James Norwood, left, and Mark Duffell
James Norwood, left, and Mark Duffell PHOTO: Episerver

LAS VEGAS — In a word, Episerver’s 2016 could be described as busy. 

Very very busy. Okay, that’s three words.

And that is taking into consideration the blockbuster 2015 the company had when Stockholm-based Episerver merged with Nashua, N.H-based Ektron, to move beyond its CMS roots to create a larger more comprehensive digital experience (DX) provider. 

Episerver spent the year merging the two companies and creating a global organization. 

Then the calendar changed and it was 2016 — and that is when things got busy, relatively speaking. Really really busy. 

It made two major acquisitions — Berlin-based optivo, which provides email and omnichannel marketing services and London-based omnichannel personalization vendor Peerius. It also released three major products and made it to the top of Forrester’s WCM leaderboard.

More Products, More Customers

Episerver now offers integrated machine learning-based predictive analytics, personalized email, event triggering and big data management, and a search relevance engine inside its unified cloud platform. All that has resulted in an increase of more than 1,600 cloud customers worldwide in 2016, along with 200 additional employees.

This recent history begs the question, what comes next in 2017?

Some 600 attendees are at Ascend 2017, Episerver's customer and partner conference underway here this week to find out the answer. There will be no (or probably not at any rate) major acquisitions this year, James Norwood, executive vice president of strategy and CMO at Episerver, told CMSWire before the conference began. But in many ways 2017 will be the most pivotal year to date.

“We are not nearly done yet yet in terms of releasing new technologies,” Norwood said. “In fact you could say we are just getting starting.”

Norwood doubled down on this theme during his keynote. “Our technology now extends to making use of predictive analytics and help you with the continuous customer journey,” he said at the conference’s keynote address. “You are going to see some very powerful uses of analytics by us in the coming year."

A Powerful AI Play

Powerful — but also discreet. Sometimes, Norwood continued, “we forget that the analytic power of the computer was designed to get things done faster — not make more work for us.”

With those twin goals in mind, Episerver will be building out new products and features on top of the artificial intelligence and personalization technology it acquired last year, especially in content personalization and analytics. 

Episerver Advanced will use AI to personalize context in real time. Episerver Insight will be a platform for big data. Episerver Campaign will design and execute and measure cross channel campaigns using such tools as event triggering and predictive analytics.

So what exactly will be under the hood of these products? Many are still are works in progress, but Norwood and the other executives who joined him on the stage at various points, did provide some intriguing glimpses.

“We foresee Episerver’s growth and expansion of offerings continuing into 2017," said Mark Duffell, president and CEO of Episerver. 

Azure Collaboration Pays Off

Again, the beginnings of this year’s expected product push can be traced back one or two years. 

In early 2015, when the company launched its cloud version of its CMS product it made the decision to go broad and deep into Azure. That collaboration is allowing it to roll out products in such areas as asset management and moderation of social context, according to Justin Anovick, VP of Product at Episerver, who was one of the executives who joined Norwood on this morning’s stage event. One feature Anovick went into detail about was his team’s work on an auto creation feature.

“Auto curation will present the editor with context he or she might not even be aware of as the site is being built or moderated,” he said. 

Scorecarding and visualization are others areas on which Anovick’s team is focusing. Ditto the use of bots. “We are seeing interesting things with bots and customer service. What we are looking at is using them to notify the editors about changes to the site.”

In a way, though, one gets the sense listening to Episerver’s top brass talk about their vision for the company that it is too limiting to look at future features or even products. 

The main point, Anovick said, is that Episerver has accumulated some powerful technology and it can get overwhelming for users who — let’s face it — just want to get the job done. “Our goal is to productize the tech to give you more solutions,” Anovick said. “This is where it gets exciting and potentially endless.”