Episerver Partner Close-Up 2019 – Our Takeaways
Held in the beautiful city of Stockholm, Sweden, the one-day event, co-sponsored by Niteco, brought together Episerver’s global partner community to learn about the latest industry trends, product updates and roadmap from the Episerver leadership team. Presentations, business and developer tracks and panel discussions, combined with shared insights and experiences all contributed to a very informative event. Here’s what we learned…
Content and Commerce as one
James Norwood, Chief of Staff at Episerver, set the tone, impressing upon the importance of partnerships and Episerver’s role in ‘the 4th industrial revolution and an age of ubiquitous mobile supercomputing’. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is very much at the centre of the debate. James noted that AI was on the agenda at the recent Davos World Economic Forum with several keynote speakers and events. According to The Cognizant Center for the Future of Work (CFoW), projects that are increasingly reliant on AI and automation will create 21 million meaningful and sustainable jobs over the next decade. James stated that companies aiming for continued success understand the need to work toward business-centric messaging – individualized content, intelligent campaigns, experience-driven commerce. With Episerver’s Digital Agility Model (Crawl, Walk, Run, Fly), they can support businesses seeking to achieve that aim. Providing commerce and content together has been mission critical for Episerver. In 2018, there was a 70% increase in digital commerce sales and a 40% growth in cloud business.
Joey Moore, Head of Product Marketing, updated us on Individualised Content, where the CMS is at the core, with personalization add-ons (content recommendations, visitor journey analytics) and data points captured in a Customer Data Platform (CDP). All of that data is underlined and accessed by the power of Episerver Find.
Commerce is about the experience
David Bowen, Head of Product Management, & Lidia Sundin, Global Customer Success Program Manager, talked about Experience-Driven Commerce. With the pace of change in commerce, moving from transaction-centered to experience-driven, David was clear that “Boring retail is dead”. He referenced a case study of a leading book retailer that was faced with competition from both local book stores and Amazon Books. At the point that Episerver had been chosen as the new solution, the retailer had just closed 18% of its brick-and-mortar stores. The retailer used Episerver Commerce, integrated with MS Dynamics, to provide an omnichannel, experience-driven commerce solution. Less than four months after launching the first phase of the site, the retailer enabled Episerver Perform, which resulted in a 33% increase in average order value (AOV). In the month of January alone, they saw a 75% Y.O.Y growth in sales. In the following seven months, the retailer enabled Episerver Campaign and CRM integration and saw a steady increase in AOV.
Marc Bohnes, Product Strategy Director, & Danielle Marshall Manifold, Senior Marketing Manager UK and Ireland, spoke about Episerver’s marketing capability to produce intelligent campaigns. Marc reinforced the importance of the need to send ‘the right message to the right person at the right time’ to ensure success. The targeting challenge with millions of needs versus millions of messages was summed up using a quote from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, made as far back as 1998: “If we have 4.5 million customers, we shouldn’t have one store. We should have 4.5 million stores.” Episerver’s view of intelligent campaigns combines a customer and content-driven approach with an email and omnichannel marketing solution, overlaying artificial intelligence (AI) and insights to personalise content. Marc talked about a four-stage process, supported by four Episerver products: Attract (CMS); Engage (Commerce); Convert (Personalization); Care (Campaign).
Developers delve into new features
Alongside the business track updates throughout the day, the event saw two developer tracks running. David Knipe, Director of Solution Architecture, highlighted some new Episerver platform features, including:
Content Commenting – allows commenting on a single piece of content (outside of a Project).
Commerce – Customer service UI (currently in Beta) enables customer service representatives to look at baskets.
Products and Services applying permissions, approval sequence in product catalogue (mirrors functionality for Content but in the product Catalogue).
Commerce to Campaign feed – tool to export content from Catalogue and send it to Campaign for email marketing.
Configurable campaign facet filters.
Forms – Field dependencies enabling editors to build more interesting and interactive forms without the need to use a developer.
Forms – Submission retention policy to define what data is kept and for how long (GDPR), including partial submissions and full submissions.
Change Approvals – different for content approval. This is a free add-on. Anything that changes about the content (not just the content itself) can be tracked and approved. Useful for compliance and auditing.
TinyMc updated (v5)
Episerver Deployments: Episerver is going to offer CI and CD support for pre-production and production environments. Developers/DevOps will be able to deploy directly to Pre-Production and Production environments using Azure DevOps or Octopus Deploy.
Episerver Databases: Episerver will provide read-only reporting replicas so report generation will not affect the live production database. Episerver will also give JIT access to the production database to clients’ designated developers to do hotfixes or investigate urgent issues. This access will be time-boxed to one hour. After that period, the access is automatically revoked.
Episerver also provides the ability to move from non-production to production environment in a self-service manner. You will be able to copy the production database to the pre-production or integration environment without the aid of Episerver.
Making failover less jarring
Christian Schlosser, Product Management Director, and Magnus Rahl, Senior Director of Software Engineering, CMS, Commerce and PaaS, gave updates on Episerver’s improvements on Processing Orders during failover. Episerver’s DXC service provides failover functionality, enabling customers with business-critical websites to maintain high availability in the event of an outage in an infrastructure component in a datacenter, or even an entire datacenter region. This service uses “Traffic Manager” to switch to DNS failover to the nearest geo-replicated region on read-only mode. However, commerce activities cannot run on the website during the failover phase.
Now, Episerver is also introducing “Order Store”. Using Order Store offers:
Cart & Order CURD
REST API + Client library
After the failover phase, you can run a scheduled job to process your orders and adjust inventory (if you are managing inventory). In coming versions, you can extend the order system from code and also use RESTful APIs, which will be fully supported by Order Store.
However, Order Store will have some limitations during the failover phase:
Can’t register new customer accounts
Can’t tract inventory changes (you need to process inventory later)
Need to handle Order Processing in your code
Optimizing performance and its perception
Quan Mai, Software Engineer, and Christian Schlosser, Product Management Director, went on to talk about high-performance websites providing suggestions to build better-performing websites. They stressed the importance of two key factors:
Always use the latest version of Episerver – Episerver optimizes performance in almost every weekly release, so your code should always use the latest code release.
Add the right indexes on the database
They also doubled down on what the customer should experience. Showing the customer the data you already have without connecting to the server (especially page data you need to show without scrolling) and fetch data from the server in the meantime. It will create the illusion to the customer that the website is very fast, and that the page is appearing very quickly.
SPA (Single page application) – There are a few advantages to use SPAs
Taking control of customer experience
Less data to load
Less action to perform
Less stress on server
PWA – Make your website a Progressive Web App
Buy time with small animations – If your request takes more than 100ms to load, then use these animations.
Measure & follow-up – it is not important which tool you are using, what’s important is the end result – so always follow-up. Optimization cannot be achieved on the first sprint; we need to work continuously. Google Lighthouse is good Chrome add-on to audit page performance during development.
The road ahead
At the end of the event, Justin Anovick, VP of Product, summarized some of the key items on Episerver’s roadmap for 2019. This included the change from perpetual licensing to a subscription license model and the announcement that, with support for Windows Server 2008 being phased out by Microsoft, Episerver is to retire versions 4, 5 and 6. Justin referred to Episerver’s Digital Agility Model (Crawl, Walk, Run and Fly) when talking about supporting customers’ digital operations and the customer experience.
The company now seeks to uphold a continued drive to make DXC enterprise class by continuing to enhance core services and progressing the core roadmap, iterating new products and innovating the DXC service for agility and efficiency. Niteco has chosen to complement DXC monitoring by offering a unique Application Management Service, something that we discussed with other devs at the event.
Justin’s session concluded the day of insights and discussion. Episerver’s roadmap for 2019 grows the DXC platform and builds on their digital agility model, consolidating CMS, Commerce, Campaign, Personalization and other modules to drive experience-driven commerce and innovation. Individualized content remains firmly at the forefront, complementing the objectives and expectations of today’s business and digital marketers. Likewise, artificial intelligence, machine learning and increased emphasis on customer analytics will continue developing, helping to improve accuracy and agility in delivering bespoke customer experiences to the market. The year 2019 is all about understanding more about your audience/customer and delivering digital content and experiences in an intelligent and compelling way, driving loyalty, engagement and an increase in revenues.