Industry Insights

How Topper's Pizza, Polaris & Jazz Utilize WCM & eCommerce

Last week, we published a roundup of our time at Episerver Ascend 2017 and the exclusive interviews with Episerver’s highly knowledgeable executives, James Norwood, Justin Anovick, and Ed Kennedy, to give our readers a glimpse into the buzz on the event floor. Knowing our audience is eager to hear stories from end-users, today we would like to share the perspective from the other side of the table, Laura and I interviewed Tony Ellis, VP of Information Technology at Toppers Pizza; Matt Schiller, Web Applications Technical Lead at Polaris Industries; and Krista MacDonald, Manager, Business Services Portfolio at Jazz Aviation LP. 

We Hit the Ceiling in our Current eCommerce Platform

Founded in 1982, Topper’s Pizza, currently has over 70 communities in the United States. Compared to the trend of small businesses’ growth, the franchisor is explosively growing. In fact, it recorded gross sales of $70 million in 2015. However, now the organization is faced with a problem as it feels like “they hit the ceiling in their current ecommerce platform,” and they are planning to adopt Episerver’s technology. For that reason, Tony Ellis, VP of Information Technology at Toppers Pizza, attended Episerver Ascend 2017 to explore Epi’s commerce platform, as well as gain an access to the brightest minds in the Episerver community, all in one place. 

First, we inquired about Topper’s Pizza’s business objectives that they hope to accomplish via Episerver’s commerce platform. Ellis’ top priority is improving the revenue through multi sales channels. From there, they want to go beyond their website as their competitors such as Dominos and Papa John’s have already embraced internet of things technologies like Apple TV or Alexa. 

In terms of the platform, Ellis wants to start over by rebuilding the foundation: “That’s what we are doing today but the best part of working with Epi is that the foundation gives you so much more than the typical platform. I know almost every .NET commerce platform out there and when I look at Episerver’s platform, the stuff we are getting out-of-the-box and the value is so much higher than what we can get out of something else. So if you look at the whole package, you will see how easy it (Episerver) is standing up, compared to some other vendors out there in the ecommerce industry.” 

When it comes to the features that Topper’s Pizza plans to utilize, as many others, Ellis’ top priority is “personalization,” and followed by multivariate testing and typical content management solutions, respectively. After rebuilding the foundation and beefing up their website through personalization and multivariate testing, the next step for the franchisor will be embracing the advanced technology such as artificial intelligence and recommendation engines powered by machine learning, to live up to the founding Toppers Pizza core value: “to give customers what they want.” To that point, he believes that machines do a better job than humans at anticipating what people want. 

Polaris Runs Four Large Commerce Sites on Episerver

Founded in 1954 and headquartered in Minnesota, Polaris, the power sports vehicles maker, serves more than 100 countries across the globe. With annual 2016 sales of $4.5 billion, Polaris offers an innovative and high-quality product line-up for passionate riders and outdoor enthusiasts. The company has been utilizing Episerver’s platform for their both marketing and ecommerce sites for a couple of years now. During the event, we were fortunate enough to sit down with Matt Schiller, Web Applications Technical Lead at Polaris Industries to discuss how they utilize the Episerver platform and what the exciting features are that they want to leverage more. 

Matt told us that one of the most important features Polaris wants to take advantage of is personalization. It came as no surprise to us as I mentioned earlier, personalization was the hottest topic on the event floor. The reason why Polaris would like to explore this feature further is because, as Matt puts, “getting the right mix of what can be marketed to the right person at the right time and the right place is so important.” With the Episerver platform, the organization is already able to closely look into the customer journey to figure out what the right ways and times are to engage with people to maintain their customer loyalty. 

With the regard to the organization’s business objectives that Episerver’s platform can help with, Polaris set efficiency of the overall marketing strategy as their primary goal. He explained why they chose Episerver in the first place: “Our previous system wasn’t agile enough to respond to things like quarterly initiatives. Getting towards to the end of the quarter, our marketing team may want to make a shift to hit their sales objectives. So we wanted to have a platform that can respond to that.” 

Knowing the company is currently running four large commerce sites, we inquired the difference between each site, and he said: “For the functionality, they are the same but the difference is the branding.” He also mentioned that they really worked on optimizing the flow and they did a lot of A/B testing to make sure their design is working as purposed. 

When it comes to the future plans, many customers and technology partners we talked with mentioned that they would like to apply artificial intelligence capabilities at some point. Wading into the AI foray, Matt stated that they find artificial intelligence intriguing, and they want to take advantage of it. Besides that, the company is also looking forward to leveraging their website search to get a lot more value out of Episerver’s search product called “Find” and he added: “We found ‘Find’ fantastic as we had no issues with it. We had some older ways that we used to do, but now that we are utilizing Episerver Find, we can do all the geographic things by letting Find handle that whereas we used to program all that stuff before. So it made it a lot speedier. Now we can actually roll out to other groups, another ways that they are going be consuming that data besides just our website.”

Episerver Has No Plans to Discontinue the Ektron CMS  

During the event, Episerver made it clear that they had no plans to discontinue the Ektron CMS and conversely, were quiet keen to make Ektron customers feel supported. Therefore, we wanted to sit down with an Ektron customer to discuss how they harness the platform and how the transition played out after the merger between Epi and Ektron. To that point, we had a chance to chat with Krista MacDonald, Manager, Business Services Portfolio at Jazz Aviation LP, and she addressed every question we had with a very coherent answer. 

As an integral part of Air Canada’s strategy and North American market presence, Jazz is one of the largest regional airlines in the world, serving 70 destinations in Canada and the United States, and providing customers with seamless connections to the worldwide networks of Air Canada and the Star Alliance under the brand name Air Canada Express (formerly Air Canada Jazz). Jazz utilizes Ektron’s platform for an intranet that connects 5000 employees. 

“Intranet is operationally critical to the airline as we have some customization in the site for what we called it 'message center.' For example, a pilot has to acknowledge that they were at certain memos in order to be allowed to fly, and all of that is done through the intranet.” They have single sign on possible for all of the applications as it allows the employees to be able to log in anywhere and get access to any applications they need. Speaking of accessibility, she also emphasized the importance of mobile-first: “Mobile-first is really important. Last year, we launched a program called electronic flight bag where the pilots have all of their manuals that they need to fly the planes on iPad. It was a huge initiative, and now we are actually moving that way with our maintenance employees as well. So rather than having to fix a part of the airplane and go back to the terminal to record that they will be able to that right where they are. It is going to be a huge initiative as well.” 

Since we had a very well knowledgeable Ektron customer on the spot, we couldn’t help ourselves to inquire about the aftermath of the merger between Epi and Ektron. Here is what she had to say: “We held our breath in terms of what it was going to mean because we had just launched our site. The key thing for us though is that we have a really strong development and support partner, named WSOL who we actually found at one of these events when it was an Ektron event. We rely heavily on them to be our advocate in terms of what we need to do.” 

She also added that they are very excited about the fact that Episerver is commited to keeping the Ektron product going and doing service pack updates and upgrades and added: “For now, we’ll stay with Ektron but also started assessing when is going to be the right time to move.”

Another topic we discussed was how effective these kind of events are, and she was very enthusiastic saying: “This event is so important for customers because this is where you get exposed to not only the Episerver staff and what’s coming in the roadmaps but it’s meeting the sponsors.” 

My Takeaway 

Once again, it became obvious that personalization and website search are the primary features that today’s businesses have to capitalize on to meet their own prospects/customers’ expectations. Therefore, users are no longer utilizing a web content management system (WCM) just for getting the content out as it now plays an influential role in the brand experience. Although personalization is still a sophisticated and complex area, vendors like Episerver have been working hard on beefing up their platforms in order to help organizations keep up with their customers’ evolving needs. I think, today, getting the right message to the right person at the right time is becoming easier and easier thanks to the advanced technology. The question is what’s next? Which features will become mainstream, which features will remain on the shelf for a while? To find the answers to these questions, we discussed with the technology partners during the event. In the upcoming days, we will continue to share the wisdom of partners. Stay tuned!  

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.

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