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28 Website Personalization and Recommendations Software Tools

Product, offer and content recommendation services to help retailers and other businesses nurture prospects and increase conversion

The website personalization tools we recommend in this article enable you to segment visitors and then deliver personalized messages of the 'next best product' or 'next best content' within containers on your website as with the classic Amazon personalized recommendations (read their published methodology from this fascinating whitepaper from back in 2003). I originally wrote this post in 2010 when there were fewer personalization options. I have updated it annually since with recommendations provided via social media - do get in touch if you have a suggestion - TIA!

This is the latest 2017 update where we compare the full range of options from free personalization tools to low-cost and enterprise services across these four categories:

  • 1. Analytics tools based personalization
  • 2. Retail personalization
  • 3. Content or commerce management system personalization
  • 4. B2B website personalization as part of marketing automation

Defining personalization

The opportunities for applying personalization are now much wider than the initial retail product recommendations.  This definition of personalization from my Digital Business and Ecommerce management book shows the opportunities for applying personalization in all types of business.

"Digital experience personalisation is the dynamic serving of customised content, product or promotional offer recommendations to website visitors or app users based on their characteristics and intent behaviour to support conversion and long-term engagement goals".

Although many of us will have experienced personalization through retail product recommendations like those from Amazon, the definition shows the relevance of personalization to all types of businesses. For example, even B2B companies that don’t sell online can use personalization to recommend relevant 'next best content' offers to sustain prospects’ interest in a business and so nurture them towards a sale.

The four categories of personalization and recommendations services

Category 1. Personalization integrated with web analytics

When web personalization services first appeared, they were part of expensive analytics solutions only available to the largest businesses, but today there are many services suitable for small businesses. These are two of the original services which are available today in a new guise and then a completely 'new kid on the block'.

  • Adobe Target is one of the most established personalization engines evolving from the original Touch Clarity back in 2004 and then integrated into the Omniture analytics suite as Test and Target
  • IBM product recommendations - Coremetrics Intelligent Offer was widely used by retailers for analytics, but since acquisition by IBM has been offered as a separate product.
  • Google Optimize 360 - This is the most recent analytics service offer added in the latest update to this page. Optimize is available free as AB Testing to all GA users, with some personalization features, but the full version of this Personalization option is only available to enterprise subscribers currently.

Category 2. Personalization Software as Service (SaaS) for Ecommerce

The second category we review here is specifically for Ecommerce merchandising giving automated product placements using aggregated behavioural data (those that viewed this, also viewed that) and personal recommendations (you previously bought this and might like that).

These options can be considered the top 10 retail personalization services that should be on your long-list for comparing if you're looking for a service which is separate from your ecommerce or content management solution.

If you're looking for a structured comparison between personalization services, I recommend this table-based feature comparison of personalization services from agency Freshegg.

Category 3. Personalisation features available as part of CMS or Commerce management systems

The third category wasn’t mentioned in the original post since personalization features were limited in CMS when the post was originally written in 2010, but I have updated in line with a suggestion in the comments.

According to the comment from Damien of Digicon, EpiserverSitecoreKentico and Adobe with Target have built-in tools to personalize content based on various rules, such as geo-location, search terms, referrers, lead scores and also provide more advanced personalization based on user behaviour and profiles.

Episerver has an interesting approach to personalization which they describe as 'No-rules personalization: more intelligence, less-work'. Rather than traditional rules-based personalization used by many of the specialist services, this applies machine learning and statistical analysis to visitor behavioral data to tailor category and product pages without the need for rules configuration.

The open source Ecommerce solution Magento also has personalization extensions available such as Product Personalisation, Commerce Stack.

Category 4. B2B, marketing automation, and publisher website personalization tools

Evergage is recommended as a tool that fits best in this category that has a wide range of options for serving personalization for content marketing in different placements on a site. Other alternatives for B2B personalization or non-retail consumer personalization are:

In the same what that the content management systems now integrate personalization, marketing automation systems have now started to include this option. These include:

  • HubSpot - includes a 'Smart Content' feature to provide relevant content. They explain: ' With Smart Content you can deliver content specifically tailored to where a prospect is in the buying process, or content targeted to people the very first time they visit. Smart Content lets you target content based on anything you know about your contacts which are known as personalization tokens'. It also offers personalization of calls-to-action.
  • Marketo - Marketo has rules to convert the majority of anonymous visitors to a site based on previous interactions with site content. It also offers account-based marketing targeting of key accounts.
  • Salesforce - This service uses the 'Einstein' AI feature for personalization to deliver the next-best product

Of course, Recommendations aren’t limited to websites only, as you will know from Amazons’ newsletters. To learn more, I recommend this article explaining the inner workings of email marketing recommendation engines which reportedly boost click rates by 50-400%. It shows what to look for when finding the right tool to serve the recommendations inside your newsletter.

Thanks for all the comments sharing options in the post so far, please share others you recommend to build this list via our Twitter @Smartinsights.

By Dave Chaffey

Dave is CEO and co-founder of Smart Insights. He is editor of the 100 templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ Digital Marketing experts. Our resources used by our Expert members in more than 80 countries to Map, Plan and Manage their digital marketing. For my full profile, or to connect on LinkedIn or other social networks, see the About Dave Chaffey profile page on Smart Insights. Dave is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Emarketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing.

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