This year has been a wild year in the Optimizely world, after making several important acquisitions at the end of 2020 and beginning of 2021 and going through a rebranding. One of those important acquisitions was the Customer Data Platform (CDP), Zaius, now known as Optimizely Data Platform (ODP). This strategic move was made to level up the customer data capabilities already in the system, and complement their newly acquired, premium, experimentation and personalization platform.
These important acquisitions involve a lot of new information for customers and partners to process about the capabilities of each platform, what role they will play, and how the vision and roadmap might change. Optimizely has been very transparent about its intentions, but even Optimizely has had to figure out a lot along the way, and over the course of the year elements of the plan have evolved. We felt it was time to analyze the current state of the platforms, review what has been promised, and summarize where we think it's all going, based on what Optimizely has done so far, and our insider status as MVPs and a Premier Platinum Partner. We think it is especially important for our clients that we summarize and clarify what's going on with ODP and Experimentation.
CDP is critically important. At Verndale, we are all in on the idea of CDP, so much so that we have made complementary strategic hires, including an Experimentation Lead and Master Data Management (MDM) practice director. Although not a new idea, the age of CDP has definitely arrived. Your business should consider prioritizing it now, and you can read more about why we think that here YOUR CX QUARTERBACK: THE CUSTOMER DATA PLATFORM (CDP)
Optimizely's actions so far prove they also believe this and that ODP is the lynchpin that ties it all together, as you can see here with the 'Data' element in the middle of their graphic.
In this post we will be summarizing what the Optimizely ODP is, its capabilities, its pros, its cons, why it's better than what existed previously in Episerver, what differentiates it from other CDPs, and what we think the future holds.
What is Optimizely ODP
Optimizely ODP is the new name for the Zaius CDP platform that Optimizely acquired in March of 2021, a move they made to complement the merger of the Episerver CMS with the Optimizely Experimentation platform.
ODP centralizes customer data into a single platform to harmonize, analyze, and act on your users through targeted omnichannel campaigns. It's a CDP designed as a hub for all customers' platforms to collect and manage events and profiles, then segment users before sending emails or SMS. Most customers will use ODP to merge website behavior and other data outside of the Optimizely portfolio.
The features highlighted with Optimizely ODP are:
- Ingestion of data from other systems
- Export of data to other systems
- Identity resolution: through the UI, you can see all of the identifiers and consent management by channel
- Custom sophisticated segments, AI-driven segments, real-time segmentation engine; Behavior-based segments such as: Recent purchasers, intent to buy, email engaged, marketing engaged, fresh visitors, returning visitors, active visitors, visitors considering a purchase, super browsers
- Dashboards: visibility and real-time understanding of business performance
- OOB default reporting and analytics, AI and machine learning (ML) auto-generated predictions; Insights: lifetime value ($), average order value ($), and # of orders, event history timeline, winback zone (eg: Engaged), order likelihood, time to next order, list subscriptions, identifiers
- Pre-built connectors: any segment you create can be synced to over 50 different apps with pre-built connectors
- Recipes: workflow templates that sync data, audiences and assets between two or more systems based on specific objectives
- Activation channel to create campaigns and send SMS or email directly from the platform
- Product recommendations: leverages some basic algorithms that seek out commonalities among customers, based on their patterns of product interactions, to predict a customer's response to another product; for use in campaigns for email or web; includes capability to import your entire product catalog via catalog sync
Although the ODP platform has intrinsic value on its own, Optimizely truly wants to make it a value-add for its customers. They understand the real power comes from the ODP underpinning their other products. Therefore, Optimizely has committed to making ODP accessible in three different ways.
Introducing Data Core Service, Coming in Q1 of 2022
Data Core Service is a subset of the features within ODP that is provided for free for any customer that has a license for an Optimizely anchor product such as Content Cloud, B2B or B2C Commerce Cloud, and Experimentation. These features include ingestion of data from Optimizely products, profile/identity resolution, custom fields to standard objects, access to insights via dashboards/reports, custom report builder, and access to raw data via Snowflake.
Data can be leveraged in ODP with Data Core Service in two ways:
- Dashboards in the application itself
- Direct data access via Snowflake
With Data Core Service, Optimizely can commit to ODP as the unified data layer across ALL Optimizely products.
One limitation is the number of Monthly Active Users (MAUs) in the platform cannot exceed 250K. If it does, you would have to upgrade to the full ODP product.
When users grow beyond 250K, or your organization is ready to take advantage of the really powerful aspects of the ODP platform, you can license the full ODP. This would unlock several key capabilities:
- Ingestion of data from externals systems beyond Optimizely
- Custom objects
- Real-time segmentation
- App/Connector directory
- API access
- AI/ML predictions and insights
- Web content campaigns
OJO: Optimizely Journey Orchestration
If you would like to leverage some of the activation capabilities that are baked directly into the ODP platform, you can add on subset of features that have been packaged by Optimizely into a Journey Orchestration offering. This would unlock activation capabilities:
- Email campaigns
- SMS campaigns
- Recipes for email/SMS
- Product recommendations in email
If you've reviewed our post YOUR CX QUARTERBACK: THE CUSTOMER DATA PLATFORM (CDP) on the critical value CDPs provide to marketers and why now is the time to invest, and you agree that full CDP features are necessary to market successfully in 2022 and beyond, then we recommend you consider the full ODP product offering.
As a partner with early access to a sandbox environment, and some real experience under our belts, as well as a good sense of what is available from competitors, we have been able to put together a list of Optimizely ODP's pros and cons as well as what differentiates it in the market:
Pros of Optimizely ODP
- Can be sold standalone to customers as it can work with any CMS or any data source to collect user info; If sold without Content/Commerce Cloud products, Optimizely would recommend pairing it with Web Experimentation; It can be bundled with core platform offerings, and will be a percentage cost of the core product
- Easy to add to websites, deploy via Google Tag Manager or a JS snippet
- Per customer, see all identifiers and consent management by channel
- AI/ML automatically generates predictions, Time to Next Order and Likelihood to Engage, all without data scientists
- Segments are easily built in the UI, as well as a real-time segmentation engine; Push to Visitor Groups in the Optimizely Content Cloud, and other products in the Opti suite
- Content Intelligence integration: Build segments in ODP based on topics generated in Content Intelligence/Recommendations; It's truly an amazing tool for marketers and makes AI-driven content insights and personalization much more feasible; By connecting several of Optimizely's additional products into CDP, it will unlock the power of those products in a way that has not yet been realized, especially in the Content Intelligence suite
- Recipes: workflow templates (eg - predict who will walk away and use that segment as an audience in the experimentation platform)
- Product recommendations powered by your own product catalog
- Private GraphQL interface
- Pre-built connectors to over 50 apps, can by synced OOB
- ODP Integration App hosting: For customers who don't want to host their own integration applications, ODP provides a place to host it
- Optimizely will migrate you over from their Visitor Intelligence product for free
Cons of Optimizely ODP
- Connection between ODP and Experimentation platforms is not native, and Optimizely is currently working to add several key connection points and connectors
- Although 50 OOB connectors are great, it isn't as much as some competitors, but Optimizely is investing in adding more
- Platform was originally intended for commerce purposes and insights/analytics are focused around that, although roadmap is to build out insights that are less purchase-conversation-focused
What About Similar Features from the Episerver Visitor Intelligence Product?
Before Episerver acquired Optimizely and Zaius, Episerver's DXP touted features that would compete, at a much lower level, with Zaius' CDP and Optimizely's experimentation and personalization. These products include Visitor Intelligence, Profile Store and Insight. While aspects of these products worked well for certain use cases, they ultimately could never live up to the platforms that were dedicated solely to those features and have become known for them. Therefore, Optimizely intends to eventually retire all of those products in favor of its customers using ODP. Optimizely will support its customers that do currently use them, but will make it as easy as possible to make the switch. Once switched over, customers will benefit from the following compared to what they had previously with Visitor Intelligence and Insight:
- Better analytics
- Visualization of the data, which is OOB with ODP
- Easier integration
- Predictive segmentation
- Omnichannel orchestration OOB for many systems
So How will Optimizely Make This Easy for Customers?
For customers that already have the Visitor Intelligence product, Optimizely will move you from Visitor Intelligence to the full ODP for free, a like-for-like migration. All the data in Visitor Intelligence will be easily moved to Optimizely Data Platform. There is no need to upgrade and no additional charge.
Also, as mentioned previously, just by having one of the core Optimizely products with Content, Commerce, or Experimentation, you will have access to the Data Core Services for free and will be able to start using aspects of the ODP. This is an excellent crawl approach to getting involved with ODP, and at any time you can level up to the full product.
Finally, Optimizely has some great deals right now in an effort to get more of their customer base onto the ODP platform. They are currently offering a bundle of ODP with Experimentation: Web Grow + ODP. This packages a premium version of its base experimentation package, plus the ODP, with special discounted license pricing. It includes:
- Web Grow: Edge, Stats Accelerator, PCI Compliance, Stats Engine, Account 2FA, SSO, Premium Features: Program management, multi-armed bandits, custom attributes, geo time of day targeting, source type and referrer segments, behavioral targeting, personalization campaigns
- ODP: persistent visitor profiles, real-time segmentation engine, predictive segments, real-time triggers, testing on offline metrics, segmentation on experimentation data, journey analytics
Verndale has partnered with Optimizely to offer a "Quickstart" program for a fixed fee of $30K, with an effort to get you up and going in just 6 weeks with an initial data ingestion point and experiment, along with analysis and a future roadmap plan.
But There Also is Overlap With Other Episerver/Optimizely Products too, Right?
There are a few key areas that are worth mentioning due to overlap with some of the features that have come along with the ODP platform.
Optimizely has two products for Marketing Automation and they serve slightly different markets and purposes: Campaign and Marketing Automation by Delivra (3rd party partner). Each include Email Service Provider (ESP) that can execute standalone or automated marketing messages across email, SMS, and other channels. Data influences real time personalization to customers.
ODP also has a campaign feature set that includes personalized email activation. It sends email and SMS, but that does not make it a Marketing Automation platform. Rather ODP is much more than that.
Think of ODP as a Premium upgrade to those other Marketing Automation products that Optimizely has available. If you have ODP, you might not need Campaign or Delivra. ODP is, however, at a higher price point and will require more maturity to run.
This will continued to be offered within the platform as Optimizely Journey Orchestration.
At this point, 'personalization' comes up in most of the products available from Optimizely. It's used for many different purposes. In ODP, personalization comes into play as personalization campaigns that leverage the customer segments.
You may be wondering why you should pay for ODP when you can create Visitor Groups directly in Content Cloud. The answer is that ODP is far more advanced in creating visitor segments than what can be done in Content Cloud. External data, event mapping, real-time segmentation, and AI-driven segments are all options in ODP. Then these segments can be shared back into Content Cloud.
As you may know, Optimizely has a stand-alone-priced product for Product Recommendations. And although it isn't high up on the list of ODP features, ODP also has a product recommendation feature. Remember, ODP started its life outside of the suite of Optimizely products and that was an important feature at the time. However, the product recommendation element of ODP campaigns is based on basic algorithms like 'most popularly purchased together' or 'most recently viewed'. Think of it as a nice-to-have, but not a main reason to buy ODP. It will only be available through the OJO feature subset.
The Optimizely Product Recommendations service delivers recommendations directly to digital properties using a much more complex algorithm and criteria. If you want an enterprise-grade product recommendations service, buy the stand-alone premium service instead.
Coming in 2022
As we look to the upcoming year with Optimizely, it's clear that ODP is foundational for the various initiatives and product roadmaps. This is just one reason why getting onto the platform now would put you ahead of the game. Here are some of the things to look forward to:
- Prebuilt connectors to share segments with Marketing Automation systems
- ODP segments will be surfaced OOB in the Experimentation platform
- Interest profiles in the Content Recommendations product will be brought into ODP
- Experimentation Decision Events will be integrated back into ODP
- Optimizely's multiple tools that collect data will ideally be unified into a single data feed and ODP is key to establishing the baseline for that
I'm hopeful that after reading this overview, it has helped you to make sense of all that has gone on with Optimizely ODP this year, what the purpose and capabilities of the platform are, the various ways to get in on using the platform, and the role it's playing in Optimizely's future roadmap. The platform is the foundation of the rich Optimizely data and it will automatically be available the moment you begin using any of the core products. It ultimately will be unavoidable. If you're not quite ready to commit to the full ODP, just stick to the features that are unlocked with those core products, get some experience using the platform and prove out your initial ROI. Or move forward with the value-priced Web Grow + ODP offer from Optimizely and Verndale, and we can get you started on a roadmap at the speed with which you are most comfortable. Contact Us to learn more.