Personalization 101: Types of personalization

A non-personalized website typically presents the same content regardless of the user’s profile, personal preferences, clicking behavior and it is typically a static experience in that all users get the same content. Typically navigation and search are the main ways for users to extract information from the site. A personalized website in many ways is the exact opposite experience.  It will still have a navigation structure and search facility but the main difference is that the experience can be changed based on a number of factors. The best personalization tools rely upon a multitude of technologies to help companies personalize interactions and hone their marketing offers. Let’s examine some of the ways that personalization can be implemented. The two main types of personalization available today are 'Prescriptive Personalization' and 'Adaptive Personalization'.

Prescriptive Personalization

Prescriptive personalization is rule based and triggered by interactions with a user. Insight into a user comes from a variety of areas. This includes preferences, recent activity, history, current clicking behavior, context, time of day, and many others. Prescriptive personalization is based on a set of business logic that is triggered when a user performs an activity and changes the static display of content to one that matches their preferences.  To simplify the process of building business rules, visitors are often broken down into segments and this type of personalization may be referred to as segmentation.  Business rules are used to filter out inappropriate offers. For example, don't offer a discount on a CD player to a customer who has already bought one. Prescriptive personalization can be broken down into two main types; explicit and implicit personalization.

Name Description
Explicit personalization Explicit personalization is where a visitor’s profile determines what content they will see.
Implicit personalization Implicit personalization is where the behavior of the user as they navigate a website is monitored and tracked and content is presented to them based on business logic that interprets their clicking pattern into the most appropriate delivery of content.

Adaptive Personalization

Adaptive personalization is a relatively new type of personalization that predicts the content and experience a customer is looking for before and during an interaction. Rather than defining segments and then applying a set of business rules, adaptive personalization continually applies an evolving self- managed set of business rules. Traditionally one weakness of segmentation is that that you have to set up business logic for every segment or block of users you wish to target. Adaptive personalization allows a site to move away from content for the majority to content for the minority. It’s important to keep in mind that this type of technology is in its infancy but it has a great amount of possibilities.
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Thomas Robbins

I spend my time working with partners and customers extending their marketing and technology to the fullest.


Thom commented on

Yes - personalization is all about taking what you know about a person and using it provide a better engagement experience on your site!

Dan commented on

Do you think this technology is useful for the more traditional brochure site? For instance having several home pages each aimed at a different type of client.

Is it possible to know that this is a potential B2B visitor and this is a member of the public? Could I tell that the visitor work for an accountant for instance, and highlight products that are relevant to them?