Web Personalisation: How to get it started in your organisation

 A guide on how to take your first steps in web personalisation 

18 May 2017
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Jon Eaton

We regularly meet with people who are in the early stages of adopting web personalisation as part of their digital strategy. 
One of the common barriers we and they come up against is uncertainty on the effort required to put a personalisation strategy in place. This article examines what you need to get going.

1. A CMS or web publishing platform that allows you to do it


Seems pretty obvious but you need a way of doing the personalisation. This doesn’t need to be an enterprise CMS like Kentico, Sitefinity or Sitecore but they can be a good place to start, especially for first time ‘personalisers’. 
When you start to look into it you soon find that ‘Web Personalisation’ means a lot of different things. Some platforms like Sitefinity are fine at changing content on-site but come unstuck when you want to extend the personalisation journey into email and off-site retargeting. A common criticism of Sitecore is that it is so well featured it offers tools that are already in use on CRM or customer loyalty systems.
The good thing about doing this early stage discovery is that it doesn’t tend to cost you anything straight away. CMS vendors recognise that it takes time to get the business case for Web Personalisation together. They’re normally more than happy to have a few exploratory conversations before asking you for any significant commitment. I should also mention at this point that at Quba we recognise this too ;-). 

2. Define the sort of personalisation you want to do


At its core web personalisation uses information we have on users to change what we show them. This could be based on any of the following information:

  • Device type
  • Location (using GEO-IP lookup)
  • Time of Day (this feature is especially popular with cinema websites and tourist attractions)
  • Previous onsite browsing history
  • That they clicked through from referral websites / email campaigns
  • Data held in your CRM (Date of Birth, Previous purchasing history, relationships with other users, attendance at events, etc

I’ve intentionally ranked the above from easy to hard. Most organisations are already optimising mobile user journeys through responsive design and many use location to push customers towards local offers or resources. Time of Day and Previous Browsing History optimisations can normally be done inside of a personalisation tool making these relatively easy too. Referral optimisation and email campaign optimisation requires a small amount of integration but optimisation based on CRM data normally requires a more complete bi-directional integration. 
Fully integrated personalisation is tricky. You need a cooperative organisation which recognises that there may be disruption in order to get systems to talk to each other and time to define the extent to which the overall customer experience should become personalised and automated. After all, there are parts of customer interaction in almost any business that shouldn’t be changed because they are integral to the service being offered.

3. An engaged organisation 

Trying to introduce new ways of doing things without securing organisational buy-in is always very dangerous. 
Web Personalisation and Digital Transformation tend to go hand in hand and the latter can be seen by staff as both disruptive and scary. Of course, Digital Transformation can be a really good thing and lead to new opportunities across the entire organisation but it needs to be sold to staff in the right way.

The most successful web personalisation projects we’ve seen have been achieved by people who have engaged stakeholders at all levels of their organisation. Lower level staff who frequently have more access to customers often have a better idea of where the existing experience can be improved. A board member onside can give you the heads up about new challenges the business is facing. If you can use web personalisation to solve these company-wide conundrums it goes a long way to proving doubters wrong.

4. The right methodology

If you’re worried that your organisation hasn’t got a wealth of customer segmentation data don’t be… lots of the businesses we speak to have big gaps in their understanding of who their customers are and most importantly what they are looking for from their websites.

The workshop above provided the insight needed for us to create a first version of a document which outlined user journeys (see below). This was used to define the technology strategy for the project.


Most businesses don’t need to go back to basics to understand who their customers are. More often than not, they just need some help to refine customer segments and define ideal user experiences. This was exactly the case with our client Texthelp when we started working with them two years ago. The trick with them was to get them talking about the different customers seen by staff working across their product brands to find any similarities. We were then able to prioritise customer segments and define what we want them to do.

5. A robust testing strategy

Lots of commentators on web personalisation advise organisations not to bite off more than they can chew. A big reason for this is that if you start to personalise everything and results drop off it can be very difficult to isolate where the new experience is failing.


One of the best ways of ensuring that the new solution is working is to make use of any workflow tools available. Sometimes this is possible in your CRM or Case Management systems but the CMS can do this too. The image above from Kentico shows a simple workflow pushing a customer through a personalisation routine. All of these stages can be reported on.