Takeaways from Sitecore Symposium 2017

October 24, 2017

Blog | News | Takeaways from Sitecore Symposium 2017
Takeaways from Sitecore Symposium 2017

Sitecore Symposium was awesome. Not only was it held at the fabulous Mirage Hotel in Vegas, but it was the largest Symposium to date with almost 3000 attendees. Our team came back very excited about the themes we heard dominate the community and the updates that Sitecore 9 will bring. This year, we sponsored the t-shirt station for the 2nd year in a row, so it was all hands on deck attending. In attendance were Peter Ladka, President and CEO, Jay Oliver, Chief Technology Officer, Stephen Downs, EVP of Business Development, Tim Butler, Director of Account Management, Shannon Brennan-Cressey, Director of Digital Marketing, John Rappel, Sitecore Tech Lead, and Joe Ouimet, Sitecore Tech Lead. Here’s the top takeaways from Sitecore Symposium 2017 from the GeekHive Team…

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Shannon Brennan-Cressey, GeekHive's Director of Digital Marketing

Shannon Brennan-Cressey, Director of Digital Marketing:

Once again, the t-shirt station was a hit! We got to talk to so many people, with such amazing energy, from all over the world. The t-shirts this year were amazing, the designs playing off a Vegas and Digital Destiny theme. Mark Hamill was a guest speaker, so we all geeked out, and really enjoyed his personal stories about his Star Wars audition and cast members.

The keynotes were inspiring, informative, and interesting. From the first keynote led by Scott Anderson, Drive your Digital Destiny, we learned a lot about where Sitecore is, and where they are going.

Sitecore is a highly innovative company that believes the results of innovation must be usable, reliable and secure. They are investing heavily in AI and moving towards true Agile practices. They are focused on moving beyond customer satisfaction to customer delight and hired a Chief Customer Officer to help them get there.

Sitecore’s Experience Cloud offers:

  • API’s to capture data across every screen, device, and source
  • Omni-channel collection at scale
  • Cloud first
  • Secure, private customer data

Sitecore Cortex offers:

  • Machine learning for real-time insights across native and third party customer data
  • Acts as a personal data scientist

Sitecore Commerce offers:

  • Comprehensive user personalization
  • Powerful pricing and promotions
  • CRM integrations

In his session, The Personalization Boondoggle, John Berndt, CEO of TBG and Sitecore Strategy MVP, went over several pit falls that accompany setting up personalization and how to avoid them.

A major one was personalization bubbles. This is profiling based on content viewed and then showing targeted content that will reinforce a particular identity through feedback. A user clicks enough content to be profiled for a particular interest and then see more of the same. They are only able to click on available options, driving higher scores for what is a marginal or temporary interest. Oftentimes, personalization is implemented so quickly that you don’t get a full picture of the user and reinforce bad data, showing them what you think they want to see and not giving them an option to find what they are really looking for.

When setting up personalization functionality in your Sitecore instance, you need to lay out collision points for when you are personalizing based on criteria like SEM, user behavior, or purchase history so that things don’t get confusing. Users want seamless CX as they move between devices, that means a seamless personalized experience across channels and devices, regardless of what rules you have set.

Another important factor is to consider both near and long-term personalization goals. If there are competing time scales, you must prioritize. Combined they should both be thought about for life-term consideration with customers.

Jay Baer‘s keynote, Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype, was amazing. He stressed a lot of the things that we’ve all been reading about with marketing, but put them into perspective. For instance, customer relationships are driven more by info now than people. 71% of customers will find all the information they need online before speaking with a sales rep. He reinforced that we, as marketers, need to provide more information for our customers and potential customers, in real time.

Youtility is creating marketing that is truly, inherently useful. Youtility has 2 secret ingredients:

  • knowledge (strategic thinking)
  • courage

The focus of Youtility is on helping people, not selling them something right this second. Ask yourself, do you trust your customers enough to give them Youtility for free? Youtility needs to be so useful that people would pay for it, but you are giving it away. That is how you build customer relationships and brand advocates.

He ended by giving us a simple piece of advice. Ask yourself daily, how can I help?

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John Rappel, Sitecore Tech Lead:

I always get so much out of attending Sitecore Symposium, this year did not disappoint. I’m really excited about the updates Sitecore 9 will bring. Here are my biggest takeaways.

In the session Security in Azure: Make Sitecore a Hard Target – Securing Azure PaaS & Beyond by Grant Killian and Peter Petley, we learned that with Sitecore 9, Sitecore is fully embracing the cloud.  Their Platform as a Service (PAAS) offering provides easy deployment of new instances – in as little as a half hour to have a fully working Sitecore 9 install. The Azure marketplace contains Sitecore resources that walk you through setup. For more advanced installs, Azure Resource Management (ARM) templates can be used.

Sitecore 9 also introduced role-based configuration. Previously, the process of enabling/disabling various files and config settings was a tedious and manual process. Now, config management provides the ability to choose the order the configs are loaded, selectively enable elements based on roles: Content Management, Processing, Reporting, etc.

The death of Web Forms for Marketers (WFFM) was a long anticipated strategic decision by Sitecore. In the presentation The Brand New Sitecore Forms, by Pieter Brinkman and Hylke Heidstra we learned their replacement, Sitecore Forms, offers a more extensible framework for adding custom fields, multi-page forms and complex form actions. It runs on SPEAK 3.0, which provides better performance and hooks directly into Sitecore Rocks. Sitecore is still actively updating this feature with enhancements such as dependent fields – if a value is selected in one field, the options in another are updated.

The other big talk of Symposium was the native inclusion of Dynamic Placeholders. For years, there were 3rd party offerings, but it is refreshing to see this baked directly into the product. Dynamic Placeholders allow content authors to build much more dynamic pages, with nested modules that previously weren’t possible without customization.

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Joe Ouimet, GeekHives Sitecore Tech Lead

Joe Ouimet, Sitecore Tech Lead:

Symposium 2017 was spectacular.  The changes coming in Sitecore 9 are revolutionary.  My personal favorite feature centers around the Headless CMS enhancements coming from the Project X team.  There were two sessions that addressed the new Headless architecture.  Nick Wesselman presented an “Introduction to Headless Javascript Development with the newest version of Sitecore” on Wednesday and then Alex Shyba and Adam Weber presented “Project Nirvana: Going above and beyond Headless CMS with Sitecore JavaScript Services.”  This allows Front end developers to retrieve Sitecore content and then display it using a Javascript framework such as React or Angular.  This technique has many benefits:

1 – Presentation and content are decoupled

2 – Since Visual Studio is not required, the Front-End developers can continue working in the environments in which they are proficient.

3 – Response time is FAST

4 – Less work done by the Delivery Server means less resources are needed

5 – Since the calls go through the Layout Service, tracking and personalization are fully accounted for!

What is even more amazing is the ability to Code-First.  Templates, Layout and content can be defined in code (in a JSON format), then converted into an updated package which can be loaded into Sitecore. Amazing!

Amazing Indeed! Check out some of our photos from Symposium!

Sitecore Symposium 2017 TakeawaysSitecore Symposium 2017 Takeaways

Shannon Brennan-Cressey

Director of Digital Marketing

John Rappel

Technical Lead

Joe Ouimet

Technical Lead
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