Sitecore personalisation audience value/volume matrix

 

Don't Over Personalise

While it should be clear that a returning customer is recognised, there’s a fine line between delivering a streamlined and valuable experience that takes into account a user’s past actions and coming across as creepy.  Ultimately people don’t like being spied on and sometimes if you over personalise, by for example using names or other highly personal details, it can easily come across as ‘uncanny’ and your conversion rates will suffer.

Additionally, and perhaps more damaging than over-sharing is over personalising architectural components of a site.  For example personalising navigational elements, or hiding areas of the site based on an assumed pattern match for a user.

This is detrimental to user experience as a whole and can result in edge cases where users are unable to find the content they require and may consequently bounce to a competitor.
Rather than trying to personalise major elements of a sites architecture it is best to allocate core areas of major page templates to personalisation. 

In addition to damaging CX and UX, over personalising can also cause speed issues on page loads – the more rules there are on a page, the longer the page may take to load which can have impacts on search visibility and bounce rates.

Google Isn't Sentient - Yet

One of the most common questions we get asked on completion of a Sitecore implementations is “how will this affect our search marketing”.
Sitecore uses cookies for pattern matching – the primary means of personalisation you should be using.

This cookie based method of personalisation will not affect search engine crawls as they don’t store cookies and will simply index the ‘default’ version of the page.
Because of this, having a well optimised default version of each page that ticks all boxes from a search engine optimisation, and relevance viewpoint is essential.

However, context based rules such as inbound campaign or location may affect how a page is displayed to search engine robots in some scenarios such as by geolocation.  In line with this, it’s important to have both a strong ‘default’ version of any page that has personalisation alongside avoiding over personalisation.

Moving forward Google and other major search engines are beginning to have a greater understanding of personalised content and tailoring their algorithms to adapt.  The best course of action before this happens however is to stick to best practices and keep an eye on the horizon for more ‘aware’ search robots.

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