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Doubling Down on Commerce at Episerver Ascend

The recent Episerver Ascend conference in Las Vegas was held Feb 27 – Mar 1 and represented the first fully organized Episerver Community Event since the acquisition of Episerver by their US-based private equity partnership in 2015 and the alignment of several other technology companies within their portfolio – notably, Ektron. The conference was heavily promoted within the Episerver community, was well attended and was broadly acknowledged as a high-energy and well-executed event. Episerver has long positioned itself as a leading CMS platform with integrated Commerce, and that strategic emphasis on Commerce was prevalent at the conference’s workshops and presentations.

With this stage having been set, several specific Commerce themes seemed to be most prominent.

‘COMMERCE EXPERIENCE’ Commerce was a consistent and dominant theme across the Ascend conference and was well-represented with many specific workshops as well as being a core strategic theme within the keynote and introductory sessions. Notably, the buzz-phrase ‘Content and Commerce’ was much less present and the platform seems to be moving beyond the reference of Episerver being the blending of two distinct systems / disciplines. With that integration as a given, the evolved and simplified concept of unified ‘Commerce Experience’ was leading the way. It became increasingly a given, rather than a necessary clarification, that all the other advancing aspects of the Epi eco-system, such as personalization, machine learning, and marketing automation, are able to be brought to bear against all aspects of the end-users brand and purchasing/commerce engagement, regardless of which technical system, CMS or Commerce, that information would have been relegated to in the past.

Get your copy of the Episerver Ascend attendee favorite “A Crawl, Walk, Run Approach to Mapping the Digital Experience”

COMMERCE FUNDAMENTALS: While the visionary and sophisticated aspects of ‘Commerce Experience’ drove many discussions around roadmap and platform capability, the Episerver team also made a point to ground many of the current and evolving platform capabilities in the clear presentation of ‘How To’. These sessions ranged from hands-on developer-centric workshops and code bashes to clear case study examples illustrating how other companies have actually leveraged the Episerver platform to drive the fundamental Commerce metrics: 1) Traffic (new and returning) 2) Average Order Value and 3) Conversion. By grounding many of the concepts in these tangible and real-life examples, many of the attendees seemed to get much more comfortable with application of the Episerver platform and clarity replaced doubt as to how they could better design, develop and administer similarly compelling and impactful digital experiences.

STARTER SITES / ACCELERATORS: With an eye towards increased value-proposition and ‘speed to solution’ with standardized ‘best practices’, EPiServer continues to invest in production-ready base sites that can be built on to bring customized solutions forward with reduced design and development effort. Notably, in addition to the B2C / Retail model that has been supported in the past, Epi has now introduced a specific B2B starter platform, which features a number of capabilities typically required by companies operating against a B2B model. Concepts such as contract pricing, quote to order workflow and company-specific user/roles administration are just a few of these capabilities and Epi clearly expressed their intention to continue the feature/functional evolution of this solution path.

EKTRON TO EPISERVER MIGRATION: With the breadth and clarity of the roadmap for the Episerver core platform taking center-stage, it has become increasingly clear that those companies who are still on Ektron are/should be seriously exploring the migration from that platform to Episerver. While Epi continues to tout support of Ektron, it is openly not where the acquisition and development investment is being focused. With the future vision of the two platforms now being so clear, companies running Ektron can now clearly substantiate the investment that will be required to position themselves for growth on the far more capable and rapidly advancing Episerver Platform. Perhaps because of Verndale’s extensive experience with both platforms, but we found a great deal of our discussions centering on how we would be able to assist many of the current Ektron customers through this migration and we anticipate more momentum behind this migration in months to come.

Episerver Ascend conveyed a clear and deliberate strategy for the Episerver platform, a focused and engaged partner tier, and an enthusiastic and growing customer base. While being U.S. focused, there was representation from around the world and the overarching sentiment was that the event was very successful and postures Episerver on a new foundation from which to drive its continued growth and evolution. Commerce was, and clearly is, a strategic area of focus and emphasis within the platform and will be increasingly enhanced through more robust capabilities and proven customer examples over the coming months and years.