EPiServer’s place in the omnichannel marketing suite

For mine ikke-engelsk-sprogede læsere skal jeg beklage at dette blog-indlæg er på Engelsk – jeg mødtes i torsdags med EPiServers to chefer for produktudvikling – David Bowen og Bob Egner og indlægget er mine refleksioner om dette. I respekt for hans input og for at give ham mulighed for at kunne læse indholdet, har jeg holdt det til engelsk.

EPiServer had their annual conference EPiServer Update 2014 in Denmark last week. EPiServer has seen immense growth in Denmark the last few years – more than 400 people attended the conference and there were still more than 100 people on the waiting list. Really well done by the Danish EPiServer team and the supporting partners. Magnetix managed to take home the prize for EPiServer Site of the Year – so everybody on the team was very happy!

Before the whole conference began, I had a chance to hook up with Bob Egner and David Bowen – representing product management for the content and the commerce parts of EPiServer.

The plan was to discuss EPiServer’s place in the omnichannel technology suite as well as get their input on the model for omnichannel marketing that I am currently working on. The model will be revealed in its full complexity in my new book “Hvis det handler om mig, så køber jeg – omnichannel marketing og big data” – currently in Danish but I have a feeling I will have it translated and published in English as well. You can read more about that on my blog (in Danish) if you like.

We discussed the six disciplines of omnichannel marketing and how we each saw the differing levels of maturity within these. For new readers of my posts the six disciplines are:customer target board

  1. Customer and permission volume
  2. Data collection and integration
  3. Big Data Analytics
  4. Communication and Service
  5. Performance Management
  6. Organization

My claim is that by working focused and customer oriented with each of these six disciplines within the enterprise, results will be customers purchasing earlier, more and more oftenly.

Not a wall-to-wall approach

After having presented my theoretical framework to Bob and David, we discussed how EPiServer supports these. It is clear that EPiServer’s approach to omnichannel is not to offer a wall-to-wall platform encompassing all thinkable data collection, rule processing and serving of content as many of the other technology giants are aspiring to do (Adobe, Oracle, IBM, Sitecore etc…).

Instead, they focus more narrowly on building a platform for creating and managing content and supporting the ecommerce process if you should have that need. Content and Commerce – a bifocal approach that seems to appeal to many customers.

For the remaining technology requirements in the omnichannel suite EPiServer aims to make it as easy as possible to integrate third party tools that together will make it possible to create true omnichannel capability. Thus EPiServer has an ever expanding list of partners that build tools to do what EPiServer doesn’t and keep their own API’s and functionality open and easy to integrate to.

Content and commerce

A few years ago, EPiServer acquired ecommerce company MediaChase and started integrating the two platforms. The integration at first was rather crude – or loosely coupled as some call it. They have been focusing the last few years to truly the two systems into one – the result today is a .NET CMS that can solve rather advanced content management tasks and has a fully integrated commerce system that actually works. Their search product Find is aimed to be the glue in the box that can find/filter the right content and products for each unique user to see – whether they hit the search button or are just visiting themed pages that are automatically updated through search technology.

EpiServer content and commerce

Content atoms

During the integration process EPiServer moved away from the page metaphor in the CMS (version 7 and up). Therefore, now the content is more atomized – an approach their competitor Sitecore has worked with for many years. The shift from the page metaphor to the content piece metaphor in my opinion fits better with the omnichannel experience that many companies are out to create. There is no telling upfront where and in which channel content is best served for each customer – so the most reasonable thing to do is to manage content one place – this could be EPiServer.

EPiServer and the siloed organization

As we discussed how the EPiServer technology fits into the whole omnichannel picture and the framework I created for my book it became even clearer to us what challenge there is for the CMS industry in meeting the requirements of the siloed organization. Because even though that in the perfect world it makes sense to manage all your content in one place – this means that in the real world the Website responsible will have to use the same tool as the Email marketing responsible, and the app responsible, and the category management responsible etc… You get the picture.

Even though the technology will make it possible to manage all content in one place – it will still take a lot of organizational work to make this happen. Because all the siloes within the marketing organizations (that is not to mention the whole IT vs. Marketing chasm) already have their own tools – and maybe even their own goals, metrics and even different agencies. For them to adopt EPiServer (or any other CMS for that matter) as the new central content repository will take a central decision from the CMO as well as CMS functionality supporting the management of the many new and different roles and workflows that will come as a result of having so many people working on the same platform.

So…

In some way, the approach of having a rather narrow focus in the whole omnichannel marketing ecosystem seems appealing for many customers. With only two focus areas – content and commerce – the system would be expected by new customers to be relatively bug free for both areas. Furthermore, they will not have to choose EPiServer for every thinkable marketing task down the road. At least the recent success of EPiServer seems to indicate that this is how the customers perceive it. However, you’d still have to integrate all the other tools you’ll need to go all the way to omnichannel nirvana.