This series looks at what we can do with website personalization using the out-of-the-box (OOTB) conditions that come with Sitecore XM Cloud.
For these examples, I will be adding website personalization to the ‘Skate Park’ demo site available in XM Cloud Sandbox. This is a fictional skate product e-commerce site.
Website personalization using Point of Sale (aka Site Identifier)
In this video, we look at Point of Sale (POS). POS is otherwise referred to as ‘Site identifier’ within Sitecore XM CLoud.
Website personalization using geolocation
Geolocation in Sitecore XM Cloud is based on the users IP address. There are 2 geolocation conditions – region and country. I neglected to mention in the video that you can select more than one region or country, and so build more complicated geolocation audiences.
Website personalization using date-based conditions
There are 3 Date-based conditions that come OOTB with Sitecore XM CLoud – Visit day of the month, day of the week, and month of visit. In all 3 cases, the date is based on the time zone of the organisation publishing the XM Cloud site. Note you can combine conditions to create audiences based on, for example, visiting your site on 25 December, or every Tuesday in September, or the first day of each month.
Website personalization based on user interaction
There are 3 user interaction-based conditions for Sitecore XM Cloud personalisation. These conditions are: referring URL, UTM value and new or returning visitor. In this video, I show you how easy these are to use, including building audiences using multiple condition combinations.
Website personalization based on user device conditions
Sitecore’s XM Cloud lets you personalise website experiences based on a number of different conditions. In this video, we look at how we can personalize based on the users device and operating system.
Website personalization based on visit information
With Sitecore’s XM Cloud, you can personalize website visits based on specific page views, first pages viewed (landing page) and other view based conditions like number of times pages viewed, within a certain number of days. By combining conditions, you can build audiences to tailor your digital experience for many different types of visitor.
In today’s digital landscape, developing an optimisation strategy is essential for businesses looking to thrive online. Optimizing your digital presence can lead to
reduced bounce rates
greater customer loyalty
higher conversion rates
increased average order value.
Moreover, personalization has emerged as a key driver of revenue, with statistics showing that consumers are more likely to engage with and purchase from brands that offer tailored experiences. In this article, we will outline the comprehensive approach we use to develop an optimisation strategy that will not only enhance your online presence but also guide your growth in digital maturity.
Aceik is Australia’s leading Sitecore agency. Whilst we specialise in helping our clients optimise the business value from their Sitecore investment, our approach to optimisation strategy is not limited to the Sitecore ecosystem. The methodology we use below is based on Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies, however, the approach can be applied across whatever martech stack you use. We have had great success using this approach within Sitecore’s platform DXP environment as well as across a SaaS composable portfolio. We have also applied this approach using other platforms and tools, such as Umbraco CMS and the Google Suite. In fact, the methodology we use is most powerful when applied broadly across your entire digital ecosystem.
The Why: The Value of optimisation
Optimisation is not just a buzzword; it’s a proven method to achieve digital success. Here’s why it matters:
Improved Metrics: Optimisation leads to reduced bounce rates, increased engagement, greater customer loyalty, higher conversion rates, and increased average order values, resulting in better overall performance.
Personalization Drives Revenue: McKinsey research highlights the multiplying value of personalization in marketing and sales. Tailored experiences have become a significant revenue driver (Reference).
Consumer Preferences: A staggering 80% of consumers are more likely to purchase from brands that provide tailored experiences, showcasing the importance of personalization in capturing and retaining customers (Reference).
Loyalty Impact: Approximately 70% of consumers state that their loyalty to a brand is influenced by how well the brand understands their individual needs (Reference).
Developing Your optimisation Strategy
To create a successful optimisation strategy, we use the following methodology:
Audit and Analyze
Assess your current digital landscape, including customer data models and analytics tools.
Analyze existing data to understand things like traffic sources, engagement metrics, site paths to purchase, and campaign tracking. What insights can we derive from this data about what your site users expect, need, and hope to achieve on your website?
Build a clear picture of your current state – both in terms of the data, metrics, and analysis that already exists within your business, and also what your current site performance looks like. Consider in particular where the gaps and clear areas for improvement/quick wins are.
This will become your north star and ongoing guide as we implement your optimisation strategy
Your framework should be capped by your business vision, which is supported by a few key pillars of your topline business goals. Supporting those business goals, we identify key marketing objectives, which have their own supporting digital goals.
The framework thus provides the structure of a digital measurement model, where all your digital site goals ladder up to support marketing and business goals. No digital goals exist in isolation – they each have a clear context and purpose for tracking, measurement, and reporting.
Engagement Value Scale
Once we have identified your key digital goals, they can be evaluated in terms of their business value and customer importance. Rank the goals by assigning a numerical value to create a clear goal hierarchy.
In addition to value, we should establish clear goal benchmarks based on current performance, as well as set target metrics to aim for over time.
Reporting views of current value and conversion rate should enable you to leverage these measurement markers (current, benchmark, target) so that you can precisely track the relative impact of optimisation activities over time.
Note that the way you implement goal value will vary depending on which analytics tool you use.
Audience Journeys and Segments
Optimisation tactics require a clear understanding of your website users. We should identify all your key audience groups and their journeys through your site, including the key decision-making moments and conversion points.
Note that whilst most organisations will have some kind of audience personas, often these are based on human characteristics, such as age, demographics, stage of life etc. These may be a good starting point, but more useful for our optimisation strategy will be personas based on actual digital behaviours.
Using your existing analytics, combined with an understanding of your audiences and business goals, we can break down your audiences into smaller segments. We suggest considering a combination of implicit and explicit characteristics. Implicit characteristics can be derived from browsing behaviour, and patterns of site interaction. Explicit characteristics are clear data points we can extract from visitor activity, such as browser or device type, number of site visits, etc.
The end result is that we have a list of your key audience segments to be ranked in terms of priority for optimisation. The ranking should consider factors such as the potential volume of site visitors in this segment, the impact this segment has on your business success, and the ease by which we can identify this segment, using the explicit and implicit characteristics.
Digital Relevancy Map
Each of your prioritised audience segments will have a unique set of characteristics and requirements that can be captured in a digital relevancy map.
For this step, we will work with you to build a matrix for each segment that identifies the specific content needs, segmentation triggers, key goals, and other requirements that will be needed to build optimization experiences
The purpose of this step is to understand and scope out all the necessary supporting information required to build effective optimisations tailored for each segment.
Ideation and prioritisation
With all the hard work completed, it’s now time to have some fun!
With your key goals, audience segments, and strategic framework handy, we will work with you to generate a list of ideas on what you can do on your website that may positively impact (optimise!) the experience for each of your prioritized segments.
The goal here is to generate more than enough ideas – there are no limits for the purposes of brainstorming.
For each idea (or ‘tactic’), we need to specify the targeted segment, the goal (e.g., increasing newsletter sign-ups), and the details of the experience we want to provide. In working through these details, it may become obvious that some ideas are not feasible or not really that important.
Tactics may include personalizations or A/B tests, each grounded in a hypothesis (e.g., “By changing X to Y, we expect Z because…”).
Once we have a list, tactics should be prioritized. Again, we can use volume, impact and ease to guide this process.
Roadmap and playbook
With your tactics prioritised, we can map these into a schedule over time. Optimisation is an ongoing activity that should be informed by data and reflect a true iterative process where each result informs future tactics. Optimisation also requires the building of the internal ‘muscle’ to manage the implementation, smartly interpret the results, and effectively communicate the impact to your business stakeholders.
For these reasons, we will work with you to build a realistic roadmap of optimisation tactics over time that is realistic but achievable.
Everybody always wants ‘quick wins’, so this is a key inclusion in every optimisation roadmap we build.
And lastly, it’s important to keep your optimisation strategy together. We build a playbook with you that contains all your optimisation elements, ideas and outputs, including each tactic, the resulting insight, and all future ideas. This playbook is your ongoing source of optimisation truth.
Developing an optimisation strategy is a necessity for businesses looking to succeed in the digital landscape. It allows you to harness the power of personalization, meet consumer expectations, and drive revenue.
The good news is that whilst not necessarily easy, developing an effective optimisation strategy is very achievable. We would love to work with you to guide you through our methodology to enhance your online presence, improve your user experience, and help you achieve your business objectives, faster. Remember that the journey to digital maturity is an ongoing process, and continuous optimisation will keep you ahead in the ever-evolving digital world.
I’m old enough to remember when WordPress first shook-up the website publishing game, coming out with its famous ‘5-minute install’. Prior to that, even the most straightforward self-hosted website involved many steps, tools and processes, well beyond the ability of most non-technical users. Nowadays, there are plenty of basic ‘1 click’ hosted offerings, but still not many other legitimate enterprise-level site management and publishing tools that allow you to build and publish a new non-technical, author-friendly, website within 5 minutes, or less.
Enter XM Cloud…
Let me walk you through the key steps to have a brand-new, fully-functioning website in minutes. Start from Sitecore’s Cloud portal, and go to XM Cloud.
From XM Cloud app, click the big purple button to ‘Create website’
Let’s go ahead and choose the Skate Park basic site template.
You should get a message that says the building process may take up 2 minutes.
2 minutes later, your site is ready for WYSIWYG editing in Pages, Sitecore’s new easy drag-and-drop authoring platform.
Before you can share your new (default ‘Skate Park’) website with the world, you will need to setup hosting. For this, go to the Sitecore XM Cloud Deploy app, find your new site, select the 3 dots and select ‘Set up hosting’.
The easiest (quickest) way to get your site hosted is to setup a Vercel installation. Once you have done this once for the environment, including the XM Cloud / Github integration, you are good to go for future sites.
Because we have an existing Vercel installation, we just need to ‘Create and link’.
From the Deploy app, you should now be able to see a Hosting URL against your site. Hit ‘Publish all sites’, let the process run and try the URL.
And with just those few steps, in under 5 minutes, you should have a brand new demo ‘Skate Park’ XM Cloud website, just like me, built and published and ready for visitors.
As a marketing business user and digital strategist
It is quite possible, in my experience, to quickly acquire the knowledge and skills required to confidently utilise the Sitecore digital experience platform. In 4 months I have learnt a great deal and achieved a lot working with Sitecore, across both the composable and integrated platforms.
The following are the resources and approaches to learning and up-skilling that I have found most effective:
Sitecore White papers
Unfortunately there is not an easy way that I can find to browse all White Papers. However here is a list of specific resources that I have found useful. As you will see, most of these gravitate around the topic of Sitecore Business Optimisation Strategies.
There are free and subscription-based learning options. The free Essentials courses are good for a foundational overview. However, the new on-demand learning plans for the composable products are excellent as they go into a lot of detail and include quizzes and other practical exercises as you progress.
According to the Statistics screen within the Sitecore Learning Home portal, I have spent a total of just under 31 hours across 46 active courses in the last 4 months, with a peak period in July where I accessed 66 different training materials.
Luckily for me, the ANZ Sitecore User Group Conference 2022 (SUGCON) happened in my city the month after I started working with Sitecore. Attending this event was very impactful in accelerating my familiarity with the overall Sitecore ecosystem, including getting to meet many Sitecore clients, vendors, and other representatives.
Since then, Melbourne had its own User Group night, which was another great chance to further establish relationships across the Sitecore network, as well as giving me the opportunity to present to my peers some of the work we have been doing in the Composable space.
Many of the Sitecore User Groups post videos of their presentations on YouTube. You can find some gold when searching for a specific topic. Not surprisingly, there is a lot of content from User Groups over the last 3 years as many were conducted remotely.
To be honest, the Slack forum has not been as valuable in my learning as the other options above. The reality is that there are not as many people in the Sitecore world doing digital strategy and optimisation as there are Developers and other technical people. Subsequently, most Sitecore Slack channels don’t discuss topics relevant to me (or that I can understand!)
The ‘Learning-at-Sitecore’ channel is good for keeping up with frequent learning updates. And on the occasions where I have asked a question, responses have been relatively speedy and helpful.
Getting on the tools
The learning options above assume you have access to Sitecore products. Whilst this may be difficult for people without a Sitecore licence or who is not a partner, there is nothing stopping anyone from signing up for Sitecore Send (Moosend). It’s free to create an account and start working with the software. https://www.sitecore.com/products/send and https://moosend.com/
Of course, there is nothing like learning ‘on the job’. For all the hours I’ve spent in Sitecore Learning and watching YouTube videos, working with real clients and implementing real optimisation use cases is the quickest and most effective way to accelerate from a newbie to a confident Sitecore digital strategist.
This blog post title borrows from the name of a series of Sitecore events that were held in Sydney and Melbourne during November 2022. The events were designed as a smaller, more informal version of Symposium. Presentations covered
the recent and upcoming Sitecore product innovations
a deep dive into some of the latest solutions, and
some example-based presentations that spoke to the application of these solutions in the real world.
It was great to see a focus throughout on customer experience, including topics of data-driven marketing, and privacy and personalisation, all whilst delivering on business outcomes. These are all topics of interest to me.
What follows below is a collection of my notes and reflections.
Thanks to the Uber and Amazon’s of the world, our customers expect fast, frictionless, and flawless experiences. All commercial businesses are under this increasing pressure to transform the experience they can offer. Very few brands can fully meet their customers expectation. This creates an opportunity for businesses that can ‘get it right’. To get it right, transformation is required across 3 dimensions – people, technology, and strategy.
Enter ‘composable’ – an approach that addresses the technology and strategy elements in a significant way. A composable approach enables you to adjust your technology in a fast and flexible way. The Gartner quote doing the rounds indicates that those with a composable strategy can expect an 80% faster speed to market for new features. A composable strategy also allows the flexibility to pick and choose the combination of solutions that are right for the unique characteristics of each business.
Dave O’Flanagan, Sitecore’s Chief Product Officer, spoke in some detail on Sitecore’s composable strategy. He acknowledged the challenge of keeping up with Sitecore over the last little while as it has expanded the breadth of its product offering. Sitecore itself has also struggled at times to effectively communicate its strategy.
The big idea is that Sitecore has built its composable DXP as a broad suite of capabilities based on a combination of product acquisitions and new product development. The acquisition strategy was to build a differentiated composable proposition based on products that were ‘born composable’, like Boxever. Essentially, Sitecore’s current composable DXP is an unbundling and expansion of its previous all-in-one platform approach. Sitecore is now pretty bought in to composable – it bought 4 companies to prove it!
According to Dave, Sitecore is committed to delivering composable products that can work standalone, or, operate as friendly-neighbours in a mixed technology and vendor ecosystem. The aspiration is that each product can compete for best-of-breed in its each product category, as well as work very well together as an integrated stack. The reality is that few businesses are faced with a martech greenfield, and so Sitecore is positioning itself to be able to offer options to all.
New solution deep dive
It’s not all composable though. Sitecore continues to invest in its all-in-one XP platform. Release planning for version 10.4 is underway. Dave reiterated that this platform offering remains part of Sitecore’s strategy for similar reasons to the above, as it provides an alternative offering for customers that can’t go composable. For example, there are industries and geographies that cannot at this point utilise a public cloud offering.
In the spirit of keeping things simple, Sitecore has simplified it’s composable offering into 3 clouds: Content, Engagement and Commerce. You can read more about that here. Sitecore’s ambition in this space is to be #1 leader in content, and a disruptor in engagement and commerce clouds.
A focus on content products remains the core and centre of Sitecore. Sitecore intends to continue to be best known for its market-leading CMS, but also wants to offer comprehensive end-to-end content products. Content experience is the customer experience, after all. 3 of the 4 new product announcements relate to the Content cloud offering.
Flagship enterprise headless CMS product rearchitected for cloud.
This will be the core thrust of Sitecore’s GTM. Examples were referenced of complete implementations in 6 weeks.
The product is at 90% feature parity with XM.
Advantages of cloud are well-known but the big one worth repeating is that upgrades just happen.
Comes with embedded personalisation and real-time analytics built in. These features utilise IP from the composable Personalize & CDP (Boxever) products. Here’s the good news: to upgrade from the lightweight built-in XM Cloud personalisation and analytics features, it is just a ‘click of a button’ to export and activate in Sitecore CDP & Personalize.
Completely new UI focussed on developer and marketer productivity
All the ease-of-use of some of the best-of-breed SME tools in an enterprise product, including the ability to visually build components in a drag-and-drop interface to assemble into pages and sites.
There are also DevOps improvements through tooling and APIs baked into XM Cloud to optimise developer productivity.
Content Hub One
This is a new product build of a headless CMS
Features simple functionality for content authoring, modelling, and delivery.
Fundamentally different from full enterprise CMS, and much simpler than anything Sitecore has done before
Built on capabilities of Content Hub engine, with simple interface and API options.
Really simple content authoring focussing on developer productivity, all content delivered by APIs.
Part of Content Hub family, with easy upgrade path to full Content Hub suite with enterprise capability
New content search product, built using the technology of Sitecore Discover
Incorporates predictive real-time AI
Provides tooling for marketers to boost, tailor results, tune etc.
Can index content any number of sites and federate results into single search interface.
Another product that is easy and quick to implement.
This is a critical new offering for Sitecore
Commerce and Content search will remain as separate products for the next 9 months or so, but are on a pathway to being more integrated and unified
Part of engagement cloud
Integrate products in no/low code environment
Comes with thousands of connectors e.g., Salesforce, Marketo
Addresses the additional integration cost that comes with a composable approach
An acquisition of a market leader in iPaaS solutions
Note the intention is Connect would not be required for integration between Sitecore products, as this should be enabled OOTB. However, there are some limited use cases where Connect could work within a Sitecore ecosystem as well
A few final notes on where Sitecore is going. Sitecore’s key product investment areas are in improving product performance, cost effectiveness, and privacy and security.
The composable DXP strategy will required strategic decisions about where to unify and integrate their products where it adds value, whilst maintaining a commitment to an overarching composable approach. A good example of this is the introduction of a unified tracking capability via a single script for all Sitecore products.
There are initial steps underway to rearchitect Sitecore Forms into a headless cloud offering
Sitecore pricing model has been redefined, but not made public yet. The model should feature more usage-based pricing bundled into tiers. More information to come.
This is the 3rd instalment in a blog series on Umbraco and uMarketingSuite. Across this series we will be looking at how to use these platforms to build and deliver website personalisation, testing, analytics and all that good stuff. This final post will cover how to use uMarketingSuite analytics, profiles and the awesome debugging tool called ‘Cockpit’. If you are new to Umbraco and uMarketingSuite, please start with the first two blog posts.
Let’s look at the setup steps involved, using the Aceik website (aceik.com.au) as an example.
uMarketingSuite generates both serverside (out-of-the-box) and clientside (via additional script) analytics. If you are familiar with Google Analytics, the breadth and type of analytics in uMarketingSuite will be easy to navigate. It has all the main types of reporting a website marketer will expect.
I like how Analytics can be accessed from a central location within the Marketing menu but also specific to each content node as well.
Additional data insight you get at the content node level is heatmaps. This report shows a visual representation of the scroll depth of users on each page.
uMarketingSuite Profiles provides you with an overview of all the visitors that visited your website. This is kind of like a mini, simplified, and streamlined CDP (customer data platform). In Profiles, you can see the activity of each visitor, including whether they have identified or not, the goals they have completed, pages they have visited, and so forth. A visitor becomes identified when they submit any Umbraco form on your website containing identifying information such as name and email.
Similarly to Analytics, it does not appear that you can do much with this profile data beyond the reports that are provided. You cannot export or integrate this data beyond the uMarketingSuite platform.
There are several configuration settings you can modify concerning the uMarketingSuite. Many of these options will be familiar to you based on Google Analytics. For example, you can set site cookie details, sub-domain options, site search settings, and IP filters for excluding internal site visitors. There are fewer options than what comes with Google Analytics, but they are easy to access and modify within a couple of screens.
Debugging with Cockpit
One of the stand-out features of using uMarketingSuite for personalisation and testing is the debugging tool called Cockpit. Once cockpit is activated, it will appear as a widget whenever you are logged in to Umbraco and browsing your website.
Using cockpit you can
See live analytics data as it’s recorded while you browse
Delete uMarketingSuite cookies with 1 click
See live Persona, Journey and Segment data update in real-time as you browse
Click through to see your current Profile as recorded in Umbraco
Visit the website as any existing segment
Click through to edit any content node
What this means in practice is that debugging and previewing personalisations and tests in real-time is super easy. If something is not working as expected, it is easy to determine what is wrong. If you need to review any particular experience, it is quick to do.
Throughout any reasonably-sized optimisation project, this tool alone will save you hours, compared to manual testing and validating each variation.
Using this tool, I realised that uMarketingSuite uses ‘control’ groups who do not see any particular test and personalisation even when their scores meet the threshold. In my experience, this is the reason 90% of the time why an experience is not appearing when you expect it to. If you find yourself in a control group, simply clear the uMarketingSuite cookie to reset this.
The other thing to note with uMarketingSuite personalisations is that visitors can only be active within 1 persona and journey group at a time. If you need users to be active across multiple personas, you will need to separate them into different groups.
Across these 3 short blog posts, we have covered the foundation work to set up and implement personalisation, A/B tests, analytics, profiles and more across your website using Umbraco and uMarketingSuite.
This is the 2nd of a 3-part blog series on Umbraco and uMarketingSuite. Across this series we will be looking at how to use these platforms to build and deliver website personalisation, testing, analytics and all that good stuff. This 2nd post is on getting personalisation and testing up and running. If you are new to Umbraco and uMarketingSuite, please start on the first post.
Let’s look at the setup steps involved, using the Aceik website (aceik.com.au) as an example.
When a visitor comes to our site and views content relating to working with Aceik, they should then experience personalised content as a potential future Aceik employee.
In the previous post in this series, we outlined the 3 pages of content that we would score with our ‘Clive the future colleague’ profile. A visitor who viewed these 3 pages would be profiled with this persona, as the value threshold of 25 is reached. This persona is used as the basis of a visitor segment called ‘Clive’. For all ‘Clive’ visitors, we want to show them a personalised welcome message on the homepage.
To do this, we navigate to the Home page in our content tree and go to Personalization and ‘Add a personalized variant’. Select our Clive segment to personalize for and give it a name. On the screen that follows, we can create modifications to our new home page variant, side-by-side with the Default experience. Umbraco makes it easy to copy components from the Default across to the Variant, and then modify them.
In our case, we want to modify the Header Banner message from the default of “Forward Thinking Digital” to “Work with us. We think you are great”. We also want to change the background image and call-to-action button. These modifications can all be made within the one Header Banner component.
Whilst of course this may not necessarily win us any new employees, we believe it demonstrates the point of easy personalisation using uMarketingSuite🙂
Personalised homepage for Clive segment
When a visitor comes to our Services page from a targeted online campaign, we should show them information specific to the digital service they are interested in.
This time, we will personalise the Services page based on an Explicit parameter. We have created a segment for all visitors who arrive on our site with the UTM campaign value of ‘promotion’.
Using that segment, we will create a personalised variant of our Services page.
Assuming the promotion relates to Aceik’s website optimisation services, the variant will include modifications to the Head banner to change the hero image and text accordingly.
Personalised experience for promotion visitors
uMarketingSuite supports various kinds of A/B testing. You can test single pages, multiple pages at once or entire document types (to test global changes).
One of the goals of the Aceik website is to have visitors view the work we’ve delivered. We can create a simple sing page A/B test to measure how effective different headlines, images and calls-to-action are in generating views of our Work pages. To measure the effectiveness, we will use Goals, as set up in our first blog post in this series.
To do this, we navigate to the Work page in our content tree, go to A/B tests and Start a test.
As you can see in the screenshot, we have various parts to configure. Note you can include multiple page variants if you wish. We have selected the goal of ‘View our work pages’. This goal is set to fire when any of the sub-pages within Work are viewed.
The modification of each test variant happens in the same way as each personalisation. You edit each variant alongside the default experience and modify the elements required.
Once the test is set to run, you can view data on how the test is progressing. The length of the test will vary depending on the volume of visitors/participants in the test. The variant with the highest conversion rate will be the winner.
uMarketingSuite makes it easy to preview both personalisations and A/B tests at any point. There are prominent Preview links in appropriate locations for both. You can use these links to preview any changes before publishing or to review the current personalisations/tests once live also.
A topic for our next post in this series is the excellent de-bugger and preview tool that comes with uMarketingSuite. This tool, called ‘Cockpit’, makes it incredibly quick and easy to preview the site using any available Segments. It also lets you see lots of other cool things. Next post coming soon…
This is the first of a 3-part blog series on Umbraco and uMarketingSuite. Across this series, we will be looking at how to use these platforms to build and deliver website personalisation, testing, analytics and all that good stuff. This first post is on setting up the necessary foundation and will cover personas, journeys, goals, segments and scoring. Post 2 will be on the actual personalisation and testing. The 3rd post will be on debugging, analytics, profiles and other settings.
Let’s look at the setup steps involved, using the Aceik website as an example. This article was originally posted on Aceik.com.au
Firstly, let’s create a persona group. Our persona group is called ‘Visitors’ as it will contain personas of different types of website visitors. Check the Advanced settings of your persona group. Note the default Threshold value of 25. This score needs to be reached before our visitor profiles become active. Note also the Maximum points to score of 10. This is the maximum amount that any individual item can score towards activating our profiles. These details become important later on.
Next, we create 3 personas. These personas need to represent typical users of our website. For Aceik, let’s create:
Clive, the future colleague (prospective employee)
Chloe, the competitor (from another digital consultancy)
Clara, the customer (interested in our digital services)
uMarketingSuite comes with 1 default customer journey, based on a model developed by Google. You can customise this or create your own from scratch. The customer journey step is about establishing a broad sequence of phases that we want our visitors to progress through. For the Aceik website, the default journey works well; we want our visitors to
Become aware of Aceik (See)
Consider Aceik (Think)
Interact with Aceik (Do)
Partner with us (Care)
Website goals are a must-have. What is the purpose of your website? What actions do you want visitors to your website to take? What will you track and measure to understand if your website is performing correctly? What must you focus on if you wish to continuously improve your website? Goals, Goals, Goals.
And more specifically concerning personalisation and testing, if you don’t have goals in place, how will you know if your optimisations are effective and successful? Without goals, the whole activity loses meaning and value.
Goals are easy to set up in uMarketingSuite. The easiest kind of goal is based on pageview, but you can also configure goals based on events or custom code. For Aceik, we want our website visitors to view our work, and make contact. Our website goals relate to specific pages of content we want them to view and ‘thank you’ pages relating to successfully submitted contact forms.
Segments are subsets of your website visitors. Segments are the basis upon which you deliver personalised experiences. Segments can utilise the implicit data generated by the personas and journeys we have just set up. Segment can also use explicit data based on actual visitor information (e.g. browser type, time of day, number of sessions etc).
uMarketingSuite allows for the creation of temporary (time-relevant) segments (e.g. relating to a campaign) or core segments (ongoing). We will create 6 core segments for Aceik.com.au
Clive – all visitors who match our Clive persona
Chole – all visitors who match our Chloe persona
Clara – all visitors who match our Clara persona
All users who have completed a contact form on our website
Visitors who visit our site via a promotional campaign link
Visitors browsing our website before 12 noon
We will use all 6 of these segments in the personalisations to come. The uMarketingSuite segment builder is simple yet powerful. The parameters are differentiated by whether they are implicit or explicit. Normally, you would create these segments once you had determined exactly the personalisations you wanted to deliver. In our case, we will get to that in part 2 of this blog series.
Score content, campaigns, referrals
The final step in establishing the foundations for personalisation and testing is scoring. In uMarketingSuite we can score content, campaigns and referrals. Scoring is where the threshold values and maximum points from earlier become relevant. Essentially, this step is about scoring each element of the website experience with respect to a relevant persona or journey. Each item can receive a score of up to 10, and once a threshold of 25 is reached, the visitor will be assigned to that particular persona or journey. For example, on the Aceik website, we have content that is written for prospective employees. We need to score that content highly regarding our Clive persona. Our Content scoring for Clive is as follows:
Visitor views ‘Contact us’ page. Score = 5
Visitor views ‘Work for us’ page. Score = 10
Visitor views blog post ‘Come and work with the A team’. Score = 10
These 3 content scores give us a total of 25. If a visitor views all 3 pages, their profile will be assigned a persona of Clive. This will then put that visitor in our related Segment. And Personalisations can be activated off that segment 🙂
Similarly, links from referring websites or campaigns can be scored. For example, if a visitor to the Aceik website comes from a link on Seek.com.au, that referral should be scored as a 10 against our Clive persona. Alternatively, we might tag any job links posted on Linkedin with a UTM campaign value of “positions-vacant”. These campaign links would also be scored highly against our Clive persona.
That’s it for the setup steps. Now with these things in place, we can start to build our tests and personalisation. The next post in this series coming soon…
Orchestrating digital experiences for the composable customer
The Aceik team recently built a website and set of customer experiences to demonstrate the new Sitecore composable tools. In particular, we wanted to show how they can be used together to deliver a modern, personalised, cross-channel digital experience. The following is a walkthrough of what we built.
A customer named Ally Davids visits our demo website, Luxury Hotel. The website is built in Sitecore XM with SXA (hosted in Azure PaaS) and uses Sitecore Headless Services (NextJS hosted in Vercel) for the front end.
Ally browses our site but does not complete any conversion actions. Later on, she is re-targeted on Facebook with an advertisement promoting a free airfare competition. Ally clicks the ad, which links back to our Luxury Hotel website. The link is appended with standard UTM parameters.
We have used these UTM values to personalise the website homepage. In Sitecore CDP, we have built a web template that swaps out the hero image, headline and call-to-action with tailored values.
We have also built an audience template that enables us to use UTM parameters as targeting values when building Experiences.
This experience is set to target the Homepage only. Real-time audiences trigger it with a UTM_campaign value of ‘island_competition’. This is the value set in our Facebook retargeting Ad.
The website also includes the Sitecore Send tracking script. With this script in place, we have used the Embed publishing option within Sitecore Send to load our web forms in a <div> tag, in any place on our website where we want a Sitecore Send form to appear.
In this island_competition personalisation, we have used another web template to swap out the default Sitecore Send form with a competition-specific form (using the FormID from Sitecore Send), based on the same UTM_campaign value targeting.
The result is that Ally sees a personalised homepage hero component and competition web form.
Ally submits her details in the web form. Her identity is sent to Sitecore CDP and her customer profile is added to existing Segments that have been created e.g. ‘Known customers’ and ‘Island competition customers’.
Ally’s details are also sent to Sitecore Send, into an existing Audience email list. This event triggers a Marketing automation flow that sends Ally an email to promote our Hotel rooms.
The email prompts Ally to click back to our website to view information on our Honeymoon room.
The Honeymoon link is appended with specific UTM parameters. Ally clicks the link and this is tracked in Sitecore Send as Open and Click activity.
Ally lands on the Honeymoon page. This action triggers a 2nd Automation which sends Ally a follow-up email on our ‘Luxury Services’. Ally is added to additional Segments in CDP relating to visits to the Honeymoon page.
When Ally clicks on a link in the 2nd email, she lands on our Services page with another (badly designed) personalisation showing a 50% discount message. This is triggered for visitors who land directly on this page with a specific UTM campaign value.
This personalisation is using one of the out-of-the-box (OOTB) templates available in Sitecore CDP & Personalize.
Ally is intrigued by the discount offer and so clicks through to view more information on the Deluxe King room. She views several pages but is still yet to convert. At this point, we trigger a further OOTB personalisation showing an email capture form. This personalisation is triggered for real-time users that view the same room page more than 5 times.
If Ally still has not converted, and re-visits the Hotel website, we will show her a final personalisation, based on customising the hero component, with a message targeted based on her profile in Sitecore CDP.
This set of experiences is for demo purposes only and illustrates the ways that the Sitecore composable products can work together to deliver personalised customer experiences.
GA4 introduces many changes to its digital measurement model, including a move from page view to event-based tracking, a decreased reliance on cookies, improvements to cross-channel customer tracking, and an increase in some of the UA limitations e.g. 20 ‘Goal’ limit.
Google’s decision means that any businesses currently using Google Analytics will need to upgrade their properties from UA to GA4. Given the July timeframe, I recommend businesses upgrade now and run both UA and GA4 in parallel. This will give you an opportunity to ensure that GA4 is capturing all the data correctly. The sooner you do this, the less you will have to worry about trying to manually compare UA and GA4 data YoY, post July 2023.
The steps to start a new GA4 property are straightforward (i.e. follow the GA4 Setup Assistant), but the changes in measurement model are significant. Any businesses currently using UA (and other associated Google marketing platform tools) with any level of configuration will need to rebuild their analytics environment. This is required whether you just want to continue basic tracking of your digital properties, or if you want to embrace the affordances of GA4 and level-up your digital analytics game. I recommend businesses with a significant digital analytics dependancy take this opportunity to conduct an end-to-end analytics capability assessment and upgrade. This activity should incorporate re-aligning digital analytics with strategic business goals, assessing your technical capability and tools, and improving your data and reporting governance and operations
Every business website has a purpose. Building out your digital strategic framework is about making explicit the dependancy between your business and your website. How does your website support your business goals and deliver value to both you and your customers? What is the relationship between your business mission and vision, your current top-level business goals, and the key actions that users take on your website? This is is your framework for everything that is done throughout the activities below. The goal of rebuilding your analytics in GA4 should not just be to continue the status quo, but to ensure that you are better positioned to measure, monitor and improve the value that your website generates for your business.
Site audit and discovery
You can start this process by auditing your current websites. List all sites (including sub-domains) in a spreadsheet. Capture the Google Tag Manager (GTM) and GA IDs/accounts being used. Additionally I like to capture the platform each site is published on, whether Google Search Console (GCS) is configured and connected or not, and any further notes about the implementation. Things to check include:
Is GA hard-coded or triggered via GTM?
Do any sites have multiple UA ID’s?
Are there GA Views that are not recording any data?
Have any sites/properties been migrated to GA4 already?
Who are the account admins and do you have access to make admin changes?
This site audit spreadsheet becomes your source of truth and scope document.
The Account / Property / View model changes with the move to GA4. In GA4, there is only Account and Property. To ensure you rebuild what is required in GA4, audit your current UA properties. It is important to note the current data collection and retention settings, User ID tracking status, connected Google accounts like Google Ads, and any other tracking info settings. These are the types of configuration details you may need to re-create in the new GA4 property you are migrating to.
Typically each View in UA will have its own specific filters. Make note of the range of Views and the details of each. For example, are there Views that filter out internal traffic, show only traffic to specific sub-domains or campaigns, or roll-up views? Most typical Views can easily be recreated as segments in GA4.
You will want to review all event data in GA over the last 12 months to understand what has been configured and what might be required in future. With GA4’s new event-based measurement model, some of the custom events in UA are now tracked out-of-the-box (OOTB). These include outbound click tracking, document downloads and video views. Other common events require custom event tracking (form submissions, clicks on emails links). I recommend carefully capturing all existing events in a spreadsheet including category, action and label parameters. In GA4, you will need to identify if corresponding event parameters exist OOTB, and if not, create them as new Custom Dimensions (in the Configuration section). You will need to setup Custom Dimensions for any event parameters that you want to use in reporting. I also suggest you use lowercase and underscore as a consistent best practice approach for all event details.
In UA, key site activities were called ‘Goals’. In GA4, these are called ‘Conversions’. After capturing all the existing site Goals you should consider which of these are required in GA4. Site Conversions should relate to the key digital goals identified in your website strategic framework. I actually think ‘Goals’ are a better name for these, but to avoid confusion, they are ‘Conversions’ from now on 😉
All Conversions are Events, but not all Events are Conversions. Before you can track a Conversion, you need to first create it as an Event in GA4. If not available as an OOTB event, you will need to create and trigger this event using Google Tag Manager. Once it’s tracking as an Event, simply click the toggle to also track as a Conversion. For additional actionable insight on the impact of your Conversions, I recommend setting a value for each Conversion Event through the use of custom parameters, as below (note ‘currency’ and ‘value’ are required).
Analytics governance & management
The move to GA4 will require various modifications to your Google Tag Manager implementation. At a minimum, you will need to create a new GA4 configuration tag. However, you will also likely need to create new GA4 Event tags as mentioned above. Given the way that most businesses have adopted digital tag management (organically, unstructured, bit-by-bit over time), it is quite likely that your current GTM implementation needs an audit and clean-up. It is common to have legacy redundant tags still firing. It is common to have manually created tags and triggers that now have OOTB equivalents in the ever-evolving GTM platform. It is common to have various Users with degrees of access to your account that are no longer required. A full run-down of best practice GTM is a topic for another post. For now, take the opportunity to clean-up and consolidate whatever you have time for.
The above are the main steps and considerations in implementing a GA4 upgrade. Once GA4 is setup and capturing data, your next consideration is how best to analyse and report on your digital analytics. GA4 includes far fewer pre-built reports, and instead expects users to build their own reports in GA and/or utilise tools like Google Data Studio. Personally, if I’m going to spend time building reports, I would rather do it in Google Data Studio. Not only is this is a powerful and easy-to-use tool, but other advantages include:
you can combine GA data with other digital analytics data like Youtube or Google Search Console to build comprehensive dashboards, and
the reports you build are easily shareable with stakeholders by URL or scheduled email report.
Again, a full rundown is another topic for another day, but the best data capture and management is useless if the data is not analysed, interpreted and feed back to the business as actionable insight. This is the role of good digital analytics and reporting.