DX Leaders James Norwood

James Norwood has helped fan the flames of interest in cloud-based suites across several key segments of business software, the most recent being digital experience.

In his current role as executive vice president of strategy and chief marketing officer at Episerver, Norwood is evangelizing the rapid convergence of web content management, digital marketing and ecommerce.

“I was ridiculed at first, then not long after that, there were digital experience platform Quadrants and Waves,” he said. “The reality is it is happening. Everyone is looking for a suite to help them navigate the waters of digital transformation.”

A Suite Response to Digital Transformation

Norwood spent 15 years selling and marketing ERP, where the concept of a software suite is a given. After leaving Epicor and arriving at KANA as senior vice president and CMO in 2011, Norwood remembers questioning why a comparable customer service suite didn’t exist. The prevailing wisdom against such a suite was that each element was run by a different team. But within 18 months, all the elements came together.

“When I got to Episerver, I kind of set out to do the same thing I’d done at KANA,” he said.

Episerver is a sponsor of CMSWire’s DX Summit taking place Nov. 13 through 15 at the Radisson Blu Aqua hotel in Chicago. Norwood’s colleague, Ed Kennedy, senior director of ecommerce at Episerver, will be participating in a workshop titled “Shark Tank, the eCommerce Edition” on Nov. 13.

We spoke with Norwood about the shifts he’s seen in the world of digital experience, the promise of sophisticated personalization and areas for improvement in both DX and personalization.

Use Content to Bring Commerce Experiences to Life

CMSWire: What would you call out as the most significant changes you’ve seen in the digital customer experience world so far? Where has change yet to occur?

James Norwood: On the technology side, it’s the move to the cloud. If I focus more on the customer and business side, there’s the Amazon effect in the market or rather the effect of Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple. They’ve defined and set all of our expectations for when we as customers deal with any vendor.

Amazon is all about pricing and availability. Who else can compete with Amazon in those areas? We [at Episerver] work with those companies that live in the shadow of Amazon. Those companies are looking at content and commerce together to provide a very rich customer experience to create brand affinity and loyalty. They’re trying to use content to bring commerce experiences alive.

At the same time a lot of the content is still very static, for instance, banner ads and PDFs. Content needs to be more contextual and sequenced, based on a customer’s journey and level of intent in the buying cycle.

CMSWire: What are today’s companies doing well in the kind of digital experiences they provide to their customers?

Norwood: Taking the experience of our customers, most of them provide very good and fairly rich experiences. There are very few who’ve not already adopted responsive design. For a lot of our customers, their increase in mobile traffic and mobile-based conversions is significantly higher than it used to be.

Personalization is also going well. There’s a reason why AI is the big buzzword now. If you’re not using personalization, you’re sitting behind everyone else. Personalization is table stakes. But you still find some direct to consumer brands which aren’t yet using personalization technologies.

CMSWire: In which areas do companies need to improve their digital experiences and how should they go about making those enhancements?

Norwood: Seamless experiences are not going well. For instance, I’m surprised at how many companies still don’t offer their customers the ability to buy online and then pick up or return in store. It’s still not where it needs to be.

I also think a lot of companies don’t quite understand what the digital experience needs to be based on their products. They don’t have a deep understanding of who their customers are and of the customer journey. For instance, if you’re selling cheap widgets, having a rich website may not be right for you. It’s about what resonates with the buyer.

CMSWire: In your opinion, what is the promise of sophisticated personalization technologies?

Norwood: Ideally, it’s a marriage of human and machine so you can add the right metadata to content and smarts and target content at the right level. That’s why we acquired an AI, third-generation machine learning algorithm.

We already had a really strong rules-based engine, but for overburdened marketing, there was no way they could create rules. That should become the exception not the rule, if you’ll excuse the pun, so that marketing can occasionally use their gut feel to overwrite the machine.

CMSWire: How should companies think about striking the right balance in using personalization to appeal to individual customers?

Norwood: I’m a big Instagram user. What I’ve found is the more I click on pics I like, the more it refines the display to what it thinks I want to see. My mind’s all over the place, I want new ideas but Instagram keeps narrowing and narrowing its focus. There’s no way for me to tell them I don’t want that, I want more of this.

While we’re getting cleverer, a lot of people do fall down by over-recommending, which gets tiresome quickly. For example, if I’ve just bought a bed, I probably don’t want to buy another one straight away. We need to learn customers’ buying patterns so we’re not just serving up personalized recommendations but we’re injecting a bit of reason into the process, which is where marketing can come in.

CMSWire: How and why did you become a fan of Brentford Football Club aka The Bees and a fan of South Carolina’s Gamecocks? What kind of digital experiences are sports clubs offering their fans?

Norwood: I’ve been a Bees fan since 1992 when I lived in London. And when I moved to the US in 2000, I also became a fan of the Gamecocks. I try to see each team live, it’s a great tribal experience. If you could bottle that experience online, it would be amazing.

I’m as passionate about my sports as I am about my career. I tend to be attracted to the underdog, the solid team that has the potential to be great. I’ve had a lot of highs and lows with my teams. It’s always a journey.

Sports clubs are doing customer experience well. It’s about wanting to provide a richer fan involvement and to sell streaming media of live games and highlights. They’re doing savvy things like intelligent campaign management often on small budgets since a lot of their budget goes to the squad or team side of things.

Editor's note: Learn more about the Digital Customer Experience (DX) Summit here. Register today.