I spent a fair amount of time on a blog post at Hedgehog on Sitecore personalization. Its always an interesting exercise to deconstruct a technology system to understand how the parts work together. Its even more interesting to try and explain it. Years spent building and/or marketing applications help me visualize how everything was built, integrated, tweaked and generally made to work together.
In Sitecore’s case, you can see how a number of systems were built up over time and eventually made to work together. First components were controlled by rule sets. Then A/B testing of the component content was required. Which meant a measurement system for deciding on the winner was needed, especially for those without transactional sites. Then someone decided an anonymous visitor classification system made sense, which was added to the rule sets. Next cross-visit automation made sense, which also fed into the rule sets. Then of course email as an extension of the automation sounded good too.
As a system, though, it works very well. While I’d like to see more a pure algorithmic approach to visitor classification, with some value calculations that are more advanced than the manual Engagement Value, the system as designed allows marketers to do a very effective job of sorting visitors into realistic groups and altering their experience.