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Valtech at Sitecore Symposium 2018: Highlights, Takeaways and Announcements

October 18, 2018

Sitecore Symposium 2018 was another one for the books! Valtech brought 40+ Valtechers including 10 Sitecore MVPs to the packed conference that drew attendees from around the world all focused on one common goal: Using Sitecore to elevate the customer experience. Watch the recap video below and read on for key Symposium highlights and insights into Valtech’s participation in the Sitecore event of the year.

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Sitecore 9.1 – What the newest version of Sitecore will offer for personalizing experiences

When Sitecore 9.1 is released, Sitecore users can look forward to great enhancements to our ability to personalize within the platform. A few highlights:

  1. JavaScript Services (JSS) will be available in general release, meaning fully headless solutions can be built with full Sitecore XP functionality including optimization and personalization. With headless architecture (both commerce- and CMS-side) trending prominently, the JSS approach is more strategic than ever.
  2. Sitecore's machine learning engine, Cortex, gets a boost with an extensible data processing architecture, automated/suggested personalization and a few other goodies. We're especially excited about faster time-to-market for personalization rules, given the performance boosts we see with even the simplest experiments.
  3. The Universal Tracker will allow any type of user behaviour within IoT to be tracked by Sitecore Analytics. Previous versions were tied to the web interaction paradigm, and this will further enhance our ability to track and optimize behaviour across the journey and technology stack.

Sitecore to acquire Stylelabs

This year the keynote began with a big announcement. Stylelabs – a leader in digital asset management and marketing resource management – is to be acquired by Sitecore and will become part of Sitecore Experience Cloud.

The significance of this acquisition is explained by Sitecore here: “By incorporating Stylelabs’ digital asset management (DAM), marketing resource management (MRM), and product information management (PIM) applications, Sitecore Experience Cloud enables marketing departments to create and optimize the volume of assets needed to treat customers as individuals. In turn, businesses can provide the right information, products, and services right when the customer needs them, building engagement, trust and loyalty, and lifetime value."

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Anastasia Simitsis, VP Strategy & Experience Design at Valtech shares her perspective, “Marketing professionals talk about the importance of creating great customer experiences. The thing is, there is no experience without content. So being able to better manage content is key. They’re are far too many channels, touchpoints and implications to keep creating and producing content manually and in silos. We need better tools and processes to deal with this content lifecycle complexity and Style Labs is just that. With both, Sitecore and Stylelabs, you can now focus on creating great personalized customer experiences.”

Further, Peter Sebastian Winslow, Technical Director and Sitecore MVP at Valtech explains that, “It is valuable to many clients to have a more feature rich way of handling media content beyond Sitecore’s Media Library, which Stylelabs provides. I’m excited about the added competencies and knowledge around SaaS products, use of Elastic Search and much more that will come with the acquisition, which I believe will speed up the development and continuous improvement of the other Sitecore products, including the core.”

SickKids on the journey to raise $1.3B

Sitecore approached Valtech with the desire to provide a different kind of client keynote this year, one focused on giving back, and asked if long-time Valtech client SickKids would be interested in sharing their story of success. VP, Direct & Digital Marketing Heather Clark happily agreed to share the success her organization has had with their digital and brand transformation – made in part possible through Valtech’s role in the non-profit’s technology transformation with Sitecore.

Alongside moving videos of children bravely standing up to disease, Ms. Clark shared the success SickKids has had so far with their campaign to build a new world-class SickKids hospital. Thanks in great part to Sitecore’s platform, they are driving towards their goal of raising $1.3B for the project.

We were proud to be able to bring SickKids to Sitecore Symposium with us – it was amazing to see our client on stage sharing such a wondering cause and story with the global Sitecore community

said Allison Abraham Simpkins, SVP North America of Valtech.

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After the keynote, Sitecore Symposium attendees were each encouraged to take a 3-minute bike ride using bikes donated by Cannondale to raise $25 for the cause. Initially raising $25K – Sitecore then matched the donation for grand total donation of $50K!

Sitecore, Commerce and the Future

At Symposium, a few of our Sitecore MVPs participated in speaking sessions where they shared their expertise with the Sitecore world. Two in particular addressed the possibilities inherent in the integration of voice-activated devices (Amazon Alexa & Google Home) with Sitecore – paving the way for next generation IoT interactions with digital experiences and commerce sites:

In “Getting Personal with Alexa,” Nick Hills showed attendees how to harness Sitecore xDB-driven personalization and empower content editors to provide rich, customized, talkative end-user experiences with technologies like Amazon Alexa.

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In "'Okay Google, make me super efficient at using Sitecore’ - What Sitecore users really need from IoT, a practical demonstration,” Dominic Hurst assessed if there was an opportunity for driving Sitecore efficiency in the IoT and connected voice-controlled smart home market. To determine if there was an opportunity, he and his team conducted user research with the Sitecore community. He then shared their findings and demonstrated examples of using voice commands with Google Home to interact with a Sitecore environment.

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In another speaking session, “Supersonic Commerce with EasyJet”, Nick Hills discussed easyJet's journey towards improving ecommerce results with Sitecore. easyJet’s initial success with Sitecore and personalization – increasing conversions by 23% on their ecommerce website – helped the company decide to deploy personalization to the entire booking process to further improve the success of their ecommerce site.

Advancing women in technology at Sitecore Symposium 2018

Sitecore’s Women of Sitecore program was kicked off earlier this year in San Diego at the Sitecore Global Sales Kickoff, where Simpkins gave the keynote. After generating significant interest and support, a Sitecore committee was formed to determine how to bring the popular program to Symposium.

Jodi Kovitz – the founder and CEO of a global movement dedicated to advancing the participation and leadership of all women in technology called #MoveTheDial – was recommended by Simpkins as a keynote speaker after she had learned about the movement just a year before. Francine Anthony, Head of Global Partner Marketing at Sitecore then led the charge of bringing the Sitecore team’s vision to life, creating and moderating the Women in Technology #MoveTheDial luncheon.

Kovitz’s powerful keynote generated support from the crowd of nearly 500 attendees. Later, during the panel discussion, SVP of Valtech North America and Sitecore MVP Allison Abraham Simpkins along with other panelists helped shed light on the importance of the movement, discussed their own tech career experiences, and provided advice to other women on how to persevere in tech.

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The women also discussed the clear correlation between gender diversity and profit, as a key reason for supporting the movement in addition to the equity and equality it promotes.

As sponsors of the #MoveTheDial Global Summit in Toronto on Nov 7th and advocates for increasing gender diversity in tech (learn about our Tech_Girl initiative), this was an exciting moment for Valtech.

Next, 18 of 19 Sitecore’s female MVPs from around the globe – including Valtech’s Allison Abraham Simpkins and Amanda Shiga – came together for a panel titled: Elevate Your Career Experience: Empowering Women in Tech.

Here they addressed how some companies may be inadvertently be contributing to the gender gap in tech and what can be done to prevent it. They also offered advice to other women about elevating their careers and becoming Sitecore MVPs.

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In summary, Sitecore Symposium 2018 was a great success for Valtech as a whole. We can’t for wait for what the future holds!

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