Website technologies may be cleverer than you think.

In the 1990’s websites always looked exactly the same, no matter what. The only way to change the content would be to use a technology expert. Clearly no clever intelligence here.

By 2000, organizations could add pages and easily change textual content themselves. This progressed into WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) where website owners used rich content editors to visualize content as they added or updated it. The demand for video, animation, and sound led to the rise of Macromedia Flash technology which provided a powerful user experience. Unfortunately Flash embedded the content in such a way that search engines could not easily identify the media message so, while it looked fantastic, the website itself could not be found. This is why Flash is not widely used today. Nothing clever so far!

By 2004, content management systems (CMS) began to appear when large companies, with many contributing content editors, needed more consistency and control over the editing of content. Constraints could be selectively enforced on individual content editors using roles, and templates were used to force consistency across the website. Still nothing clever!

Around the same time, the first semblances of intelligence emerged under the behavior known as personalization. Of course, personalization is more the perception of intelligence but that is a debate for another day. For our purposes let’s call the rendering of content using sophisticated rules-based algorithms, “intelligence”.

What is personalization? Organizations target certain types of people that they want to work with. A real estate company, for example, might group buyers by their interest categories such as apartments, houses, townhouses, mobile homes or houseboats. You could also group the same buyers using their budget, say affluent, average, and thrifty types. From this, there is a total of 15 profiles of buyer that might arrive at your website. To keep each buyer interested, retain them on the site, and consequently, “make more money”, we need to dynamically repurpose each visitor’s web experience so it matches their particular profile. This is personalization. 

How does the website know what profile the visitor best represents? The answer is, by stealth and intelligence. Every visitor arriving on the site for the first time will initially see the same thing. Images, links, tabs, video and other page items are pre-assigned different values that relate to the relevance of the item against each targeted visitor type. In the real estate scenario, clicking the “Mobile Homes” tab might credit the visitor with 20 points against the Mobile Homes group. As a potential customer continues to move around the website, points are accrued against each of the groups. Soon, the website logic has profiled and identified the current visitor as belonging to one or more target groups e.g. a thrifty mobile home buyer.

Of course, knowing this information is pointless unless put to effective use. Personalization websites have logic on each page item that continuously looks at the visitors accrued profile values to determine what content should be rendered in the item. This functionality typically executes an internal algorithm that can be preconfigured if using sophisticated personalization like that available from Sitecore. Note that this type of personalization (called implicit) uses cookies so visitors returning to the website in the future will “pick up” from where they left – unless they delete their cookie.

Going back to our real estate example, a buyer who has explored the website might be presented with mobile home content, while the next visitor might see a website very much focused on apartments. Finally, intelligence albeit perceived intelligence. 

Personalization can be extended to include location and language. Instead of building a single generic website that tries to be all things to all people, you can essentially build multiple sites, each looking very different from the other. Personalization takes more effort to set up but, excitingly, organizations learn a lot more about who they are targeting by going through the configuration process.  It forces organizations to identify their target groups and create explicit content for each group. This results in a far better sales strategy that focuses on the right prospects – you “make more money” by default.

Beyond promoting brand awareness, generating revenue directly from a website relies on collecting leads or on converting a visitor to a buyer. This requires the website to:

  1. Meet the expectations that tempted visitors to come to the site
  2. Use understandable content to encourage visitors to stay and explore
  3. Have facts that let visitors evaluate offers
  4. Have a clear call to action with obvious navigation to a simple web form or an option to buy now

Encouraging visitors to stay and fully utilize a website is where personalization reigns supreme. A successfully personalized site will keep your visitors more engaged, providing relevant options at every click of the mouse.

At FuseIT our experience is with Sitecore’s enterprise level personalization. Our expertise extends personalization by pushing all the valuable data collected by the website into the CRM so the sales team have all the lead information at their fingertips. If you would like to learn more, please contact us and we will point you in the right direction.