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Personalisation of WordPress with Zephr – a practical overview (part 2)

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Pragamatic's second Wordpress piece looks at implementation from an architectural and user journey perspective.

In the first part of this two-part series, we considered the success of WordPress as a publishing platform, the benefits of choosing a best-of-breed architecture over a monolith, and we introduced Zephr as an identity and user journey orchestration platform that can be layered over WordPress to deliver immediate business value for B2B publishers.

In this second and last part of the series, we’ll take a more practical look at an implementation both from architectural and user journey perspectives before considering the net effect of this approach.

Illustrative example of a typical Zephr implementation

From an architectural perspective, WordPress and Zeprh both sit within the ‘tools’ layer – or ‘Systems of Differentiation‘ according to Gartner. They both connect with back end systems but in this paradigm, Zephr intercepts the WordPress front end and controls the customer experience.

Implementation in action

So what does this look like for a typical website visitor? What is the overall experience and how can we see the component parts in action?

This example demonstrates a paywall user journey for a simple site configured for a B2B premium content publisher as:

  1. Users can view one article for free
  2. After that they need a paid subscription
  3. There are no other rules or transformations

Check out how WordPress and Zephr work together, overleaf, with steps explained below.

Illustrative steps in a typical user journey

1. User visits an article:

WordPress serves the article, Zephr caches it and grants access to the article for this user as it’s their first article view, recording the visit for that user.

2. User visits a second article:

WordPress serves the second article and again Zephr caches it, but this time it performs a transformation.

Because the user has hit their free article entitlement limit, Zephr transforms the cached WordPress HTML and uses specific DOM elements to swap the article’s content out for a paywall.

3. User visits checkout:

This user does not have an account and chooses to proceed to purchase a subscription (the steps in this process are shortened).

In this case WordPress and WooCommerce are serving up a guest checkout page to the user. In this example, we’ve shown the checkout fields being pre-populated from their Zephr account, assuming that at a different time, the user has filled in other progressive data capture forms, or a registration wall.

4. User is granted instant access:

Assuming the user completes checkout successfully, WooCommerce calls back to Zephr to update the user’s profile and the entitlements are instantly added to the user’s Zephr account, giving them instant access to that second article they were looking to view.

We’ve also included a screenshot demonstrating a data layer to illustrate that you as the publisher can receive a consolidated datalayer that includes detailed, first party data from WordPress, WooCommerce and Zephr into whichever web analytics package(s) you choose.

This is an extremely simple example to illustrate the way that WordPress and Zephr interact: WordPress serves the content, Zephr makes it stateful. The possibilities are endless.

Better experiences, better intelligence

As we discussed in part one, we believe that a best of breed architecture creates huge value for organisations – not least in saving the crippling license fees and lock in often associated with monolithic and proprietary platforms. But one of the most serious challenges we see in a best of breed paradigm is for publishers to build confidence in their ‘next best action’ in terms of progressing their architecture.

We feel a model is required to optimise decision-making around an organisation’s digital roadmap. We present the Intelligence/Experience Maturity Model as that model.

The model demonstrates a complete feedback loop from business intelligence through to customer experience and back. It provides us with an actionable model for understanding what a ‘next best action’ looks like at any stage of a business’ maturity. The model recognises Gartner’s concept of ‘pace layered architecture’ where changes at different levels of the application incur fundamentally different costs and timescales. Every completion of this cycle represents an opportunity to generate progress towards the delivery of whatever the outcome is defined to be: typically customer acquisition at or below a pre-defined cost.

Each part of the model is populated by a combination of software tools and business processes, both of which can be assessed for their potential to be improved in one of two balancing ways:

  • Improving the quality of the output to the next sector
  • Improving the speed of throughput around the cycle

When assessing potential improvements to business intelligence or customer experience, it is the addition of these two metrics that make the model an invaluable way of assessing what new software, expert partner or internal process should be addressed next, as discussed below.

Two quick hacks to find out where the best opportunities lie for your organisation are:

  1. Ask your team which bit of their jobs they dislike the most
  2. Look at where the most human-intensive businesses processes are

Beyond the basics – a personalisation backlog

So, with the combination of high-functioning CMS and identity platform in place, publishers now have the critical components they need in place to start unlocking significant revenue growth and cost savings.

Personalisation-enabled roadmap opportunities:

  • Drive higher engagement through personalisation using recommendation engines for content and products
  • Implement smarter segmentation with user testing for faster iteration
  • Target prospects more accurately for advertising or lead gen revenue streams
  • Improve sales operations efficiency with predictive analytics such as subscription churn propensity
  • Boost your analytics reporting through integration of identity and user journey information into the analytics data layer
  • Progressively profile prospects
  • Implement mixed basket ecommerce for combination physical and digital product sales
  • Introduce ‘My Profile’ functionality to allow users to self-serve commercially and follow particular topics
  • Progressive Web App integration for permissioned offline reading for subscribers

Typical integrations

Some of the most popular integrations we’ve seen to extend this WordPress and Zephr stack include:

  • Sailthru EMS
  • Permutive CRM
  • Google Tag Manager

First party data and the end of third party cookies

Perhaps the most important challenge that Zephr and WordPress solve together is the first party data challenge.

Recently, the Google Chrome team announced that starting in early 2022, third-party cookies will no longer be allowed in Chrome. That means that retargeting and other business-as-usual advertising practices today will have to change – dramatically and quickly.

As the social, regulatory and technical tide turns against third party datasets, the ability to generate, capture, store and interrogate quality first party data sets will become critical to publishers’ success. From this foundational layer of identity and core commercial functionality, a world of opportunity opens up for publishers depending on proposition and audience.

Get in touch to discuss how WordPress and Zephr can help accelerate your roadmap according to I/EMM.


In this two-part series, we’ve presented the case for combining WordPress with Zephr as a best-of-breed architectural solution for B2B publishers that will combine WordPress’ excellence at allowing publishers to reach their audience with great content, with Zephr’s ability to then derive maximum value for both publisher and visitor by engaging each visitor with a personalised experience. There’s a perfect storm brewing for publishers right now: the end of 3rd party cookies, the digital acumen and agility of publishers who are building their own digital stack, moving fast by leveraging best of breed components, and the sheer commercial performance of publishers who are able to generate best possible outcomes for themselves and their visitors through the combination of diversified revenue streams and leveraging their own first party data.

David Lockie, founder and director at Pragmatic.

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