Friday, November 15, 2019

Sitecore Symposium 2019 Recap: Human Connections in a Digital World

Platforms / Technology

Sitecore’s premier annual event was held this year in Orlando, Florida. The main theme throughout the conference was “human connections in a digital world.” At Sitecore Symposium 2019 attendees had a wealth of valuable sessions to choose from, including several strong keynotes, customer showcases, and a wide variety of breakout sessions.  The sessions were designed to help us better understand how to stay connected, strategies to drive personalization, and overall stay more engaged than ever with our customers.

Paige O’Neil, CMO of Sitecore, led a keynote that included several guest speakers from General Mills, Cirque du Soleil, and more to share their perspective on how Sitecore is enabling and driving digital transformations that result in higher conversions and overall customer satisfaction. As part of her keynote, Paige explained how Digital Transformation ranks number one in company priorities with an estimated spend of $2 trillion by 2022, with $100B of that coming from retail. Those numbers made attendees stand up and take notice.

I attended a truly amazing customer showcase presented by Mitch Ebeling of Not Impossible Labs, describing how their organization is improving the quality of human life with a crack team of engineers, artists, entrepreneurs. It was extremely powerful and moving to see technology that allows people without the ability to hear to use a wearable device to “feel” the vibrations and rhythm of music – to experience it. This was clearly a demonstration of next level thinking.

I was also impressed by Tanbir Grover, VP of eCommerce at Lowes Canada, describing how omnichannel marketing personalization strategies and Sitecore commerce drove conversions resulting in a 40% increase in mobile revenue and 20% increase in the average order.

Of interesting note, Dr. Rana el Kaliouby – established author and co-founder of Affectiva – discussed how artificial and cognitive intelligence can be used to create an “Emotional” intelligence. Based on deep learning and other machine learning strategies, facial and vocal emotion can be used to change the future of how people interact with technology.

Of course, you can’t have a Sitecore Symposium with out a couple of big reveals:

Sitecore SaaS – planned for Summer of 2020, Sitecore intends to release a version of its platform that is fully managed from an infrastructure and software perspective with a focus on faster integrations, deployments, upgrades and scalability. Sitecore has made it clear that the initial offering is targeted towards lower mid-market customers who do not have a certain degree of business complexity. This is something Rightpoint and others in the Sitecore space will be sure to keep an eye on as it evolves.

Sitecore AI – available December 2019, Sitecore AI, a product offering that Sitecore and Microsoft have built, seeks to automate personalization at scale by automatically identifying visitor trends, creating customer segments, and modifying page elements to deliver personalization on a unique 1:1 scale with the promise of automatically testing and refining content for each customer, every time. This is certain to be a game changer in the way future Sitecore partners and marketers approach personalization.

Content Hub 3.3 – solve the content crisis with the latest the version of content hub which integrates Digital Asset Management (DAM), Content Marketing Platform (CMP), and Marketing Resource Management (MRM) into a single SaaS based offering. As if that was not exciting enough, we got to see a range of integrations for leading third-party solutions and a brand-new marketing and campaign automation connector to empower customers to create experiences and manage them at larger scale. Sitecore puts the icing on the cake with tools that allow us to gain more insight into where and how our content is being used across channels to support informed decisions around content as well as break out of content silos. 

Sitecore Experience Platform 3.3 – last, but not least, XP 3.3. offers a new editing experience called “Horizon” which was shown to be a sleek, intuitive, and contextual interface to allow for ease of navigation and provide real-time data as content is created and published to drive content conversion. As with content hub, this update not only serves as a future foundation for the platform, but also provides enhanced reporting, marketing automation, performance and major improvement to out-of-the-box forms.

Noteworthy news included details on the new SXA 9.3, which will standardize versioning with Sitecore, provide improved documentation, include advanced faceting and filtering components, and introduce a new lightweight text-templating language and engine for .NET called Scriban. Simply put – many awesome changes and features that will be highlighted in an upcoming technical blog series.

Additional noteworthy news - Rightpoint and Sitecore Partner, Coveo, a leading provider of intelligent and predictive search, announced a tighter partnership and go to market strategy with Sitecore on the heels of a $1+ billion valuation following $227 million in investment funding. Congratulations to the team at Coveo. We are very excited to see our partnership continue to grow.

As always, Sitecore Symposium offered many great sessions covering DevOps, Commerce, Analytics, and more were in full swing making it a difficult choice at times on what to attend!

Rightpoint was honored to participate as a Platinum sponsor with a strong presence in sessions showcasing our work with clients including:

  • Belden Cable - On day one, the closing keynote session featured Belden Cable’s Erin Azar, head of Martech, who discussed how Belden partnered with Rightpoint using Sitecore to create a Belden-specific modular approach to the commerce build using Sitecore’s Helix architecture.This modular approach enables expedited site launches and updates, while still being optimized for content entry, analytics, and any other CMS functionality. She also discussed how Belden can now determine the customer journey across multiple business sites, while allowing for a complete commerce capability.

  • VCA Animal Hospitals – VCA partnered with Rightpoint to transform its wealth of content and data resources into a fully personalized digital commerce experience. Leveraging Sitecore Experience Commerce and powered by multiple inbound and outbound integrations and a personalization strategy that shapes the user journey according to a number of parameters, the new myVCA online store enables a unified experience across 700 of VCA’s U.S. animal hospitals, resulting in a next-level standard of client experience and patient care.

  • Herschend Family Entertainment - Faced with numerous challenges and opportunities, Herschend partnered with Rightpoint to create a strategic vision for a future "fluid" commerce experience, including a consistent, personalized and connected platform across ticketing, merchandise, point-of-sale, food and beverage and more. Leveraging Sitecore for both Web Content Management and Commerce was critical to creating a modern guest experience with seamless connections that enabled relevant, compelling one-to-one conversations between guests and the brands they love under the Herschend Family Entertainment umbrella.

  • Headless Content and Commerce – I was fortunate enough to speak not once, but twice at Symposium with Thomas John, our Sr. Director and National Practice Lead for Commerce, about the trend of headless commerce and content. This session positioned headless commerce as the future for a true omnichannel strategy. To maintain consistency and relevancy of content across an ever-changing landscape of channels can only be accomplished by decoupling the presentation and back office systems from each other. This not only allows the same content to support a watch, mobile device, web, voice or even in car purchases but also allows organizations to tap into a more streamlined internal workflow, where marketers, content authors, and developers can focus more on their respective roles and craft. It also unlocks the door to a growing talent pool of technologists with experience in cutting edge frameworks such as React, Vue, and Angular. Lastly, we can leverage Sitecore JSS to go headless but keep Sitecore personalization and analytics – a significant compromise that many have to make with other headless solutions.

We didn’t need a closing Keynote by legendary NBA superstar Magic Johnson to make this year’s Symposium exciting, but it sure was nothing short of magical!

All in all, Sitecore Symposium 2019 will go down as one of the best so far and as a Sitecore Platinum Partner, Rightpoint is proud to be able to showcase some of our great customers and work at the event. I look forward to next year’s Symposium in Chicago!

Symposium left me with some impressions – both personally and professionally. It was a tremendous opportunity to connect with the larger Sitecore community and build some bonds with the Sitecore brain trust. Meeting with our partners and clients to celebrate our collective achievements while looking forward to continued collaboration all in one place was certainly an honor. The sessions and new product offerings left me with a feeling of excitement and renewed passion not only for myself, but for the company and customers I serve. Lastly, it left me wanting to explore and share the valuable knowledge gained with the larger Rightpoint team.

Thank you to Sitecore, our partners and our clients for another great year!