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Sitecore Symposium Part 1 & 2: Important Takeaways from the Conference

Paul Griffiths

Monday saw the kickoff of Sitecore Symposium with the new CEO of Sitecore, Mark Frost. He articulated three goals he had for the company:

  1. Innovation: Integrating data, machine learning, commerce, all delivered in the cloud.
  2. Quality: Improved processes, but also improved usability and more community input, as well as an acknowledgement that defects need to be decreased and support needs to be increased.
  3. Customer Delight: As above, an increase in customer programs and resources, including a Chief Customer Officer.

Sitecore CMO Scott Anderson redefined the Sitecore Experience Cloud (Sitecore 9) as several interlocking components:

  • Data and integration: Sitecore’s xConnect allows APIs to capture data across every screen, device, and resource. It also empowers xDB to collect and interchange customer data across channels and at scale. xDB will no longer be just MongoDB and will include Microsoft SQL/Azure and there are new APIs for Salesforce and Dynamics.
  • Machine learning: Sitecore’s machine learning will be Cortex, which identifies the common attributes of your visitor behavior and automatically suggests segments and personalization criteria. This continuous pattern-searching means that segments can be dynamically generated and managed.
  • Commerce: Sitecore is introducing a new dynamic commerce engine, focused on discounts and offers based on these dynamic segments to drive additional revenue.
  • Cloud: This will be the spin-up of a Sitecore instance within, well, Azure. Sitecore is pushing distribution models that allow you to create new microsites, landing pages, and more very quickly within the cloud. Their new licensing models, based on consumption, support this approach.

In the marketing/strategy keynote, the focus remained on the connectedness of the experience: brand preference is established by understanding the customers, most of whom, for the examples by Sitecore, are commerce-based. Sitecore believes the creation of Customer Value is anticipating desire, giving unexpected delight, and being consistent without having to answer questions multiple times on the site.

In the sessions, there was a considerable amount of effort given to how these four concepts will work to reinforce each other.  What was clear is that the complexity of digital experiences, especially when connected with in real life, mobile apps, email, etc. are going to be too much for people to administrate.  We will need to trust in AI's ability to make predictions based on the data provided.

In one breakout, an anonymous customer solution included refining search results based on what was selected by visitor clicks, not by the company creating tuning rules. This concept — that interactions with data will begin to form the fastest way to approach solving administration of personalization — is going to take some time to get used to.  We're so focused on top-down publishing and controlling the experience, it will require different approaches to generate the framework.

So what does this mean for healthcare? Certainly, the focus on openness and connectedness of data is a continued theme. And there is the open question of where these activities should live and how to work around the obvious deficiencies in other tools. The commerce features, which are animating much of the discussion at Symposium, are largely irrelevant. But the drive to better, smarter, faster personalization is of great interest — the holy grail is still tying all of this back to actionable data, which hospitals lack.

Also, Web Forms for Marketers is apparently dead. A drag/drop interface is coming for Sitecore 9 in the completely redesigned Forms. And Mark Hamill is incredibly good at entertaining people for hours non-stop.

Interested in a Sitecore demo? Contact us.

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