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Sitecore Symposium 2017 in Review

Sitecore’s four-day annual global user event, Sitecore Symposium 2017 took place in the glamour of the heart of Las Vegas. The event was packed with inspirational keynotes and well moderated interactive breakout sessions, product demos, and networking activities. Five conference tracks were delivered, including Marketing track, Strategy track, Getting Started track, Developer track, and Partner Theater.

More importantly, the event was not short of announcements. As CMS-Connected reported earlier, during his keynote, the new CEO of Sitecore, Mark Frost dropped the bomb by announcing a new Sitecore Experience Cloud, which is essentially the umbrella brand for the platform’s other three components that are Sitecore Experience Manager (web content management platform), Sitecore Experience Platform (digital marketing platform), and Sitecore Experience Commerce (digital commerce platform). As part of the announcement, Sitecore announced a significant Version 9 release of its flagship Sitecore Experience Platform (XP) digital experience platform and Sitecore Experience Manager (XM) web CMS. The release of Sitecore Commerce 9 is expected to be announced in January 2018. You may find more detailed information on what Sitecore XP and Sitecore XM Version 9 will bring to its users in my review here.

According to the vendor, this release is the most significant update in Sitecore history. The major announcements were mostly focused on data integration (xConnect), machine learning (Cortex), commerce, and cloud (Azure PaaS).

Looking Through CMS-Connected’s Lens

After listening to the captivating keynotes loaded with tons of information on what’s new with Sitecore, what’s in the pipeline, and what’s the future direction of the platform, it was the time for the attendees to dive deeper into the features and use cases through the breakout sessions that they picked based on their interests. For us, on the other hand, it was the time to turn our little red recording light on!

Our aim was to bring forward insightful stories from some of the most innovative and talented members of the huge enthusiastic Sitecore community. At the end of the event, we definitely accomplished what we hoped for as all the interviewees from various vertical industries brought a unique and brilliant perspective based on their experiences. In the upcoming days, you will have a chance to scrutinize all the insights captured from some Sitecore customers, executives, and solution partners as we will be sharing those exclusive interviews here at CMS-Connected. Until then, let me share some sneak peeks from the conversations we seized directly from the event floor.

Aside from utilizing Sitecore as their digital experience platform, another thing that every interviewee had in common was the fact that they all were tasked with delivering personalized experiences. It didn’t come as a surprise because this functionality has been on nearly all digital businesses’ agendas, at least, to a certain extent. What differs, though, is how they utilize Sitecore’s personalization capabilities. While some of the customers have implemented those capabilities to deliver highly personalized omnichannel experiences to their audiences, others have had those capabilities in place to increase their employees’ productivity. On top of these, we also chatted with some organizations that take advantage of the capabilities for achieving both outcomes.

Speaking of personalization, during the event, Sitecore also shared the key findings from its global study examining responses from 6,800 consumers and 680 marketing and IT decision makers to understand how brands are managing the data they collect from consumers, securing and analyzing it, and using it to deliver a more personalized customer experience. We rolled our cameras to discuss with Joe Henrique, Sitecore’s VP of Innovation on the intriguing findings from that new research revealed.

“Among the findings, there are two things that really jumped out at me. One was that 54% brands are making assumptions about what customers want based on single interactions as I assumed that by this point of time we have gone past that. The other that jumped out of me is that 60% of organizations are having difficulty with personalization as their customers don’t share data about themselves,” said Henrique. During our interview, he also elaborated on his talking points by sharing interesting real-world examples. For more on that, stay tuned!

We also touched upon personalization during my interview with Ryan Donovan, Senior Vice President of Product Management at Sitecore, where we discussed the new announcements and the roadmap of the platform in depth. “What the new release is about is enabling our customers to create a single omnichannel view of the customer,” said Donovan. “Version 9 is really the transition point from the web channel to omnichannel. What we have heard from a lot of our customers is that they want to create a holistic view of their customers that reflects every interaction, not just happening on the web.” To watch the full interview, please check back to our site in the upcoming days.

Besides Sitecore executives, we also sat down with a number of Sitecore customers and their implementation partners to understand what unique challenges they have faced in their industries and how they utilize the platform to mitigate those.

Neenah, for instance, although it was the first paper company to market with a website, the brand was faced with a threat of being swept away by the digital transformations around them. They decided to take the matter into their own hands and relaunch their website to make their online presence match with their offline brand identity. During the interview, Jamie Sanders, Neenah’s Sr. Marketing Communications Manager, and Andrew Crowder, RDA’s Practice Director, gave us a glimpse into how the company’s digital ecosystem has morphed into a more contemporary and connected environment as well as moving forward, how they will utilize more commerce capabilities for revamping their online store.

As far as personalization goes, another great use case came from the story of how German energy giant Innogy benefits from personalization with Sitecore. Innogy’s digital team lead, Sandra Köhler and their solution partner, Actum’s chief consulting officer, Michal Popelar, joined us coming right off the floor at the event as prior to our interview, they also delivered a speech on how personalization helps to put the customer in the center and how Sitecore helps to keep the pace of transformation with emerging digital markets and services.

My conversation with Hero Digital’s CEO Dave Kilimnik was really eye-opening as we talked about how Delaware North, one of the world’s largest hospitality management companies serving national and state parks & resorts, leveraged Sitecore’s component design to deliver unique customer experiences for its resort properties as well as how Nerium International, a B2C beauty and skincare company, utilized eCommerce capabilities, to deploy sites for their eight international locations.

It Wasn’t Only Educational But Also Entertaining

While the attendees had time to mingle with the entire spectrum of the Sitecore community, they were also able to enjoy the delicious food, play around with some exciting demos that the technology partners of Sitecore exhibited in the “Partner Pavilion,” and search for fun swag. Meanwhile, we the CMS-Connected team, grabbed our camera and hand-held mic to capture the buzz directly from the pavilion. However, we didn’t hold it back and joined the party where the attendees were having firsthand experiences with fairly new digital devices such as VRs, drones, image recognition systems and such. Below, here I am playing a video game with a VR headset! It is so much fun unless you are planning to walk around with high heels to interview people afterward.

One of the things I really liked from the event was the fact that the venue was full of creative and interactive art installations brought by Sitecore and its partners. For instance, every piece of the puzzle shown below is a photo taken by an attendee. Here’s a before-and-after image to put the idea into context:

Although the real party took place at Omnia Nightclub, the mood for having fun was already set by Mark Hamill, legendary actor, producer, and writer when he created a Star Wars moment for the audience on the stage during the closing keynote.
 


Let’s Wrap This Party Up

Sitecore has definitely raised the quality bar with its new release Version 9 but its major product upgrade is not the only change happening with the vendor. Since their new CEO was appointed, Sitecore has been making very significant improvements in many areas such as pricing as the vendor is revamping its pricing to make sure it has the best TCO and time-to-market. Sitecore has always been very good at speaking to developers and IT users and while the vendor aims to keep up that momentum, based on the new capabilities announced, it also seems to go after the heads of marketing departments, CMOs, and other marketing folks out there.

Following the release, naturally, one of the vendor’s main focuses is to encourage its users to move from lower versions to Sitecore XP9. On the technical side of the upgrade project, Sitecore provides some tools like Express Migration Tool. However, we all know that upgrading your technology is not just about tackling the potential technical issues as there are so many strategic and tactical assets involved. To learn more on that, I highly recommend you watch our interview with Forrester’s Senior Analyst Mark Grannan on why version upgrades are so important.

All the attendees left Vegas with fresh and rich ideas to take their businesses to the next level as they were expertly informed of best practices, business use cases, strategies, and trends in digital transformation. Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who took their precious time to talk with the CMS-Connected team at the event! Hope to see you all again next year in Orlando, FL! Until then, don’t forget to check back to our website in the upcoming days to binge on all of our exclusive interviews from the event.

Related Sitecore News:

Venus Tamturk

Venus Tamturk

Venus is the Media Reporter for CMS-Connected, with one of her tasks to write thorough articles by creating the most up-to-date and engaging content using B2B digital marketing. She enjoys increasing brand equity and conversion through the strategic use of social media channels and integrated media marketing plans.