Sitecore personalisation – where to start

Half the battle with website personalisation is simply getting it off the ground, says Sitecore Strategy MVP Greg Baxter. Greg's downloadable Personalisation Checklist will help you work out where to start, to make sure your project is a success.

Greg Baxter

By Greg Baxter, 4 minute read

Personalisation. It’s one of the most persistent buzzwords of recent times. Everyone’s talking about it, yet so many still aren’t doing it. Why? Because it feels too overwhelming.

Yet delivering the right content to the right customer at the right time and over the right channel is the epitome of digital experience. When this is done right, it’s a service, rather than a blatant sales tactic.

In the Digital Age experience is everything. Competing products and services are just a click away, and customers are as focused on the experience as they are on the product. All of this has led to an environment where brand loyalty is closely being matched by ‘experience loyalty’. 

Despite this, after 10 years of working in digital business optimisation (read: personalisation and testing), time and time again I see a failure to launch. There are many reasons – it's hard to get real executive buy-in beyond the acquisition of a platform; it's a pretty nebulous space which is hard to describe, let alone quantify; and mostly it just seems like an enormous task. 

Worse, there is fear around unknown levels of new content that may need to be generated to support personalisation, and a dearth of in-house skills to plan and execute.

The reality is completely different – once you start. Over time, it will become easier, ultimately becoming second nature within your marketing strategies. 

Want to cut to the chase and get straight to the editable Sitecore Personalisation Checklist? Download it here.

Overcoming the initial barriers to personalisation

There are two major barriers to successful implementation of personalisation that I typically see: getting executive buy-in, and making sure the platform is configured and implemented for success.

Getting buy-in

So, let's take a closer look at this first stumbling block – and let’s reframe it as a matter of scale. You don’t need to boil the ocean on your first attempt at personalisation. Pick a small target, like your hero image. Think about the biggest segment you have, and concentrate on that. This will move you beyond the executive buy-in dilemma, simply because this won't be a huge and costly project. No real need to build a business case. “It’s a pilot” is the oft used phrase of the stealth marketer, who wants to onboard a capability, but knows that sometimes the executives are just not… well… digital.

Configuring the platform for success

Every aspect of personalisation can be hard and long – if you choose to make it so. Start with one goal, one profile, and one personalisation spot.

Essentially there are a few short steps to success:

  1. Measure the conversions you wish to optimise towards. Sitecore has easy to configure and extremely powerful engagement analytics. Again – don't make this epic. Even start with just one or two goals that show business uplift. Contact Sales, Get a Free Quote – pick the biggest one with the most impact. Pick the goal you ideally want to steer your largest segment towards.
  2. Build a single profile so you can identify your most valuable segment, then optimise their  experience. Again, this is a really simple process.
  3. Select a prime marketing placeholder, and build out some rules based on the above. Let's be honest, the hero image is that spot. There is a reason it occupies such valuable screen real estate, just as there is a reason it's called the hero image.

Ensuring build quality is also important. Key aspects of Sitecore technical capability need to be available, configured and functioning for the platform to be able to do what it does best – optimisation. Below are the ‘big ones'. 

At a minimum, the following needs to be running:

  • Experience Editor is set up and working correctly
  • Test data is flowing to experience analytics and the experience profile
  • Data sources are set up for personalisation placeholders
  • Geolocation is enabled if required
  • Profiles are capturing data and are enabled on all relevant pages
  • If you are not using Sitecore 9, check whether AB testing is enabled and working correctly.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of what you should consider in order to make your Sitecore personalisation project really reap rewards for your organisation. For a far more comprehensive list, download the editable Sitecore Personalisation Checklist.

And finally, don’t hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions on [email protected]. Or, if you really want to make a personalisation splash, check out Luminary’s Ignite workshop – the fastest way to get into deeper Sitecore optimisation and platform  ROI.

Happy personalising!

Download the Sitecore Personalisation Checklist

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