Exploring the Capabilities of Geographic Personalization in Sitecore

Exploring the Capabilities of Geographic Personalization in Sitecore

Sitecore 8.1 has a suite of tools to help enrich the customer experience and nurture leads. One of its most influential tools is rule-based personalization, which personalizes content for specific segments of users. Here at Valtech, we are strong advocates for implementing personalization as a key aspect of your web strategy.

While there are a variety of personalization opportunities in Sitecore, we would like to focus on one impactful form: geographic. This form of personalization allows those with Sitecore to tailor their web content according to the geographic location of its site users.

Our Experience with Geographic Personalization

At Valtech, we have had great success with country-level personalization. An example of this is our work with The Rotman School of Management. Rotman had observed a significant segment of site traffic from China and India. Recognizing an opportunity, they paired this insight with their goal to increase international applications. As a result, Nonlinear and Rotman implemented geographic IP personalization rules in Sitecore. These rules would identify when a user was visiting from one of these countries, based on their IP address, and would show them country-specific content. The implementation of these personalization rules were extremely successful, resulting in:

  • A decrease in the sites bounce rate by 23%
  • An increase of visit-durations by 23%
  • Increased of number of pages visited per visit by 14%

Getting Granular: City-Level Personalization

Since our success with Rotman, Valtech has been posed with a new question: how granular can Sitecore’s geographic IP personalization really get? 

The short answer is: very granular. Sitecore can target cities or towns using geographic IP personalization. However, I implore you to read on, so you can learn how to test, implement, and understand the wonderful world of geographic personalization.

Why use city-level geographic personalization?

City-level personalization provides a level of specificity that, when used appropriately, can encourage user interactions and increase click-through rates (CTR). However, before delving into the world of city-level targeting, it is important to consider whether or not this level of granularity is beneficial to your organization.

Reasons you may wish to personalize your web content to a specific city includes:

  • You have identified significant sources of traffic from specific geographic areas and wish to personalize content for these users
  • Your business has multiple locations spanning various cities
  • The type of services offered differ depending on the customer’s location
  • A specific audience you wish to target is found in a concentrated area
  • The population is distinctly dispersed (lots of rural areas separating populated areas)

Context & Implications of Going More Granular

If city-level targeting proves appealing to your business, it is important to note the implications. This form of personalization asks the website owner to be extremely tactical and specific in their targeting. Such precision lends itself to a tailored-experience for those who are within the geographic restrictions, but excludes those outside of this area. As a result, the more targeted your geographic personalization is, the smaller audience you are capturing. For this reason, we suggest ensuring that city-level personalization does not exclude important audience segments you wish to target. 

While city-level personalization targets a select group of users, this specificity is not a hindrance to your websites success. Rather, such granularity, paired with proper tracking, can provide substantive results. Personalization tactics are implemented to enrich the users experience and boost conversions. The best way to measure the success of your efforts are through the identification of specific goals you wish to accomplish, and easily identifiable calls-to-actions (CTA). Through the use of Sitecore’s engagement values and value per visit, you will glean greater insight into the effectiveness of your personalization efforts, and user behaviours. 

Testing

If you believe that city-level targeting is right for you, make sure Sitecore can identify your city of choice, based on a local IP address. Below are the steps to confirm Sitecore’s capabilities:

  1.  Identify your target city (Sitecore can recognize cities within North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Asia, Australia, Antarctica).
  2. Find an IP address from that city (if you do not have a specific IP address you wish to test, a simple Google search should provide you with adequate results).
  3. Copy and paste the IP address in an IP-tester. We used our internal IP testing tool to do this. If you do not have an internal system to test IPs against Sitecore fields, you can use MaxMind’s (Sitecore’s geographic IP service) look-up tool here.
  4. Once you have inputted the IP address, you will receive results outlining what information, and thus, Sitecore geographic personalization rules that can be identified and implemented. This is an important phase, as this test will reveal whether or not Sitecore can recognize the geographic location you wish to target. 

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Image 1: IP Tester Results

Geographic Personalization 2

Image 2: MaxMind IP Tester Results.

Note, that the values that appear in Image 1, correspond to the Sitecore’s geographic IP personalization rules (as seen below). Any fields with “N/A” means that the value cannot be identified with the IP address, and consequently, cannot be used as a personalization rule.

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Image 3: List of Sitecore Geo IP rules.

Sitecore GeoIP Values

MaxMind is able to identify a multitude of values from a specific IP address. It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of the meaning and applicability of each value, prior to delving into any form of geographic personalization. In this section, we will define the values and identify which are most effective.

Recommended Values

  • City: the city which corresponds to the IP address. Highly valuable for city-level targeting.
  • Metro code: A three-digit string that corresponds to the Nielsen Designated Market Area (DMA) IDs. DMA’s, as defined by Neilsen are “the geographic areas in the United States in which local television viewing is measured by the Neilsen Company.” Thus, metro codes are useful metrics for city-level personalization within the United States. For a full list of metro codes, click here.
  • Latitude/Longitude: Geographic coordinates. MaxMind does not recommend using these values if you wish to target a specific household or address, as these coordinates tend to fall near the center of the population. However, for general city targeting, these coordinates can be sufficient should City or Metro Code not be available.
  • Country: the country which corresponds to the IP address. Highly valuable for country-level targeting.
  • Postal Code: 3 to 5-unit string of numbers and letters that identifies an neighbourhood/area for mailing purposes. The length of this value is dependent on the country from which the ISP is from. Although this value is within city-boundaries, it is best used for neighbourhood-specific targeting, and may prove too granular for city-targeting. MaxMind has postal code data for 34 counties.
  • Region: Province or State. Not always available, but worthwhile if you’re looking to target provinces or states, rather than countries or cities.

Not recommended

  • IP Address: Internal Protocol. The string of numbers that identifies a computer and network. This value is specific to an individual computer, and therefore, is not applicable for a city-wide personalization rule.
  • Area Code: the string of numbers that identifies the telephone region. Sitecore is rarely able to identify an area code based on an IP address, and should therefore, not be used when creating geographic personalization rules.
  • Business Name: the name of the organization, institution, or business that belongs to the IP address. Often this value and the ISP correspond, leading to misidentification. As a result, this value is only effective for targeting large businesses or corporations whose have large and identifiable networks. Not good for targeting wider geographic areas or small, local businesses.
  • DNS: Domain Name System. Identifies the primary web domain of that business. Like Business Name, is only beneficial for targeting larger businesses.
  • ISP: Internet Service Provider. A rule using this value will be enacted when a user is a uses a specific ISP, regardless of geographic location.
  • URL: Uniform Resource Locator. The address that identifies a resource on the Internet. Just as Business Name and DNS, this value is best applied for business/organization-specific targeting.  

How to Implement

From the results in Image 1, we can infer that Sitecore can recognize the following values from an Anchorage, Alaska IP address: Business Name, City, Country, DNS, ISP, Latitude, Longitude, Metro Code, Postal Code, and Region. As a result, Sitecore would be able to implement a personalization rule targeting exclusively Anchorage, Alaska, with the most effective values being: City or Metro Code. By implementing the rule, you are declaring that certain content will appear when an individual visits your page from Anchorage, Alaska.

The rule would appear in Sitecore as:

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Image 4: Metro Code rule in Sitecore

or

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Image 5: City rule in Sitecore

Accuracy

According to MaxMind, who provides Sitecore’s geographic IP data, the accuracy of city-level targeting ranges from 57% to 86%. This range is dependent on the radius from the IP address’ location (10km to 50km). The larger the radius, the more accurate the targeting will be. For Canadian cities, the accuracy ranges from 67-86%. For a comprehensive list of countries MaxMind can target, and their level of precision, click here.

This level of accuracy that Sitecore provides will aid in creating relevant campaigns that better serves your users, and enhances their experience on your website.

Sitecore’s geographic personalization is extremely effective for countries and city-level targeting. However, it should be noted that identification becomes trickier for more rural areas. For these areas, and other areas that perhaps are not recognized in Sitecore, setting the neighbouring city as the geographic personalization rule or region-targeting is recommended.

Benefits of Choosing Geographic IP Personalization

Geographic IP personalization in Sitecore is great for businesses that have a range of locations and or geographic targets. City-level personalization provides specific targeting, which can aid in the user’s journey, and encourage conversions. Through enacting a city-level geographic IP personalization rule, you will provide a more seamless user journey, serving relevant content to the right user. Ensure that you have tracking and analytics enabled so that you are able to glean greater insight into the success of your efforts, and better understand your users journey.