An Optimistic future for Optimizely’s Leading Digital Experience Platform

This is the second installment in a series of articles related to Episerver and Optimizely's combined product vision going forward. In this article, Optimizely's Chief Product Officer, Justin Anovick interviews a group of Optimizely product strategists.

Justin Anovick

Written by:

Justin Anovick

  • Chief Product Officer
  • Optimizely

Last month, we launched a blog series about Episerver and Optimizely’s combined product vision and roadmap. In the first installment, we outlined the reasons Episerver acquired Optimizely, discussed our rebrand and what it means for customers, and provided clarity around the direction we’re taking our products, including our plans for Optimizely Web and Full Stack.

This week, I’m humbled to share more exciting details about our vision for the Optimizely suite of products. If you missed the news, Optimizely (Episerver) was named a Leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms 2021, placed highest and furthest on the ability to execute and completeness of vision axes with respect to our placement in previous versions of the report .

The 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for DXP assesses a total of 16 vendors. I believe that our recognition is because of our ability to execute and completeness of vision. We strive to provide visionary products that deliver true business value for our customers.

We believe, our Leader position in the Magic Quadrant is largely a result of the relentless commitment our team has to helping our customers build and scale robust digital experiences. That’s why I thought, I’d call on our team of brilliant Optimizely product strategists to share their reflections about the report and what they’re excited about in terms of product opportunities in the year to come.

I connected with Edward Barrow, VP Product Strategy, Kevin Li, Sr. Director – Intelligence Cloud, Deane Barker, Senior Director of Content Management Strategy, Josh Schoonmaker, Senior Director Strategy, Commerce, and Patrick Costello, Senior Director Product Strategy.

I’m proud to see Optimizely named a Leader once again in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, Ed what’s your reaction to our placement/recognition?

Ed: It’s fantastic to have recognition from Gartner for the work we’ve been doing over the last 12 months. I feel strongly that we’ve made improvements on our strategy and capabilities, which is reflected by the highest and furthest on the ability to execute and completeness of vision axes with respect to our placement in previous versions of the report.

What stands out most to me about this recognition is the positive reflection of the actual architecture and the platform design. Our vision for the Optimizely DXP is to make it more versatile, composable and extensible. This is something we’ve been investing in for three or four years, and as a result of this vision, over the course of the last year, we’ve had 60 percent growth in the Optimizely App Marketplace.

Additionally, we’ve added a lot of advanced capabilities in machine learning and AI. We’ve really tried to make those accessible and consumable, and that’s not smoke and mirrors. We’re not using those technologies to be cool or innovative. We’re really focused on using AI and machine learning to help organizations automate previously complex and difficult tasks.

As we’re looking ahead, there’s always room to improve. We are motivated to extend our role and invest more in helping business users collaborate and plan across the entire content and product production lifecycle. We will also be doubling down on customer data management, to deliver more effective targeting, analytics and personalization.

Deane, Optimizely’s CMS is multi-faceted, but its power to enable content authors and editors to create and collaborate on content is arguably the most important. Can you elaborate on some of the work we’re doing there?

Deane: I’m genuinely excited about increasing our capabilities around content creation and collaboration. 

The appetite for content has never been higher, we need to further enable our customers to quickly deliver that content and effectively collaborate in the process. I believe deeply in the power of content and want to empower content creators and editors.

If organizations create better content, they will have better results. I believe that it is our responsibility with Content Cloud to help them create better content. None of the other capabilities within a DXP work without content.

A/B tests are great, but first you have to have an “A” and a “B” – and that’s content.

Patrick, everyone should be able to experiment like the best in the business. How are we working to deliver more value to our customers to allow for that?

Patrick: It’s not just about delivering more value to clients, it’s also about unlocking that value faster and having a much better experience in the process. We’re hyper-focused on making developers lives easier – and we’re doing that by improving things like performance, flexibility, usability and extensibility.

We’re particularly excited to streamline workflows for teams managing experiments and progressive delivery as well as for the developers implementing everything. Usability is key, and it directly impacts both quality and velocity of optimization.

In parallel, we’re also improving app and page speed performance. Both are consistently top of mind for customers. We’re determined to enhance what we already have plus extend where our performance capabilities can make an impact.

We also recognize that there’s significant value we can unlock for clients by better bridging our offerings — they are better together. This includes not only better bridging Web and Full Stack, but also bridging experimentation and progressive delivery with the full product suite. Our new Optimization as a Service offering is a great example of this effort.

Kevin, as Patrick just mentioned, Optimization as a Service makes so much sense as it’s what our collective customers have been asking about. Can you talk a little bit about what it actually means?

Kevin Li: Optimization as a Service is hands down the most exciting aspect of what we are doing with Intelligence Cloud.

Traditionally, marketing technology companies usually only offer one or two capabilities to help customers with digital optimization. This could be a targeting system, or an experimentation platform, or a recommendation engine, but it was always up to the customer to buy these separately and bear the burden of making sure these individual solutions worked together without breaking the site experience.

What’s different about our newly launched Optimization-as-a-Service solution is that it’s a unified solution that offers everything a digital marketer would need for digital experience optimization in one neat package. No more data plumping, no more “duct tape” integrations between vendors.

As a result, marketers can dive into unlocking more value much faster than before and use any combination of targeting, testing, and recommendations with ease. Initial feedback from customers has been great, with many of them drawn towards the flexibility of the solution for a myriad of use cases and the unparalleled speed of realizing value.

Looking ahead, we are committed to building a strong plan for integration for our overall DXP just like we’ve done for Optimization-as-a-Service. According to chiefmartec, there are more than 8,000 martech vendors out there and it’s not always easy for our customers to properly integrate all the point solutions together. Today, a lot of valuable time is wasted just trying to get these technologies to work together.

Here at Optimizely, we strive to do much better and are committed to ensuring that all the great capabilities within our DXP function in a cohesive manner. Our customers are at the heart of it all, we want to make their lives easier by offering easy ways to integrate our solutions into a larger technology stack.  

Josh, digital commerce has seen a massive, unparalleled boom in the last year. What opportunities do you see for Optimizely and our customers?

Josh: It’s true that digital commerce has seen a huge uptick because of Covid. In fact, commerce plans and investments have accelerated faster than ever before. Some companies have fast forwarded more than five years in terms of their plans for implementation and adoption of ecommerce. In turn, we’ve also seen innovation and acceleration around omnichannel and what it means.

While digital channels are great places for personalization, experimentation, and recommendations, physical commerce channels, like retail stores, have mostly missed out on these opportunities because the customer isn’t identified.   There’s been a gap between a rich digital experience and an unknown physical customer.

However, things like mobile and contactless payment, curbside pickup, find-in-store and other innovations create new touchpoints and opportunities to those rich customer experiences while they are physical present. As the physical shopper identifies themselves through their device in a physical channel, the opportunity for experience optimizations suddenly emerge in the physical world.

Ed, could you name a few areas we are focused on for 2021?

Ed: We are focused on improving the business user experience, making the platform more composable and helping our customers use data to make better decisions.

Business User Experience

We are doubling down on the content editors, product managers and other business users to give them the best experience possible. We tend to do well with usability and we definitely want to retain that visionary lead as we progress into 2021.

Composability

Making the product more composable is also important right now. Through APIs and improved integration points, we will ensure that all of our products are very easy to use together and easy to use with other technologies.

We’re not approaching the post-acquisition integration as a full, rigid product. We know that not all of our customers need the entire product suite. Instead of super-gluing everything together, we’re focused on making it easy for companies to plug and play. They can buy the technology they need today, and grow into what they need tomorrow.

Analytics

Finally, we’re going to make it more possible for customers to harness the power of data. The data available in Optimizely will really help our clients make more informed, data-driven decisions. We want the data we provide to be actionable and usable, not just more data for data’s sake.

Lastly, we have some of the most amazing customers – they do unbelievable things with our products – but we also have partners who help bring those dreams to reality – what do you see them doing that intrigues you the most?

Deane: I’m really excited about new frontend technologies and what they’re doing, but I also love what it reveals about Optimizely’s platform. It’s pretty amazing how we can adapt to whatever people are doing on the Frontend with React or View.  This is possible because we have the foundational content architecture done right, so the frontend is sort of a detail that can be swapped out however they want to present their content.

Patrick: It’s hard to have this conversation without bringing up Covid. It has obviously shifted how businesses are operating and there’s a lot of new messaging to communicate, new business models to try and new code to ship. It’s never been more important to make data-driven decisions and mitigate risk.

One of our customers, a large retailer, tripled their experiments around pickup services, and also used Optimizely to roll out their new buy online – pickup to curbside offering. Another customer, a high-growth fitness company, has had an enormous year-over-year jump in users and Optimizely is helping them retain those users better.

Josh: The way our customers are experimenting with customer journey touchpoint is really inspiring.  This past year saw a wild implementations of capabilities like buy online - pickup in store with curbside service and find-in-store on mobile in response to the requirements for less physical contact. In solving these immediate needs, customers and partners were asking questions like  “at what points do customers need status updates” or “would the customer want a personalized recommendation here?”

Kevin: Partners are really excited because traditionally, they would have to look for big digital opportunities like replatforming a CMS or a commerce engine. Optimization as a Service gives them another tool within their toolbox to add value when replatforming projects aren’t on the table. This helps them to move faster and deliver the results that customers want without touching the underlying digital infrastructure.

Customers are excited about the underlying data. They are thinking about things like combining the data available in Content Intelligence with the data available in Optimizely. Our products really touch every aspect of the customer journey, so there is a ton of data on the table.

Up Next

We’re just getting started. We have some big plans for the year and we’re excited to share them here with you. Watch for our next product vision blog, where we’ll share the details of the roadmap for each product family and what it means for our customers. We’re excited about the combined value of Optimizely and Episerver, and the possibilities we have to help companies unlock their digital potential.

 

GARTNER DISCLAIMER

  • Gartner, Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms, Irina Guseva, Mick MacComascaigh, Mike Lowndes, 26 January 2021
  • Gartner does not endorse any vendor, product or service depicted in its research publications, and does not advise technology users to select only those vendors with the highest ratings or other designation. Gartner research publications consist of the opinions of Gartner’s research organization and should not be construed as statements of fact. Gartner disclaims all warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to this research, including any warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose