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Sitecore Symposium 2018 – Elevate the Experience

The Sitecore Symosium 2018 was recently held in Orlando, Florida and I attended to represent Cucumber.  Many of you will be aware that Cucumber has been a partner of Sitecore since 2011. We could see the benefits of Sitecore’s vision to help personalise customer experiences even then and we have followed their progress and worked on their platform ever since. 

I attended also because Cucumber once again punched above its weight and won a regional ANZ Sitecore Award for our work with Contact Energy under the category Best Use of Personalisation. You will find a case study on our website with more information on this but suffice as to say we were extremely proud to win our 4th international award in 7 years working with our customers using Sitecore.

The Symposium brought together 3000 attendees from 53 countries including customers and partners from places as far afield as Jordan and Mauritius. Sitecore has a significant user base.

There were some key business messages and interesting insights as well as technology announcements which I wanted to share:

Experience is the Product – customers’ expectations are skyrocketing whilst trust is at its lowest ebb. Research indicates that 88% will pay more for a great experience. The theme of the conference was therefore to elevate the experience beyond just providing a product and personalising the interaction was still a goal business marketers were striving for.

To compete you need Extreme Focus – Kiwi girl Sarah Robb O’Hagan, Director at JetBlue Airways was a plenary speaker and said extreme focus is what you need to be successful. Three points came across strongly:

  1. Play your specialist game – be spectacular for the few not average for the many
  2. Change the game – how can you change the game to enable your speciality and focus
  3. Break yourself to make yourself – look for inspiration from adjacent brands not direct competitors and get ready for change.

Brand trust is on the C level agenda – consumers are taking brands to task on their brand promise. With 90% of consumers exhibiting more trust towards companies who show they are trustworthy by allowing consumers to control more about what they share and there is increased transparency, accessibility and personalisation about data that is held about them. Managing a data privacy issue is more than likely for many CEO’s.

Cannondale bikes had an interesting case study, whereby they reversed the sales model by finding out data on how a customer actually rides before recommending a bike. They captured data from customers’ Garmin apps to analyse their rides in order to suggest their best Cannondale bike and used Sitecore Cortex Machine Learning and a QR code that the customer used to take to the nearest bike store. To take it one step further, they used Sitecore JavaScript Services and Augmented Reality capability in store to showcase the recommended bike and how it was built for the user’s riding style.

Move the Dial - A more significant element at the conference was the number of women present. There was a Move the Dial ( event about encouraging women to get careers in technology. Many of the women present were Sitecore Digital MVPs , they certainly get the “experience is the product” message and can use the Sitecore platform and marketing automation tools to reach female audiences in a way most men couldn’t envisage.

Sitecore Technology Announcements

Sitecore announced the acquisition of Stylelabs, they provide an integrated solution for Digital asset management (DAM), Marketing portal, Marketing resource management (MRM), Web to Print, Digital rights management (DRM) and Product information management (PIM). The combination of Sitecore and Stylelabs will create an end-to-end content, commerce, and personalisation platform.

Salesforce as a partner loomed large at the conference. It was clear that Sitecore and Salesforce have developed a strong partnership and there was a significant Salesforce presence to work with partners who were looking to invest in Marketing Cloud with Sitecore’s Experience Platform.

Sitecore also announced the launch of Sitecore 9.1 which is a significant release for the company and had a number of key area updates

  • Sitecore JSS – A complete toolkit for modern Javascript developers to build complete solutions “unplugged” from the content management. This headless capability is a major enabler for flexibility, speed to market and engagement
  • Sitecore Cortex - machine learning capability against Sitecore’s xDB Experience Database to create more insights and automate personalised recommendations
  • Sitecore SXA – more templated UX layouts and components for speed to market and rapid launch of websites
  • Re-developed Sitecore Email Experience Management, Sitecore Marketing Automation and Sitecore Forms tools which are significantly better than previous versions
  • Sitecore Commerce – connecting content, commerce and personalisation, a powerful combination for marketers to create significant value opportunities.

There was also a preview of Sitecore “Horizon” - the next generation UI, where front-end is as powerful as back-end Sitecore and where there is significant emphasis on Dashboards, Actionable Insights and Improvement Perspectives.

In addition there was an interesting focus through all the talks about the looming use of Voice as the engagement medium that more customers will be using. 41% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say it feels like talking to a friend or another person. Reasons for people to turn to their voice-activated speakers can be for:

1. Multi-tasking

2. Doing things faster than other devices

3. Empowering them to instantly get answers and information

4. Making daily routine easier

This is one area that business needs to start thinking about and getting ready for the change that is coming. Sitecore are certainly looking at this with their new platform architectures.

Of course I could go on…but as the digital marketing landscape moves extremely quickly to meet customer expectations, Sitecore is realising it still has a lot to offer so don’t forget to check it out if you are thinking about an omni-channel customer experience platform.

Before I finish I should mention that NZ Sitcore MVP Ryan Bailey sadly passed away shortly before this Symposium.  Although I knew Ryan only briefly, he was very well respected by everyone in the community and the Cucumber team who were saddened by this news. A site was created to help raise money to support his family: We wish them all the best.