Friday, March 16, 2018

Innovation Abounds at the 2018 Episerver Ascend Customer Conference

Platforms / Innovation / Technology

Anyone currently invested in, or seriously considering the Episerver platform, has plenty of reasons for optimism about the future. The Rightpoint team and I attended this year’s Episerver Ascend customer conference in Las Vegas, and were constantly impressed by the continued evolution of the platform and the innovation being crafted by Episerver, the partner community and Episerver customers around the world.

One of the reasons that the Ascend conference is so valuable is because it allows access to the best and brightest members of the Episerver product development team, who are able to showcase the future direction of the platform. A few key highlights from this year’s roadmap preview include:

  1. Episerver Advance. Building upon the previous success of Episerver Perform (which uses automated machine learning and intelligent algorithms to automate recommended products in commerce projects) comes the introduction of Episerver Advance, which seeks to deliver powerful, automated and intelligent content recommendations in a compelling manner. Commerce functionality tends to leverage structured product information in a way that is comparatively easier to deliver automated recommendations, but delivering this same experience for content has always been difficult. Episerver has not only solved this with Advance, but has actually incorporated the idea of showcasing recommended content not just based on reading patterns, but as part of a larger understanding of the role of content within a buying cycle. James Norwood, Episerver’s CMO, offered an example of how that works when selling software. According to Norwood, Advance understands that users may want to see a white paper before attending a webinar and then scheduling a software demo. Episerver Advance automates this relationship, showing the right content to potential buyers at the right time. It’s incredibly impressive and is seen as an absolute game changer, especially for higher content sites with many possible buying and content consumption paths.
  2. FIND. FIND, Episerver’s innovative search technology, continues to grow in its capabilities. FIND already distinguishes itself from other search technology by filtering its search results based on the search result activity of other users of the site, but this is now being extended down to the individual level, rather than an aggregate of other activity by site visitors in general. If you have ever done a Google search while logged into your Google account, you’ll instantly understand the power of this approach to delivering a more compelling and personalized search experience. FIND will now allow website owners to provide this kind of experience to Episerver-powered websites.
  3. Episerver Campaign. Episerver Campaign is a new component of the platform that fills a gap that previously existed around email-based campaign management. Customers using Campaign now have a completely integrated approach to leveraging website content and the authoring experience into email campaigns. Paired with Episerver’s commerce and analytic capabilities, Campaign offers an easier and faster solution than trying to use third party tools like Exact Target or Salesforce Marketing cloud. Even more compelling, Episerver also offers a tool called Reach that uses automated email triggers to re-engage customers who have visited the site recently or abandoned a shopping cart. Incredibly, this new functionality also allows the follow-up messaging to be completely personalized to the individual user.
  4. Episerver Insight. Arguably one of the most compelling features to be discussed is the use of Episerver Insight, which combines the sizable set of site traffic, usage and profile statistics available within Episerver with machine learning and AI-based approaches to automate insight development and recommendations for website owners and marketers. The challenge with any kind of analytic platform is to glean meaningful information and necessary next step actions based on the usage data. Insight automates this and presents key content and commerce recommendations to marketers. A fun example demonstrated in the keynote presentation shows a men’s clothing store using Insight to identify the fact that men with beards tend to buy more fashionable suits and as a result, the website owner should showcase colorful suit selections to those users over other types. It’s one of the most impressive examples of utilizing many features of Episerver (in this example, internal and external analytics, commerce, personalized content and email-based follow-ups in response to visitor activity) to provide a business-level understanding that has meaningful business impact.
  5. Micro services. The continued evolution of micro services was also showcased at Ascend. Building upon the success of the headless CMS model, Episerver is now expanding the amount of micro services that are available for use by external applications. This is a critical component to extending Episerver’s features and capabilities to native mobile applications, voice-driven experiences and even AR and VR experiences. It also represents another fundamental way in which the investment in the Episerver platform can be further justified.

Taken together, these features showcase the fact that Episerver is unique in the marketplace in its ability to leverage multiple data and content patterns and combine them with multiple ways of customer engagement (search, personalized content, email follow-ups) to deliver compelling ways to solve the content and commerce riddle that each customer represents. While it may be possible with other tools to come close to what Episerver offers, the final distinguishing factor here is the full and complete integration that the platform offers. Accomplishing similar results with other tools requires expensive integration, multiple vendors and custom programming. Episerver’s integrated approach means a faster build and the ability for customers to redirect their budget and content focuses on crafting more dynamic and personalized experiences for their customers.

We’d love to talk about what this means for your business. To learn more about Episerver, please contact Rightpoint.

Brian Browning is VP of Digital Experience Solutions at Rightpoint. Follow Brian on Twitter and LinkedIn.