Looking At Website Personalization

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.

Doctor Persona Matching

PersonasWe spent an interesting evening a few weeks back brainstorming on best-in-class elements of the web experience in healthcare. What would the modern hospital system do differently? How would services delivery evolve? How would patients choose doctors? Why can’t every provider system have real-time appointment setting and management like OneMedical?

While a lot of interesting ideas came out of it, many of which we incorporated into our Hedgehog Capability Maturity Model, one in particular really resonated.

When we choose doctors, we are given a little information. A name, a photo, maybe a biography, their credentials, and maybe some research papers published. A few might have a video. How in the world do we know we’re making a good choice?

The more we dug into physician finder experiences, the more it seemed this is an area with great room for improvement. One idea seems very easy to implement that we’re looking to try with one or two of our clients is the persona matching tool for doctor selection.

Wouldn’t it make sense to look for a doctor whose interaction style meshed with yours? Someone who made jokes to keep you loose, or someone very clinical and professional to make you feel more confident in your choices? As you think about this decision, where major changes in your health will rest in this person’s hands, it seems very odd that we do not have better tools for understanding how well a doctor might fit with our personality.

Right now the main mechanism to do this seems to be trial and error. And that is not a very good approach.

We see this persona tool following one of many different paths, but the common thread is a way to characterize patients and doctors in complementary ways, and help them match up with each other to improve their ability to communicate and interact. Sounds an awful lot like a dating site, but shouldn’t that be the model?

I haven’t seen this in the marketplace, but I don’t think it’s a long step to introduce it into the process. Maybe Match will license their algorithms.

“Personas” Image by Nata Branttes used under CC BY-NC 2.0

Fun With Twitter

TwitterLogo_#55aceeSo I have to say it’s been entertaining to spend real time learning Twitter. While I’ve used it for information consumption and keeping track of certain non-FB friends, I haven’t pursued its more conversational and collaborative aspects.

And it turns out you have to be pretty obsessive to make those pay off. When there’s a lot going on, it’s hard to put in the time properly, or to monitor goings on all the time. I’ve found myself falling back into broadcast mode using Buffer – a much easier prospect. In this model I use the time I would curating content anyway and apply it for outbound information.

So far, interesting. But the real connections aren’t yet there. My fault, since I’m not investing anything in them. But that will be the next stage.

Avoiding The Weakest Link

Hudsons Bay Map circa 1917
Hudson Bay Map circa 1917

If you don’t already read RetailWire, you should go sign up now.

One thing they really do well is ask insightful questions drawn from the day’s news.  A recent topic was Janet Schalk’s move from Kohl’s to Hudson’s Bay.  It really got me thinking about how important technology decisions are to the long-term competitive advantage of a retailer.

And that got me thinking as to why this was true.  In my view, the current capabilities of a retailer are the result of thousands of decisions big and small made over the years.  Some of the decisions made long ago constrain today’s operations.

Going forward, successful technologists will avoid creating this problem by choosing much more portable options across the board.  This could be through deployment options (clouds now scale easily and avoid the lock-in from buying hardware), payment options (subscriptions with short cancel clauses vs. enterprise software or long-term subscriptions), and better user experience (much shorter learning curves and smaller switching costs).

The first two are now very widespread – it looks like security concerns are the only real barriers at this point.

I’d say the third is where many battles will be fought.  Its so easy to create applications these days that functionality will become a commodity.  Great user experience driving short learning curves and nominal training requirements will become a huge point of differentiation.

By being portable, avoiding lock-in, and being easy to use, we’ll avoid becoming the pain point for CIOs and drive faster and more widespread adoption.

Image by Wyman Laliberte used under CC BY 2.0

Hello (again) world!


So it looks like ignoring my site for a while has caused fatal errors, including incompatibility between my backups and current WordPress capabilities.  So time to start over.

The timing is good, given I’ve started a new gig as CMO and co-founder of associate.io, a platform for mobile workforce management.  More to come.