During the last day of Sitecore Symposium 2019, Nancy Lee, Product Manager at Sitecore, led a session that offered a first look at Sitecore AI - Auto Personalization.

She began the session by highlighting the problems marketers face when it comes to personalization:

  • They often don’t know where to start
  • They don’t have the staff resources to complete all the work required
  • Defining user segments is tough, takes a long time, and can be done wrong
  • They are not sure what experiences are best for each customer

Sitecore AI - Auto Personalization was designed specifically to address these issues. With the data science, calculations, and analytics taken care of, marketers get an incredibly easy way to get personalization up and running. It keeps getting smarter over time.

What you need to make it happen

The first thing that’s required is Sitecore® Experience Platform™ 9.0 (and above). Second, you need to be running on the cloud. Third, you need to set up your user engagement value scores, goals, and strategy. Once you have these and Sitecore AI, the process is incredibly simple.

In Experience Editor, simply select the components on your website that you want auto-personalization to run on, add content variations to these components, push the machine learning (ML) button, and you’re on your way.

The biggest value add is this: with Sitecore AI, marketers don’t need to set up user segments. By analyzing your interaction data, Sitecore AI’s machine learning will dynamically identify user segments for you and automatically serve up the relevant content to them.

There is one more thing that’s needed: for Sitecore AI to work correctly, you need to have about 12 million annual visitors (although, the Sitecore team is actively working on reducing this requirement). It also needs between 2-3 months’ worth of interaction data to get rolling.

You need intelligence, not a Blackbox

Our goal with Sitecore AI is to support your marketing efforts, not take them over. In reality, you’re the one who knows your business needs, goals, and strategy better than anyone else.

As I highlighted above, for Sitecore AI - Auto Personalization to work properly these all need to be understood, and you have to have set up the right user engagement value. Once these are in place, Auto Personalization takes over. But while Auto Personalization does the heavy lifting, you still need to determine the overall strategy. This is why we created a dashboard that reveals what’s happening behind the scenes.

How many users? From where? What’s the engagement value? The dashboard makes it easy to find all of these. You can see visitors from each country. You can also get insights based on user behavior, or by segment, profile, or engagement.

As Desta Price, Sitecore’s Executive Vice President of Product Management, revealed later in the day, during her keynote presentation and discussion with Microsoft, the benefits are clear:

  • Increases ROI
  • Increases productivity
  • Offers deeper insights into customer behavior via the segment analytics suite

Questions

At the end of the session, many people had questions. In conclusion, I want to address some of them here:

Q: Does Sitecore AI - Auto Personalization work with rules?

A: Yes, it works with rules on any component. It will mix and match with any rules on XP.

Q: How smart is Auto Personalization? Does it take into account customer forms and other actions?

A: Yes, if a customer segments themselves, through a form, for example, then that will be taken into account. The primary focus is on engagement — the customer’s actions on your site. The more data we collect on customer engagement, the smarter the algorithm becomes.

Q: What happened to Cortex?

A: Cortex will continue to remain in the core Sitecore platform. Cortex allows you to connect your own algorithms and plug in your own machine learning to Sitecore. In contrast, Sitecore AI is the first SaaS offering providing automated personalization for Sitecore.

Q: How much content and how many segments can Auto Personalization handle?

A: There is really no limitation on the AI side. You can add as much content as you’d like, to as many components as you’d like. You can start with 2 components or 100, but we suggest starting small and moving on from there.

Q: When is it available?

A: Sitecore AI: Auto Personalization will launch at the end of 2019.

Q: Is this all you have planned for your AI offering?

A: No. Auto Personalization is just the beginning. We realize that for personalization to work, you have to produce a lot of content. We plan on rolling out another offering this summer, which will support marketers in this, and we have more products in the works as well. Definitely stay tuned.

Mohan Kasibhatla is Vice President of Product Marketing at Sitecore. Find him on LinkedIn.