Introduction to Sitecore Advanced Marketing and xDB capabilities

Sitecore clients are poised to start capitalizing on the power of the Experience Platform (formerly DMS), but many are overwhelmed as to where to begin. They’ve seen the demo—they understand Sitecore has tools that help them know their customers and personalize experiences based on behavior. But then what?

This is where we at HI come in. In this series of posts, we’ll lay the foundation for predictive personalization in Sitecore. We’ll help you make sense of Profile Keys, Profile and Pattern Cards, Goals and Campaigns, and we’ll provide instruction on using the rules engine to target content.

You’re ready, but where do you start?

The big question! I’m approaching this series with the assumption that you and your organization have undertaken instrumental strategic and user-experience planning sessions while designing your marketing goals and website. These initiatives offer keen insight into your users’ behavior. So, before we dig in, you should:

  • know the types of users visiting your site and buying your product.
  • have defined personas and/or customer or visitor segments.
  • have mapped out the customer journey of your personas or segments.
  • possess a strong grasp of your goals for each user group.
  • know what content is tailored to each segment—and have tagged it accordingly.
  • are familiar with inbound activities driving users to the site.
  • be familiar with the content authoring experience in Sitecore.

Once you have all of the above in place, you’re truly ready to get started—which means approaching things from a data standpoint. Now we’ll determine how we can optimize each user’s experience with the support of user categorization.

Sitecore User Categorization

I recommended getting started by first setting up your visitor segments and tagging your content to gain insights into your users’ behavior. Once that’s in place, you’re ready to set up user categorization.

Where to start?  Many Sitecore clients get tripped up over the difference between profile cards, profile keys and pattern cards. Here are some simple definitions of each:

Profile: a category of visitor to your website

Profile Keys: personality attributes that apply to your profiles

Profile Card—Personas: descriptions of the lifestyle, habits, background, interests and profession of a user. Creating profile cards and profile keys allows you to classify the visitors to your website. The profile cards and keys you create should reflect the interests of the personas for whom you designed your website.

Pattern Cards: a category of the behavior and interests of the user based on the content they consume

Profile Values: a value corresponding to the interests and behavior of the visitor

Now let’s discuss the order of operations. It’s best to start by clearly defining your personas. For example, let’s say our client is a bank with products for customers based on different stages of life. Let’s categorize the site's users.


  • Young: under 35 years old
  • Middle Aged: 35–60 years old
  • Senior: 60+ years old

Profile Keys:

What attributes/behaviors apply to each profile?

  • Opening a checking account
  • Saving
  • Funding college
  • Looking for a loan
  • Ready to retire

Profile Card—Personas:

Personas humanize your segments and make it easier for your content authors to categorize content.

  • Yanni Young Person
  • Mary Middle Age
  • Sally Senior

Personas include multiple weighted profile keys to define the user. For example, on a scale of 1 to 5 (this scale and these values are the profile values), Mary Middle Age could have the following profile keys attached to her:

  • Opening a checking account: 1
  • Saving: 3
  • Funding college: 5
  • Looking for a loan: 3
  • Ready to retire: 2

Pattern Cards:

Pattern cards are very similar to profile cards—they are a collection of profile values and keys, but they have different purposes. When a visitor navigates through the site and views different pages and consumes different resources, they accumulate the profile values of all the pages and resources they request. Sitecore calculates the average score the visitor has accumulated for each profile and maps the visitor to the pattern card that is the closest match.

Next, we’ll discuss how to set up these elements in Sitecore.