What is personalisation and how do you get started?


Tim Griffiths | 29th September 2019 | 5 min read

Personalisation seems to be everywhere – but what is it and how do you get started?

It’s hard to work on a web project these days without talking about Personalisation or Experience. Every marketer knows it’s something they should be doing, but more often than not they aren’t. Various reasons exist for this: they don’t have the budget or time, the current platform doesn’t support it or their site wasn’t built to use it or quite simply they just don’t know-how.

So starting with the basics, what is personalisation?

It’s easy to think personalisation is about big data, AI, data mining or any other technology buzzword because the most vocal people in this space are the tech providers who want to sell the technological solution, but for it to succeed you need to start at a much more basic level, the visitor. Implemented correctly, personalisation cares most about tailoring content to be more relevant and appealing to the recipient. i.e. by making it more personal.

Personalisation isn’t exclusive to website advertising or a recent concept either. Companies for years have edited adverts so that an image of a car has the steering wheel on the right side for the market the advert will be shown in. Street advertising and direct mail have taken national campaigns and altered sections to reference local places such as airports, towns and events to become more relevant and therefore more engaging to the person seeing it.

What types of personalisation are there

Another misconception is that creating personalised experiences is all about the users browsing habits. While this is one of them and potentially the most exciting, it’s not the only way of personalising a site.

Here’s a run down of some of the top methods to tailor content based on:

  • Information you know – the simplest form of personalisation to start with is information the user has willingly given you about themselves. With this you can customise a webpage in different ways. For example:
    • Displaying a welcome person’s name message to the user when they return to the site. This can reassure the user they are logged in to the right account
    • User created lists such as articles or products that have been marked as a favourite
    • Recently viewed lists to help get back to what they were doing before
    • Location based personalisation
  • The next simplest is using the persons location to serve more relevant information. Depending on the site this could be content at a country level based on the services available in that region, or at a more granular town level to be relevant to a person’s surroundings. e.g. Displaying flights from a local airport or showing pickup from a local branch.
  • Campaign Information – not everyone arrives at a site in the same way. Users could be direct / organic from a search engine or they could be following some form of campaign advertising. In the later instance the campaign can be used to help tailor the experience to be relevant to the campaign followed. e.g. If the campaign was on a specific category of product then the content should be relevant to that product.
  • Personas – while it isn’t the only way of personalising, using browsing data to build a profile of the user is an effective way to identify more relevant content by matching a user’s persona with the type of content being presented. e.g. Identifying when someone may be in an HR role booking courses for a group of other people or an individual booking something for themselves.

How do you implement personalisation?

The first step of any affective personalisation is to forget about the tech solution and start with the user. Every good piece of personalisation starts with developing an idea and then working out the way to achieve it. Identify your goal of using personalisation and what it is you want to improve. This could be increasing the number of brochure downloads or sample requests through your site.
Think about the journey the user is going through. Where are they coming from? What are they doing on the site? Is this a first visit or a repeat visit? What do we know about them? Why do they leave before getting to your goal?

Come up with ideas of what could be different and make a predictions on what affect you think those changes could have? e.g. On the last visit to our flooring website the user looked at a lot of patterned carpets, so displaying a sample order button with a picture of a patterned carpet will lead to more sample orders. Work out what data is needed to implement the solution. Do we already have the data, can the tool do this out the box or do we need some custom development. Now you need to set up some personalisation rules in the CMS.

Personalising Content in Sitecore

Once you know what you want to personalise and have the data to base it on, personalising content in Sitecore is a relatively simple task.

  1. Open the page you want to personalise in the experience editor.
  2. Personalise button in the experience editor.
  3. Select the component to be personalised and click “Create or edit personalisation for this component”
  4. Create condition screen

This will open the list of personalisation’s for the component. From here you can:

  • Enable personalisation of the component
  • Create a new condition and give it a name
  • Choose to hide the component when the rules are met
  • Change the component to a different design
  • Change the content associated with the component
  • Edit the rules for when the condition should apply. Each of the conditions will be tried form the top down until a condition equals true for the current user
    • Editing the rules brings up the rule set editor.
    • From here you can search and build up a combination of rules such as the visitors current campaign, location or persona.


This is hopefully enough to get you started on your personalisation journey – if you need any help let us know, we’d be happy to help. Get in touch at hello@riverr.co.uk.

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