As many of you may know, the Engage team has recently attended the EPiServer #Ascend15 Global Conference in Las Vegas en force.  This has been a hugely exciting year for both EPiServer and Engage with both organisations seeing major change and growth throughout the year.

EPiServer has seen substantial growth and scaling following the much lauded and seemingly synchronised series of acquisitions which saw EPiServer and Ektron “merge” to deliver the new EPiServer Digital Experience Cloud and to create a new “Leader in Web Content Management” as recognised by Gartner earlier this year.

For Engage, it has been a year of accelerated growth through a number of fantastic new contracts for leading organisations in UK & Ireland.  We are excited and proud to be partnering on a range of projects which we believe will allow us to deliver, in 2016, on some of the key themes of this conference – digital excellence, digital transformation and customer experience excellence.

EPiServer has focused its roadmap development efforts around some of the key themes of the last 2-3 years – i.e. personalisation, localisation, mobility and commerce convergence strategies. In essence the Ascend 15 conference was a celebration of delivering outstanding customer experiences and the technology which enables us to do so – but with over 60 presentations, labs, workshops and the highly inspiring keynotes there were so many highly valuable takeaways. Here are my top 5:

1. Our platform selection is solid… and there is so much more to come 

At Engage, we make no apologies for our preference on the EPiServer stack. Don’t get me wrong – we implement on a range of other CMS and Commerce platforms where they fit the bill. Amongst the team we have experience of delivering solutions on a wide range of platforms including Sitecore, Kentico, Sitefinity and Umbraco on the CMS side and Magento, Shopify, Big Commerce, Nop Commerce on the retail side. 

However,our core team have all been working with EPiServer since way back in version 4 (that seems like a lifetime ago!) and have been continuously impressed with roadmap planning and delivery – most significantly the step-up at CMS 7 and the convergence of the Commerce platform since. From what we’ve seen this year and the key roadmap items showcased at #Ascend15 we have no reason to doubt that impression will change.

Vegas

Upcoming additions such as new EPiServer Forms (at last); Projects; Instant Templates; Commerce Campaigns & Promotions are all focused at doing what matters most to us – efficiency and flexibility in project and campaign delivery – delivered with the clutter free, intuitive drag and drop interfaces we’ve now come to expect. Longer term we’re looking forward to seeing the big data themed profile store which will allow us to extend our personalisation and automated marketing capabilities (currently delivered via Silverpop or Copernica in most cases). Add those releases to what is already a pretty strong digital marketing capability (recognised earlier this year by Gartner’s positioning of EPiServer as a Leader in the CMS magic quadrant) and we feel we are well armed to address many of the transformation and engagement strategies we have in pipeline with our clients. Keep up the good work EPiServer epi.

 Vegas

2. The opportunities to help our clients disrupt and deliver outstanding digital experience are immense

It’s fantastic to have all of the capabilities of the EPiServer platform and ecosystem available to us for our client projects. The roadmap items demo’d in Vegas offer even greater capability. Getting our hands dirty in the labs and discussing opportunities with the developer network was great but it was even more inspiring to see some of the great activity in the partner / customer network which was delivering true transformation and outstanding business results through intelligent use of the technology.

In a series of showcase sessions we gained some fantastic insights from customers and partners from recent projects from both sides of the pond. Special mention goes to the team at Amaze for the impressive work done with NSPCC to drive engagement and support for kids in need, education bodies and more through some really well thought out personalisation and adaptive strategies. I also really enjoyed presentations from Mud Pie and Whereoware (cool name) who were delivering great results in their commerce strategy through personalisation and automated marketing. The transformation of Rocky Tucker (a B2B motorcycle spares and parts business) is drastic (after 16 years of organic development) but completely user centred – walking the tightrope of supporting long term users who’ve grown familiar to the existing solution but bridging the gap to new audiences and markets used to more contemporary and user centred commerce experience. A really nice job which I’ll keep an eye on for release in 2016!

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I’m now looking forward to the return event next year when we hopefully we can showcase some of the great work delivered by the team at Engage this year in the retail, banking and utilities sectors. I’m hopeful will equally inspire and transform.

3. The power of creativity, passion and drive

Americans do this stuff so well, but as highlighted by my colleague – Dave Boyd in his #Ascend15 blog – there were a number of outstanding and truly inspirational keynotes speeches.

Ray Wang implored us to drive digital disruption and customer engagement through big data and digital technologies. Ray provided example after example of how we can differentiate, change the way we deliver service, connect and engage with customers using all forms of data, mobile devices and social channels to drive highly personalised and contextually driven customer experiences which are valuable to both customer and business. His proposal to “Design for customer segments of one” shows just how far we have to / can go in delivering these personalisation strategies but his stat proposing that 80 billion sensors will exist in devices by 2020 points to the “internet of things” enabling us to deliver the right message or connection in the right channel at the right time. Think Amazon’s Tide Button in every aspect of daily life.  

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Digital Disruption

On Tuesday Eric Wahl stole the show with a truly jaw dropping creative masterclass. Opening with a 4 minute, 2 handed painting of John Lennon to the mesmeric “Imagine” Eric urged us to re-engage with childlike creativity to overcome digital challenges. If I turn up to my next workshop with a bunch of crayons we’ll know who to blame. Inspirational though!

4. Las Vegas is a tough town to work in

The location for the event raised eyebrows both at home and in the office before attending but if there is ever a place to think big this is it. EPiServer picked a great conference centre in the Cosmopolitan Hotel. The opening night’s rooftop pool party was a great chance to catch up with some friends and ex-colleagues at EPiServer and in the partner network. The white out party in the hotel’s Marquis Club was a night to remember – as was the view from Vegas’ answer to the London Eye – the High Roller – which I was lucky enough to be invited to for a late evening drinks reception. All of them were highly enjoyable and a great way to continue conversations and build connections and friendships within an already tight EPiServer community. We’re looking forward to next year already.

5. We’ve got an awesome team back in Belfast

Whilst we were working the conference, networking hard and consuming copious amounts of digital gold (a few beers were also consumed I have to admit), the team back at head office in Belfast, Northern Ireland were not only putting the final touches to two major projects for release to market, but our Digital Marketing team – led by the fantastic Kathryn Pyper, showcased our latest and greatest with our very own keynote, at the rapidly expanding Digital DNA event in Belfast.

A little later as we were hitting the casino, there was a super quick wardrobe change back in Belfast - into the black ties and formal wear to hit Ireland’s Chartered Institute of Marketers Annual Awards. The team picked up no less than 2 winners and 1 commendations for digital campaigns delivered this year. A great week all around and great rewards for a passionate, innovative and hardworking team!

About Engage

Engage is a full service digital agency with a proven track record of delivering outstanding CMS and Commerce solutions on the Episerver platform.

We are the fastest growing Episerver Partner in UK & Ireland and were named Episerver Solution Partner of the Year 2015. Based on continued success in customer acquisition, project delivery and developer certification, we were also awarded Premium Partner Status in summer 2015.

Our focus is to help our clients deliver outstanding customer experiences for today and to deliver the flexibility and agility to design and implement multi-channel digital campaigns and engagement strategies for tomorrow.

Episerver, and the wider ecosystem, has allowed us to deliver on these goals for clients across travel, retail, financial services, membership organisations, public sector and security agencies. Founded in 2011, our team and client portfolio has grown rapidly – thanks to an outstanding team of 28 UX and Creative Designers; Certified CMS & Commerce implementation specialists; technical architects; integration specialists and project delivery managers.

Offices in: Belfast, London, Dublin.

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