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Computing Applications The adaptive web

Personalization in Business-to-Customer Interaction

  1. Article
  2. References
  3. Authors
  4. Footnotes
  5. Figures

As electronic catalogs are visited by users having different interests and knowledge about products, the role of personalization in e-commerce has been increasingly recognized [6]. Several B2C tools have been extended with the one-to-one recommendation of products (for example, BroadVision—see Moreover, other systems have been developed to adapt the presentation of information to the user’s physical capabilities [5] and device [4].

SeTA (Servizi Telematici Adattativi)1 is a tool kit for the creation of Web-based stores supporting user-adaptive, multilingual interactions with customers. This system aims to tailor the presentation of products to the customer’s interests and information needs and has been used to develop an electronic catalog describing telecommunication products. The personalized presentation of information is based on three main ideas:

  • Product features specify different types of information such as general data (price), aesthetic information (size, color), and technical information (functionalities, requirements). This characterization is exploited to customize the product presentations, according to the user’s interests.
  • More or less technically detailed descriptions are generated to suit the user’s knowledge.
  • The amount of information presented is tailored to the user’s interests and receptivity, showing only the most relevant data and hiding other details that the user can reach on demand as supplementary information.

The system applies personalization strategies to tailor content, layout, and presentation style to the customer’s interests and knowledge about products, according to information stored in a user model for that customer. Moreover, template-based natural language generation techniques are employed to efficiently produce the presentation content [1]. As such content is generated at the granularity level of the individual product features, significantly different descriptions are produced when describing the same product to different users. For instance, the sample page shown in Figure 1 is tailored to a customer with low receptivity and minimal background in telecommunication products: a few features are described using simple terminology. The sample page shown in Figure 2 presents the same product to an expert, highly receptive user: more detailed and technical descriptions are generated for expert customers.

SeTA uses stereotypical information about customers to initialize the user model. Moreover, it applies unobtrusive user modeling techniques to update the model on the basis of an analysis of the user’s behavior. This is possible because specific information needs are associated with each type of action that can be performed on the catalog pages. For example, clicking on “help” buttons denotes a lack of knowledge about features, whereas inspecting technical details denotes technical interest [3].

A subjective evaluation of SeTA carried out in our laboratories showed that users appreciate the personalization features offered by the system because they contribute to filling the gap between the customer’s view on products and the technical information available about them. In particular, the personalized descriptions help inexperienced customers select goods in an informed way.

The system is based on the multiagent architecture described in [2]. Knowledge representation techniques support the configuration of the tool kit in different domains, and artificial intelligence techniques such as Bayesian networks and rule-based systems enhance its reasoning capabilities. Finally, standard techniques such as XML and XSLT are used for generating the Web-based user interface.

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F1 Figure 1. Presentation of a phone with answering machine.

F2 Figure 2. Alternative presentation of the same model.

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    1. Ardissono, L. and Goy, A. Tailoring the interaction with users in Web stores. User Modeling and User-Adapted Interaction, 10, 4 (2000), 251–303.

    2. Ardissono, L., Goy, A., Petrone, G., and Segnan, M. A software architecture for dynamically generated adaptive Web stores. In Proceedings of the 17th International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, (Seattle, 2001), 1109–1114.

    3. Ardissono, L. and Torasso, P. Dynamic user modeling in a Web store shell. In Proceedings of the 14th European Conference on Artificial Intelligence, (Berlin, 2000), 621–625.

    4. Chittaro, L. and Ranon, R. Adding adaptive features to virtual reality interfaces for e-commerce. In Brusilovsky, P., Stock, O., and Strapparava, C., Eds., Adaptive Hypermedia and Adaptive Web-based System Lecture Notes in Computer Science 1892, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 2000, 86–97.

    5. Fink, J., Kobsa, A., and Nill, A. Adaptable and adaptive information for all users, including disabled and elderly people. New Review of Hypermedia and Multimedia 4, (1999), 163–188.

    6. Peppers, D. and Rogers, M. Enterprise One to One: Tools for Competing in the Interactive Age. Currency Doubleday, New York, 1997.

    1SeTA has been developed at the computer science department of the University of Torino in the project Servizi Telematici Adattativi (, conducted from 1997 and 2000 within the initiative Cantieri Multimediali, funded by Telecom Italia.

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