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Hello Optimizely: Why Episerver’s new name and direction is good news for digital teams

Episerver, currently being rebranded as Optimizely, is an industry-leading digital experience platform (DXP) that we love working with.  Optimizely / Episerver is an excellent platform that helps organizations deliver exceptional customer experiences and carry out advanced digital marketing operations.

Over the past three years, Optimizely / Episerver has gone through a period of change, solidifying its position in the marketplace and culminating in the acquisition of Optimizely and their subsequent rebrand. In this post, we’re going to explore the journey the company has been on and why we believe it’s great news for digital marketing teams.

A period of growth

Episerver is a very mature platform, having been formed in Sweden in the mid-nineties, with the first version of the CMS released in 1997. Since then, the platform has undertaken multiple acquisitions, resulting in expansion of capabilities, and has also been through various changes in ownership. In 2018, it was acquired by Insight Venture Partners for well over a billion dollars, and is currently headquartered in the U.S., although it still has operations in Sweden.

This acquisition has given “Epi”, as it is affectionately known, the investment springboard and strategic push to expand and improve, partly through the acquisition of niche technology providers whereby capabilities can then be integrated into the platform, and the expertise of specialists can help shape the future product roadmap. In late 2019, the company acquired personalization company, Idio, and B2B commerce leader Insite Software.

The company has also invested in new leadership to move it into a new era of growth. In December 2019, a new CEO was announced in Alex Atzberger (ex-SAP), and in July 2020 the company appointed Kirsten Allegri Williams as CMO, moving from SAP SuccessFactors. Like relatively recent appointments in Sitecore, we believe a new CEO appointment signals a period of change, and this is certainly reflected in the recent acquisition of Optimizely.

The Optimizely acquisition

In September 2020, Episerver announced it was acquiring Optimizely – a company that provides an experience optimization and improvement platform. At the time, Alex Atzberger described it as, “the most significant transformation in our company’s history – one that will set a new industry standard for digital experience platforms”. The acquisition was completed in October.

At a high level, the acquisition seems like a good fit, what with the combination of the content management muscle on the Episerver side, and the analytics and ability to test and drive continuous optimization and improved personalization across digital touchpoints on the Optimizely side. A CMSWire article about the acquisition points out some specific advantages, such as the ability to use Optimizely on touchpoints like ecommerce, and to carry out tests across customer journeys. 

Hello Optimizely, farewell Episerver

The next consequence of the acquisition is the decision to rebrand Episerver to become Optimizely. The announcement coincides with the launch of what the newly-named company refers to as Optimization-as-a-Service – an integrated offering that emphasizes a marketing position based on optimizing content and experiences. We think the company name change appeals more directly to a digital marketing community and references the strength of the platform.

In the past, whilst Gartner has rightly highlighted the strength of Optimizely / Episerver, it has pointed out a slight weakness in that it is perhaps less well-known among large enterprises and lacks the visibility of some of its rivals. The new name may start to help address this with better brand awareness.

The acquisition and momentum of the rebranding should also drive innovation and platform development, with an interesting roadmap incorporating elements for both marketers and developers. We’ll cover the product evolution in more detail in a future post.

Ultimately, the acquisition will help to deliver a more complete suite of digital marketing and content management tools to ensure Optimizely remains competitive in the digital experience market. Of course, on the ground, that means more options for digital marketers, and more platform improvement as providers seek to defend and extend their marketing position.

What the analysts are saying

In recent years, the platform has been growing its presence in the marketplace. In early 2020, it was recognized by Gartner as a Leader in the Magic Quadrant for Digital Experience Platforms alongside big players like Adobe and Sitecore. Although it has already been recognized by Gartner as a leader in the Magic Quadrant for Web Content Management (WCM) for a number of years, this new accolade shows the platform’s advance in expanding to a wider feature set to qualify as a leading DXP. In 2021, Gartner have again placed Optimizely as a Leader in the Magic Quadrant, noting impactful acquisitions, transparent and modular pricing and improved marketing.

3 reasons why this is good news

We think Optimizely’s emergence as a true DXP leader, its current strategic direction and the rebrand are all great news for organizations and their digital marketing teams, and here’s why.

1.      More choice

Having a choice of excellent platforms gives marketing teams exciting options to deliver digital experiences. More choice is always good news, and we expect to see Optimizely increasingly appear in RFPs and among much larger organizations.

2.      More competition

The intense but healthy competition between DXPs is helping to drive product investment and innovation. Ultimately, that leads to better products, which is, of course, positive for everybody in digital marketing.

3.      Great news for existing customers

If you’re an existing “Epi” customer who was originally attracted by the CMS offering, then there will be an opportunity to upgrade and leverage a wider set of DXP features with Optimizely, taking your customer experiences to the next level.

Optimizely on the rise

We’ll be watching Optimizely over the coming months and seeing what happens next. We think the best is yet to come. If you’d like to discuss Optimizely and how you can use it as your Digital Experience Platform, then get in touch!

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