AI Personalisation – A guide to Sitecore AI

June 1, 2021
5 minute read

Digital transformation has completely evolved how we interact, work and operate businesses over the last decade. Digital trends rapidly become the norm and organisations must be prepared to move with this quick pace to thrive or they risk falling behind. Businesses that are digitally savvy are looking to machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to advance their organisations. 75% of businesses think AI will give them opportunities to move into new business ventures, whilst 84% say it will empower them to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage.

Enterprise-level businesses that choose Sitecore to power their digital strategy have access to sophisticated AI personalisation capabilities that:

  • Save marketers’ authoring and configuration time
  • Identify opportunities
  • Improve customer experience

Find out how to implement Sitecore AI effectively to create seamless, personalised digital experiences.

What is AI personalisation?

AI personalisation is the utilisation of machine learning algorithms to accurately identify and deliver valuable information specifically tailored to unique traits  to end users. With the added strength of AI, marketers now can be widely relieved from numerous daily demands of manually constructing every scenario, returning time to allow focus on new opportunities and innovation.

Marketers report that personalisation increases their sales by 20%, whilst 31% of customers saying that they expect businesses to deliver personalised experiences. Sitecore have offered personalisation capabilities to their customers since 6.1 with the addition of the rules engine. Personalisation has been at the core of the Sitecore capability, a priority since 2009. The release of Sitecore 9 was a pivoting point for AI personalisation, when the platform introduced Sitecore Cortex (the machine learning function in Sitecore, integrated via xConnect) which would drive the transformation of marketing activity on the platform for the future.

AI personalisation and Sitecore Cortex

When evaluating digital trends, we have researched and learned from the leaders in the market. Of those messages we listened, watched and heard; we found those that bring value to our goals.  The vision statements for digital trends that will drive this new decade include emphasising the importance of brand awareness and resilience, the value of digital maturity for companies, and the value of integrating data across different platforms. Another heavily discussed digital trend is the integration of machine learning to previously manual and routine tasks.

With the introduction of Cortex to Sitecore’s platform, we are diving into the AI era. This integration pushes the platform into the future. Instead of requiring manual analysis and labour, our marketers are now supported in the ability to comprehensibly understand all that data we’ve been gathering for analysis. That information will be used to bring about better experiences for all customers.

We are moving from the era of collecting data, analysing it on our own to handing the bulk of the tasks to machines. Much like the industrial revolution added automation replacing tedious manual processes, profoundly increasing productivity, by using AI we will be injecting the same type of efficiency into the digital marketing process, and therefore the bottom line for many businesses.

How does Sitecore AI benefit marketing teams?

Digital marketers have quite a bit on their plates, juggling between the content crisis and the task of analysing and understanding the copious amounts of data coming in from website activity. This means:

  • manually identifying the different types of customers to visit the website
  • excavating the many gigabytes of data to understand how different personas navigate their website to achieve various goals
  • analysing how different personas use their website – is it searching for information, is it to purchase an item, is it to apply for a job?
  • understanding how users navigate websites, allows marketers to check that the available content is bringing the most value to their customers
  • implementing A/B tests on high traffic pages that have different persona segments visiting means you can test comparisons of content versions to find which drives the best engagement for customers. Planning and configuring these types of tests require time and effort from the marketers.

Marketers have had the benefit of tools such as Sitecore personalisation, path analyser, and A/B testing, all of which requires human touch to preserve relevance. Now with Sitecore AI, the machine learning algorithm can churn through the same data being gathered previously to learn about the visitors, remove the need for manually identifying how personas use particular pages, and automatically flag the various types of users who visit.

Ultimately, once the AI can identify particular content to be contributing to “successful” visits for particular persona segments, the platform can automatically start showing that content. Rather than requiring a marketer to manually identify and set up the page and personalisation rule. This means as the engine becomes “smarter”, users will benefit from seeing the best valued content for them, each visit, without any necessary tweaks or changes from the editor’s side.

Further to the added benefit of automatic personalisation, AI can also identify the gaps that marketers can address. Perhaps there’s a persona segment that has not been addressed, or there is content that falls flat with all segments. With the newly acquired time marketers can now address these gaps. Finally, Sitecore Cortex has the benefit of suggesting personalisation rules that, through analysing the previous visitors’ behaviours, the ML algorithm can draw correlations where a Marketer might miss. This is the safety net that ensures valuable insights aren’t lost. Each of these insights can drive value for the overall business.

Implementing AI personalisation with Sitecore

Cortex analyses data within the Sitecore xDB (the database which holds all interaction and engagement information). The engine detects similar trends and behaviours of visitors to the site and automatically applies content tags based on engagement and visitor persona traits. With that automatic content tagging, there is a spill over benefit which drives SEO efficiency and accuracy. Once there has been a statistically relevant number of visitors, the automatic personalisation becomes more valuable by providing new suggestions on personalisation rules. This provides a percentage representative of how successful a newly authored personalisation rule may be when compared to the foundation of all interaction data gathered previously. This is called the Weighted Predicted Effect. An additional value for ‘Total predicted effect’, is provided which represents the success of the combined effect of all the personalised rules on that page. Engagement values are constantly being tested against and shifting with the tides that come naturally with each of the persona segment behaviours.

How to set up

At the current scale of data that marketers are working with, we need the help of machine learning to keep up. Without the need to manually set up, Cortex drives a constant testing scenario, comparing content and engagement values to always optimise performance. Simply put, all of this functionality is built into the existing features and pages available in the Sitecore digital platform in versions 9.1 and higher.

How can your organisation implement AI personalisation?

Cortex is available in Sitecore 9.1 and later. If you’re on an older version and are considering a Sitecore upgrade to benefit from AI personalisation and machine learning capabilities, contact us – we’d be happy to chat through your options. UNRVLD is a Platinum Sitecore Partner that specialises in the design, build and optimisation of Sitecore solutions. We’ve been helping enterprise-level organisations achieve their digital goals for over 20 years, so your project would be in safe hands.