Gartner MQ for WCM Interviews
Earlier this summer, Gartner released its annual Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management 2018, showing us where the perennial players placed this year compared to last and who joined the ranks of WCM platforms listed that are leading the way in innovation and execution.
An insightful characteristic of the report is the way Gartner lists both strengths and cautions of each vendor, allowing decision makers to understand the nature of a system in relation to their own digital maturity and overall strategy. This attribute of the report is exactly what I focused my questions on when I was able to interview a handful of featured vendors in the report, allowing them to elaborate on Gartner’s evaluation of their platform.
In the report it is said Episerver maintains a notion of being more business-savvy in ‘favorable contrast’ to other platforms on the market that are much more technology-driven. Having heard from customers in the past that Episerver does a great job of directly satisfying their business needs, what are the specific business trends that drive Episerver’s product strategy?
"When companies are looking for new platforms, it is because they are looking to solve a need in their organizations and fill in experience gaps their customers may be having and that’s why packaging based on business needs is so critical. We appreciate being recognized for our focus on empowering the people who actually use our product.
By giving access to complex systems that are easy to use, we’re helping our customers realize some of the bigger trends such as artificial intelligence (AI), personalization, and the growth of engagement channels (such as voice) and IoT-enabled devices, all of which play a critical role in delivering a seamless customer experience. With the wrong technology, these trends can make an organization even more confused and disjointed.
A recent report found that the global business value derived from AI is expected to increase to $1.2 trillion this year (70 percent increase from last year) and that AI-derived business value in 2022 could be as high as $3.9 trillion. Episerver has implemented powerful artificial intelligence to back its three pre-packed solutions: Individualized Content, Experience-Driven Commerce and Intelligent Campaigns. Through AI, Episerver is also able to deliver personalization capabilities that enable client experiences to stand out and meet customer expectations. Shoppers are comfortable with personalization. In fact, 87 percent of online shoppers are okay with companies knowing more about them and state when a brand personalizes experiences, a quarter of shoppers are more likely to purchase from the brand again."
What are your thoughts on Gartner emphasizing Episerver's brand awareness and presence as lacking and, given Episerver’s strong push into commerce, is this maybe a reflection of your better fit for customers who prefer a more consolidated system outside of just WCM?
"Episerver is proud of its WCM roots. Our decades of experience helped us envision and bring to market the idea of Experience-Driven Commerce – that goes beyond transactions and into totality of the digital experience with a brand. Whereas others are trying to consolidate their systems, Episerver is already there – unifying content, commerce and marketing on one single interface. A recent independent study proves that our customers are decidedly more productive and profitable when running their commerce businesses on Episerver. In fact, our digital commerce customers realize a 443 percent ROI over three years according to this research. These are homerun figures that cannot be ignored.
As a company that celebrates transparency, we’ve long understood the incredible value that third-party validators provide. We’re working hard to continually be recognized by analysts and experts as not only product categories mature but as we grow too. We have earned both consecutive and inaugural placements in a number of analysts reports recently, (Digital Commerce, DXP, Personalization Engines, etc.) emphasizing that Episerver is not only a suitable choice, but that we have the capabilities to compete across all categories."
In the report, Gartner makes note of BloomReach’s UI as a differentiating factor for the platform in comparison to others on the market but also that it elevates the system to a DXP through its quality, consistency and reduced complexity. Where does this ease of use and flexibility come from and what does it mean to BloomReach for Gartner to also recognize the strengths in AI and being API-first?
"We have the benefit of agility and velocity in what we build and a top priority is to make simple out of the complex, and make it nice to look at and use. For Gartner to recognize this highlights that people are asking about it, and customers desire an alternative approach.
This same philosophy of making simple out of complex is true in our developers' experience as well. A critical requirement of managing digital experiences is connecting customers with a business digitally. All businesses run differently and manage their brands uniquely, our DXP must be equally as flexible. An API first approach means we build with our tools the same way our customers and partners would. To make the right configuration for a user or a customer is the difference of a win."
Gartner notes in the report that decision makers should scrutinize BloomReach's ability to support across a variety of industries. What are your plans in the coming year to employ a more horizontal strategy for product development and partner channel growth as Gartner suggests?
"We welcome the scrutiny on all of our products and services. What we've built has been adopted at an incredible rate by certain sectors such as tourism and online retail, which are high-touch industries especially with digital. We are proud of our customer base and the amazing digital transformations they've made. Cedar Fair and their digital theme park apps come to mind immediately. That said we are always developing for other scenarios and other audiences of users. Our partner channel is growing, we've added several talented people, and you will see the results each year, including 2018."
The authors of the report highlight the Drupal community as a contextual differentiator for the platform when customers are evaluating potential suitors, stating the community itself is “symbiotic, effective, influential and synergistically directional.” Can you go a little more in-depth on how the Drupal community influences your product and how you hope your product influences the community?
"Acquia is extremely proud of its Drupal roots and believes our investment in open source has been one of the strongest advantages to accelerating our innovation and helping drive adoption within the enterprise space.
Our origins in open source have largely influenced our approach of innovation through integrations and open platforms, and connecting our customers to a larger community. We’re building a powerful platform solution that helps brands create unified customer experiences using the best marketing technology available. The Acquia Experience Platform leverages the power of Drupal and provides a means to more easily integrate third party marketing and technology products. We believe excellence across every aspect of customer experience simply cannot be created by one vendor alone.
Acquia has many team members who contribute directly to Drupal and maintain open source applications. We make significant investments in Drupal development through a team of dedicated core contributors. We also support and curate Acquia Lightning, an open source distribution of Drupal that makes it easy for organizations to get development projects started quickly. Furthermore, Acquia has funded major Drupal community development projects and provide financial support to developers and maintainers in the Drupal community. We also established the Drupal 8 Module Acceleration Program to speed the delivery of key Drupal 8 modules for a variety of applications.
Moreover, we offer our customers certified Drupal trainers and product experts, providing in-person and remote training so that developers, administrative users and strategists can mature from beginners to experts. We also offer our e-learning portal, tutorials, private training and product certification program to help users grow their knowledge from beginner best practices on Acquia products such as Drupal, our cloud platform, and Acquia Cloud Site Factory. These trainings are all influenced by the Drupal community."
What are some of the ways that you intend on addressing the struggle Gartner points out for your messaging and positioning in the market so that buyers and customers can understand and differentiate what Acquia can provide compared with Drupal and other hosting providers? What makes Acquia stand out?
"Acquia debuted in the marketplace as the enterprise guide to Drupal, but since then our value proposition and offerings have expanded significantly. From our origins in WCM, Acquia has grown to be a leading platform for digital experience management, relied upon by thousands of global brands including AMD, Wendy’s, Wilson Sporting Goods, Xerox and more. The Acquia Experience Platform differs from traditional WCM by:
- Enabling seamless support for multi-channel experiences that “scale with you”
- Speeding time to value and ROI of rich, interactive experiences
- Improving productivity for all stakeholders (developers, operators, digital marketers, authors)
- Uncovering insights and automates actions to improve business outcomes
You’ll see our new story reflected in everything we do, from our all-new website and our recent debut of some short product-line videos. These are just some of the ways we’re making our story clearer, so the market can understand the benefits Acquia can provide to help them keep pace with today’s burgeoning martech landscape.
Furthermore, we proudly host Acquia Engage every year with the goal of connecting our team with customers, partners and prospects. The yearly summit serves as a forum to share ideas, address digital challenges and learn from one another so we can better serve the digital experience community at large. Much like Drupal, our story continues to change, growing and refining along with the market itself. We’ve rolled out these initiatives to create a better understanding of who we are, the solutions we offer and the range of companies and applications that can benefit from our adaptable portfolio and wealth of community-sourced expertise."
Gartner emphasizes SDL’s unique ability to gain ground in markets that are hard for other vendors to penetrate like China and Japan, how is SDL able to achieve both a presence and a potential for the platform where other WCM systems haven’t been as successful?
"There’s no doubt that we’re seeing global interest and growth for SDL Tridion DX, our content management and digital experience solution. Largely from companies looking to develop their business on the international stage, and in particular in the Asia Pacific region.
Take China. Despite representing the globe’s largest retail economy, China remains one of the world’s most challenging markets to penetrate. Brands must firstly overcome language barriers and understand cultural nuances. They must also deal with tough censorship regulations – where certain foreign content is blocked by the “Great Firewall of China” – and they also need to apply locally for an ICP (Internet Content Provider) license before being allowed to run a website. And once local hosting, and domain names are registered, brands then need to ensure that digital content is always available to customers across any digital device. That’s incredibly complex for any global brand who isn’t already present in the region. Our strategy addresses real life problems like these. As an example, we recently announced a strategic partnership with Alibaba Cloud, and a co-developed solution that removes all the challenges behind registering, launching and developing a digital brand in the region.
While there is huge interest from brands looking to move into Asia, we’re equally seeing interest from exciting Asian brands looking to launch and diversify their business outside of Asia. The airline industry in particular seems to be leading the digital charge. Companies like All Nippon Airways (ANA), Vanilla Air, China Eastern, China Airlines, have all recently chosen SDL Tridion DX and our language solutions to engage with global customers. Take All Nippon Airways. The Japanese Airline company chose SDL to support its global expansion plans, launching 25 websites (12 languages) across 46 countries. China Airlines launched 12 websites in 11 languages using SDL Tridion DX, combined with our language technology to manage and translate global content. The amount of traffic doubled, with conversion rates increasing by 90%. These are just a couple of examples of how we’re helping Asian companies engage with customers globally."
What’s the initiative behind the less obvious and less expected investments in your product Gartner notes like delivery architecture, NLG and NLP? What are your thoughts on Gartner highlighting it as a caution?
"We have been focusing heavily on our delivery architecture, because we wanted to solve one of the biggest problems brands face today: the discontinuity of customer journeys between marketing content, commerce and in-depth product information. Since these different types of content are created and managed by different internal teams, the end result is a fragmented digital experience that reflects these internal organizational silos. Think about it: you explore a product on a marketing driven site, and if you want in-depth information, you need to start digging for a PDF in the Support section of that very same website.
Our delivery architecture solves this problem by being able to ingest content from various backend systems, and then deliver it in a single, joined-up digital experience. That means that engaging marketing content and transactional commerce capabilities (managed via SDL Tridion Sites) can be blended with in-depth product information (managed in SDL Tridion Docs using DITA content), all on the same webpage. One of the ways to bring content together dynamically is through the use of taxonomies, which has been a feature of our solutions for many years.
In the backend you can continue to manage different types of content with dedicated tools. You can even publish content from various WCM systems that you may have acquired over the years, and create a single consolidated experience on the front-end.
In addition we have focused on adding GraphQL as a way to query the underlying content repositories, making it even easier (and faster) to use content in an endless number of frontend sites and apps. We are ahead of the market with this but it’s not something that competitors focus on, so it’s up to the reader to judge if they believe this is worth a Caution from Gartner.
In terms of NLP, the customers we tend to work with are multinational brands, dealing with millions of content hungry customers across dozens of countries and languages. They’re creating content around the clock – from web pages, to product and campaign-related content. If you think about it, language and linguistics sit at the very center of all of this. And this is where NLP and machine learning can really help.
We’ve invested heavily in machine translation, machine learning and NLP over the past 15 years. We hold 45 patents in these areas and our research teams continue to push the boundaries of linguistic AI. Our expertise in NLP and machine learning can be applied really well in the process of content creation, beyond traditional translation use cases. Again, since this is not something that the majority of WCM vendors focuses on, hence Gartner brings up the point that companies should check that this aligns with their DX roadmaps.
Our firm belief is that companies can only deliver customer journey continuity by getting both their digital experience and language strategy right. At SDL we are committed to delivering the industry’s best solutions that combine these two areas, and we’re also investing heavily across other important aspects that companies are looking for in a next-generation web content management platform."
A common pain point for WCM vendors in the market is that customers often pay a great deal for features they rarely use and notes that Sitecore does a good job of remedying this through support. Can you give us some specific examples of the training and best practices initiatives that help with this?
"As any marketer or IT professional can attest, building an engaging digital experience requires a team of people to connect the dots between what is both a technical discipline and a creative pursuit. It’s with this in mind that Sitecore Business Optimization Strategies (or SBOS, for short) is often called our “secret sauce.” The SBOS team is borne out of a customer-centric culture that is 100-percent dedicated to improving customer experiences, which ultimately leads to higher ROI for the businesses employing it. At its heart, they are marketing technologists who help our customers and partners accomplish two key objectives: align the implementation of Sitecore solutions with key business objectives and ensure a solid technical and marketing project foundation for continuous performance improvement. The best practices, methodologies, and tactics they employ are predicated on Sitecore’s Customer Experience Maturity Model®, which involves an assessment of the customer’s organization models, processes, marketing channels, and other digital technologies to understand where the customer already excels and where they can improve. In turn, the customer understands where to focus the right people, processes, and technologies to outperform their competitors.
SBOS is just one of the capabilities we bring to bear for our customers under the umbrella of Sitecore Value Realization Services, though. Sitecore also offers a variety of Technical Consulting packages—what we call Stepstone—that help our customers achieve higher implementation quality and maximize the value of their investment. These services can include a review of the customer's implementation at each stage of the project lifecycle to ensure optimal implementation aligned to recommended practices, all the way through to collaborating with the customer's internal and external teams to define their architecture at the content, application, and system level. Additionally, Sitecore also offers Technical Account Managers to provide ongoing support and technical account management and serve as a frontline Sitecore subject matter expert to ensure successful use of Sitecore technologies."
Gartner states as a caution for Sitecore is a long and often complex implementation and deployment time, noting they often hear customers’ feedback on insufficient support through development and design and an inconsistency when it comes to the implementation quality from Sitecore partners. How are you addressing these concerns and how are you working to better this in the future?
"The majority of Sitecore implementations are managed primarily by the Sitecore Solution Provider network, and we absolutely recognize that the services they deliver—in conjunction with us—have an outsized weight on our customers’ overall satisfaction with Sitecore. To make sure we’re collectively delivering exceptional results for our customers, we’ve made a number of adjustments to the program to provide our valued partners with the resources and support they need. I should say that, on the one hand, we’ve redefined what it means to be a partner and raised our expectations at every tier in the program. But just as important, we’ve increased our commitments and focused our investments to better support the skill development, certification, and successful application of Sitecore best practices that result in a delighted customer. These include greater access to eLearning, training and certification, project delivery support packages, and named alliance, marketing, and technical account managers. For example, Sitecore has introduced the Partner Technical Account Manager role, which is a dedicated technical resource that participates in key solutioning processes, delivery reviews and issue resolution processes, and roadmap sessions to ensure use of Sitecore best practices.
CoreMedia’s effective understanding of market trends is noted as a strength by Gartner in addition to the balance you achieve between headless capabilities and offering users more intuitive UIs to keep tabs on various content renditions. Knowing that at times, rating the importance of market trends against product strategy can be subjective, what specific market trends have the most influence over your product and marketing strategy and which does you see as having an effect in the future?
"I am glad that Gartner recognized our deep understanding of the most important market trends and likes our answers. In fact, our strategic focus is the reason for our strong growth. Here are some of the trends we discussed with Gartner.
Massive Networking Drives Change
Let’s take a step back to look at the big picture. The most consequential trend we see for societies, organizations and individuals is massive networking. It sounds obvious, but it’s often overlooked. We’re increasing the scale and density of the global digital network every day. And, as a result, the pace of innovation is accelerating. It took the telephone 75 years to reach 100 million users. It took PokemonGo 1 month.
It’s All About the Experience
One consequence of massive networking is the increasing power of iconic symbols. As one of our customers in the luxury space said: “it’s all about the experience”. Brands like Supreme, Valentino, Tesla and Ferrari are successful – and can demand a premium price – because they tell stories and provide meaning. That is why we worked so hard with CoreMedia Content Cloud to empower brands to do things that have never been done before like orchestrating global drops with local insights at unprecedented speed or customizing brick-and-mortar flagship stores for a single customer in seconds if they want to.
Best-of-Breed Beats Monolithic Systems
For technology buyers, the increasing pace of change means that they can no longer depend on traditional monolithic systems and must switch to more versatile headless services that can be easily arranged and rearranged whenever needed. CoreMedia is deeply committed to developing an open best-of-breed architecture with powerful hubs to integrate into all kinds of other systems. Our customers can augment their existing systems within weeks instead of having to rip and replace everything. Iterating fast is the key to success.
Headless Architectures are Great but Missing a Piece
But headless systems on their own are not sufficient. They’re great at addressing the abundance of new touchpoints and make it easier to take advantage of modern front-end technologies. But there’s a major issue that they can’t solve: How can marketers orchestrate and preview the entire end-to-end experience from a single UI? We are excited that Gartner recognized the ability of CoreMedia Content Cloud to conquer this challenge. We enable marketers to access content from any integrated system and preview how any micro-experience will feel like on any device – for any context – at any time. And once they’ve previewed the experience, we give them the ability to automate it or change it in an instant if conditions change.
The Physical and Digital Are One
Moving forward we’re also excited by how CoreMedia Content Cloud is laying the foundation for the future of brick-and-mortar flagship stores. As the number and size of screens – along with voice enabled devices – continues to explode, we expect iconic brands to take advantage of these tools to augment their flagship stores with new personalized experiences. Imagine an important customer from Japan traveling to Paris. She loses her luggage and needs a new dress for an evening gala. She uses her iPhone to find the right dress, reserves it, and heads to the local luxury flagship store to pick it up. The moment she enters the store, she is greeted by beautiful photos and videos featuring the dress on the Paris catwalk. Everything is in Japanese and all prices are in yen. Together, the manager and the customer can explore the entire collection through voice commands.
Artificial Intelligence Enables More Sophisticated Experiences at Scale
The rapid evolution of Artificial Intelligence opens the door to dramatic productivity improvements by automating and speeding up repetitive tasks. It also enables more sophisticated personalized experiences that are too costly to provide without A.I. CoreMedia enables customers to take advantage of the latest A.I. technology regardless of the preferred platform. With our technology behind the scenes, marketeers will be able to personalize both the online and the in-store experience to an extent that’s unprecedented."
As a caution, Gartner notes that CoreMedia’s cloud capabilities were slow to market and even though you’ve made up for it with the strength of your cloud offerings, potential customers are urged to think critically about whether or not CoreMedia’s cloud capabilities can meet their needs. Even though Coremedia has done a great job in keeping up with the ever-changing industry, could you give us some insight as to why Gartner may feel you were late with your cloud capabilities?
"I think we might not have told our story well in the past. Could be a German thing, if you know what I mean. The fact is, the overwhelming majority of our customers are already using cloud deployments. We’ve offered the capabilities to efficiently run CoreMedia Content Cloud in AWS, Azure and IBM Softlayer for many years. AWS and Azure have quickly become the norm.
But what we see is not one-sizes-fits-all. We’ve had great success with CoreMedia Content Cloud as a hosted service option for Salesforce Commerce Cloud customers. Recently, an iconic shoe brand managed a global roll-out in 7 weeks. And they achieved that with only internal resources plus some on-site training and coaching from us.
For larger companies with complex requirements and their own massive tech stacks, we also offer CoreMedia Content Cloud as a self-managed cloud solution. It comes with the same software capabilities as the hosted deployment option. The only difference is that the software is hosted by the customer or a partner in a private cloud environment. This is an attractive option for our public service customers like the German Federal Government who need to operate hundreds of tenants in especially hardened and certified data centers.
It’s important to note that for many of our clients CoreMedia Content Cloud is a strategic platform and a core component of their own product or service. These companies are tech companies in their own right and they prefer to have as much control over their tech stack as possible."
Gartner pinpoints Kentico as being rather successful in establishing midsize organizations as the sweet spot for the platform, attributing this to a number of factors but points to its low entry-level pricing, ease of use for both business and IT teams and native capabilities as making it most accessible. Why else do you think your platform makes such a great match for the midsize?
"Another element that our customers love is our support. We have a tremendous team of support engineers, solution architects and customer success managers on three continents who are passionate about helping our customers and partners. That helped us win the mid-market with Kentico EMS, and now we're taking this strength to enterprise customers with our new headless CMS Kentico Cloud."
Gartner identifies Kentico as a platform that customers find more technology focused, making it hard to relate to specific business demands. What are your plans in the next few years to address this and do you think you will would find a way to bridge business needs alongside the technical understanding?
"To better align with the requirements and expectations of business users, Kentico EMS has seen a major investment in approaches to automation, contact and campaign management, as well as email marketing, commerce, data privacy and search and discovery. Moving forward, we will continue to invest in better authoring experiences for business users, specifically in customer experience orchestration, content composition, personalization, insights and analytics. Kentico EMS has been highly rated by customers and analysts for its value for money and ease of use. We want to ensure we continue to provide the most valuable product to both technologists and business users."
Gartner recognizes e-Spirit as showing a timely advancement to the architecture making rapid deployment and faster development much more accessible for users and in addition, supporting Caas. Can you tell us about your Content as a Service offering and how that positions e-Spirit uniquely in the WCM market?
"Our content-as-a-service offering--FirstSpirit CaaS--enables content delivery as-a-service to whatever channel it is intended to go – such as mobile device, website, portal, voice activated device, store, IoT, digital sign, social network, app. And this happens in milliseconds. From a business perspective, marketers can create, preview and orchestrate any digital experience for their audience across any channel wherever the customer may be using FirstSpirit CaaS. From a technical perspective, this capability exposes content over a business-driven REST-API using a CaaS interface--our FragmentCreator UI--to an end-user or to any 3rd party application. It can deliver content fragments, a navigational structure, pure meta data or anything else that is required for a specific use case. In return, control and analytics data are provided to the backend users. Most notably is the Experience Preview, i.e. a real-life preview that works regardless of what is used to render digital content to an end-user."
The report states that other platforms appeal to the customers that have their hands in more of the marketing and customer experience initiatives, but e-Spirit appeals more to IT focused buyers. Gartner notes it's a strength as customers’ skillsets grow broader and the number of systems a WCM platform has to integrate with increases but caution theyshouldn't be turning a blind eye to improvement in the advanced features that enable effective customer experience. Is this focus a preference of the organization or are there are plans to bring the two together?
"e-Spirit has consistently invested in creating advanced features for digital marketers, and it is these features that we believe helped us make the significant leap to Visionary in the MQ for WCM. Over the last two years we’ve accelerated development of new marketing features that increase usability, improve digital experiences across channels and help marketers manage content at scale. Our customers are seeing great efficiency gains across the board which gives digital marketers the time needed to focus on delivering the best digital experiences possible. One new customer -- TSI Holdings -- has seen several early productivity increases: content editors are creating content 2.5x faster and update site content 1.5x faster for increased time to market and improved experiences.
Some of the most recently added features in FirstSpirit include:
Launched in 2017, FirstSpirit’s Intelligent Content Engine uses AI to help marketers deliver personalized customer experiences across multiple touchpoints and channels regardless of where they are in the world. The intelligent content engine unifies data silos from internal and external systems so marketers can easily harnesses their data to build advanced profiles and deliver personalized experiences to any touchpoint, sharing audiences across sites and devices to create one cohesive and synchronized experience. It includes unparalleled customer segmentation, automated personalization, testing and optimization, and product and content recommendations, and capabilities.
In April 2018, we introduced new omnichannel capabilities to what we call FirstSpirit Anywhere, which enables personalized digital experiences in real time via any channel at scale. Marketers use our new intuitive FragmentCreator UI to create channel content. e-Spirit’s new Omnichannel Manager allows marketers to review and optimize the channel experience prior to publishing channel content. Marketers use the next generation of FirstSpirit CaaS to deliver channel content as-a-service to wherever it’s intended to go – mobile, website, voice activated device, store, IoT, digital sign, social network, app – in milliseconds. And our new advanced machine learning-based Predictive Targeting capability takes personalization to a new level by helping marketers analyze and optimize the performance of every content variation across every channel in real time so they can deliver unmatched personalized experiences at every step of the customer journey. We also launched new experience-driven commerce capabilities in April, including Shoppable Videos that help commerce marketers make videos more interactive and engaging with clickable links that allow customers to view product information and make a purchase. And a new AI-driven content creation capabilities—Natural Language Generation—which automatically generates high-quality text – e-commerce product descriptions, promotional text, SEO-relevant descriptions, job descriptions, etc – at scale with limited human resources, greatly increasing productivity and time to market."