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Posted By Valtech on 11/17/2020

Top Five Strategic Takeaways from Sitecore Symposium 2020

Top Five Strategic Takeaways from Sitecore Symposium 2020

Sitecore Symposium 2020 delivered two days of insightful sessions, important announcements, and inspiring client case studies, including announcing the Ultimate Experience Award winners. While I found myself missing the opportunity to mingle in-person with friends in the global Sitecore community, the all-virtual format made it easy to attend more sessions, both live and on-demand. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here are my top five strategic takeaways from the Symposium:

1. “Customer Obsession” is Much More Than a Buzzword
While the industry certainly doesn’t need another buzzword, “customer obsession” is more than a passing trend. It is an “outside-in” business approach that uses insights and data to continuously add value to customer experiences to drive business objectives. And it was a major thread through many of the sessions at Symposium.

Businesses can't wait 10-12 months to generate value. It’s best to find ways to bring incremental value moving towards common goals,” said Gene De Libero, Chief Strategy Officer at GeekHive, in a session titled “How to Avoid the Digital Transformation Trap.”

In “The Future is Friction,” Harpreet Bushell of LAB explained that identifying “peaks of engagement,” the extreme positive and negatives in the customer experiences, can help you identify where and how best to focus your digital efforts. These really are the “Moments that Matter,” to draw on the theme of this year’s Symposium.

Our customers, their needs, and our understanding of them are constantly evolving, and so too must our digital strategies. Many customer showcases included stories of how Sitecore’s built-in Experience Optimization and other Advanced Marketing Features, often with integrations, are leading to real, measurable, and actionable results in terms of meeting customer experience goals and driving business objective.

Mara Low tweet about Customer Engagement

2. Content Remains One of Biggest Challenges for Digital (Sitecore’s Content Hub Can Help)
Sitecore’s new Content Hub offering was the talk of Symposium, with several sessions focused on digital content architecture and operations. The COVID-19 pandemic has placed even more pressure on the need to deliver engaging and reliable digital content across channels to attract and persuade new customers and to build customer relationships.

To meet the growing demand for quality digital content, organizations must quickly address challenges within their content supply and distribution chains. They must analyze content performance and use this data to constantly refine and optimize their digital content strategy. Sitecore’s Content Hub can help with all of this—and more!

JF Sitecore Tweet

3. The Rise of Mission-Driven, Cross-Functional Digital Teams
A powerful panel session, “Building the CMO-CIO” highlighted the importance of strategic alignment and mission-driven, cross-functional digital teams in achieving digital success, while customer showcases punctuated and demonstrated this point through case studies. All panel participants agreed that executive support, strategic alignment, and frequent, clear communication are the keys to high-functioning cross-functional digital teams. Justin Skelton of Dine Brands and Jean-Luc Ambrosi of TelstraSuper talked about the importance of Marketing, IT and executive leaders aligning on business objectives and customer needs, and then agreeing on how to achieve those objectives (regardless of which department resources are coming from).

Mara Low tweet about Digital Teams

A mature relationship is one in which there is consensus building with cross-functional execution and clear ownership and governance, according to Yousuf Khan of Ridge Ventures.

Panel participants also agreed that most organizations have a long way to go in terms of building successful cross-functional teams, with communication needing to be improved across the board. Brenda Plowman of Fasken Martineau noted that an important part of being able to solve problems together is being able to speak one anothers’ languages. She emphasized the importance of bridging the gap between marketing and IT languages and using “layman’s” terms over technical- or marketing-jargon.

4. Delivering on the Promise of AI?
87% of consumers say that personally relevant content positively influences how they perceive the brand. Unfortunately, many digital teams don't have the time or resources, or even know where to begin with personalization.

Sitecore released AI Auto Personalization for DXP, which holds promise to make personalization more accessible to all organizations, finally bringing machine learning to the digital marketing shop floor—without the need to have data scientists on staff.

Svetlana Tweet about AI Personalization

Auto-Personalization Standard (free)Auto-Personalization Premium (paid)Sitecore v10Sitecore v9+2 layers of algorithms4 layers of algorithmsDoes not include unsupervised learningIncludes unsupervised learningNo API capabilities planned for free version.API to ingest third-party data and export Sitecore data is on the roadmap.

Sitecore Experience Analytics data underpins Sitecore’s Auto-Personalization, meaning that it is crucial to create and configure a measurement framework to track and evaluate performance of your content and segments. This requires you to define and configure goals and events for tracking conversions and micro-conversions in Sitecore, even if you are already tracking and analyzing these behaviors in another system like Google Analytics.

Sitecore’s Engagement Value Scoring continues to be a key metric for Sitecore, however it is supposed to be easy to opt not to use it if not a part of your strategy. Note that it takes up to 24 hours for EA data to become available to Auto-Personalization.

In the “Influencer Roundtable with Microsoft: Integrating AI into your existing digital marketing strategy” session, representatives from the cross-functional Microsoft AI team provided the following tips for those looking build a machine learning practice around Sitecore Auto-Personalization Premium:

  • Identify and align to digital KPIs, business goals, and target audiences. 
  • You don’t need a super fancy ML model to move forward. Start with something simple. 
  • Err on the side of being able to explain your results to the business and stakeholders.  
  • Be realistic about the maturity of your data science practice. Analyzing, maintaining, and improving custom ML models overtime requires significant resources and frequent feedback loops. 
  • Use A/B testing to experiment and refine data and models.

We can't wait to experiment with this at TBG and see how it works—realizing of course that ML marketing functions have some uphill battles in execution.

5. No One Vendor Provides 100% Complete Solutions
Many of the Customer Showcases featured creative, integrated point solutions that extend the power of Sitecore. In the session, “Building an Effective Martech Stack for a Changing World,” Rusty Warner of Forrester presented his vision for a “customer obsessed” martech strategy in which investments in technology are based on customer needs, with prioritization of data, analytics, and content. He noted that point solutions can complement core functionality and that carefully and thoughtfully designed integrations often offer more value than even the best all-in-one solution.

In addition to these valuable insights shared by my colleagues in the Sitecore community, I am proud to report that TBG won not one, but two Sitecore Customer Experience Awards, most notably the highly coveted Sitecore Ultimate Experience Award for “Most Impactful Human Connections in a Changing World.” The award recognizes Johns Hopkins Medicine and TBG for delivering timely, accurate coronavirus information online, showcasing expertise, and engaging the public in a rapidly changing environment.

TBG Wins Ultimate Experience Award Sitecore Tweet

Sitecore Chris Congratulates TBG Tweet


Mara Low

I am the Manager of Digital Strategy & Optimization with TBG. When I’m not crafting user experiences, you’ll  likely find me fire hula hooping, hiking, or creating up-cycled art.

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