Tools centred around user engagement have become synonymous with the modern content management system (CMS). You would be hard-pressed to find a CMS offering out there that does not come with some form of automated marketing baked into the fibre of the product and the ubiquitous term "experience platform" is a tag-line to most CMS products.
In today's digital day and age, unless a website is actively utilising a level of user engagement - whether it be from simple content personalisation through to complex marketing automation - it is no different than a brochure site from the year 2000. In the present digital landscape, businesses are adopting powerful online marketing tools to remain competitive by increasing conversions and maintaining relevance through audience engagement.
So, you have a shiny new Kentico EMS installation with all the power in the world to make make your online marketing dreams come true. What now?
This article series is about empowering you to take the next step and start to make the system work for you. We will look at the basics of setting your system up for effective online marketing and provide simple examples covering three main focus points, which will give you a solid set of skills and tools to start you on your way to online marketing:
- Visitor segmentation - meaningful groups
- On-site content personalisation
- Targeted EDM using marketing automation
CMSs that fall into the Experience Platform category come with a plethora of features. Kentico EMS is no exception and most notably offers content personalisation, marketing automation, EDM campaigns, A/B testing, MVT testing, lead scoring and visitor segmentation to mention a few. As Peter Parker was once told that "with great power comes great responsibility", similarly I have found that "with great power comes great overwhelm" - yes, overwhelm is a noun as I have recently learnt.
So let us take the concept of online marketing and strip it back to the basics. By keeping things simple, we can focus on easily manageable areas of the platform, without being overwhelmed by complexities. We need to look at what the most basic parts of an experience platform are.
When I think about an experience platform in general, the most important piece of the puzzle is the user. The second most important piece is the site content; whether it be an article or a purchasable product. Of course these are not the only components, but in my mind at least, they are the most fundamental. This gives us an "in a nutshell" view and allows us to make uncluttered decisions on taking some simple steps.
Let's look at the first piece of our puzzle, the website user, visitor or whatever noun is meaningful - in our case we will use the Kentico friendly website contact. Whenever someone visits our website, Kentico records them against the database and stores their details and activities. Through time, not only does this contact list grow, but the details pertaining to each contact grow also. If our website is yielding a healthy amount of visits, this contact data will be extensive and detailed.
Without doing much at all apart from switching online marketing on and allowing contacts to be recorded, our contact database will begin to grow with each consequent site visit. In no time at all, website interactions will yield an ever-growing contact database.
Figure 1. Recorded contacts
But site visits alone may not provide the detailed information we need to make our contacts useful. Sure, we will have information pertaining to some user interaction, geography and frequency of visits, but our contacts will remain 'anonymous' entities which can only take us so far in our online marketing endeavours. Quality over quantity is the idea and there are several ways to get more meaningful contacts into our database.
One very effective way is to gather further personal information via an online form. Kentico has a solid online-forms module baked into the CMS with a form builder and all the whiz-bang drag-drop functionality you would expect from an enterprise system. However, to make things even better, each form field can be mapped directly to the attributes pertaining to a site visitor contact.
Figure 2. Online form mapping to contacts database
What does that mean? As per the above recorded contacts figure 1 example, our contacts are recorded as anonymous. If we create a simple contact form with fields for first name, last name and email address, as per the above figure 2 example, Kentico allows us to map those fields to the equivalent contact fields. Whenever a person fills in said contact us form, the contact record related to their site visit/s is updated with the personal information they have submitted via the form. Therefore, the more you are able to entice your onsite users to partake in activities such as form submissions, the quality of the contact list will be greater. The contact entity has an rich subset of fields not simply limited to first name, last name and email address - with the ability to custom-add any fields deemed necessary.
At this point we're doing great. We have set up a mechanism by which we are yielding a database of meaningful contacts. At present, the recorded contacts are a whole lot of records just sitting there idly. Can we make them even more meaningful? The answer is yes, by putting them into meaningful groups. Segmenting is the process of assigning contacts to homogeneous groups, allowing us to target specific demographics - a reason why it is important to ensure our recorded contact data is more than an anonymous entity. Kentico gives us the tools to segment contacts into contact groups or to assign them to personas.
Creating contact groups is a great way of managing your contacts in a meaningful way. Let's suppose you have an online retail business - a clothing store- and would like to target some specific demographics. Your new line might target the millennial 25–39 year old male demographic and you require a series of targeted marketing campaigns to promote your new line. In this case the first thing we need to ensure is that we have a sub-set of contacts who meet this particular demographic. This is where the contact Groups functionality comes in, providing you with the tools to create and number of segmented contact groups based on a sophisticated rule-builder mechanism.
Figure 3. Creating contact group
As per our online store example, we would create contact groups for each specific demographic group we wish to target as shown in figure 3. Next, to ensure that the desired contacts are placed into the group, we mark the group as condition-based and using the powerful rule builder, we define conditions. As per figure 4 below, Kentico provides a set of predefined rules (right) which we can drag-drop into a rule designed workspace (left) and customise as we see fit.
Figure 4. Contact segmentation via the rule builder
Once the conditions for the contact group are set, we perform a group rebuild and the contacts that match the conditions are assigned to our group. We can also schedule a rebuild so that on a periodic basis contacts are scanned within the system and the group relevance is maintained through regular updates.
Similar to contact groups, personas also allow us to segment contacts into specific homogeneous groups. However, where contact groups are great at giving us snapshot segments based on very specific criteria, contacts are placed in only one persona based on a combination of their attributes and behaviours. If a contacts behaviour changes, they may be placed into a different persona. This helps keep contacts in relevant groupings and once personas are defined, the CMS does all the hard work from there on in. Leaving us free to focus on creating content and campaigns around the personas our CMS is maintaining.
In the marketing field, personas are a specialised area with an abundance of literature written on the topic. In this article, we won't go into the art of personas in depth, as that would require a whole article of its own and even that would only scratch the surface, but we will look at how easily Kentico let's us create and manage personas.
Let's go back to our online store example. Suppose our marketing department is driving a new initiative to increase sales and they have identified a particular type of online customer that will be key to making this a success. According to marketing, the specific type of customer, who has been named Victoria, fits the following description. On a personal note, strange as it may seem, I find naming each persona to be the most difficult.
- Aged 24–35
- Stays up to date on fashion news
- Hesitant buyer
- Window shopper
Figure 5: Victoria
The marketing team have laid out a 6 month online marketing plan comprising online campaigns and a personalised website experience for this key persona. As such, let's look at how we can create this Victoria persona in Kentico.
Figure 6. Creating a new persona
We define our new persona by providing some basic information such as a name and an image, which helps us to think of it as a person - remember a persona is representative of a type of user and thinking of them as a person helps paint a clear picture of your target audience. Before we go on, an important setting to note is the point threshold. For contacts to be placed into a persona, there are certain criteria they must meet by way of predefined rules. Each time a contact meets a required rule, they are given a cumulative score and when this score meets or exceeds the point threshold, said contact is placed into the persona.
We will set up a combination of persona rules comprised of personal attributes and website behaviour. Personal attributes are easy, as long as our contact database holds the required data as we saw earlier in this article. For this example let's assume we have a series of online forms which capture, among other details, gender and age. This should ensure that we have the personal attribute data for our persona - on a portion of our contacts.
Let's set up a gender rule, being of the female gender, which is a rule based on a contact attribute.
Figure 7. Rule based on contact attribute
Next, let's look at the activities our website contact might need to do in order to be in the Victoria persona. By maintaining a wish list, we can assume the contact is a window shopper. By abandoning the cart on several occasions, we can also assume the contact is a hesitant buyer. Lastly, by visiting the site's fashion news section and having a subscription to the monthly newsletter, we can safely assume the contact likes to stay on top of fashion news.
Let's set up a recurring wish list rule, based on the activity of adding an item to the wish list.
Figure 8. Rule based on activity
Because we want ensure the contact maintain's a wish list with several products and not just as a one off, we will make this a recurring rule. Each time a product is added to the wish list, the rule accumulates 10 points, capped at a maximum of 50. This means to qualify for this rule, the contact had to have added a product to the wish list at least 5 times.
Figure 9. Recurring rule settings
Our complete set of rules will be a combination of desired contact attributes and a set of activities that the contact has done. The rules will look something like this:
Figure 10. Complete set of rules to gather contacts into the Victoria persona
Our website will now be automatically maintaining a persona for our marketing team to target with engagement techniques ranging from a personalised content banner to a full blown marketing campaign.
In summary, the first step towards working with an online marketing platform is to yield a meaningful audience. Kentico gives us the tools to segment our website visitors into contact groups for a very specific targeted audience; and personas, for a more in-depth user type definition which contacts fall into organically based on personal attributes and activities.
In part two of this three part series, we will explore how we can utilise our segmented contacts to create a personalised website experience. Stay tuned for content personalisation, the next piece of the puzzle on the Kentico EMS online marketing journey.