A Primer on the Website Personalization Trend

The Personalized Web will be driven by analytic engines that will integrate data from many sources in order to present an online experienced tailored to each user.

Thanks to the explosion of social media, how users are influenced, consume information, and make purchasing decisions has been altered forever.  Users are increasingly expecting company websites, products, and services to be tailored to their individual preferences, past experiences, and what they happen to be doing at this very moment.  This puts the demand on business and IT leaders to create a personalized and engaging experience for end-users across all channels, both online and offline. 


                Unica: The State of Marketing 2010 (link)

Users want to their experience to be customized:

  • Returning visitors to a web site want to see a page based on all the information collected from previous visits.  Businesses should present personalized sites to these customers by organizing information and prioritizing it based on the individual's liking.  Products and services offered on those pages will be pre-configured.
  • “Anonymous” visitors to websites should get customized messages based on the referring URL, search terms, geo-location and any other insights. 

In 2011, I expect business leaders to focus on advanced solutions that can delivering a more personalized experience to end users.  These solutions will be designed to mine the user profile, buying behavior, browsing behavior and other insights obtained through marketing analytics in order to deliver a more customized and personalized online experience.  Look for further improvements in technologies such as marketing analytics and predictive algorithms that can automatically deliver highly relevant, contextually aware, personalized content and recommendations to customers via both online and offline channels. I also expect the personalization trend to be extended beyond the website to other digital channels, including social media marketing, mobile marketing, and email marketing.

One other point, the personalization trend is not only about presenting personalized pages to users of sales and marketing processes. All business application users can benefit from web sites and applications that present information that is personalized to the user. 

The rest of this post provides you with some background information on the trend, some quotes from the marketplace, and a bunch of links to additional reading information.

Trend Drivers

  • Individuals want content that is personalized and is relevant to why they are on a particular website at a given time /
  • New analytic capability

Trend Inhibitors/Challenges

  • Integrating offline as well as online behaviour
  • Need to build and retain complete profile data
  • Privacy issues

Trend Implications

  • New business processes and skills required
  • Need to track individual’s interactions and transactions across all channels, in order to provide the best offer or communication.
  • Messaging plans can be tailored to interests and preferences of each individual.

Quotes from the Marketplace: 

“Emerging context-enriched services will use location, presence, social attributes and other environmental information to anticipate an end user's immediate needs, offering more-sophisticated, situation-aware and usable functions” – Gartner (link)

“Marketers are focused on making their communications more timely and relevant to recipients. To do that, they need to build communications around the interests and preferences of each individual customer or prospect. “ – Unica, Sept. 2010 (link)

“Personalized product recommendations are proven to consistently increase sales, conversion rates, average order value and customer retention“ – Coremetrics, Oct 2010 (link)

Featured Video

Personalising the Web Experience – Unica Video

For More Information

Here are some sites where you will find links to other learning resources like white papers, demos, customer briefs, and videos

More Information From ibm.com

Cloud Computing Is Enabling The Next Phase Of The Internet Evolution

Carlota Perez wrote a book titled “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital” (2002) that is a real interesting read.  Perez says that there have been five historical waves of economic and social transformation in the developed economies of the world. Each of these waves have what she calls an Installation phase followed by a crash of some sort and then a Deployment period. 

HorizonWatching - Carlota Perz 5 Waves

Perez says that our global economy has now entered the deployment phase of the fifth technology investment cycle, which she says is the Age of Information and Telecommunications (see embedded picture).  Perez says that this will be a period of adjustment when novel business models will exploit the new IT infrastructure that is now being put in place that enable more porous, open, collaborative approaches that seek to leverage the economics and flexibility of global sourcing.  She expects enterprises of all sizes will employ technology to help them transform their business models, processes and operations.

As mentioned, Perez says we are entering this Deployment phase. As we do there are some key characteristics across our global economy that is impacting how this phase develops. The firms that will succeed are the firms that will embrace these characteristics and the change that is happening in order to innovate and leapfrog competition.

Important characteristics of our global economy includes:

  • A level, global economic playing field presents new opportunities, challenges and competitive technologies
  • New technologies, services and skills are emerging…and they are quickly being integrated into every aspect of business and everyday life
  • The pace of change is dramatically compressing “windows of opportunity” for real competitive advantage.
  • Billions of skilled people are entering the world’s economy, fundamentally transforming the mix of the global workforce
  • The interconnected nature of our world’s economy means businesses must be prepared to respond to – and capitalize on – changes in real time, with unprecedented flexibility.

While all this is happening, we are moving into what I believe is the third stage of the Internet. Call it Web 3.0 or whatever you wish, but cloud computing is perhaps the most important technology.  In fact, I believe that cloud computing is the key enabling technology for this next technological wave and the next phase in the evolution of the Internet.

HorizonWatching - Private Clouds Enables Next Wave of the Internet

Back in the mid to late 1990s companies were just concerned with getting websites up so they could have a presence on the Internet. It was all about providing very basic information to the public. But soon the so called e-commerce trend arose and business was being conducted on the Internet. Then Web 2.0 came into play and all users realized that they could share their ideas, create content, and collaborate online.  We are now well into this next phase of the evolution where the enabling technologies will be cloud, analytics, mobile, video, and semantic capabilities.  This so called Web 3.0 phase will provide applications that are much more immersive, social, and collaborative in nature.  Combined that with an explosion of networked sensors and advanced predictive analytic and all the Smarter Planet initiatives will become a reality. 

But the most important enabler will be the combination of private and public cloud computing infrastructures that will be the ‘engine’ of the future Internet.

NMC: 2009 Horizon Report for Higher Education

The 2009 Horizon Report was recently released at the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) Annual Meeting in Orlando, Florida.  The annual Horizon Report is a collaborative effort between the New Media Consortium (NMC) and the ELI.   Each year, the report identifies six emerging technologies that are likely to have a significant impact on higher education in the next one to five years.  In addition, the report presents an overview accompanied by examples and suggested readings for each technology. 

The areas of emerging technology cited for 2009 are:

Timeframe:  The Next 12 months…

  • Mobiles (i.e., mobile devices).   New interfaces, the ability to run third-party applications, and location-awareness have all come to the mobile device in the past year, making it an ever more versatile tool that can be easily adapted to a host of tasks for learning, productivity, and social networking.
  • Cloud computing.  Inexpensive, simple solutions to offsite storage, multi-user application scaling, hosting, and multi-processor computing are opening the door to wholly different ways of thinking about computers, software, and files. 

Timeframe:  Next 1-3 years….

  • Geo-everything (i.e., geo-tagging).  Many devices can automatically determine and record their own precise location and can save that data along with captured media (like photographs) or can transmit it to web-based applications for a host of uses.  The full implications of geo-tagging are still unfolding.
  • The personal web.  Using a growing set of free and simple tools and applications, it is easy to create a customized, personal web-based environment — a personal web — that explicitly supports one’s social, professional, learning, and other activities. 

Timeframe:  4-5 years…

  • Semantic-aware applications.  New applications are emerging that are bringing the promise of the semantic web into practice without the need to add additional layers of tags, identifiers, or other top-down methods of defining context.
  • Smart objects.  While the underlying technologies that make this possible — RFID, QR codes, smartcards, touch and motion sensors, and the like — are not new, we are now seeing new forms of sensors, identifiers, and applications with a much more generalizable set of functionalities. 

For more information, you can download the 2009 Horizon Report or view the Web version.

ReadWrite Web: Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008

I've been interested in understanding what the future of the Internet will look like for sometime.  The current term for it is Web 3.0.  Once element of Web 3.0 will be a better architecture for the Internet called the Semantic Web.

The Semantic web movement is all about making it easy for software agents to find, share and integrate information more easily.   This is a complex job as there there has been a huge increase in non-structured data (blogs, wikis, videos, podcasts, and other web 2.0 tools).   The idea is to create conceptual relationships between things found on the Internet.

In a recent article on ReadWrite Web, the author provided a list of the top semantic products of 2008.

  1. Yahoo! SearchMonkey.  SearchMonkey  allows developers to build applications on top of Yahoo! search, including allowing site owners to share structured data with Yahoo!, using semantic markup, standardized XML feeds, APIs, and page extraction.
  2. Powerset (acquired by Microsoft in '08)  Powerset is a natural language search engine.
  3. Open Calais.  Calais is a toolkit of products that enable users to incorporate semantic functionality within their blog, content management system, website or application.
  4. Dapper MashupAds.  Dapper MashupAds delivers ads based on the content of a webpage.  For example, web publishers tell Dapper the place on their web page where the title of a movie will appear, and Dapper delivers a banner ad that's related to whatever movie this page happens to be about.
  5. Hakia.  Hakia is a search engine focusing on natural language processing methods to try and deliver 'meaningful' search results.  Hakia attempts to analyze the concept of a search query, in particular by doing sentence analysis.
  6. Tripit.  Tripit is an app that manages your travel planning. With TripIt, you forward incoming bookings to plans@tripit.com and the system manages the rest.
  7. BooRah.  BooRah, a restaurant review site, can recognize praise and criticism in reviews and then rate restaurants accordingly.
  8. BlueOrganizer (AdaptiveBlue).   BlueOrganizer gives you added information about webpages you visit and offers useful links based on the subject matter.  A new product, called Glue. connects you to your friends based around things like books, music, movies, stars, artists, stocks, wine, restaurants, and more.
  9. Zemanta.  Zemanta is a blogging tool which harnesses semantic technologies to add relevant content to your posts.   Users can now incorporate their own social networks, RSS feeds, and photos into their blog posts.
  10. UpTake.   Semantic search startup UpTake (formerly Kango) aims to make the process of booking travel online easier.  UpTake is a vertical search engine that has assembled what it says is the largest database of US hotels and activities – over 400,000 of them – from more than 1,000 different travel sites.

As semantic technology adoption takes off, expect search engines to become much more effective than they are now.  Users will find the precise information they are looking for and in much faster time than today.  This could have a huge impact as mobile search begins to take off.

For more, read the article Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008.  For more on the semantic web, check out the semantic web Wikipedia article here or this  What is the Semantic Web?

Consumer Electronics: Five Technologies to Watch in 2009

The Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) recently released the 2009 edition of their "Five Technology Trends to Watch   publication.  CEA analysts predict consumer electronics devices of tomorrow will be personalized and far more powerful than today's products.

The Five Trends…

The five sections to this years report are:

  1. Control Freaks? Technologies Change How We Interact with Consumer Electronics:  How do we use command and control technologies to interact with our Consumer Electronics?  In the first section, the publication takes a look at the command and control technologies that allow people to more naturally interact with consumer electronics.  From real-world products to prototypes still in the lab, this section examines some of the cutting-edge control mechanisms that may soon impact the human-machine relationship.  What do you think…Are we a control freak society?
  2. Ingredients for the Kitchen of Tomorrow: Power – Connectivity – Control:   Many pieces of the technology for the kitchen of ‘the future’ is available today.   This section looks into the kitchen of tomorrow, full of everything from flat-panel displays and Internet connectivity on refrigerators to appliances that manage energy efficiency and decide when to run.  The report forecasts that the kitchen may be the hub of the house, with the ability to control the consumption and management of energy throughout the house.
  3. Displays: A Look at the Next Wave of Innovation:  With the transition from analog to digital television nearing the final stages, a host of new display technologies will reach markets sooner than many realize.  Four areas of development worth watching closely include energy efficiency, enhanced experience and form factor, nonliving room uses and connectivity.
  4. The Future has Already Arrived: The Localization of the Internet:  As the world moves toward Web 3.0, the trend of Web-based applications like Amazon.com or software business tools such as salesforce.com will continue to have more personalized functionality directed at the end-user.  And further exploring the Web theme, in the contextual Web 3.0, devices will do much of the sorting, filtering, contextualizing and connecting of data currently done by individuals.  Devices will begin to provide data in context with other available information residing elsewhere on the Internet.
  5. The Contextual Web:  The final section looks at how consumer technology is being used to further medical advances and diagnosis, the trend toward more efficient, energy-saving devices and even using video games to fight disease. 

About the CEA's Five Technology Trends To Watch Publication 

Produced by the Consumer Electronic's Association's market research analysts, Five Technology Trends To Watch, reviews the business of consumer technologies, software, retailing, expanding GPS services, the future of radio, and a special future section highlighting CE products on the horizon.

Geared toward industry professionals, the publication provides analysis of each of the five trends as well as market forecasts for the upcoming year.  Other topics covered for each trend include consumer perspectives, partnerships, key players and public policy issues.

For more on the U.S.-based Consumer Electronic Association, go here…