Is your website content personalized enough?

This is the question keeping many Chief Marketing Officers and Digital Marketing leaders up at night. Website content personalization is a top priority for many marketers; in an Econsultancy survey, 84 percent of marketers said that personalized messaging is “very important to growth.”

Yet, these efforts are a very tall order for most marketing organizations, potentially requiring hours of support and resources that many organizations cannot commit right now. We spoke with our Kirsten Leshko, Strategy Director for Verndale, our trusted partner, to learn how they balance resource constraints with content personalization goals and ensure personalization efforts deliver the most ROI. Verndale and Coveo work together to deliver search-driven content personalization and capitalize on the capabilities of the xDB in Sitecore to create cutting-edge personalized experiences for website visitors. Download the Coveo for Sitecore Free Edition.


Coveo: Marketers are facing a lot of pressure to personalize content and websites more and more. What advice do you have for marketers who are overwhelmed by the process? How can they get started today?

Kirsten: Although I might not always say it out loud when clients ask me similar questions, I always think to myself “aim small, miss small” a la the movie The Patriot. While on the surface there is no real correlation between an action movie from the year 2000 and personalization, I’m reminded of the quote in that the same holds true if you have pre-personalization jitters.

Take a small, yet calculated step forward—focus on a highly-trafficked page like your homepage, and add a couple rules-based scenarios based off of user behavior on the site. For example, if a user navigates to a content page then returns to the homepage, personalize the content in the homepage hero with related content to the page they visited. Then, as you get more comfortable with rules-based implementation and gather some data on its effectiveness, use your insights and newfound confidence to build upon your efforts by expanding your personalization strategy to predictive personalization.

Coveo: One of the major first missteps is marketers’ selection of who to target and how to prioritize website personalization efforts. What are the mistakes that you have seen and how can marketers avoid them?

Kirsten: The most successful personalization strategies start with research, both qualitative and quantitative. As part of our strategic planning process, Verndale works with clients to shape user personas that not only help in determining an effective user experience and content strategy, but also for personalization. A strong understanding of who you are targeting and why will directly inform the strategy behind delivering content to the right users at the right time, which will drive engagement, conversions, and ultimately ROI.

In addition to persona research and identification, quantitative analysis of current user engagement metrics, navigation pathways, and conversions are key. Analysis should be used to benchmark engagement and conversions pre/post personalization (to gauge effectiveness) as well as to inform areas of the site that should be personalized. Are users dropping off at certain pages within the website prior to conversion? If so, that’s a good place to personalize content to help them convert. Skipping these important processes results in personalization that is misguided, which may result in missing engagement and conversion opportunities that could have been improved by a ‘smart’ personalization strategy.

Coveo: How far is too far with website personalization? With the Internet of Things-enabled products really cracking open quite a bit of data to their vendors, what do you see as ‘the line’?

Kirsten: Don’t get me wrong, I love data—I’d even venture to say that conversations around Martech stacks relative to business intelligence, data science, AI, all of that stuff is what makes me tick and is by far the most exciting part of my day-to-day. However, given all of these wonderful advances in data and technology, I do believe that the ‘line’ exists when I reach a site or mobile app that I’ve never interacted with before, and I’m welcomed with, “Hello, Kirsten!”

I know, and am quite comfortable with the vast swath of data that companies have nowadays (see above), but I do think that companies who expose their knowledge of me when I didn’t explicitly provide them with my personal information (even if it’s just my name) is where the line blurs—it’s a little creepy.

Coveo: What are the biggest challenges for website personalization for marketers to implement? What is your advice to marketers in those situations?

Kirsten: There are a few key themes I’ve experienced to date in terms of challenges for deploying personalization, but they ultimately center around having a solid plan, and the right set of resources. To deploy a strong personalization strategy, you need a good amount of prep work—qualitative and quantitative research, the identification and alignment (and, potentially hiring) of the right people to produce the kind of content, data-driven insights, and strategy that will facilitate successful personalization.

If you want to deploy personalization, the first step is to take a step back, and create a plan and toolkit for you and your team to leverage for deploying your strategy. It might mean that you partner with a third-party agency, like Verndale, to help you strategize and formulate holistic plan, from persona development to systems integration, to resource planning and governance. Dream big, but also be realistic—with some calculated steps, you can achieve a personalized experience that will drive results.


Verndale has helped firms get started with website personalization by using Coveo for Sitecore to automatically personalize search results and apply machine learning to the powerful website personalization capabilities of Sitecore. Instead of solely relying on Sitecore patterns and profiles to surface relevant content, Coveo for Sitecore is able to learn from the usage analytics of similar users what content leads to a successful outcome – even if that content is not tagged for the user’s persona. The search experience continuously improves, as well as your understanding of how well your content performs, over time.  

Interested in seeing more ROI from your website personalization efforts? Download the Coveo for Sitecore Free Edition.