SDL SmartTarget - Navigation, Search and Promotions

In my last blog post, SDL SmartTarget - An Introduction, I gave an overview of SDL Fredhopper (the underlying recommendations engine behind SmartTarget). I also discussed how SDL SmartTarget brings together the rich targeting functionality of Fredhopper (traditionally used within eCommerce sites) and the proven enterprise content management provided by SDL Tridion, to deliver personalised and targeted website content.

This post provides details about the three mechanisms through which SDL SmartTarget delivers targeted content to your website users:

  1. Promotions
  2. Search
  3. Navigation

1. Promotions

From an editorial perspective, Promotions will be the most frequently created and updated elements within SmartTarget. Thankfully, SmartTarget makes editing Promotions really easy with its 'Targeting' tool, which is integrated alongside the SDL Tridion (and the wider SDL Customer Experience Cloud (CXC)) interface.

Within a Promotion, your editors will configure exactly what content will be shown to your website visitors, as well as where and when.

A screenshot of SDL SmartTarget

With some simple Tridion template changes, your editorial team will be able to target content at specific Regions of pages, using a combination of criteria which match with your users' profiles. For example, you could target specific content at users accessing the site at a specific time of day and using a specific operating system and browser (as seen in the screenshot below).

Screenshot of SmartTarget's When screen

Out of the box, SmartTarget comes with a set of predefined targeting rules for Promotions. In my next blog post, I will go through each of these in more detail, explain how to expand on the out of the box functionality, and show how all of this ties in nicely with Experience Manager to make your editorial experience as simple as possible.

2. Search

To tailor the search results, SDL SmartTarget's Search functionality allows the content within Fredhopper (added through the normal Tridion publishing process) to be queried using search terms, and additional parameters.

As expected, SmartTarget offers a number of 'enhanced search' features, including:

  1. Built-in multilingual support (a must for any product that integrates with SDL Tridion!)
  2. Predictive search
  3. Auto-correction
  4. Context awareness (only display results from a certain section of the website)

Screenshot showing spelling correction  on Toys'R'Us search

The search term can either be taken from text entered into your website's search box, or can be called from within your website code. For example, this could be used to automatically power a 'Popular Search Results' page, or a 'Related Links' promo box.

Unlike Google Site Search or similar tools, Fredhopper allows a significant amount of tailoring of the search collection. The search configuration is done through the Fredhopper Business Manager interface, and allows 'fine tuning' of the search results.

This tailoring can include:

  1. Ensuring that certain results are always returned first for specific search terms
  2. Increasing or decreasing the weighting of certain fields within the search collection. For example, you may want to add extra emphasis to product names over general 'blurb' about the product
  3. Adding terms to the term dictionary (used for autocorrect). This is particularly useful for websites that use domain-specific terminology, or colloquialisms
  4. Defining synonyms (two or more terms that mean the same thing) within your business area

Note: Unlike for Promotions, the SmartTarget Search functionality (and Navigation functionality - detailed below) does not have the same 'fully integrated' configuration interface with SDL Tridion (yet!), and all search configuration - such as that listed above - needs to be done through the Fredhopper Business Manager.

3. Navigation

The SmartTarget Navigation functionality allows 'intelligent' navigation (lists of rich hyperlinks including content images, etc.) to be generated using set navigation criteria. These criteria can take into consideration the user's context, along with other internal business rules. For example, this functionality could be used to produce a list of deep navigation links, based on your website content.

Majestic Wines My favourites navigation

As the Navigation rules are often site-wide, and do not need to be created on a day-to-day basis, they don't need the same editorial interface that the Promotions do. As such, and similar to Search, the SmartTarget Navigation functionality is configured using the underlying Fredhopper Business Manager interface...

Fredhopper Business Manager Navigation Configuration Screenshot

…and is called with API calls from the server side navigation code.

SmartTarget Navigation API Code

In Summary

SmartTarget builds on the search, navigation and targeting power provided by Fredhopper (for eCommerce product information) to enable this functionality for your normal website content.

The main targeting mechanism provided is 'Promotions' (deciding 'what, when and where' to display specific content to your website visitors). These are easily created and updated by your editorial team, but SmartTarget also provides APIs for powering your website's search and navigation.

What's Next?

In my next blog post, I'm going to focus in more detail on the tool for creating Promotions. This is the main aspect of SmartTarget which your editorial team will likely use on a day-to-day basis.

Update (5th December 2014):

Since this blog post was drafted, SDL SmartTarget 2014 SP1 has been released. As well as the three main items listed here (Promotions, Search and Navigation), SDL SmartTarget 2014 SP1 introduces 'Experiments' - a way to display variations of your content and analyse their performance.

Experiments connects to (Google) Analytics to allow you to analyse the performance of each piece of content being test and thus improve the efficiency of your site.

For example, you may have one slot on your homepage where Experiments automatically selects from three different styles of promo banner. You are then able to determine which one is being clicked on the most by users using Google Analytics. This can also be tied into the context of the user, so you can tailor these experiments for specific devices, types of user or referring websites.

This is just a brief summary of the functionality provided by Experiments. I will looks into the features with Experiments in more detail in a later blog post.