March 31, 2016 ben salmon

Personalisation Anatomy – making it work

What makes personalisation tick?

Personalisation offers us the ability to reconnect with our customers as individuals; to deliver the right offers or content to the right person at the right moment. So what is the anatomy of a personalisation programme?

In previous articles in this series we’ve looked at examples of personalisation and explored how to get started. This article sets out the information and capabilities that need to be in place to make personalisation programmes a reality.


Image from: A System of The Anatomy of the Human Body, by Andrew Fyfe

3 easy steps

Step 1: Detailed Visitor Tracking

The first element marketers need to have in place is tracking. Many marketers believe that their web analytics platform alone will give them a detailed record of visitors to their site, illustrating what happened to which individuals. Most platforms, however, only store visitor information at a summary level, making it tricky to truly understand what any individual did.

Your first step to personalisation is therefore to record who has visited your website and to store this information. Bear in mind that this doesn’t only relate to identified or known visitors (those who have logged in), but all visitors.

Step 2: Accessible Information

Next is the capability to access the right data, which in turn will drive the content you deliver.

This is different from the data in Step 1. Here we are looking at other data which we can use to understand a visitor better. For example, if they have come to the website via an email, what other information do we have about that visitor based on their email address?

Your data needs to be accessible at any time. It should also contain four elements that will help you manage a personalisation programme. They are:

  • Source–Where does the data exist and how do we connect to it? Is this in the CRM system, the transactional system or the email system? Furthermore, what additional information do you have on the visitor? The visitor-level information would have been captured through visitor tracking, but checking if that visitor is an existing high-value customer means connecting to other data.
  • Rules–What rules need to be applied to the data and the person to ensure the right offers or content are presented to the right visitor?
  • Person–Who the rule needs to be applied to. This does not require you to have the specific customer name or contact details. Rather it means that person can be identified as a unique visitor as recorded in Step 1.
  • Outcome–A record of what happened. Did the visitor take up the offer or ignore it? This stops us repeatedly presenting the visitor with the same message or, even worse, showing the same offer they have just accepted.

Step 3: Delivering The Content

Once you have confirmed where the data you need is stored and which rules are required, your next task is to present content to the visitor.

Consider the following three areas, which are important to integrate if you want to deploy personalisation into existing channels or infrastructure:

  • Access to information–Real-time access is especially important. Some organisations choose to pre-calculate what is best for the customer overnight. While this is a better option than doing nothing at all, it can work against what the customer is looking for.

As an example, a customer is going online to make a complaint about being overcharged on a foreign transaction. When they arrive, the nightly calculations have shown they should be offered a credit card. This is not only the last thing on their mind, but is going to frustrate them further.

Having access to their transactional information in real time is far more valuable if the recommendation served up instead puts them in touch with their dedicated relationship manager.

  • Access to assets–Access to data alone is not good enough. Having access to the content we want to deliver is also fundamental to a good personalised experience. Firstly, we need to know at which touchpoint to deliver the content (website, app, call centre or in retail). The second part is identifying the right content or asset to deliver which meets the rules.
  • Delivery of information–Once the right content has been determined it needs to be triggered or delivered within the right channel. Typically, personalisation does not do the actual delivery of the content, but tells the channel’s system, such as the content management system or web server, which piece of content needs to be delivered.


To ensure the best personalisation experience is offered you need to ensure you can:

  • Record digital visitors without them having to log in
  • Access the information, process the rules and record the outcome
  • Integrate with different systems and present the content

And all of the above needs to happen in real time. As a metric for real time, a piece of personalised content should be presented to a visitor based on their last click within half a second.

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