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5 steps to integrate a content personalization engine into a CMS

Customer experience is a top focus in the business world today, and personalized content can go a long way toward delivering that exceptional experience.

A key aspect of the digital experience is getting the right content to the right person at the right time, and a content personalization engine can help with this by keeping track of user behaviors, attributes and preferences.

Personalization is just as relevant in a corporate setting as it is in public web and e-commerce settings. Businesses might want to target specific company news items -- such as sales reports, KPIs or other company data -- for certain roles, such as finance employees or an operations director, in an effort to increase productivity and efficiency.

Personalization approaches can be explicit, implicit or contextual.

  • Explicit personalization is knowing the types of content the user is interested in based on information about them; for instance, their age; geographic location; or their favorite sports, hobbies, food or vacations.
  • Implicit personalization is inferring what content users may be interested in based on their previous browsing histories or other sources of information, such as previous purchases recorded in CRM or sales systems. Inferences can also come from demographic data.
  • Contextual personalization also infers the relevant content for a user based on information such as the user's location or the time. Computers and smart devices can use GPS or Wi-Fi to provide a user's approximate location and a Bluetooth beacon can provide their exact location.

In all instances, it helps to know some details about the user, such as an email address or phone number from a previous login. Anonymous personalization is possible, however, using techniques such as IP tracking and cookies via a content personalization engine.

Here are the five steps for integrating a personalization engine into a content management system (CMS).

1. Choose the tool set

Personalization is just as relevant in a corporate setting as it is in public web and e-commerce settings.

There are many vendor products on the market, and Gartner recently identified 18 in its "Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines" report. Choose a tool set based on criteria such as your existing technology, business requirements, required system integrations, skill sets and budget.

2. Incorporate behavior tracking

Most products work in a similar way, and HTML and JavaScript can be used for delivery for web browser consumable content. To track user behavior, integrate a JavaScript snippet provided by the personalization vendor into the applicable webpages, enabling the script to record user journeys and clicks into a database.

3. Create a metadata tagging scheme

A content personalization engine must be able to pull content from the CMS based on some sort of criteria. For example, a travel site may need to surface vacations that include certain keywords, such as winter sport, Europe, medium price range, deal of the week and singles.

The content personalization engine can then match these criteria with information about the user. You can also re-engineer monolithic content pages to break content into smaller chunks.

Personalization engine comparison chart

4. Develop targeting rules

Personalization is all about rules. For example, if a user's age is less than 25 and the user has an interest in life insurance and the user's salary is less than $100,000, then show low-cost life insurance products.

5. Create dynamic content

Depending on the incumbent CMS, you can use various approaches to create dynamic content. Some content personalization engines only plug into specific CMS products, and others claim to work with all of them.

The techniques are often similar and based on the vendor providing a page editor. You can load pages into the page editor and manipulate them based on rules.

Like behavior tracking, the vendor can provide a JavaScript snippet to integrate with a webpage to facilitate this editing capability. You can make on-the-fly updates to the content based on the JavaScript, rules and definitions as the browser renders the pages.

If a company uses multiple CMS products, it should consider a content hub approach. A content hub acts as the ultimate CMS, combining disparate content silos into a single content library. Personalization is about considering capabilities across all the content delivery channels -- such as email, text messaging and apps. You may need to use different approaches for different channels.

Concerns over privacy and data usage are increasing, and in some countries, this is reflected in new legislation -- such as GDPR in the European Union. A facet of GDPR is that companies can no longer capture data without getting explicit permission from users, and these guidelines are applicable worldwide. Don't consider personalization without involving the compliance and regulatory teams in your organization.

This was last published in April 2019

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