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Planning for Personalization: How Aware is Personalizing

Rob McChane
Rob McChane

One of the more exciting features of Sitecore’s Digital Marketing System (or DMS) is the ability to personalize content to different groups of users based on their implicit or explicit behavior on your site. However, tackling your first personalization project in DMS can be a bit daunting.

It will help to first identify your site’s user personas which was discussed in an earlier post (click here to read "Sitecore DMS Personas and Profiles. How to Avoid an Identity Crisis”). In an effort to demystify the personalization process, we will outline the approach we took to personalize content for one of Aware’s community websites, The site was built by Aware as an online training resource for clients and other Sitecore users. The site’s content consists mainly of short video tutorials showing how to perform varies tasks using Sitecore CMS software. The content is very targeted which makes personalization much more straightforward.

In order to make our personalization efforts as meaningful to each user group as possible, we first had to identify how we wanted to segment our user groups into categories. has a lot of content that is very role-specific so we decided to break users into groups based on the topics they demonstrated interest in on For instance, if a user visited a variety of videos related to content entry, we would categorize them with a content entry profile and if the user was focused on Marketing-related videos we would add them to a Marketing/DMS category.

After identifying the user categories, we assigned profile cards to each video page for the user group that the video’s content most directly applied to. So a development-related video would receive a development profile card weighting that page with five points for the development profile. If you have content that applies to more than one category, you can assign multiple profiles to the page if necessary. Once complete, each user who visits a video page will be assigned points for the profile associated with that video. 

Next, we created user profiles based on the categories that were identified. We first looked at our analytics profile to see how many videos and how much time an “average” user was spending on the site. It appeared that most users would view about five videos per visit. Knowing this, we decided to categorize users into groups only after they had visited at least six video pages of the same category on Each profile was set up so that the minimum score to be associated with that profile was 30 points (five points per video page for six pages). We approached the scoring in this way because we wanted users to view a variety of videos on the site before they were classified so that we were sure of their area of interest. If we had set the threshold for classification too low, the user could be falsely categorized resulting in inaccurate personalization. Setting this categorization threshold high allows us to be sure that visitors are truly interested in a specific content category before we begin personalizing.

The final step was to identify the components of the site that required personalization based on the user’s interests. The home page Featured Video, Popular Videos and Recommended Videos are elements we wanted to personalize to display recommended videos based on the user’s demonstrated area of interest. To do this, we planned a callout for each category of user (Marketing, Development, Content Entry, etc.). Once these callouts were developed, we set up the callout area to display the relevant callout to users who were associated with a specific personalization profile. In this way, users would be displayed the callout that was specific to their demonstrated area of interest on the site.
In this latest tutorial Personalizing Content in DMS we show how to create content variations targeted to a specific audience type and then how to configure rules and conditions in DMS to control the delivery of personalized content based on a user’s individual behavior or preferences.

While testing and collecting data on this feature, it is clear that the user-based personalization feature of Sitecore’s DMS does help to create increased relevance and engagement for users of the site.

Hopefully this post has motivated you to start planning for your site’s first personalized content. If the process still feels too overwhelming, we often recommend conducting a discovery workshop with stakeholders prior to implementing any features of DMS. With this information you can create a prioritized plan for implementation that will best meet the needs of your organization and have the most positive impact. If you’re considering implementing content personalization as part of your DMS toolset, it is critical that you approach persona strategy and scoring first.

For more information on planning your DMS implementation, contact us.

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