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5 Tips for Using Sitecore to Personalize your Healthcare Website

Leading healthcare organizations are investing in personalized digital experiences. Here are five tips to get started with web personalization or improve your current efforts.

Personalized online experiences have been popular for a few years now, inside and outside of healthcare. If you’re currently using Sitecore, personalization capabilities were probably a big factor in what drew you to the platform.

But the level to which healthcare organizations actually find value from personalization fluctuates dramatically.

According to Geonetric’s 2020 Digital Healthcare Marketing Trends Survey, there has been increased use of marketing personalization across the board at hospitals, particularly amongst leaders who stand out in their use of personalization in email communications, online advertising, and websites. For the web specifically, 44% of healthcare marketing leaders personalize the experience in some way as compared to only 21% of respondents overall. Nearly one in five respondents do not use personalization anywhere in their marketing.

The fact is, offering your site visitors a more custom web experience keeps them more engaged and helps you stand out against competitors. But to do it well often requires a lot more from your team and your platform.

5 Tips for Making the Most of Web Personalization

Why does personalization matter? Instead of proving one, broad website experience, personalization allows you to present your site visitors with an online experience that is tailored to their needs. The concept has been perfected by Amazon and other eCommerce giants who use data about site visitors to provide relevant product recommendations. In fact, according to Epsilon research, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer a personalized experience.

Personalization is newer to the healthcare space, and while some organizations have been using it for years, most healthcare marketing teams are just starting or slowing iterating on initial attempts.

Regardless of where you are at in your website personalization journey, here are five tips that will help you get started or improve the efforts you’re making today.

Tip #1: Know your target markets and high-value segments

If you don’t have a clear picture of your target audiences, you’re not ready for personalization. Defining your audience is the number one place to start. This begins with a clear understanding of your organization’s business models, target markets, and what makes each segment valuable.

Along with this internal, strategic perspective, it’s good to gather any available data about visitors to your digital properties. Most organizations use three types of data to build personalized digital experiences:

  1. Behavioral data: This data gives you insights into what the website visitor has done on the site before? What pages did they visit, what assets did they download, and what events did they register for?
  2. Demographic data: Data around a geographic location or other insights you can gain from their IP address.
  3. Contextual data: This includes device and browser data, if they are anew or returning visitors, or what source referred them to your site.

We all know data tells a story, and in the case of personalization, it helps you understand your customers intimately and hopefully even predict how to solve their next needs. At this stage, a great way to capture that story is through thoughtful user personas for your target audience segments, mapping the customer journey, and also collecting useful data.

So before you get too far in your personalization journey, make sure you have developed personas, mapped customer journeys, and are using analytics tools like Google Analytics to collect the data you will need to create dynamic customer profiles and create customize the experience.

Tip #2: Start with a solid user experience as your foundation

Now that you have a good understanding of the business results you need to achieve and who is visiting your site, it’s really best to use that information not to jump directly into building out personalization rules, but to take a hard look at the user experience on your site today. If the patient journeys that support your business goals aren’t supported today with strong content, solid navigation, and the ability to transact, no amount of personalization will fix that.

Think of it this way — good personalization makes it easier for a user to engage with your content, and broadly this is accomplished by reducing the number of options the user has to sift through or presenting more specific or relevant options. Regardless of how you personalize content, the base experience has to be strong enough to provide value with or without the personalization. As an example, geotargeting isn’t going to help your users much if you don’t have good, location-based content for your users to consume.

Heatmapping software like Hot Jar can also be useful to see how your site visitors are really using your site. These kinds of tools can help you identify gaps in your site’s UX, so you can make any adjustments necessary before you create a personalization strategy.

Tip #3: Start small and build

Once you understand your visitors and are certain you have a solid UX foundation, you can start to build some audience segments to deliver relevant on-site experiences.

Sitecore recommends the development of a Digital Relevancy Map as a way to create a plan for defining groups of users and determining what data you have available to learn more about your users and drive personalization. When you’re just getting started, the most common types of data you’ll have at your disposal are default data such as device, campaign, location and date and time. You’ll also have gathered data such as clickstream, visits, pages, forms and goals. These two categories of data types are well-suited for rule-based personalization tactics.

Using the data available to you, you can create segments of visitors who have something in common and would benefit from a similar experience. Some popular audience segments in healthcare include:

  • First-time visitors: Just like your proven “Welcome to the neighborhood” mailings, you can welcome new users to your site and help them get on a path to finding a location or doctors.
  • Location-specific content: Using geolocation is a quick win to delivering content that matches where your users are from.
  • Inbound traffic: If someone is visiting your site from an email you sent connected to a certain marketing campaign, you can use that knowledge to serve up more relevant content.
  • Customer journeys: From researching symptoms to treatment to follow-up care, using your patients’ healthcare journeys to deliver custom content helps deliver the right information to them at the right time.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when it comes to creating target segments. Focus on where you can get quick wins and go more advanced as you build skills. Then, gradually incorporate other types of data such as inferred, zero-party and external data.

The hardest part of personalization comes with scaling. That’s why the pros suggest starting small and capitalizing on wins. Creating full-scale page and entire site variations becomes unmanageable quickly. In the coming years, artificial intelligence will be increasingly used in personalization strategies for just this reason. For now though, as you get started, consider each page in the journey you are optimizing as having independent elements that can be personalized to the visitor. Common elements that can change to match an audience include:

  • Hero image and hero headline
  • Search results and promoted lists
  • The call-to-action (CTA)
  • Patient testimonials
  • Featured content, like blogs or events

For healthcare, it’s common to even change our hero images based on geographical information or time of day – something as simple as switching heroes to after-hour walk in clinics instead of primary care doctors can improve and personalize the experience.

According to the 2020 Healthcare Digital Marketing Survey, personalization of web experiences through geographic targeting is the most common approach in use today amongst respondents. So changing heroes or CTAs based on the site visitor’s location, showing doctors, clinics, or events closest to them.

User-provided preferences (asking site visitors to make selections explicitly to personalize the experience) are only used by 10% of respondents, although 24% of leaders who personalize the web experience use this technique.

Tip #4: Continuously test, track and improve

Establishing an iterative cycle framework is imperative to successfully managing and executing a program

Personalization is an ongoing effort — not a one-time project

That same survey reported that respondents’ abilities to demonstrate the value of personalization improve each year. In 2020, 25% agree or strongly agree that personalization has improved digital marketing performance.

So, as healthcare marketers get more sophisticated with their personalization efforts so does their ability to prove ROI. Be ready to test your efforts, measure and then improve and test again. Some tactics that help:

  • A/B Testing: Use two versions of one page with one variable changed to determine which performs better.
  • Conversion Funnel Optimization: Through your marketing automation platform or Google Analytics, you can create a conversion funnel that follows website traffic patterns that lead to the desired outcome. Start by tracking first with no personalization to create a baseline, then monitor the same funnel with personalization enable. Do you get more clicks on your CTA?

As with all digital marketing, to get at true ROI means having your CRM and website working together so you can trust downstream revenue. The same is trust for personalization – get those platforms sharing information so you can track those leads in the short and long term.

Tip #5: Build the right team

According to Sitecore research, 31% of marketing leaders said that their internal staff’s capabilities were one of the main barriers to delivering more personalized experiences. And according to Gartner, 63% of markers struggle with personalization tech.

This just goes to show, doing personalization right requires the right team and the right skillset. Whether you build it internally or secure it with vendor partners, you need these types of skills to make personalization a success:

  • Content marketing
  • Digital analyst
  • Digital strategist
  • Marketing technologist
  • UX designer or architect

Ready to get personal?

At Geonetric, we’ve helped with both the strategy and implementation of personalized online experiences across a number of platforms, including Sitecore, and can help you get started or get farther ahead. Let’s talk and see how we can help you use personalization to engage and convert your site visitors.

Holly Fields

Digital Solutions Director

5 Tips for Using Sitecore to Personalize your Healthcare Website