Sitecore Symposium 2019: Human Connections in a Digital World got off to a rousing start today at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Fla. Approximately 2,500 executives, digital marketers, developers, and IT professionals spent the morning taking in exciting Sitecore product news, as well as inspiring and informative keynotes.

The day started with Sitecore CEO Mark Frost taking the stage to welcome everyone and announce that we had a new product to share – Sitecore AI. Developed in partnership with Microsoft, this machine learning framework will enable marketers to leverage Auto-Personalization.

Joining Frost on stage to make the announcement was none other than Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President of the Microsoft Cloud and AI group. And for those of you familiar with Scott, yes, he wore his signature red polo shirt, which as he explained is his good luck charm.

“Sitecore AI is the industry’s first solution that automatically identifies visitor trends, creates customer segments, and then modified web pages to deliver the right personalized content to your customer,” Frost said. “So now, we help you personalize experiences at scale, while helping you solve the content crisis, and our system understands where each customer is in their journey, as well as their interests and behaviors.

“With that understanding, Sitecore AI delivers targeted personalized content to your customers automatically. Microsoft not only helped us deliver this new solution, but they’re also our first Sitecore AI customer.”

Frost also made other product announcements, including the official launch of enhanced content editing features in Sitecore Experience Platform 9.3, and a new Salesforce connector for Sitecore Content Hub 3.3.

But the big news was Frost outlining our vision for Sitecore SaaS. As he explained, by taking this bold step. Sitecore isn’t simply looking to change the way our digital marketing technologies are priced and delivered. We’re going to reinvent the entire experience of using our software by embracing a closer relationship with our customers – one that puts them at the heart of every conversation and enables them to launch customer-focused digital transformations that elevate the human experience.

 

What is ‘human connections in a digital world’?

Sitecore CMO Paige O’Neill then took the stage to explain what this year’s event theme was truly about, and why creating human connections in the digital world is now so important for brands as part of their customer experience.

“By 2020, customer experience will actually overtake pricing and product as the key differentiators,” O’Neill said. “Our expectations have changed along with the rise of digital. … We now expect that the brands we interact with to know us, to personalize those interactions and to use the data that we provide them to tailor the content we see and the offers we receive are specifically for us.”

As part of her keynote, Paige brought up representatives from three Sitecore customers who have proven to be leaders in their ability to connect with their customers – the American Heart Association, General Mills, and Cirque du Soleil. Each shared inspiring successes that attendees can use as models for their own digital transformations.

 

Fantastic guest keynotes get started

World-renowned photographer Platon provided the featured guest speaker keynote for the day. His stories of his experiences capturing images of world leaders, tech titans, and celebrities had the attendees’ rapt attention. Whether it was his experiences with presidents, civil rights leaders, athletes or entertainers, his message was clear – we are at a unique time in history and it’s up to all of us to figure out a way to re-connect with each other on a human level to being us all back together.

Attendees then started to break out into their content track of interest – Digital-First for Marketers, Experience Commerce, Developing on Sitecore, or DevOps Scenarios. The marketing track keynote was given by Elissa Fink, the former CMO of Tableau Software, the Commerce keynote was provided by Brendan Witcher, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester, and the Developer keynote was given by Emily Freeman, technologist and author of DevOps for Dummies.

The afternoon was highlighted by a series of informative and engaging breakout sessions presented by our customers, partners, and some of Sitecore’s brightest minds. The afternoon also featured an important “Balance for Better” session that touched on the importance of diversity in the workplace. In addition, there was a session presented by our Diamond sponsor, Valtech, led by their Senior VP of North America, Allison Simpkins, where the panel discussed how to build the next generation of female leaders.

 

First of Ultimate Sitecore Experience Awards announced

Congratulations to our Ultimate Sitecore Experience Award winners from the Americas region – Subway and its partners Avanade and Accenture, and United Health Group along with its partner Horizontal Integration. Two more Ultimate SEA winners will be announced tomorrow from the APJ and EMEA regions, followed by the People’s Choice Ultimate SEA where voting through the Sitecore Symposium mobile app will begin on Thursday morning, with the winner revealed right before the conference wraps up.

Zarnaz Arlia is the Vice President of Corporate Marketing at Sitecore. Find her on LinkedIn.