- How rules drive the personalization experience
- Getting prepared for Sitecore personalization
- Strategic preparation
- Look beyond the rules
Knowing what you want out of personalization is part of the goal; knowing how to get it is a bigger part. Once you’ve formed an actionable plan, Sitecore’s rules handle the heavy lifting.
How rules drive the personalization experience
When you’re face to face with a customer, it’s easy to create a personalized experience. You ask and answer questions and form a dialogue with that customer, giving them information they want, need, or you think might interest them. But when that personalization experience relies on technology, you need to instruct that technology with rules to follow. We call this “rules-based personalization.”
For example, you can tell Sitecore’s platform, “if condition A is met, then perform action B.” That might be, “Once a visitor views three web pages related to camping gear (condition A), display a tent on the home page the next time they visit the site” (action B). Based on the evaluation of the rule, Sitecore can alter:
- pieces of content or visuals (known as data sources)
- the way the page is laid out (known as display components)
- both at the same time
It’s in your control to define the conditions under which content is delivered to a customer. You can set rules based on the following elements to decide the content that will be displayed:
- The IP address or physical location of your visitors
- The keywords they use to reach your site
- Their device
- Their behavior on your website (pages viewed, number of times they visited, etc.)
Sitecore’s digital experience platform is built to follow rules that are as granular and complex as you like. You might decide, “If condition A and B are met, but not condition C, then perform action D.” The more layers you include in your rules, the more deeply personalized the experiences will be that you can deliver.
Getting prepared for Sitecore personalization
Sitecore Experience Database (xDB) needs to be enabled. This may require additional servers, such as SQL Server and MongoDB. You also need servers to hold some of the data that xDB generates and uses.
If you’re implementing GeoIP personalization, you need to subscribe to the Sitecore IP geolocation service. If you’re implementing device detection, you’ll need to subscribe to the Sitecore device detection service. These are both extremely useful personalization features that we highly recommend and are offered free of charge with purchase of a solution.
These items should be worked out during development, even if you’re not planning on using them right away.
When you’re building personalization from the ground up, you need to start with a solid foundation: your solution architecture.
Your website’s pages should be broken up into display components, to enable you to personalize individual components on the same page. This is a Sitecore best practice. The display components must accept data sources. This is a simple process for developers to implement and should be done ahead of time.
Content sources need to exist for all personalized components. This may require developers to create new data templates and places to store content up front.
Habitat, a piece of software that helps with component development, makes this process easier.
1. Determine your goals
Before you start setting rules for personalization, there are a few key questions to answer:
- Why do you want to personalize? To serve content that’s more relevant to visitor interests? To facilitate transactions? Increase revenue?
- What value will personalization bring the organization? Is it measurable?
- How will you prepare to answer questions from internal stakeholders? Not everyone will understand personalization or the ROI it delivers — you’ll need to be able to explain and justify it to them.
2. Identify areas for personalization
Once you’ve established why you’re personalizing, you can start identifying areas where you should do it. Consider:
- Highly visible locations — hero banners, homepages
- Contextual locations — “Read this article about camping”
- Global calls to action — Sitecore allows for personalization to be set up in standard values*
*Standard values are set up by developers. They provide a default value for items in Sitecore, so a button can have the same call to action throughout your site, for example.
Standard values allow you to personalize elements across your entire site, ultimately saving you time and resources. For example, you might apply a personalization rule that applies to all call-to-action buttons or all press releases.
3. Develop personalized cases
Developing personalized cases based on personas will ease the personalization process. Some examples might be:
- Someone from Los Angeles
- Someone who loves camping
- Someone who has signed up for an event in the past
Keep your list realistic based on your content generation capabilities. Remember, if you want to personalize your content for people who love camping, as well as for people who love kayaking, you would have to create twice the content.
4. Determine how to target cases
This is where you translate your ideas for cases into actual actionable rules. The good news is content managers or marketers can do this in the CMS.
For example, if the case idea was “Someone from Los Angeles,” the rule becomes “Where the metro code* is equal to 310.”
*A code that groups together all people who are in the same metropolitan area.
There are many conditions you can set, and it’s possible to combine them. You can set:
- “Someone from the UK,” or “Someone who has achieved the ‘fill out the form’ goal,” or
- “Someone from the UK who has also achieved the ‘fill out the form’ goal.”
5. Create content for each case
Once you’ve turned your case ideas into actionable rules, you need to create content that those rules can then call upon so that different users (“cases”) are served different content.
Make sure Directories exist in Sitecore Content Editor’s content tree to hold all your personalized content. Then, start creating! And in the midst of all those individual cases, don’t forget about creating default content. You may have set rules for “people from Europe” and “people from North America,” but what if you don’t know where a visitor is coming from?
6. Implement rules
1. Use Experience Editor for the best experience
2. Implement the rules you identified during the case-targeting step
3. Choose content to display
5. Don’t forget to publish everything
Look beyond the rules
Once you’ve mastered rules-based personalization, you may want to dig deeper into other personalization approaches, such as adaptive personalization. This approach allows you to use visitor profiles and pattern-card matching to dynamically adapt the content shown to visitors in real time. You can set adaptive personalization rules in Sitecore's Rules Set Editor.