Friday, September 15, 2017

Digital Summit Detroit 2017: Observations and Trends

Brandon Rozelle, SVP, Growth Strategy

I had the pleasure of spending a few days in Motor City this week, attending Digital Summit's 2017 conference. During the conference, I had a few observations I’d like to share.

First off, the folks at Digital Summit should consider this event a success. They know how to throw a conference, and the logistics here are seamless. In addition, attendance seems to have grown between 100-200 attendees over last year. I love conferences of this size (~1200 attendees). It's accessible without being overwhelming. Typically for any break-out topic session, you're only having to choose between 3 options, not wringing your hands over 7-10 simultaneous discussions. They've also attracted some heavy hitters in terms of content presenters. BuzzFeed, Google, IBM, Salesforce—there are a lot of industry leaders talking about trends and innovation. I also heard a lot of very specific conversations on the floor regarding digital transformation and customer-centric marketing.

"Many organizations are still struggling with the basics."

A few trendlines established themselves early on. It's true that many people attend these conferences to hear about the future—emerging capabilities and forward-looking trends—but I also heard from many organizations that are still struggling with the basics. So, while on one hand—talking about conversational commerce, Augmented Reality, and Machine Learning is super sexy—many of the questions I fielded had to do with defining customers (beyond organizational tribal knowledge) and building attribution models for customer impact across multiple systems.

digital summit detroit 2017

"This is about changing the way organizations behave"

We cited an observation from Deloitte Digital's 2017 CMO survey, that while companies are doing digital things, they are not in fact becoming digital. This has to do with organizational alignment. This is about adopting a product mentality within marketing teams. To a large degree, this is about changing the way organizations behave. This is why, in our own break-out session, we decided to focus on practical areas of focus where organizations can start considering how to become more customer-centric, which I would argue is the first step on a road that leads to becoming digital.


  1. Truly Knowing the Customer (defining them by creating research and validation based personas and experience journeys)
  2. Prioritizing on Ability to Execute (ranking action based on value to business, value to customer, ability to action today)
  3. Building Irrefutable Proof (analytics, measurable KPIs)
  4. Evolving Your Teams (talent, composition, hiring)
  5. Helping the Org Evolve (change management, the often overlooked and arguably most critical area of need)

I think this was well received primarily because it gave attendees something they could start taking immediate action on back at their home offices. Every organization is different and each is at a different stage in their own digital marketing maturity journey. They should be able to self-identify their greatest area of need and opportunity and get started.

What seemed to resonate the most with people I spoke with was showing examples of what these strategies look like in action. I truly think that understanding a Persona and Experience Journey gets less academic when you are looking at a fully detailed example, and discussing how it gets used to define customer segments or to define achievable impact metrics from a targeted marketing campaign.

Overall, I had a fantastic time at this conference and engaged in many interesting conversations. My hope is that some of these discussions inspire attendees to go back to their day-job with a newfound sense of motivation—that they can start moving the needle towards becoming more customer-centric, and as a result, take greater advantage of the many digital opportunities around them.

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Brandon Rozelle is the Vice President of Solution Strategy at Rightpoint. Follow Brandon on Twitter and LinkedIn.