Interview with James Norwood, EVP Strategy, Chief of Staff, Episerver
Tell us about your role at Episerver.
As EVP Strategy and Corporate Development and Chief of Staff at Episerver — recently bumped up from CMO to help align the business around the CEO and Board’s strategic agenda — I’m focused principally on product and pipeline and ensuring we’re delivering against both across the organization. With 30 years’ experience in enterprise software, I have held other C-level and executive leadership roles with several Customer Experience, CRM and ERP software companies, including KANA and Epicor.
Tell us more about Episerver’s technology and your target audience.
Episerver serves thousands of mid-size and enterprise organizations across a range of industries, including retail, B2B manufacturing, financial services, distribution, etc. Through a combination of content, commerce, multi-channel marketing and AI-based personalization – available in a single platform known as Episerver Digital Experience Cloud or as standalone solutions — we help our clients deliver unique digital experiences for their customers, all from one screen.
What are the differences in the challenges faced by SMBs and Enterprise clients, in adopting a CMS to drive ROI?
There are unique challenges for both SMBs and Enterprise clients when adopting a content management system (CMS) to drive ROI. The primary obstacle is that organizations still think of a CMS as only a means to put in and publish static content, and we know that page views, bounce rates and time on site do not tell the whole customer journey story. Web content management is more than that today, and Episerver is a big reason why savvy companies look for more out of their CMS — wanting it to fuel digital experiences and individualized engagement to connect conversions and customer lifetime value across interactions and touchpoints.
Episerver is the easiest-to-use, most ROI-driven CMS with differentiating features to allow content to work harder and smarter through personalization and performance testing as well as scaling and securing (and more). When companies — even those not traditionally selling online before — realize how much value is available by marrying content and commerce, Episerver proves its overwhelming ROI. A recent Forrester Total Economic Impact report factually proved that Episerver customers get 443 percent ROI over three years and get their initial investment into Episerver paid back in less than six months.
How well do Episerver’s products integrate with third-party API’s?
The reality is that most companies are running dozens of marketing technology solutions and what they need/want is going to change as they grow, mature or have new priorities. Episerver’s technology is built to easily integrate with third-party systems through RESTful APIs and headless approaches to empower our customers to run their businesses how they see fit and as effectively as possible. We provide a number of options for extending pre-built and certified connectors as well as making communication with external systems, such as CRM, ERP, DAM and PIM systems, straightforward.
Tell us a little about Episerver’s ecosystem.
Episerver started as a small company in Sweden and has since grown to be a leading global organization whose partner network consists of some 880 digital agencies and systems integrators across more than 30 countries. In the last year, Episerver saw a more than 150 percent increase in North American cloud subscriptions due in large part to the success of Episerver Digital Experience Cloud that empowers marketers and merchandisers to run omnichannel organizations from both an operational standpoint and a customer experience standpoint – and an increase in our North American partner channel.
Tell us about Episerver’s educational services.
Episerver offers a selection of courses worldwide for business users, editors and developers that are specially designed to fit each individual’s needs. We provide different forms of training from product fundamentals to renewing existing certifications. Our latest course, Cloud Development Training, teaches individuals how to develop Episerver solutions for the cloud. We also continue to bring in some of the biggest names in tech — like Bryan Eisenberg — to educate our market on what it means to transform digitally, not just with Episerver products. Today, Episerver offers a nice blend of classroom and online curriculum and comprehensive certification programs with teeth.
What is the best way to optimize Episerver’s CMS?
Optimizing Episerver CMS is our job. Through customer advocacy and support, product management and marketing, and research and development, our many hundreds of employees are ensuring we’re trailblazing the next features and focusing on web content management to continue to deliver the most productive CMS.
We educate customers, developers and partners to ensure they know our product roadmap to help them understand where and what organizations need to invest in today. Standard though in Episerver CMS are integral tools like A/B testing, enterprise search and rules-based personalization that optimize both the performance of content and the productivity of content and its publishers.
According to you what is more important, building a great product or keeping your customers happy and why do you believe so?
At Episerver, we believe that the key to keeping our customers happy is delivering a great product that is high quality, secure and compliant, and helps them to improve each step of the customers’ journey and achieve measurable ROI and business results. Providing a seamless, single platform allows our customers to focus on high-level strategy and growing their business while we take care of the rest. We also invest a great deal into our customer success management team to ensure customers have a face and name to help them get the most from adoption of the products they are using.
How important is the role of Artificial Intelligence in the CMS domain?
AI is an important component of any modern CMS as it offers the opportunity to enhance the customer journey with better targeting and more efficient use of customer data. At Episerver, we use advanced AI techniques like Machine Learning algorithms, behavioral and predictive analytics to personalize content, products and search for every single visitor to improve their overall visitor journey. Artificial Intelligence as a field will continue to grow and is already a game-changer that will transform the effectiveness of the business that uses it, while enhancing the experience of shoppers that purchase from that business.
What Sales and Marketing technology tools does Episerver currently use?
For starters, Episerver practices what it preaches. So, we use our own Episerver Digital Experience Cloud. Beyond that, we – just like we advise customers to do – leverage Microsoft’s business productivity suites like Office and Dynamics 365 to have an accurate view of our entire organization and operations.
What is that one standout feature in Episerver’s technology that sets it apart from the rest?
We have invested heavily in our personalization capabilities and have features that no one else has. In fact, our ability to optimize the customer experience through our intelligent personalization suite is what led to Episerver being placed furthest on the Completeness of Vision axis overall in the first ever, Gartner Magic Quadrant for Personalization Engines.
What also sets us apart is our unique combination of content and commerce, which together allows us to deliver an overall more seamless experience to our customers. Through products like Episerver Insight and Episerver Advance, we provide advanced cognitive AI-backed features such as customer journey mapping and data visualization that allows us to personalize content for every customer based on what stage they are at in the buyer journey.
As a business leader, where do you see the CMS industry in the next five years?
Looking ahead, the need to deliver rich, relevant content will continue to grow. However, thanks to more sophisticated cognitive AI algorithms, the process of delivering immersive and individualized digital experiences will become much easier to achieve across the customer lifecycle to make content more productive and marketers more creative. We’ll also see a transition in the core CMS as companies, like Episerver, seek to assist with business agility and cross-channel delivery through multi-tenant, micro-services cloud architecture and the addition of modern development frameworks like React and Node.js.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
What are you currently reading?
As you know, technology is a fast-moving industry. On a daily basis, I read publications like MarTech Series to see what is top-of-mind with journalists and also analyst reports to validate my suspicions about tech/trends and/or to explore new research that includes elements to better strategize product and pipeline. However, outside of work, I read mainly history. I just finished An Anzac on the Western Front: The Personal Recollections of an Australian Infantryman from 1916 to 1918 and have now started Erebus: One Ship, Two Epic Voyages, and the Greatest Naval Mystery of All Time.
What is the best piece of professional advice that you have received?
While it doesn’t sound all that prolific, the best piece of professional advice I received was to work hard. It’s the most important attribute that gets people to get results and move up the ladder and when you work hard, you often have fun doing it because you’re passionate about what you do. I like to say “work hard, be humble, and good things will happen.”
Who is that one person from the industry you would love to hear these answers from?
Someone I, and many others, have respected for decades, Paul Greenberg.
Thank you, James! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
With over 27 years of experience within enterprise business software, James has a proven track record in product strategy, sales and marketing, M&A, brand creation and development, and has detailed industry knowledge. James has held C-level and executive leadership roles with a number of CRM and ERP software companies, specifically focused on product strategy and marketing, and has also served on boards and as an advisor to Private Equity.
Episerver connects digital commerce and digital marketing to help organizations create unique digital experiences for their customers, with measurable business results. The Episerver Digital Experience Cloud™ combines content, commerce, multi-channel marketing and predictive analytics in a single platform to work full-circle for businesses online – from intelligent optimization and lead-generation through to conversion and repeat business – with unprecedented ease-of-use.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.