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A Fair Review of the Top Mid-Market CMS for 2020 — e-Spirit

Gary Eisenstein

By Gary Eisenstein

January 16, 2020

Corporate Name: e-Spirit Inc. Web: www.e-spirit.com 
Founded: 1999 Get in Touch: 1-781-862-5511 
Corporate Office: Dortmund, Germany Worldwide Locations: 16
CEO:  Udo Sträßer - Since 2019 Worldwide Employees: 250
Platform Type: Java Current Version: FirstSpirit Evergreen (Versionless)
Licensing Model: SaaS Cloud or On-Premises Licensing Cost: By Request
Support: Service Level Agreement GitHub Account: www.github.com/e-Spirit 
Trial (Sandbox) Version: By Request  Online Demo: By Request 
North American Service Partners: 5-plus Certified  Global Service Partners: 66-plus Certified 

e-Spirit provides a content management solution bundled with their digital experience platform (DXP) called FirstSpirit DXP. The FirstSpirit DXP platform, offered through a SaaS or on-premises model, helps customers accelerate time to revenue with personalized, content-rich digital experiences anytime, anywhere. The FirstSpirit DXP includes a hybrid (headless+) CMS, AI-driven personalization, and omnichannel marketing capabilities. Marketers can use FirstSpirit for personalized and synchronized content delivery across all channels. This focus means that they're not interested in being an 'all-in-one' monolithic vendor that does everything for everyone by building ERP, commerce, and CRM software, but ensuring that e-Spirit content-driven DX solutions enable rapid deployment and innovation within a DX ecosystem.

More recently, e-Spirit introduced the next generation of their platform’s hybrid content management solution, which accelerates the delivery of hyper-personalized content to any channel, anytime, anywhere, and with ease and scale, allowing customers a choice between headless CMS or an enterprise-class coupled or decoupled CMS. “Other vendors focus exclusively on headless CMS capabilities or still offer old-school content management via monolithic, rigid UIs. We are the only vendor with a platform offering the best of both of these worlds, making the full, fragmented customer journey manageable for marketing and IT professionals alike,” states Andreas Knoor, Chief Product Officer at e-Spirit. 

HISTORY

e-Spirit, maker of the FirstSpirit Digital Experience Platform (DXP), was founded over 20 years ago in Europe as a content management solutions company — a CMS. 

Michael Gerard, e-Spirit's Chief Marketing Officer said, "Over the years, we have evolved into a digital experience platform. The company was founded in Europe, and as such, we have a very stong European base. We were born headless and decoupled, if you will. It gave us a strong foundation for being a company that has the ability to interoperate in any digital experience ecosystem."

KEY CMS CAPABILITIES

e-Spirit’s FirstSpirit API-driven hybrid CMS (headless, hybrid or head-optional) empowers customers to easily create and deliver personalized, content-driven digital experiences to any channel, in any language. FirstSpirit is simple and intuitive, empowering non-technical teams to create digital experiences with agility: helpful tutorials, how-to wizards, and tools such as drag and drop and in-context editing on any channel. Content management is the core of the FirstSpirit Digital Experience Platform, providing enterprise-class capabilities such as multi-site management, multi-language, collaboration and workflow, search, SEO and turnkey integrations.

“Ultimately, we help customers to turn their customers into lifelong ‘fans’ or in a clearer way; we help companies to turn their customers into lifelong fans. We will help and enable business owners, business users, and technical folks to create and deliver more inspiring digital experiences to any channel to build trust, drive engagement, and increase revenue for their companies.” states said Michael Gerard, Chief Marketing Officer at e-Spirit. “More specifically, we offer a digital experience platform. And within that digital experience platform, there is a Hybrid CMS, there is AI-driven personalization, and there's also the ability to get content into any channel,” said Michael Gerard, CMO at e-Spirit.

Key features and functionalities include:

  • Touchpoint Editing
  • Smart Dashboards
  • MicroApps Framework
  • AI-powered Testing
  • Digital Asset Management
  • Intuitive User Experience
  • Security & Privacy
  • Omnichannel Content Delivery
  • Optimization & Analytics
  • Personalization
 

ECOMMERCE CAPABILITIES

The FirstSpirit CMS extends rich online store functionality with certified integrations with leading commerce platforms. Their SaaS/Cloud offering helps provide content-rich, personalized e-commerce experiences using your e-commerce system of choice for B2B, B2C, or even B2B2C scenarios such as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, SAP Commerce Cloud, IBM Websphere, Spryker and many others to simplify the creation of these experiences with no coding required. 

“We integrate with the leading eCommerce vendors out there, and it's a differentiator for us in the eCommerce space that we're not trying to do everything for everybody,” stated Michael. 

Key eCommerce features and functionalities include:

  • Content-Driven Commerce
  • Digital Signage
  • Omnichannel Marketing
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  • SAP Commerce Cloud
  • Globalization & Localization
  • Personalized Content Delivery
  • Dynamic Content Experiences
  • IBM WebSphere Commerce
  • Spryker
 

DIGITAL EXPERIENCE CAPABILITIES

The FirstSpirit Digital Experience Platform (DXP), offered through a SaaS or on-premises model, helps you engage customers and accelerate time to revenue with personalized, content-rich digital experiences anytime, anywhere. The FirstSpirit DXP includes a hybrid (headless+) CMS, AI-driven personalization, and omnichannel marketing capabilities. Savvy marketers rely on FirstSpirit for personalized and synchronized content delivery across all channels to differentiate their companies.

“You're able to go in there, and see the overall, overarching digital experience platform, and within each of those, the Hybrid CMS, the AI-driven personalization, and the omnichannel capabilities, seeing it from the perspective of the industry,” said Michael. “So you'll see some deep dives in there for content-plus commerce, you'll see deep dives in terms of the work we do in the manufacturing sector, and how we're helping some of the largest companies in the world to deliver more inspiring experiences to their customers, as well as enabling digital commerce for B2B, and lots of info around banking, finance and insurance examples that we have for our customers.”

Key DXP features and functionalities include:

  • Easy to Use
  • Omnichannel
  • Content-driven Personalization
  • Interoperable
  • FragmentCreator UI
  • Headless Capability
  • Commerce Integrations
  • Touchpoint Editing
  • Microservices Architecture
  • Smart Dashboards
 

TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS

e-Spirit leverages a best-of-breed strategy making companies flexible and agile, relying on close and trusting cooperation with other technology leaders to seamlessly integrate with FirstSpirit into a central content experience hub. 

Micheal explained, “It's a strength of ours and has been since day one. Whatever you develop today, you'll have changes inevitably in the future. It’s important that we work well with these different types of organizations. And so interoperability is a really key strength of ours and something we always invest in.”

e-Spirit's technology partners include:

  • Salesforce (Scalable CRM Software)
  • IBM (Information Technology)
  • Jive (Intranet Platform)
  • Google (Search Engine, Cloud Computing)
  • Cloudinary (Image & Video Management)
  • Samsung SDS (Enterprise Software Solutions)
  • Mobify (Front-end Platform as a Service)
  • Hybris (Omnichannel eCommerce)
  • Brightcove (Video Hosting Platform)
  • Eloqua (Marketing Automation)
 

STRENGTHS

e-Spirit's Point of View

At a high level, e-Spirit makes sure that they enable customers to be agile and enable their teams to be empowered to deliver the experiences that customers need, making sure that they help organizations to be smart, intelligent and data-driven. From an agility perspective, the platform's strengths are as a hybrid content management solution, which enables users to very rapidly provision enables content to be pulled in from any channel and any device.

A key strength is enabling customers to deploy solutions quickly and to react to the market faster. “TSI, a customer of ours, one of the largest retail companies in Japan, over 1300-plus stores, was able to get up and running very quickly, in four weeks, for two of their top brands, with us integrating with Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and bringing experience to a commerce environment,” said Michael.

Another key strength is empowerment. It's very important for e-Spirit to put the power of innovation into the hands of marketers and business users, starting with a simple, intuitive user-interface. e-Spirit brings the capability for customers to be able to provision content for new channels, helping them to manage fragments of content that they have to manage. They can identify what those fragments look like, and where those fragments of content go. “One of our partners is Samsung," stated Michael. "From a digital sign perspective, with our fragment creator, we enable business-users to provision content into digital signs and to view and edit that content into those signs.”

Finally, a key area of strength is e-Spirit’s intelligence. One example of that is their ability to bring Smart Dashboards to customers so that they can identify what content is going where, how that content is being used across different channels and devices, and how to better manage that content without having to go into different user-interfaces. 

Implementation Partners' Point of View

“When we have a client problem, they help us find the right solution and help us stay ahead of the market.”

"Working with a hybrid CMS vendor like e-Spirit is critical because time to market is becoming more and more important for our clients”

"We’ve been working with e-Spirit since 2003. Since that time, websites have become more and more personalized."

"Technically, we sometimes need to make quick adjustments to systems. FirstSpirit’s agility enables us to make changes fast from development to staging to the live environment quite quickly. The partner management is also terrific, responding to support requests immediately."

“Our clients need a more flexible CMS like FirstSpirit to get content wherever they want it to go faster and more efficiently across a variety of touchpoints and channels.”

WEAKNESSES

e-Spirit's Point of View

e-Spirit is a European-based company with roughly two-thirds of its customers in Europe and Asia. Although in Europe, e-Spirit is highly competitive, that’s not the case in the US. Most recently, though, e-Spirit has made strides to penetrate the US market space, which Gartner acknowledged in their most recent Magic Quadrant analysis for WCM.

e-Spirit also stated as a weakness that they are not an ‘all-in-one company’ (best-of-suite solution). They feel it's more important to be the best at a particular area within the entire digital experience (best-of-breed solution). Although the debate between best-of-breed vs. best-of-suite rages on, as a WCM analyst, I don’t feel a best-of-breed solution should be identified as a weakness.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"Although e-Spirit has been included in the Gartner WCM Magic Quadrant for several years, awareness of this vendor and the FirstSpirit platform remains low in North America."

"e-Spirit’s cloud maturity (functionality and scalability) is lower than that of other vendors we work with." 

KEY DIFFERENTIATORS

e-Spirit's Point of View

Born as a decoupled and headless solution, e-Spirit truly does have hybrid and headless capabilities. In addition, the ability to bring AI-driven personalization together with content management into any environment is a key differentiator, and e-Spirit has deployed it from a B2C and B2B perspective. A very interesting e-Spirit case study on Brose, a manufacturer in the automobile industry. Brose is using e-Spirit’s personalization software, coupled with CMS, to deliver unique, individualized experiences to their customers and their job-seekers. They've doubled the number of IT applicants because, as a $6 billion company, one of their strengths is bringing in smart people. They've used AI-driven personalization on their website to attract more applicants for IT jobs. “We're not just bringing the best technology to market, but we're helping our customers to deliver these digital experiences that are engaging their customers and engaging job applicants,” Michael said.

Implementation Partners' Point of View

"e-Spirit’s FirstSpirit Digital Experience Platform and hybrid CMS offer the Intelligent Content Engine which helps customers deliver the right content to the right person at the right time which is key to delivering personalized customer experiences and improving customer satisfaction and loyalty."

TRAINING & SUPPORT

e-Spirit’s FirstSpirit training courses cover an extensive range of project scenarios and topics so customers can learn how to use the FirstSpirit platform more effectively.

  • Project-independent basic training: This standard training conveys how to create FirstSpirit projects and how to use the software purposefully. It includes practical examples and exercises.
  • Individual coaching: Coaching and training in a customer-specific scenario complement the basic training by providing additional project-relevant knowledge in different stages of the project.
  • Small groups: Courses range from a maximum of six (in developer training courses) to ten participants (in editor courses), allowing our tutors to cater to each participant individually easily.
  • On-site or off-site training: Depending on the type, our training courses can be held either on-site at your facilities or our training centers in Lexington, MA, or Dortmund, Germany.

IMPLEMENTATION PARTNER PROCESS

e-Spirit seek partners that fulfill the full range of services that their customer projects require – free of channel conflicts to ensure partners achieve their goals with the FirstSpirit DXP. e-Spirit looks for partners to help create a strategy and structure that will ensure customer success, making collaboration in all aspects of a project such as product implementations, customer support, business development, and custom solution development mission-critical. 

e-Spirit supports all implementation partners with training, coaching, concept and architecture checks, and project reviews and has 4-levels of certification – Standard, Certified, Advanced and Premier, which is based on a number of criteria, including:

 

  • The number of trained FirstSpirit experts
  • Experience with FirstSpirit implementation projects
  • Sales cooperation and joint support for clients
  • The long-term nature of the collaboration

CUSTOMERS

Worldwide Deployments: 200-plus

Top Market Sectors:

  • Retail
  • eCommerce
  • Financial Services
  • Banking
  • Insurance
  • Manufacturing
  • Public
  • Non-Profit


Notable e-Spirit Brand-Name Customers:

  • WellDyneRx
  • Reitmans
  • OSRAM Sylvania
  • Bosch
  • Carter’s
  • L’Oréal
  • Thyssenkrupp
  • Urban Decay
  • LL Bean
  • Sterling Jewelers

Customer Comments:

Daniel Koch, Digital Platform Manager at LaShoe
In order to optimize the customer online shopping experience, we need technology that enables us to easily combine content and commerce to create a seamless customer experience. FirstSpirit CMS empowers our marketers to easily create and manage content across many different languages.”

Jean-Claude Cohen, Global Digital Platform Director at L'Oréal Luxe 
Many of the features that FirstSpirit delivers, including simplified workflows and intuitive graphical user interfaces, helped us realize that FirstSpirit was the best solution for our needs. But what really sold us on using FirstSpirit was its usability and seamless integration with Salesforce Commerce Cloud.”

Bernd M. Schell, Project Manager Online Services at Brose Group
We needed a technology solution that offered advanced personalization capabilities to help us improve our hiring processes throughout North America. By doing a better job of analyzing applicants and targeting specific needs, we’ve reduced the time it takes to find talented employees. One of the features that is most helpful about FirstSpirit is how easy the technology is to use. Our HR team is creative and technically-savvy, which means we’re able to design programs and use content that works throughout each of the regions we support regardless of which channels those regions use for recruitment.”

 Customer comments and testimonials are all third-party verified

Featured Case Study



Hybrid CMS and AI-Powered Personalization Powers Brose Recruiting Program

FUTURE ROADMAP

When e-Spirit contemplates their future roadmap, they think about what’s the vision? Where are buyers going? Where are customers going? e-Spirit isn’t referring to their customers, rather their customer's customer. 

Michael expanded upon that. “There's certainly this new reality, if you will, of the buyer's journey. We've heard a lot about and talked a lot about the buying teams spending 40% or more of their time on digesting content from different sources without even talking to a sales rep. There are more channels out there, more devices that buyers and customers are using. Also, it's not just about the buyer anymore. It's about the entire customer lifecycle. In this new environment, these might be considered challenges. We like to think of them as opportunities when we're working with our own customers and companies that buy our solution."

From a product roadmap perspective, e-Spirit is focusing on three things: Number one is how they can help their customers to manage the fragmented journey better.  e-Spirit wants to develop better editorial interfaces for a fragmented journey, something that business-users can use versus only technical-users — something very important towards customers becoming more agile and to deliver better experiences.

In addition, e-Spirit will be focusing on enabling smart assistance and more AI-driven support for customers so they can better understand where content is going, which will allow them to get more ad-driven recommendations of what's the best content to use and how to develop better experiences in a web environment, a mobile environment, digital signs, and voice-interactive devices.

Finally, from the perspective of empowerment, e-Spirit wants to continue to empower customers, business users, and even their technical users. “Our real focus is on helping marketers, eCommerce managers, and other business users to react to customers’ needs, to deliver better digital experiences to their customers, without having to code, to rely less on developers to make changes," said Michael. “No code features if you will. For example, more orchestration of content and other digital experiences versus templates, and versus having to go to developers.”

“We’re investing more in our product than ever before – 27% of revenue into R&D product innovation – which is well above our competitors and the industry average. We’ve also substantially invested in sales and marketing for the US market, and plan to invest more in APAC to ensure the best support globally for customers and partners. That’s why e-Spirit is one of the top CMS vendors to work with,” said Udo Sträßer, CEO at e-Spirit. 

PERFORMANCE GUIDE

CMS-Connected's performance guide is based on our interviews with the vendor, their implementation and technical partners, customers, and leading industry analysts.

Category Scoring: 5 = Excellent | 4 = Very Good | 3 = Good | 2 = Satisfactory | 1 = Unsatisfactory

Overall Performance Scoring: 57–70 = Excellent | 43–56 = Very Good | 29–42 = Good | 15–28 = Satisfactory | 1–14 = Unsatisfactory

Performance Category Scoring
Strong North American Footprint with a Global Presence 2
Leadership and Positive Industry Recognition 3
Wide Selection of Features and Functionalities 3
Well-defined Differentiators 4
Offers Headless and/or Decoupled Architectures 4
eCommerce Offering 3
Cloud Capabilities 4
Digital Experience Platform (DXP) Offerings 3
Ability to Integrate with Pairing Technologies 4
Stable Platform with an Active Number of Deployments 3
Strong Customer References 3
Presales and Post-sales Support 3
Trained, Certified, and Experienced Implementation Partners 2
Clear and Well-defined Future Roadmap 3
Overall Performance Score — Very Good 44

ANNUAL HOSTED EVENTS

Michael Gerard shared that e-Spirit is currently in the planning phases of hosting their own global customer and partner event. Check back to find out the date, location, and link information on e-Spirit's forthcoming conference. 

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Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry for over 26-years and is a Principal Analyst at CMS-Connected Media Corp. and is the Founder and CEO of Falcon-Software Company. If you would like to receive additional advice or consultation on how to evolve your digital transformation journey, Gary can be reached at gary.eisenstein@cmscmedia.com.