Kentico 11: Email & E-commerce Capabilities Improved
When we attended the Boston edition of the 2017 Kentico Roadshow events in June, Karol Jarkovsky, Director of Product at Kentico, told us the future of Kentico is focused on the dual rail strategy with Kentico EMS, an all-in-one CMS, E-commerce, and Online Marketing platform, and Kentico Cloud, a cloud-first headless CMS and digital experience platform, meaning that the vendor will keep investing and enhancing Kentico EMS as well as innovate on Kentico Cloud to ensure the platform meets their users’ needs today and into the future. In the scope of the vendor’s main focus on this dual rail strategy, Kentico aims to deliver the same flexibility for developers and marketers regardless of the fact that they run the platform on-premise or in the cloud. To live up to that promise, today, Kentico released its most recent major upgrade, Kentico 11. The main focus areas of Kentico 11 are more robust email marketing capabilities, e-commerce, and system integrations.
A New Drag-and-Drop Email Builder
Before diving into what’s new with the most recent version release, it is important to note, as Bryan Soltis, Technical Evangelist at Kentico stressed in his interview with Laura earlier, the vendor has shaped the new version based on the feedback they received from the Kentico community. To put this into perspective, the direction for focusing on email marketing, for instance, came from the most voted idea in the Kentico Product Ideas forum. First, Kentico listened to its audience who supported the most voted idea, and from there, they even created a brief survey to shape the new capabilities of its email builder. At the end of this listening process, they have noticed that users often use a best-of-breed approach for email marketing capabilities. As Soltis stated, Kentico wanted to go beyond delivering the same capabilities as popular email platforms like MailChimp. Therefore, its email builder has seen significant enhancements.
However, Kentico wanted to allow its users to do more than what they already can do with a best-of-breed approach. Therefore, with this new release, not only does the vendor take away the burden of toggling between an email automation platform and Kentico EMS, but also it allows users to take advantage of all the data that they have stored in the Kentico instance through a native capability. In other words, the differentiating factor is having contextual information inside the user’s Kentico site as this is not a functionality that users are able to tap into through the best-of-breed approach.
Soltis is also very confident that with the new enhancements, marketers now are able to reach their target audience via email that promotes their carefully catered marketing message in a much more accurate way. While doing so, marketers won’t need to bother developers or designers for coding anymore, as they have drag & drop widgets, preview mode and macros for contextualization to get their job done better without having to get technical support.
Before moving on to other new features that came out with the release of Kentico 11, let me sum up the new email marketing capabilities with this brief rundown below:
Designed from the ground up with the emphasis on ease of use
Drag-and-drop widgets to help non-technical users produce modern looking and responsive emails
Clean HTML output and CSS inlining
“View in Browser” support
When you think about the fact that around 200 billion emails are sent every day, most of them with marketing messages, just having more robust email marketing capabilities alone is a great reason to upgrade to Kentico 11.
No Magic Button but Baked-In Capabilities for GDPR
As we are getting closer to the European GDPR deadline of May 25, 2018, vendors have geared up on tightly integrating GDPR capabilities with their platforms. To that end, Kentico has created a number of capabilities that will help businesses comply with the EU’s upcoming GDPR. Jarkovsky commented: “GDPR is a piece of legislation produced by the European Union that is going to impact digital marketers not only on the European continent but all around the globe when it comes into effect in mid-2018. This is one of Kentico’s thought leadership areas, an area where we have invested a significant amount of time and expertise.”
During a CMS-Connected interview, he also explained the responsibility of vendors for the GDPR compliance: “What we see as our role as a CMS vendor is to basically help organizations with their efforts to comply with the GDPR, there is never going to be a magic button that you can press and that’s it but as a vendor we can help those businesses fulfill the rights of the data subjects, to help businesses prove to authorities that they took all the necessary steps to comply with the GDPR, basically that is what Kentico 11 is going to help with. There are obviously many parts to that, what we are going to provide is a privacy application that is going to be part of the EMS suite and it’s going to help with content management, with rights for access, rights to be forgotten, rights to data portability, it will also help to provide evidence that organizations took all the necessary organizational and technical measures to comply with the GDPR.”
Here are the significant baked-in GDPR capabilities rolled out with Kentico 11:
Helps partners and clients streamline GDPR compliance
Personal data flow documentation
Right to Access: Access all the data processed about a specific data subject
Right to Data Portability: Export personal data in commonly used, structured, and machine-readable format
Right to be Forgotten (Right for Erasure): Ability to delete collected personal data
A Panel Discussion on Integrating Content-First and Commerce-First Approaches
Kentico has rebuilt its native e-commerce engine from scratch, affording small, midsize, and larger businesses with a fully integrated CMS/e-commerce platform. However, as always, the vendor doesn’t say “our way or the highway”, instead, to “sweeten the pot” for especially larger accounts, Kentico also wants to offer e-commerce capabilities through integrations with widely recognized vendors in the e-commerce space.
With that goal in mind, as we previously reported on, Kentico announced an integration between its Enterprise Marketing Solution (EMS) and Content Management Solution (CMS) and Ucommerce, a fully featured .NET based e-commerce platform. During the announcement, Kentico had stated that with the introduction of Kentico 11, customers would have the option to upgrade their e-commerce to Ucommerce. Now with the latest version at our disposal, Laura moderated an ensemble of significant players who made this integration happen, including Petr Palas, Founder and CEO of Kentico Software, Søren Spelling Lund, Founder and CEO at Ucommerce, and Michal Kadak, PO Platform & E-commerce at Kentico:
According to the two vendors, with the launch of this partnership, they brought the best of both worlds together: CMS and E-commerce as Ucommerce is heavily focused on the e-commerce side of the things whereas Kentico’s heavy focus is on content management.
We have long known that e-commerce was going to be a huge focus while developing Kentico 11 as Karol had dribbled out tidbits of Kentico 11’s upcoming e-commerce enhancements, while he was speaking to CMS-Connected hot on the heels of the Kentico 10 release. Furthermore, we wondered what drove Kentico to focus more on e-commerce capabilities and to make a UCommerce integration. Kentico carefully listened to the feedback from their customers requiring more robust e-commerce capabilities and has come to realize that they can’t be the best at everything, as Petr Palas puts it with all of the transparency and frankness we know him for. What this means is that this integration represents a Kentico-specific solution provided by Ucommerce rather than a replacement of Kentico’s baked-in e-commerce capabilities.
When it comes to the use cases of the integration in vertical industries, Ucommerce is a B2C platform first and foremost, however, because of its extensible nature, B2B is supported as well, meaning it fits for both B2B and B2C scenarios, according to Søren.
When asked how the integration will address different customers’ challenges, Søren made a great point during the discussion by saying that every market has its own motives and unique challenges. In the APAC region, for instance, it is very common to do e-commerce without using a computer as there has been a wide adoption of mobile apps such as WeChat. I am, personally amazed by the success of China’s voice-powered mobile app WeChat as it has taken off to the tune of 800 million active users every month. The platform can hail a taxi, order takeout, buy movie tickets, and even customize a retail purchase according to your needs. Over 10 million businesses in China have WeChat accounts. WeChat includes ten million third-party apps. The Europe market, on the other hand, as Søren and Michal pointed out, is very fragmented and UCommerce’s ability to meet those different consumer expectations is what makes the vendor useful in that particular market. On that note, Petr Palas slid another great point into the conversation on cultural differences depending on a region by adding that the differences arise not only from having a cultural background but also from reaching different levels of digital maturity.
Søren stresses that they fully focus on delivering cutting-edge e-commerce capabilities while the CMS providers keep their core focus on building their platforms. At the end of the day, the main purpose is smoothly integrating these two platforms together so end-users can get a unified view of content and commerce and they can manage everything from a single place. Another differentiating factor I have found is that the platform offers uConnector which is a light integration framework that enables ERP or PIM integration with users’ Ucommerce implementation. One of the interesting facts about uConnector is, all the developer needs to do is align the data format to fit into the uConnector dataset instead of relying on the open API's and the Framework First structure of uCommerce to do this type of integration, with uConnector. From there, uConnector will handle all the necessary exchanges of data, according to UCommerce.
The UCommerce integration wasn’t the only integration that came out with the new release as in the coming weeks, Kentico is rolling out some integrations to a variety of other platforms that make up the typical company’s technology stack, including Salesforce.com, Marketo, and Dynamics CRM.
Trusted Choice Discusses Kentico Cloud from a User Perspective
As I mentioned in my opening statement, Kentico is focused on the dual rail strategy with Kentico EMS and Kentico Cloud, a cloud-first headless CMS and digital experience platform. In November, we interviewed Steve Wright, Director of Oxfordshire, England-based Syndicut, on experiences with headless CMS in general and Kentico Cloud in particular throughout the project of building a website as a Multimedia Hub for a TV show called American Gods based on the novel by celebrated fantasy fiction writer Neil Gaiman.
To continue to see business use cases for cloud through users’ lenses, Laura had a chance to sit down with Jen Frey, Consumer Experience Manager at TrustedChoice.com at the Kentico Roadshow Chicago. Trusted Choice’s digital platform pairs insurance consumers with participating local independent insurance agents and carriers through a proprietary search engine optimization strategy that drives organic traffic and boosts online digital lead referrals.
The biggest benefit of Kentico Cloud, according to Frey, is its intuitive usability. She utilizes the platform for creating content models, and she believes that the platform harnesses the headless CMS approach. “Separating the back-end and front-end teams makes things more simple,” she states. From a content creator standpoint, she feels, dividing up the content from the presentation layer has been huge as content creators do not need to deal with the back-end.
When asked if the organization has any future projects for Kentico Cloud in mind, she stressed that they would like to utilize the platform more for personalization also, as Trusted Choice wants to re-purpose their existing content in different formats by targeting different types of audience. Given their online content attracts 400,000-plus visitors a month to learn about insurance, utilizing a cloud-first headless CMS provides Trusted Choice with a total flexibility in delivering content to any digital channel via an API.
“We are delighted to provide the foundation upon which TrustedChoice.com has built its insurance industry-specific CMS solution,” commented Petr Palas in a press release. “By providing a headless environment in which content creation is uncoupled from content delivery, this is precisely the type of customization that we hoped our customers would embrace.”
I like Kentico being in favor of providing its users flexibility through smooth and tight integrations with major CRM, e-commerce, and ERP solutions, especially, in the areas they think their technology may not always be sufficient for some organizations such as Fortune 500 / Global Fortune 500 companies. To that point, they are now teaming up with UCommerce, for instance, although they have built up more robust native e-commerce capabilities at the same time. UCommerce is a widely recognized vendor in the e-commerce space, and one of the nice things about the platform for the folks who like experimenting is that users get started at no cost, and down the road, if they want to unlock more features, they can upgrade to the Pro or Enterprise level. I also liked the idea that you get a designated “Ucommerce Buddy” who has the technical background to help you with all your technical issues when you purchase a Ucommerce Enterprise license.
Another thing I like about Kentico is that the vendor knits a specific vision and an approach to its product development strategy by actively listening to the community. Speaking of which, having 1,000 digital agency partners, Kentico is also making a healthy ecosystem a priority as routine health checks of websites ensure that the usability of the site and ultimately customers' web experience is always at its peak performance.
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