Acquia Wants To Bring More Intelligent Personalization To Your Website

Acquia, the company which has always been the commercial face of the open source Drupal project, has gotten into Customer Experience Management in a big way, and today at the Acquia Engage conference it announced a new tool called Acquia Lift ContextDB, which is supposed to help understand customer behavior better to deliver more relevant content based on what you learn about them.

The tool provides a cloud-based data warehouse to collect, store and analyze information from known and unknown customers. The former are customers who provide information about themselves, while the latter are customers who come to your site without providing information, but still leave digital footprints with valuable information. It’s part of a suite called Digital Engagement Services that also includes Acquia Lift Target to help target content based on what you know about the visitor such as the device, IP address or geolocation and Acquia Lift Recommend, which uses algorithms based on what you know about the customer to suggest the correct content for the proper device.

The name of the game today is not just to present generic content, it’s to begin to understand your customers better, so that the person who is a regular visitor to your website doesn’t get the same experience as someone who visits for the first time.

In a presentation last year at the Alfresco Summit, Dries Buytaert — who developed Drupal in his dorm room in 2000, later helped found Acquia, and serves as the company’s chief technology officer –described what this means in practical terms. He was conducting a web search for a trip from Boston to London. When he went to one airline’s site, he was taken to a London landing page with pictures of the city and the departure and arrival cities filled in for him. The site presented content in the context of his search.

When he went to another airline site for the same search, he reported he got the generic landing page. There was no information filled in for him, there was nothing about the city or country on which he was searching, and before he had even entered any information, there were several ads for the airline’s credit card. Clearly, there is value in personalization, even just simply pulling information from the search engine that helped get the visitor to your page, and Acquia’s latest product wants to help users understand their customers even better.

The typical way websites personalize is through segmentations, creating different buyer personas that can help present the correct content. A classic example of this is the hotel, which has three distinct personas: the business traveler, families and event planners. Once the site knows a visitor’s typical path, it can present relevant information and the hotel can tailor offers when each type of person visits. That means people who travel on business don’t see offers geared for wedding planners. With its new products, Acquia wants to help track these segments better and even suggest new ones you might not have considered based on the data the tool collects about site visitors.

As Chris Stone, SVP of Products of Acquia, bluntly put it, “In a world of exposed stupidity around retargeting, what people are looking for is consolidation of business intelligence and behavior by understanding the journey customers take through a website, providing the marketing person with the ability to watch, track the journey and understand behavior — whether the visitor is anonymous or known.” In Buytaert’s flight search example, the generic landing page was an example of “exposed stupidity” because it didn’t even attempt to offer the visitor any kind of personalization. This new product allows you to get to know your visitors better, even when you don’t know explicitly who they are.

Scott Liewehr from Digital Clarity Group explained in a presentation on the importance of website content personalization at the Gilbane Conference a couple of years ago, if you went to the same restaurant every Friday night and the same hostess who seated you every week suddenly acted as though she didn’t know you, you would be put off because there is an implicit relationship there. Websites shouldn’t be any different and this suite of products is attempting to give you the ability to understand your customers, so you can begin to have the same kind of personalized  interactions you have with customers in the brick and mortar world.

Acquia has received more than $118M in funding to date including $50M in Series F funding last May.