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Huh?After the Sitecore webinar from last week we had a lot of great questions from the audience, many of which we sadly didn’t have time to answer. Here are our post webinar responses (the references to Natural World Safaris is regarding a previous project I worked on with ClerksWell:

I remember you were talking about ‘the future of personalisation’ towards the end of the hour. I agree that it is impossible to predict where it is going, but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on using social data to personalise a user’s on-site experience?

The future of personalisation is difficult to predict, and I think it is more likely to revolve around individualisation: of experiences, devices, or virtual spaces – which reflect your previous preferences, behaviours and buying patterns. We are already in a world where despite having the same iPhone, yours is different to mine. Due to things like the apps we have downloaded and different accounts each of us set up. Content (whether news or offers from retailers) is going to be increasingly targeted according to your individual activity and organisations wishing to provide a coherent experience will need to do two things:

• Organise their content (product listings, news stories, offers) using a platform that will allow for effective personalisation.

• Become a truly digital organisation – where everyone in the organisation whether they are creating products, dealing with customers, or marketing, are all stakeholders in the digital side of the business and are empowered to take part.

Hello. You spoke early on in the presentation about putting information about yourself on Facebook. I was wondering what your thoughts were on being able to personalise through using someone’s social data?

Social media, in many ways, has set the bar for user’s expectations of an individualised experience. Everyone’s experience of social media is personalised almost by definition (your friends, interests, comments and responses all influence the experience you have). There are ways you can extend the social experience beyond social media and further into the website of your brand: You can do this through targeted advertising and unique ID’s in the link URL which drives traffic to your website. For example, an offer on BMW 3 series cars through a dealership chain with a branch in St Ives, vs one in Bury St Edmunds – according to targeted location based adverts. You can also use likes and invited actions (engagement) as a powerful way for people to identify their preferences and interests via an action on social media that leads to a behaviour on your website that identifies them as one of your personas.

Hello. Why do you think Personalisation is not more widespread?

Up until very recently, personalisation was quite difficult. It involved many stages of understanding business strategy and mapping this to digital, researching and segmenting audiences and creating the experiences and content. Building this workflow into the day-to-day operation of businesses has been a struggle for many. However, platforms like Sitecore offer not only a technology solution for delivering these experiences, but a process through which to define them.

For more on the big issues around personalisation, have a look at this article on Econsultancy. 

How would you rate ‘maturity’?

Sitecore have created an assessment which helps you rate your digital maturity based on current functionality provided. It is called Sitecore’s Customer Experience Digital Maturity Assessment.

The stages include:

• Entry level with simple pages, newsletters and search.

 Tactical with multi-channel and segmentation.
• Optimising with personalisation rules and campaign management.
 Automation with predictive personalisation and trigger based campaigns.
• Engagement where 1-2-1 conversations are fully integrated into CRM and fulfilment systems

The maturity assessment plots your position and suggests the next features you could consider to increase maturity. There is no one size fits all way of assessing your maturity, this is simply a guide that might generate some relevant ideas for you for planning your service and potentially ‘back-filling’ some areas.

Find out your digital maturity by completing Sitecore’s Customer Experience Digital Maturity Assessment. 

How would you rate digital maturity when you evaluate a business?

Understanding your digital maturity is a crucial early step, alongside defining strategic objectives and measures, in building your wider digital strategy and improving and optimising experiences for your customers. When we evaluate clients’ businesses, we follow a clear process with clients (outlined in our Personalisation White Paper) which includes an exercise to identify which level of digital maturity clients are at (from early stage: static website and bulk send email list, through to fully mature enabled digital business serving dynamically segmented customer groups). We use the Sitecore Digital Maturity Model plus the outputs from BA workshops and discussions with each business to get a more specific insight into the potential that digital can offer. The focus should be on setting the priorities by knowing where you are as a business, digitally, and where your customers are in terms of behaviour and buying cycle.

Is there a software that presents the custom content to the persona? I’m wondering how your service works with an existing site architecture.

Yes. Sitecore can work with your existing architecture and technology. Although, you may find that as part of the personalisation definition process, you gain insights which will lead to you improving the structure of your website for your visitors. Within Sitecore, personas are defined through a set of profile values. These profiles scores are assigned to content and features, as customers interact with your service they are assigned a persona which is then used in personalisation rules to target content.

I’ve seen a few things about ‘big data’ and advanced profiling based on your day-to-day online use… what’s the future of personalisation?

The big issues with ‘big data’ is being able to find meaning in it all. No use in just measuring everything if you can’t recognise what is going on. This is why it is so important to set your strategic objectives first. What is your business trying to achieve? What do these achievements look like (higher sales, greater registrations, engagement from a younger demographic, for example)? Then you can look for indicators of these specific behaviours in the big data. People are getting lost in it all, the key is to be clear on what you are looking for!

How have you seen Personalisation developed on B2B sites?

Yes, absolutely. We have tended to focus on B2C in this space due to the volumes of data available and more public case studies. However we believe the boundaries between B2B and B2C digital services are very blurred, non-existent even. All buying decisions, whether B2B or B2C are still made by people. If you can create an experience that makes your visitor feel understood, empathised with and given good service then they are more likely to buy and more likely to recommend you. Whether they are buying paper supplies for their business or a skiing holiday for their family, the approach is the same.

Do you think there is such a thing as too much Personalisation? For example Amazon offers me 8 sections of personalised content on the Homepage alone. Can you bombard customers too much with Personalised content?

Yes we do, in some cases. We don’t want to pigeonhole people or create a personalisation bubble. Serendipitous journeys and out-of-character impulse buying will, and should, remain so. We need to allow for human experiences. When used too much, personlaisation can seem invasive and overwhelming. It can result in being a huge overhead in terms of generating content (in some cases). Again, the key is relevance to your audience… what two or three things do they really need to have made personalised for them to buy? If you understand your customers, this answer will emerge.

There also seems to be talk of personalised online video in 2013 – can you share any thoughts on this?

Yes, video seems to be a real talking point in some quarters. Although, I think that the secret to success with video is understanding that it is another form of content, and it is important to know where and how to use it. Videos can be very powerful as a way of introducing ideas or teasing for products, but also it is often used by companies and consumers as a way of providing much deeper more detailed information – check out the tutorial videos created by Apple fans for examples of these. Once you understand what your customers or visitors are trying to achieve, through research and persona development, you can decide much more accurately what is the best way to use rich media, like video, to meet their needs. Also, it is important to remember that YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine and thus is an important platform to consider when thinking about your ‘findability’ and SEO strategy. YouTube is not just one-way though, it is increasingly a conversation – with customers who are responding to, advocating, mimicking, and criticising products. As with social media, once logged in, YouTube is a personalised experience your video content can play a part in that experience.

Very good presentation. Personalisation is a given these days to ensure you create long term customer value. However, the references tend to be focused at larger established companies, but you can see that SMEs would benefit from this as well to gain traction from a revenue perspective, but also to minimise speculative marketing costs which stops lots of businesses from committing to a proper marketing spend. Can you comment?

Thank You! The Natural World Safaris example is an SME who have taken advantage of Sitecore’s primary licensing to start using personalisation at a relatively low cost. We agree that this should not be in the realms of big organisations only, if anything the opposite as more agile organisations can quickly deploy and change their campaign rules.

What sales improvements have sites that have enabled personalisation seen?

This varies quite considerably and there is no one answer. Many people expect to see a 15-20%+ improvement on campaigns but that’s a very general guide. There are some very impressive case studies showing percentage improvements in the 10’s or even 100’s. The email marketing world also has some impressive case studies, worth reviewing as they’re more mature in personalising content.

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One thought on “Personalisation Q&A:

  1. Pingback: Personalisation Webinar with Sitecore (the 2013 remix) | *xa.

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