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Sitecore Symposium 2018 Takeaways

“Elevate the experience.” Sitecore’s 2018 conference theme delivered a clear message to digital marketers and technologists attending this year’s Sitecore Symposium in Orlando: The time is now.

October 24, 2018 | By Scott Beach

A blurred image of people

Change is in the air—you can feel it. The industry is consolidating and rounding out its products into full end-to-end marketing platforms, highlighted by Adobe’s recent dual acquisitions of Magento and Marketo. At Symposium’s opening keynote, CEO Mark Frost announced the acquisition of Stylelabs, a digital asset management and content creation provider, along with reaffirming the Sitecore/Salesforce partnership. Is it enough? Only time will tell.

Customer focus

Customers arrived at Symposium with a few key questions:

  • How do I better leverage the full Sitecore capability set?
  • How do I accelerate delivery and deliver more features?
  • How do I build a workforce up for the challenge?

I’ll be honest—the people we spoke with were tired. Excited, but tired. They see immense value from the Sitecore platform and how it could power their business, but they’re struggling to keep up. Implementations are getting more complex and timelines are shorter than ever. If you’re reading this from out on the front lines of Sitecore adoption, you’re not alone. The world needs more Sitecore developers and marketers who understand digital possibilities.

Product direction

Sitecore promoted three themes at Symposium:

1. A connected data ecosystem

A true digital experience platform is only as good as what it knows—the data it can see and utilize to personalize and elevate the customer experience. Companies collect mountains of data about customers in CRM and operational systems but often fail to integrate and leverage that information to impact online decisions.

Cannondale, a leading cycling company, demonstrated the power of data on stage by leveraging detailed customer exercise information via Garmin to give precise recommendations on the ideal Cannondale bike. They even made it personal by telling the shopper how many seconds faster they would likely complete their favorite ride. And they connected those recommendations to brick-and-mortar retail partners for an end-to-end connected purchase.

TEKsystems Digital’s Advice: Investments to integrate customer and operational data have the potential to offer significant payback in both revenue growth and enhanced customer satisfaction. Establish a data foundation for your business with a common technology layer for easy access and governance. Fight “siloed thinking” about data wherever it appears.

2. Artificial intelligence and machine learning

AI is making its way across the digital landscape, helping marketers find and segment customers, analyzing behavioral and purchasing decisions, and even deciding what marketing messages and content to display (backed by AI A/B testing, of course). Sitecore has been keeping pace with this trend since it announced Cortex as part of Sitecore 9 at last year’s Symposium. A year later, we are beginning to see early adopters take advantage of these technologies. For many though, this capability remains beyond the reach of their current team abilities.

TEKsystems Digital’s Advice: For AI to transform your Sitecore experience, consider the following actions:

  • Understand the holistic business architecture of your firm, mapping out key processes and decisions from both a business and technology viewpoint
  • Identify an AI pilot feature that you can incubate and learn from before going big bang
  • Review how AI will change your site management and governance. For example, in an AI-optimized experience model, the role of content marketing evolves from explicit creation of experiences to that of a content factory creating assets and components that AI will target to audiences to optimize business results
  • Invest in the marketing technologists, people that understand how to apply marketing messages within the context of digital platforms

3. Headless experiences

The future is headless. At Symposium, Sitecore officially announced JavaScript Services (JSS) to build modern, responsive Sitecore experiences in a truly decoupled way. Whereas in the past, Sitecore technology played a heavy role in the user interface tier, JSS allows customers to build sites on their own UI frameworks and architectures. This doesn’t mean that Sitecore is getting out of the interface game; it will continue to support the current development model. But JSS will offer customers who felt creatively stifled by the technology an option to roll their own experience while still consuming content and personalization features from a Sitecore backend.

TEKsystems Digital’s Advice: Advanced customers with significant UI capabilities may benefit from the freedom and flexibility JSS offers. But for most customers, the integrated solution design of Sitecore’s platform offers speed and simplicity in a consumable package. Before architecting JSS into a solution, be certain that the implementation team has leveraged Sitecore’s out-of-the-box features and best practices before developing custom solutions.

Future forward

The Digital Marketing ecosystem, with its over 6,800 technology solutions, is in the midst of its own transformation. Consolidation and platform expansion are creating new integrations and new capabilities. Sitecore is not immune from this change as it moves to the Cloud, AI and a more DevOps-centric development model. As a customer, this means prioritizing good delivery practices, leveraging new features where they add business value and staying realistic about what is attainable within the organization.

TEKsystems Digital is proud to be both a Sitecore Partner and a six-year customer of the product. We offer a full range of advisory, implementation, enhancement and augmentation services for Sitecore. As the digital arm of the nation’s largest technology staffing and services firm, we help over 450 clients own change in their digital initiatives.

See how TEKsystems Digital can help transform, extend or accelerate your digital experiences.

Scott Beach is the solution director for TEKsystems Digital. He has spent the last 20 years designing customer experiences, developing platforms and leading technology transformation for Fortune 500 companies. He resides in Charlotte, North Carolina (when he’s not on a plane).

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