Each year Episerver organises Ascend to showcase their achievements. They also outline their 2020 Roadmap across the suite of Episerver products. Each day kicks off with an inspirational keynote speech from an industry innovator. A series of developer labs, hands-on workshops and round table discussions follow. Here, Janaka Fernando, Made to Engage's Head Of Product Strategy and Episerver MVP, outlines his key takeaways from Ascend 2019...

 

Commerce keeps evolving

Made to Engage is leading the charge on the Episerver Commerce Roadmap for 2020 with our R&D and project work for Ireland's #1 book retailer Eason, which formed the basis of the presentation by Made to Engage's CEO Steven Cassin and myself at Ascend London. We've been working in partnership with Episerver on Custom Segments for Insights and with leading mobile platform provider Branding Brand on developing a mobile app. Both of these areas featured highly in Episerver's Commerce Roadmap session.

Custom Segments makes use of the new API changes for Insights that enable developers to define Filter Definitions. These changes to Insights were featured in both the Product and Developer tracks. In London, I was delighted to make a guest appearance at a talk by Jonas Bergqvist, Episerver's Director of Software Engineering, on the subject.  

A definition is unique to that customer and can be used to create a custom segment. For example, with Eason we defined a filter definition of “Customers who purchased a book by author between start date and end date”. This then becomes a custom segment as “Customers who purchased a book by Stephen King between 01 September 2019 and 31 October 2019”.

Branding Brand’s React Native platform, Flagship, allows developers to rapidly build out native mobile apps for both iOS and Android.  With its pre-built components and connectors it does a lot of the legwork in creating an engaging app experience. We were fortunate to have the Branding Brand team over in Belfast to provide us with training. In the space of six weeks (yes, you read that correctly), we've been able to build a working prototype that reads from the Episerver catalog, searches products, shows click & collect options and provides push notifications. This is going to be HUGE in 2020!

There was an update on the CSR beta which has come along in leaps and bounds with a very slick UI. This will work for most use cases for customer service agents needing to manage customers and orders. It works nicely with the built-in Episerver promotions and discounts. One thing that is still in the pipeline is returns and the ability to handle rebates or credit back to customers. I can see this being very useful to Commerce customers requiring some back office functionality from Episerver.

Useful tips for developers

On the Developer track, I sat in on an excellent hands-on session on performance optimisation by Quan Mai, Senior Customer Implementation Director at Episerver.

There were many useful hints on how to reduce calls to the database, while also improving caching and application speed.

To summarise from my notes:

  • Don’t use Service Locator unless you really have to
  • Remove unnecessary loops
  • Replace concrete classes with interfaces
  • If possible use projections or reduce need to return Commerce entities
  • Try not to repeat yourself in code

Jake Jones led a lab on how to replicate external content into Episerver. This complemented a separate talk by Episerver's Senior Director Of Content Management Strategy, Deane Barker, on distributed content management. It was useful to see how others have been creating solutions to aggregate content. We have a number of existing customers with various solutions in place including content providers, Web API push and custom jobs to sync data.

Looking ahead - Episerver Roadmap 2020

Here's a quick summary of some other things that were discussed at Ascend. It's clear that Episerver is continuing to evolve their product suite in a way that improves their customers' experiences. A few highlights for the 2020 Roadmap include:

  • Looking forward to playing around with Episerver Foundation, a new reference architecture which includes all Epi product lines
  • Find will have improved optimisations for merchandisers available through the UI
  • Insights customers will be receiving an embedded Power BI analytics dashboard in future
  • Updates have brought in commerce sales and products reporting
  • CDN cache purges via the self-service portal will be a useful utility
  • Inline block editing is here! This is something that editors have been requesting for a while.  It can be time-consuming to go back and forth between pages and block editing, so inline editing will be a real blessing.

What would you like to ask Janaka about Episerver? Contact him here or check out his latest blog posts on Episerver World