What the heck is an eSpot?

eSpot-SpainNo, I am not talking about a municipality in the comarca of the Pallars Sobirà in Catalonia, Spain. (see here if that’s what you are looking for). However, on that page is actually a really good picture of what an eSpot in the sense of WebSphere Commerce is. Think of a place on a web page, a “spot” if you will, that has a boundary and takes up a rectangle in that page. Just like Espot does in the boundaries of Spain, an eSpot is a piece of real-estate that can be controlled by business rules – which are defined by a business team, not the IT staff. Content like HTML, text, pictures, Flash, product recommendations, category recommendations and pretty much anything else web related can exist there.

So let’s get started. I have written about eSpots many times and I even created a video on YouTube that shows how to get content into an eSpot using the business user tooling Management Center – check out that seven minute video here. Just like the map of Spain, if you look at the image below the home page of the starter store, Aurora, has 9 eSpots on it. This means for every rectangle you see in that image a business user can assign content there using the rules engine. The rules engine is a drag and drop rule flow that is very easy to follow (that’s next).

aurora-layout

The rules can be used for all visitors to the site, which would be the default content for any given spot or you could use precision marketing to place content in the spot under defined conditions. Here is a simple web activity that defines the content to be used for a high roller customer segment – meaning, if you are logged into the store and you are in the “high roller” segment you would see this content:

dynamic_segments_ad

That rule essentially reads like this:

  • For the eSpot – “HomePageRow2Ads”
  • And the shopper is in the “High Roller” customer segment
  • Place the “High Roller 10 percent off!” advertisement in this spot

Pretty simple right? Well, that is a very basic rule and you will most likely have multiple conditions in a single web activity or layer multiple web activities. You read that correctly, you can actually layer these rules on top of each other and the one that has the highest priority with a satisfying condition wins! The business tool even allows you to preview your site and look at what eSpot won out using the helper buttons on the preview screen. When you use Site Preview you get a screen that looks similar to the screen below. With Site Preview you can also view the site “as a segment”. Once again, very powerful feature allowing the marketing team to clearly see how the site is going to be viewed by a particular customer segment before committing to the production site.

I can then press the “Show Marketing Spots” button to get a grid view of the different spot on the page.

site-preview

I can then click on one of the I’s and see the rule selection logic:

site-preview2

 

I am not going to dive on that screen but it is a real life saver for the marketing team because if you have a complex rule system you can figure out why a particular content is showing.

Let’s dive a little bit on the technical side of an eSpot. What does the code look like? Here is the HomePageRow2Ads eSpot code on the home page:

<%out.flush();%>
     <c:import url="${env_jspStoreDir}Widgets/ESpot/ContentRecommendation/ContentRecommendation.jsp">
        <c:param name="emsName" value="HomePageRow2Ads" />
        <c:param name="numberContentPerRow" value="1" />
        <c:param name="catalogId" value="${catalogId}" />
        <c:param name="errorViewName" value="AjaxOrderItemDisplayView" />
     </c:import>
 <%out.flush();%>

So you will notice a couple of things about this snippet of code. An eSpot always starts with an import of the widget that is to be used for the spot. When designing your page you should decide what “kind” of content should be in this area – are they products, images, flash, a scrolling list, etc. Then the business user simply assigns the relevant content.

A quick tip: You could actually copy this entire block of code to a new JSP and change the “emsName” and you essentially defined a new eSpot.

The full list of widget types can be found in the development environment under “Widgets/ESpot”. Out of the box you will see this:

  • CategoryRecommendation
  • ContentRecommendation
  • IntelligentOffer
  • ProductRecommendation

You can of course extend these base types or even create your own eSpot type.

Hopefully this was helpful and you can see the power of eSpot technology from a business and content management perspective.

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