My takeaways from SUGCON EU in Berlin
After months of preparation the joint effort of the Danish and the Dutch Sitecore User Groups resulted in a top notch 1 ½ day SUGCON EU conference in the beautiful city of Berlin. On Monday the 23rd and Tuesday 24th of April 2018 the enormous Estrel Hotel on the Sonnenallee was home of this year’s SUGCON EU.
As one of the members of the organizing team this event was special from start to end. With around 600 attendees we crushed last year's 450 attendance in Amsterdam. However organizing this event would never have been possible without the huge effort of the Sitecore Technical Marketing team. Special shout out to Tamas Varga from Sitecore who made the life of SUGDK and SUGNL in organizing SUGCON a lot easier. And also important to mention are our sponsors, as without them organizing SUGCON would simply be impossible.
After the kick-off by the Sitecore Technical Marketing team, the conference started with a presentation by Jason Wilkerson and Richard Seal of RBA. They presented a case around the fictitious theme park Sitecoreland using the latest and greatest that is offered by Sitecore 9: Commerce 9, SXA Storefront, xConnect, Marketing Automation and (simulated) IoT wrist bands with notifications. Can I get more fast passes please???
On day 1 I had the honor to be room captain on the digital strategy track in Raum 3 of the conference. Since this is also my focus area I got to experience three interesting sessions. For me the nice part of the strategy track at SUGCON is that most of the sessions included a technical component, so I see it more as an applied marketing technology track then just strategic talks.
Journey mapping in real lifePaul and Dan are respectively CEO and CTO of MedTouch, a Sitecore platinum partner in the US. They solely do business within the healthcare industry. Their domain knowledge of the healthcare industry combined with technical expertise of the Sitecore ecosystem enables them to service this specific industry very well.
Both Paul and Dan being experienced speakers, they quickly captured and maintained the interest of the audience of around 100 people (which exceeded my own and their expectations). Paul set the right atmosphere by playing The Final Countdown through his self-brought bluetooth speakers 2 minutes before the start of the talk.
Their story on SUGCON was really interesting. Paul explained their approach for analyzing and optimizing sales funnels in the healthcare industry using the TOFU (Top Of Funnel), MOFU (Middle of Funnel) and BOFU (Bottom of Funnel) methodology. They also mapped Sitecore capabilities to each of the stages in the buying journey. For me it resulted in a couple of pointers that are practically useful in our own consulting services.
Sitecore and Salesforce DMP integrationAfter the break Michal Popelář from ACTUM Digital took the stage. His session was insightful as he explained a POC they did recently which consisted of both Sitecore and Salesforce Data Management Platform (DMP). Salesforce DMP was formerly known as Krux and was acquired by Salesforce in 2016. Salesforce DMP is a separated product from Salesforce CRM, so forget about the existing Salesforce connectors that exist in the Sitecore ecosystem.
Michal sketched the ideal integration scenario and elaborated on some corners they had cut due to the limited time frame of the POC. Basically the idea is that Salesforce DMP tracks behavior of visitors over multiple channels. The DMP includes segmentation possibilities and these segments are added to xDB through xConnect. A custom rule enables the use of these segments in context of Sitecore for personalization purposes.
As said there were some concessions due to the limited scope of the POC. In the POC you do need to know the segment string from the DMP and type in that value manually. Ideally would want to have a selection list that is directly synced from the DMP to Sitecore. Another interesting idea is to merge / sync the segments in the DMP with segmented lists in the List Manager of Sitecore. These entities are more or less similar so that would make sense.
Some questions from the audience popped up asking if there would still be a need for the XP part of the Sitecore platform. Michal explained that not all information needs to go through the DMP. An example that Michal gave was an abandoned shopping cart. You would still use native Sitecore tracking, on site personalization and marketing automation to remind users of their abandoned shopping cart.
Sitecore & the Blockchain!Then there was the only blockchain related session during SUGCON and it happened in the main conference hall. As expected the session that was presented by Jason Bert was pretty packed with people. Jason started off with a simple explanation of blockchain and some different cryptocurrencies. His practical scenario and demo was featured around Ethereum, one of the more popular cryptocurrencies at the moment and widely seen as second generation after Bitcoin.
He created a demo where people could visit a simple (non-Sitecore rendered) web page to register for SUGCON EU sessions. The content of the sessions was loaded from the (locally emulated) Ethereum blockchain. First of all Jason created an Ethereum contract for storing session data. Within Sitecore Jason created a simple 4 field template with a custom button in the ribbon to send the contract to the Ethereum blockchain. The newly added session instantly appeared on the web page visible on the left of the screen. Usually this would take minutes since the Ethereum blockchain needs to process the contract request, but since the Ethereum blockchain as simulated locally this was processed directly.
The scenario wasn't that complex, but the idea was pretty neat. Currently write operations like this are quite an expensive operation, but it is expected that with future improvements and new blockchain based initiatives storing content decentralized like this will become a viable option.
ConclusionIf I compare this year's SUGCON conference to last year's in Amsterdam I have to say the quality of speakers this year was overall very, very good. A lot of presentations included deep dives and live demo's that most of the tine worked out well. It's great to see how many community members are taking the Sitecore products and doing such great things with it. And that's what sticks in my mind, this is a conference made by and for the Sitecore community, a celebration of all great things we do and create.
Some final remarks:
• The SUGCON organization team recorded most if not all of the talks. We expect to release the recordings through our YouTube channel
• Next year SUGCON will be held in London on April 4th and 5th. Venue will be announced later. See you in London!