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Key Lessons Coming Away from Episerver Ascend17

Episerver’s flagship conference held in Las Vegas last week was entertaining, professional, and inspiring. However, if you attended the same conference in 2015, then you would already know that's exactly what to expect. And it’s nothing if not a learning experience, whether you’re uncovering features of the product, their strategy, or simply where we all are as an industry and a community.

Here are a few takeaways I brought back through the haze of good times and air travel.

Episerver Took a Massive Leap in 2016

I had the pleasure of joining the strategy and roadmap portions of Episerver’s partner day prior to the start of the conference, as well as James Norwood’s welcoming keynote, and in both presentations one fact stood out as immediately obvious: Episerver has grown.

Stage at Episerver Ascend Conference.  Red curtain with Epi logo.By this time, it feels like old news that last year Episerver acquired companies Peerius and Optivo. The former a vendor of omnichannel personalization and intelligence and the latter providing email and omnichannel marketing services. What was a bit less clear until the conference were the specifics in how these would be packaged and integrated for Episerver customers.

Looking at the roadmap this week, and comparing it to what I remembered from half a year ago, Episerver’s offering has seemingly exploded with new and exciting potential.

Email & Triggers

Most Episerver customers do some form of email marketing and most partners who implement Epi also have some working experience with at least one or two email marketing systems of various sizes. Episerver as a CMS really shines in this area compared to many of its competitors because it’s far more of a best-of-breed, extensible platform. This means that Episerver is really great at allowing you to plug into the systems you’re already using.

But for those who are looking for an even tighter integration with their CMS, or just for one vendor to supply a bit more of your marketing needs, Episerver is now ready to go that mile with you. As a result, they’re also better able to compete in the enterprise market, addressing a more complete set of marketing tasks in a cloud-based platform. A fact that we’ve seen evidenced in their jump within the most recent Forrester Wave™ for Web Content Management Systems

Why this Matters

From the sound of it, users can apply highly refined personalization to their email engine. Why is this great? Because I’d love to stop getting emails from Disney about princesses (for my truck-loving 6-year-old son) or from Best Buy about football (sports harder!). Make it personal, make it relevant, and people unsubscribe less and listen more. The more we know our constituents and can act on that knowledge to give them a better experience, the more they’ll do business with us.

Omnichannel Marketing

Episerver also introduced their audience to automated, omni-channel personalization. As highlighted by CMS-Connected, personalization as a feature or a strategy is a key driver for Episerver Ascend attendees. Though CMS vendors have been touting these features for years (Ektron started in the 2009-2010 timeframe), they’ve seldom seen widespread adoption for any vendor. Not because the features don’t perform as claimed, but because personalized marketing is more challenging from a business and process perspective.

Enter Episerver Advance and Perform. These tools make use of machine learning around your content and product data, respectively, to push relevant items to each visitor. The result is more than just rule-based personalization that targets large groups or segments of visitors. It’s an individualized experience that can tailor the content of the page, email, or other channel messaging to the unique qualities of the user.

Why this Matters

In short, it makes the most of the content you already have by automatically applying personalized recommendations. This helps cover cross, or up, selling in commerce and near-miss rewards in marketing sites. If you can abstract that process out and automate it (with human moderation), then you stand to give yourself a solid boost to your conversions.

Insightful Data

With all of these new capabilities--especially those that tackle channels other than web--one would think it a good idea to have some way to persist the experience that’s being delivered to the same visitor across all of them. Naturally, Episerver’s already thought of that. And because of their best-of-breed platform approach, there are new ways to add value using other solutions in your digital ecosystem.

Episerver is now offering “visitor intelligence,” which features a profile store, with enrichment via 3rd-party data stores (CRM, ERP, or marketing systems), that tracks each of the various touch-points you have with your customers throughout their journey.

Why this matters

Whether you love or hate the term big data (I’m not a fan), we can all agree that collecting data--the right data--is critical to the ongoing success of any organization. The problem with “big data” is that it encouraged companies to start collecting data (good) but never really gave them a way to make any of that data meaningful (bad). So while databases were being filled at a record pace, no one was using that information to drive decisions. With Episerver’s new intelligence features, we hope to see better understanding for the meaning of data trends and therefore more action that leads to better business for your consumers.

If you’d like to know more about what Episerver is up to and what you can do with these technologies to increase engagement with your visitors or members, drop me a message at jstout@brightfind.com.

James Stout

Written by James Stout