November 15, 2018 by Jacqueline Baxter

Parsing Sitecore Profiles and Pattern Cards

Contextual marketing is an absolute must for modern marketing. Keeping visitors engaged and using contextual marketing tools to get them the right information at the right time and Sitecore personalization can help you get there. It’s a high impact feature (or set of features) of Sitecore that is both less and far more complicated than it might seem at first glance.  

A lot of personalization within Sitecore is Rules based, allowing you to specify that if a certain condition is met – such as a specific campaign being triggered during the visit or where the current interaction is on the specified channel – then the content is personalized based on that specific condition being met. Profiles, Profile Keys, and Pattern Cards are part of Sitecore’s Predictive Personalization tools; a term like Behavioral Targeting would be just as applicable. Predictive Personalization is one way to target specific segments of a visitor base on a website – identifying certain actions, tracking, and analyzing them, and finally mapping those visitors who have taken those actions to a predefined pattern.  

Profiles, Profile Keys and Pattern Cards are some of the higher-level personalization tools in Sitecore; within the Hedgehog Personalization Maturity model, they’re classified as third tier because they  

A) require strategic thinking; and  

B) have a few more moving parts than, say, Campaigns or Referral Sites.  

Personalizing off Sitecore Campaigns or the visitor’s referral site is relatively simple because the information needed to personalize (where the visitor is coming to the site from or which campaign drove them to the site) is essentially handed to us. Profiles and Patterns, on the other hand, require a strategic approach that considers the target audience, the goals of the organization, and the customer funnel. It’s important to note that this kind of strategic foundation is essential to the success of Profiles and Pattern Cards.  

Pro Tip: No matter how strong the impulse, resist the urge to skip the foundational stage of personalization. It’s not as exciting as implementing the on-page tools but it can and will save a great deal of time and money in the long run. 

When it comes to Profiles and Patterns, the key difference is what they relate to. Pattern Cards relate to your visitors and are assigned to them according the content they have viewed or interacted with on your website.  

Pro Tip: Visitors can only be mapped to one Pattern Card at a time, but that Pattern Card can change as the visitor moves through the website and interacts with different pieces of content. 

Pattern Cards can also be used for Rules Based Personalization once they’re configured. Profiles, on the other hand, are a collection of profile keys and relate to web content; they’re are strategically assigned to Sitecore items rather than to people. 

This is where the need for foundational strategic thinking becomes clearer. Profile Cards are made up of a collection of Profile Keys, so first you must know the specific attributes you want to track. Once you’ve decided on those, you must decide as a company how those profile keys relate to the profiles you want to build.  

Pro Tip: There are dozens of ways to combine Profile Keys to build Profile Cards and keeping your Profile Keys as broad characteristics that are important to your business or brand (and holding the number of Profile Keys to a reasonable number) will help to keep the Profile Cards – and their radar charts - from overlapping. It’s tempting to want to boil the ocean on Day 1 of personalization use but beginning with realistic goals and carefully scaling out can be incredibly effective in the long run.  

Once they’re set up, effective use of Profile Cards means being very pro-active and engaged with your content strategy. This can be a helpful exercise for your team, because a good content strategy requires targeting certain segments of your audience (and doing it right can lead to massive success). Profile Cards are another measurable, trackable way to do that. Tying your content strategy to your customer experience to build a streamlined, functional user experience will never steer you wrong. This also gives you the opportunity to measure those customer segments, so you can keep track of how they’re changing and what adjustments you need to make to further optimize your website.  

At Hedgehog, we live for this stuff. If you’d like to chat strategic implementation, profile definitions, or pattern card radar charts, reach out to us!  

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