What a day! Hats off to Sitecore for managing to outdo themselves once again, with last week's Sitecore Experience conference. The Switch team were out in force, keeping delegates topped up with caffeine, catching up with our Sitecore friends and trying to take in as much of the brilliant content at the event as possible.
If you couldn't make it (or weren't quick enough to snap up a ticket for this sold-out event) here are our top takeaways and key themes from Sitecore Experience 2019...
Despite being one of the most over-used words in the marketing vocabulary, the message from Sitecore CMO, Paige O'Neill, was that it's still very much the priority - and that ignoring it won't solve anything.
Citing statistics from Sitecore's own global research, O'Neill highlighted the current drive towards taking a more scientific approach to content, with 50% of marketers wanting to create content more cost effectively and 52% wanting to more accurately test and measure its impact. The advice? 1) put customers at the centre of your strategy 2) measure performance and 3) invest in modern optimisation tools.
Content was a recurring theme throughout the conference, discussed in greater detail during dedicated track sessions. In Solving the Content Crisis, Jaqueline Baxter, Digital Strategist at Hedgehog and Claire Austin, Content Marketing Evangelist at LinkedIn, urged delegates to decide upon their own content business models (categories included Performer, Player, Platform or Processor), while in Making a Difference with Content and Technology, attendees were treated to a Content Hub deep-dive, including case studies from P&G and Coca-Cola.
This is one of those messages that many marketers will have heard a hundred times before, but struggle to truly accept. In this digital age, the temptation towards being technology-led marketing is strong, but the message throughout the day was clear - AI alone won't save you.
According to O'Neill, in her opening keynote, 50% of marketers are currently using some form of AI, but only 10% use it to automate legacy marketing tasks. The solution? Get a strategy. "Identify where AI is effective, sort out your data so you can begin to trust it and put the right team in place", advices O'Neill.
These sentiments were closely echoed by the celebrity guest keynote speaker of the event, Naomi Simson, who warned: "Technology itself is not the disruptor. Not being customer-centric is the biggest threat to any business".
Our favourite session of the day (are we allowed to say that?) was 'Modern B2B, It's Not What You Think!' presented by our good friend and customer, Kirsty McKay from Coates Hire. In a fun and informal chat with Sitecore's Rob Earlam, Kirsty shared the lessons she's learnt over the past few years with Coates Hire's digital transformation... one of which is that transformation doesn't need to mean 'everything, overnight' (despite the fact that Coates hire did manage to achieve its transformation in a mere 12 weeks!). Instead, Kirsty revealed three wonderfully simple and sensible tips to avoid the seemingly overwhelming prospect of transformation:
As mentioned previously, we take diversity very seriously and were delighted to be sponsoring an event that consciously put this topic on the agenda. There were nods to inclusivity and diversity throughout many sessions in the day, including a thread board entitled 'the common threads that shape us', encouraging attendees to map out their own identities to reveal shared patterns in delegate diversity.
The dedicated session A Voice at the Table: How Diversity Fuels Innovation and Drives Business Results, Paige O'Neill took to the stage for a second time, joined by Akshay Sura from Konabos Consulting, Zoe Freeman from Deloitte Digital and Fatima Said from eWave. This lively panel discussion focused on moving diversity from 'tick the box' measures towards shifting company culture and making real commitments towards change. Attendees were urged to take a 'digital pledge' by scanning a QR code and writing down their goals for improving diversity within their own teams.
Later in the day, Sitecore's VP of Strategies and Industries, Vijayanta Gupta, revealed just how far we still have to go, in reaching greater representation, during his presentation The Brand Apocalypse and How to Survive It. "When you Google image search for 'CEO', 90% of the images of people are male - in reality, 28% of CEOs are women" revealed Gupta. This is not a prejudice that Google created in their algorithm, but rather a reflection of the way people talk and think about CEOs. This needs to change.
Last, but not least - our final takeaway was a Sitecore Experience award! Together with our wonderful long-time customer Tyres4U, Switch was awarded for the Most Innovative Use of Sitecore as a DXP. This was a hugely exciting win for the team, especially for such an innovative commerce project that sets a new industry standard (and a world first) in helping customers to make safer purchasing decisions for their tyres. (You can read more about the project in this recent article in B2B E-Commerce World or in our recent interview with Tyres4U's Chief Digital Officer, Daniel Wright). Thank you so much to Sitecore and congratulations to our friends at Tyres4U on this big win! Fingers crossed for Sitecore's Ultimate Experience Award, which will be revealed later this year (watch this space).