It’s been a big year for Amsterdam-based Hippo, which two weeks ago confirmed it has been acquired by Mountain View, Calif.-based BloomReach.

That announcement came on the heels of news just a few weeks earlier that Hippo had moved from niche player to visionary in Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WCM), joining CoreMedia, Automattic and CrownPeak.

Hippo as Visionary

Hippo’s inclusion in the visionaries quadrant culminates a year that saw Hippo expanding in the e-commerce and personalization spaces through partnerships with — among others — an independent provider of enterprise solutions for omnichannel commerce.

In naming Hippo as a visionary, Gartner noted the considerable progress that the company has made, not only in widening its appeal to business users but in developing its technical strengths as well.

Looking Toward the Future

That combination has led Hippo to gain significant traction in the web content management market, particularly when it comes to easy content distribution to external applications.

However, Hippo still has significant work to do in developing its US market, with Gartner reporting that some Hippo customers have encountered sharp learning curves and difficulty finding experts.

What Drives Hippo?

In this third of a four-part series profiling this year’s WCM visionaries, CMSWire spoke with Hippo CEO Jeroen Verberg to learn what drives Hippo and what its strategy for the coming year is likely to entail.

(Full disclosure: This interview was completed before Hippo announced its acquisition by BloomReach, though Verberg went on record with CMSWire’s Dom Nicastro at the time of the announcement to assert that little would change at Hippo. Verberg told Nicastro then that he saw the BloomReach acquisition not as an end to Hippo’s existing strategies but rather a "very strategic step in building out Hippo” for the future.)

Talking Vision with Hippo CEO Jeroen Verberg

Roe: What differentiates Hippo from the three other Gartner WCM Visionaries?

Verberg: For a digital experience to truly stand out, it must be guided by a constant conversation between the business and the customers. This continuous communication is facilitated by data — and a lot of it.

What makes Hippo such a powerful tool and sets it apart from other vendors is that it can [combine] not only the data collected by our own platform but also data [drawn from] across an entire technology ecosystem [to drive relevance and personalization to] create the most well-rounded picture of a visitor available.

Additionally, we’ve now joined with BloomReach, which brings to the table a continuously learning engine that is constantly adapting to real-time changes in the business world. [That will literally] allow our combined platform to get smarter while you sleep.

BloomReach and Hippo together will use data science and web-wide data to power personalization that understands content, language, context and behavior throughout the customer lifecycle, replacing strategies that market to customer segments using manually written rules.

Roe: Visionary suggests ‘groundbreaking.’ Does this describe Hippo?

Verberg: As the digital experience expands across more and more touchpoints, including IoT applications, businesses need solutions that [can] keep up. Hippo’s separation of content and presentation allows businesses to rapidly adapt their experiences to any channel, while keeping the consistency of their content and brand intact.

Hippo’s platform is now set to go even further, [now that] we will be able to combine it with the machine learning technologies developed by BloomReach. Bringing the most sophisticated intelligence engine to our platform will allow businesses to leverage data from both inside and outside of the enterprise to deeply understand their customers and create, manage and optimize experiences driven by this understanding. 

Roe: Gartner noted that “Hippo's presence in the WCM market is growing significantly.” How do you explain this?

Verberg: Businesses want solutions that are flexible, scalable and can easily interoperate with their existing solutions. We chose to build our platform on Java because it enables all of this and because it has one of the widest and most innovative communities of developers.

Our focus on flexibility is also the driving factor behind our open source architecture, which makes our platform incredibly adaptable at rapid speeds. As enterprises focus more on solutions that can support content across channels, touchpoint, apps and third party services, both Java and open-source options [become] increasingly attractive.

Roe: The Magic Quadrant report stated that “Hippo's open source software (OSS) community is surpassed by some other communities that are fueling the innovation and expansion of platforms.” How do you respond?

Verberg: Hippo is a solution designed for the enterprise, so [we wouldn’t] expect our open source community to have same numbers as content systems designed for personal use.

Learning Opportunities

However, we have one of the fastest growing communities in the enterprise CMS space. [Our] growth rate [has been] over 250 percent year after year [among vendors that reported their data] and the caliber of our community is incredibly high.

Our members do more than just sign up to a forum: they dive in, understand our product deeply and make [the kinds of] valuable contributions that help us continuously improve our product.

Roe: How does Hippo meet organizations’ digital transformation needs?

Verberg: Digital transformation is on every business’s wish list but the task often seems too daunting. Hippo takes away many of the barriers companies face.

It is a system that is intuitive for both developers and end users — driving companywide adoption — and it can be easily integrated with existing technologies so companies don’t have to tear down the house to add a new window.

For companies who want to bring their digital transformation to the cloud, our onDemand platform provides the out-of-the-box features that marketers love with [an] open architecture that still lets developers dive in and tailor the platform to their business’s unique needs.

Now, by joining BloomReach we remove another barrier — [needing] one tool to manage your digital experience and another to optimize it. By combining our technologies, we be able to offer a platform that does both.

Roe: What trends do you see emerging in the web CMS space?

Verberg: As more and more industries are differentiating themselves through the experiences they offer, the role of data-driven personalization becomes increasingly important.

A content strategy driven by machine learning and the automation that allows will provide results that push businesses way ahead of the competition.

Both BloomReach and Hippo embrace a ‘human plus machine’ approach to [providing] superior digital experiences. Machines are great at crunching and acting on data at scale but humans are still needed to provide that discerning context. The best web CMS offerings are the ones that can act autonomously but also provide business users with actionable insights.

Roe: How will Hippo respond to these trends?

Verberg: We knew that data-driven insights were the future of the CMS space and this knowledge was one of the factors that led us to BloomReach, an expert in data-driven personalization.

As we combine the technologies both Hippo and BloomReach have developed, we will offer a solution that enables businesses to leverage insights from across the web to deliver digital experiences that are not only tailored to each visitor but are tailored consistently across all touchpoints that visitors come in contact with.

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