It’s been a couple weeks since we wrapped up Sitecore Symposium 2022 in Chicago and I am still thinking about the excitement and energy of having everyone back together in person since 2019. In thinking about how I’d sum up the event, there is so much to take away, whether you’re an executive, a digital marketer, or one of the developers in the global Sitecore community.

If you were able to join us in the Windy City, watching from home, or you had other commitments, I wanted to share what I felt were the takeaways for decision-makers from this year’s Symposium.

1. The future of composable is now

The common theme that ran through all the executive keynotes, starting with our CEO Steve Tzikakis to open the event through to the product roadmap keynote from Chief Product Officer Dave O’Flanagan, is that Sitecore is all-in on making our solutions cloud-enabled and composable. Brands can’t afford to be tied down to a monolithic platform that doesn’t meet their digital experience needs. They need a martech stack that works for their business, empowering them to connect with customers more quickly and effectively. That means having options, allowing them to pick and choose the solutions that integrate with their other tools.

And don’t forget that with everything being cloud-based, there’s no more need for costly and time-consuming upgrades. With the introduction of Content Hub One, Sitecore Search, and Sitecore Connect, we are the only company to have completed our core CMS transition to a cloud-native, composable architecture.

2. Your brand needs to be authentic and inclusive

Consumers are savvier than ever and the pressure on marketers to make genuine connections with customers has ramped up even higher. It’s one of the main drivers for this year’s event theme of “Meet Every Moment”. Shoppers are now broadly mixing their preferences of where they go with 46% saying they prefer in-store, 30% wanting to do all their purchasing online, and 25% wanting to do a mix of both. The brands that will thrive in the current economy will be the ones that meet them with personalized content wherever they are in their journey.

 

In the Sitecore 2022 Brand Authenticity Report, our research clearly shows that consumers want to feel a personal connection to their favorite brands. Almost nine in 10 consumers say they want brands to show empathy and understanding and 83% say brands should try to ensure their customer base feels represented in their marketing and communications.

3. The metaverse is coming. Are you prepared?

While the speed with which the metaverse will become a widely adopted reality is still in question, Sitecore’s recent research shows marketers and consumers alike are excited about the possibilities the technology might bring.

Consumers are most excited about the chance to experience a product before they make the purchase decision, while marketers feel like the metaverse can improve remote collaboration, and both groups like the idea of being able to replicate a physical store for a better overall online shopping experience.

One of the most surprising reveals from our research shows that 75% of marketers believe that consumers will spend more time in the metaverse than on social media or any other place online in the next five years.

So, what should your organization be doing now to prepare? Figuring out who to target and how your customers might want to engage with you in this virtual environment is a great place to start. Our research showed that Millennials and Gen Z are the ones most likely to want to integrate this into their everyday lives, and they’ll be looking for exclusive content, diversity in what’s represented there, and a sense of being part of a global community.

It also means marketers will need to create and scale new types of content. In fact, 68% of the marketers we surveyed are already concerned about the content they’ll need to create to have an immersive metaverse environment.

While 8 of the 10 largest tech companies are already investing billions, most companies can make a modest investment now and use the metaverse as an opportunity to build boldly for the future.

4. Behavior-based intelligence and data

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically over the past couple decades and it’s not going back. But at the end of the day, everyone is human and there are certain aspects that makes everyone predictable to a certain extent.

In a session during the Executive Experience during Sitecore Symposium, Christopher Graves from the Ogilvy Center for Behavioral Science discussed rules-based behavior and how marketers can learn the real reasons why people do what they do. The ability to fine-tune segments and personas has advanced significantly, allowing marketers to personalize on an even deeper and more effective level.

There are several factors in what motivates shoppers, including Promotion vs. Prevention – do they take risks and are willing to make some mistakes, or do they play it safe and limit mistakes? Fate vs. Choice – Luck has a lot do with their lives, or they feel their choices control what happens. Future vs. Present – research shows that with a long-term durable good that text works better in advertising while if a shopper is making an immediate purchase, an image has a bigger impact on their decision-making.

Other behavioral-based technologies being introduced include eye tracking, text parsing, image and audio preference analytics, mobile usage, and of course social media likes.

5. Keep your teams informed

Most companies are going through some level of digital transformation. As you go through these organizational changes and introduce new technologies, keeping your broader teams in the loop can sometimes get overlooked, especially in this age where remote work is so common.

Decisions about what additions or subtractions are being made to your martech stack should be made with input and feedback from the teams that are and will be using them regularly. How many times have you been around or heard of new technology that was implemented and then no one used it? Very often, it’s the “deal” that dictates why it was bought and not what the employees actually wanted.

A team that feels like their opinions are valued leads to a healthy culture of engagement. This translates into satisfied employees and will likely reduce attrition and talent drain. Transparency is key.

6. It’s the age of the customer

Everything you do needs to be centered around making your customers happy. In another of the sessions during the Executive Experience, guest speaker Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway and Jetblack, shared that the voice of the customer is what is driving innovation and helps create brands.

 

How often have you heard from a friend of colleague about what a great product or service “Company X” is providing and you then go off that recommendation and check them out? Word of mouth is powerful and can spread very quickly, allowing a brand to reach more people quicker than any brand awareness campaign ever could. It’s why having a solid strategy of always meeting the customer where they are with a memorable experience is so crucial these days.

Having the right technology in your stack ensures you’ll have the ability to pivot and be agile enough to meet changing market dynamics and customer expectations. In the case of Rent the Runway, Fleiss said even start-ups need disruption. Consumer pain points are what drive change. For example, after hearing feedback from their customers, Rent the Runway implemented a subscription model to help frequent renters save money, while also giving infrequent renters more affordable options when they did need an outfit from one of the high-end fashion designers.

To learn more about what was shared during Sitecore Symposium 2022, we’ll be posting on-demand videos of the executive keynotes, customer showcases, blogs from several breakout sessions, and images from our big event on November 15 when we launch Symposium Online.

Paige O’Neill is the Chief Marketing Officer at Sitecore. Connect with her on LinkedIn.