Raj De Datta
Raj De Datta
In May this year, Mountain View, California-based BloomReach, unveiled its first major release since it bought Netherlands based web CMS vendor Hippo in October 2016. As promised, the release pulled together Bloomreach’s machine-learning driven personalization platform and Hippo’s content management system to create what the company’s CEO and co-founder Raj De Datta described as an “open and intelligent” digital experience platform.

The release was unveiled at the New York City Bloomreach Connect conference. Company officials described it as a "self-learning DXP with semantic understanding of content" that allows marketers and brands to determine consumer demand and visitor intent.  Even still, it was still not entirely finished.

Forward six months and a lot of work later, Bloomreach is holding its Connect conference in Amsterdam in the Netherlands and according to De Datta, the platform is complete and ready for the next steps in digital evolution. To find out what the conference will focus on and where the digital experience platform is going we asked what he expects from Amsterdam Connect and what has happened with the digital experience platform.

Roe: Why is the conference called ‘Connect’?

De Datta: Its called Connect because our view of the digital experience is that there are so many stakeholders in it, from developers to marketers to merchandisers to content editors and everyone else in the content process. Our perspective is that everyone has a stake in the digital experience so we wanted to bring a number of people together from a variety of backgrounds to really connect for the building of next generation digital experiences.

The conference promises to pull together a number of existing customers, including personalization customers as well as content management customers. It will have people from both the US and Europe and a strong partner ecosystem, which we consider key to deployment and value-added services on top of the platform. It will also allow us to drive the conversation forward on these data driven machine learning powered digital experiences.

Roe: So, connecting everything. Is this your vision?

De Datta: Our perspective on the world is that content management is a very important building block, but what people are trying to do is to pull a number of applications together to build amazing experiences for their users. We believe that a digital experience platform is not something that you just buy. It is a core platform for your business that you build on — you build your brand on it, build your applications on it. It’s your core platform in your future as an enterprise that is trying to reach out to its customers.

Roe: Given the importance of data here, how are you preparing your clients for GDPR?

De Datta: The problem for companies is not that it [GDPR] applies to European companies, but that it also applies to any company from the US that wants to do business in Europe, which is a lot of US companies. It is, therefore, a global thing and don’t forget that there are also merchant data privacy laws in the US too.

This is a good thing. While we are a proponent of data science, personalization and AI we believe very strongly in consumer privacy. In this sense the Bloomreach experience platform is very much built for GDPR. Most current DXPs [digital experience platforms] use high amounts of data. Here, there is a reasonably good chance that with GDPR coming up these platforms will not be compliant.

That is not the case with ours. We have built privacy into the experience platform from the very start. It has a lot of isolation and privacy and auditing that allows you to govern the digital experience in a compliant way.

Roe: What about data privacy and personalization?

De Datta: I think there is a lot of misunderstanding about it. Earlier versions of personalization technology really depended [on] identifiable information in a non-permissive way.

The way our system works now is that we use non-identifiable information that provides users with the benefits of personalization and still protects that information. It also allows us to personalize the information from those that have given their explicit permission to use it[personal data]. Usually these are customers of the brand that are looking for a superior brand.

Roe: Tell me about experience-as-a-service that was introduced earlier this year?

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De Datta: This is a totally unique offering. The tension that the industry has been struggling with for a long time is, on one hand having full page experiences on a delivery tier without services served up by a web CMS, as opposed to, on the other hand, a services offering that gives developers more control. The web CMS offering is attractive to marketers, for example, who have full control, but it’s also quite inflexible from the point of view of developers that are trying to integrate things.

With experience-as-a-service you have the best of both worlds. You have all the components you need as a service so developers can mix and match. You can also have a your digital experience fully controlled and driven by marketers. This model has so many advantages. It has benefits for both the developers and the marketers and allows for use of content and software wherever they needed.

Roe: What about multi-channel workflow, which is also a recent addition?

De Datta: This is also something new that we are excited about this. It comes with a project capacity that allows for different local teams to work on different content marketing plans in parallel with each other and totally synchronized by the software. Before this [workflows] would have been manual and serial. This workflow capability allows for different projects to work in parallel and to be pulled together by IT in a way that makes sense when a project is deployed.

Roe: So where do you go from here?

De Datta: The big pillars that we are focused on is "open" and  "intelligent". We reject the view that you should just go to a large software company and simply buy a platform that has a bunch of things attached and then try to it to make them all work.

We are going to keep pushing the boundaries of openness enabling our customers and their brands to build digital experiences in a very rich way and use the assets they already have. We want them to be able to use the capabilities they have to build richer and richer experiences, not just at data level, but also powered by machine learning and AI. We can envisage, for example, a time when people will be able to write their own algorithms on our platform.

We are going to going to lead the way in every aspect of machine learning and data science applied to digital experiences. We want to double the number people shopping on platforms driven by Bloomreach as we did last year, and we plan to keep up the momentum.

Roe: What’s the message out of Amsterdam

De Datta:The most important message is that the platform is here. A year ago, we spoke about the digital experience platform and the desire to bring together the AI and the machine learning with the content management platform. In Amsterdam we will be able to have a conversation about how that adds to everybody’s life whether it be marketers or developers. It’s a celebration of how far we’ve come and a look forward to a vision of this open DXP. We want to have conversations about how everyone can build better and richer and more interesting experiences for customers.