The second day of Imagine 2016 opened with a bang, quite literally. The huge conference hall, filled with about 2,500 attendees, was engulfed in darkness as the buzz died down. The dark silence was soon broken by a single spotlight shining on a drummer onstage, which then shone on different musicians scattered throughout the audience, who stood up and performed one by one. The musicians joined together and something like a marching band came down the centre aisle, signalling the beginning of the General Session. Jamie Clarke, Co-Founder of liveoutthere.com and extreme adventurer, took the stage with panache and welcomed everyone enthusiastically. For lack of better words, Jamie was hilarious and captivating, and invigorated the audience by encouraging people to work hard, play hard, play smart and safe and reminded us how awesome it was to share time and insights with like-minded folks, over a beer someone else paid for.
After Jamie woke us up, Magento's CEO, Mark Lavelle, took the stage and emphasized how this was the first Imagine conference where Magento is an independent company (applause). After a few creative new takes on Magento's branding, Mark told us Magento will stay as it is, with its orange colour and iconic logo. Mark spent time briefly speaking about small businesses that have achieved success on the Magento platform, such as HDO Sport. He also reiterated the theme for this year - the trailblazer. The theme of a trailblazer in the wilderness, climbing with his ice pick (more on that later) strongly reminded us of Vaimo's theme. We compare eCommerce to the subarctic wilderness of the native Sami people of northern Scandinavia. It's difficult to survive the extreme conditions and constant competition, but with the right guide and right tools, it's possible to become a trailblazer and make your way to the top! Mark then took us by surprise by mentioning Vaimo as the largest solution partner, and spoke about our history, before speaking about Blue Acorn, another solution partner. We are so honoured to have been featured so prominently at Imagine 2016!
Mark then interviewed Scott Huckleberry, CIO at St. John's Knits, an upscale American apparel brand that has grown its eCommerce business on Magento. Here's a short summary of the interview (in our own words):
Mark: What's the customer experience like at St. John's?
Scott: There are three primary aspects in our store that are vital to customer experience. First, we wanted to make our site visually appealing, to focus on imagery and on a clean elegant design. We wanted our simple design to make it easier for customers to shop.
Second, we wanted to focus on craftsmanship. We are known for highly-crafted women's apparel, and in-store, we have a wardrobe specialist that can describe the details of the garment. We translated this experience to our website in one area of our blog called The Look, where we talk about design inspiration and detailed information about the product to communicate the high quality to our customers.
Third, we aim for consultative selling, and not regular shopping. We have wardrobe specialists that help our customers find the right apparel, and what goes together. That's why we put a digital lookbook together, so that a customer can purchase products in just a few clicks. This is our "Wear with This" functionality.
Mark: How did the high standards you set work out?
Scott: Our results are great from a sales standpoint; we have 30% more sales than we originally forecast, with 60% more sessions, and 30% more unique visitors. For us, our website is not just an eCommerce selling site, but it's truly our brand representation, and a tool for our stores. We wanted to merge all our channels together, and we see evidence that our online store does bring customers in to our bricks and mortar stores. We don't really care HOW our customers shop with us; just that they come to us, whether it's that our online store brings them to our physical stores, or that they shop online.
We signed with Magento last year, and we selected the Magento platform because for us, it perfectly marriaged the branded store and online experience into one. We had just over six months to design, build, test, and implement our new site. We hired an eCommerce team, and hit our deadline on October 29th, 2015, and we've been adding products and content ever since.
Mark: What do you want to do next?
Scott: St. John's is an international company, and we will continue to make our move internationally, and not just focus on domestic. We want to add extra content; we've been around for over fifty years, and we want to really instill our history into our online store. We want to add new functionality, such as pre-ordering, showing in-store inventory online, and so on.
Mark: Will you be joining Imagine again next year?
Scott: Absolutely! Hopefully we will be just as successful next year.
Next, Stephen Fusco, Vice President of GM North American Distribution at PayPal, talked about reimagining money and the digitisation of cash that is spurred on by the mass adoption of mobile devices. Stephen spoke about deconstructing the global financial system and building it back up with technology - a vision that Magento shares.
Next, Mark spilled the beans and announced the Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition and Peter Sheldon, Head of Strategy at Magento Commerce, took over to explain the inner workings. Mark explained it as a natural revolution for Magento, and shared that Magento has partnered with Amazon Web Services in order to provide global availability zones, elastic scalability, and redundancy that the Enterprise Cloud Edition features. On May 1st, 2016, it will be available for smaller and medium-sized companies.
Next, Mark awarded the top contributors to the Magento ecosystem in the form of Makers, Movers, and Mentors, who are noteworthy individuals that are actively making a difference. Below, we cover the sessions we attended in person, and the descriptions are largely what we gathered from the presentations. You can find a full agenda for the second day of Imagine 2016 sessions here.
DIY SEO: Laying Your Own Groundwork
Christina's technical presentation went over basic tasks for search engine optimisation, such as on-page optimisation, cross-promoting products, suggesting products, choosing SEO titles, creating descriptions, and crafting keywords for eCommerce items. This session was designed to enable the listener to research the right keywords that will perform best regionally or nationally. Christina covered basic points of what makes good SEO, such as a mobile-friendly site, good UX/UI, linking and speed. A quote from Jeff Eisenberg stated that "it's much easier to double your business by doubling your conversion rate than by doubling your traffic." Christina also did a walk-through of basic Magento procedures, such as how to add categories and products. View this presentation here.
Gaining the Competitive Edge: Enterprise Resource Planning
The functionality of an ERP system is vital to a successful eCommerce business. A resource and inventory management strategy allows merchants and retailers to decrease costs, maximise customer retention, and gain a competitive edge. This session was designed to guide a merchant through the process of selecting an ERP solution, including things to consider when integrating with Magento. The presentation included a case study that illustrated the positive impact of a strong ERP strategy.
Ali stressed that it's absolutely vital to measure the lifetime value of one's customers, as it's 7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an existing one. He than discussed the drivers of lifetime value, such as personalisation, product and service quality, and multi-channel customer service. Ali also advised that a good ERP system helps a retailer be more efficient and that it drives the efforts to become increasingly more efficient. Ali predicted that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator and then he went on to outline the best practice for choosing the right ERP solution. He asked questions such as:
- Does it connect to Magento?
- What is synchronised? How often does it sync?
- Does it have an open API?
View the rest of the questions and the full presentation here.
One Man Band: Success Without an In-House Team
Founded in 1981, International Military Antiques is the largest dealer of vintage military antiques and collectibles in the world, with over 46,000 orders in 2015. Fun fact - their products are also used in Hollywood movies! The company only employees 12 staff members, and only sell their products online nowadays. IMA doesn't have anyone in-house that deals with their eCommerce platform, apart from adding products.
Alex talked about how his company grew their revenue over 350% in the past five years with no in-house tech team. IMA utilised Magento Enterprise with assistance from Corra with marketing, user experience, security, and unique promotions. IMA uses Celebros search, an intelligent, semantic-based search engine that learns over time, that understands their shoppers' intentions.
IMA is now the industry leader, with over 165,00 unique monthly visitors with technology ROI exceeding 1000%. Read more here.
Designing the B2B Experience
Brendan talked about the process of designing the user experience for B2B customers and how to offer what B2B customers need through services and functions. While B2C is now being designed with the user in mind, not screens, the B2B customer experience is often not quite at the same level. Brendan has spent the last four years sharing his scalable strategy about responsive design as the tool to exceed consumer expectations. Brendan explained that 30% of Magento Enterprise sites are B2B, and that the key is to look at B2C trends and apply them to B2B. He demonstrated features such as price lists, quick order, and smart search.
Delivering the Goods: Revolutionising the Customer Experience
Utilising omnichannel means having a complete eCommerce platform that can support user experiences like Buy Online, Ship-to-Home, Pickup-in-Store, and Try-on-in-Store. Now, any retailer can offer the top quality user experience that their customers want across all channels and devices. This session talked about several global brands that employ unique user experiences.
According to Michael, Magento has always been ready for integration with more sales channels. Multichannel, omnichannel, seamless, and personalised are hyped words and don't actually reflect the client's needs. The new word is unified commerce, which tells more about what merchants should be doing today: unifying all sales channels into one. For the first time in history, more people made purchases online than at stores on Black Friday in the United States in 2016. While retail may be struggling and should transform, it will nonetheless survive, as 92% of sales in the United States still happen in-store. However, 62% of those in-store sales were influenced digitally.
Michael shared that there is a higher lifetime value for customers that purchase across multiple channels, and that the unified customer expects a unified experience. Over 20 years ago, the shopping journey was simple; consumers were influenced by an ad on the radio or in the newspaper. Today, it's more complex because of digitalisation and multiple touchpoints. Consequently, it's possible for a disconnect to appear between a customer's and a merchant's priorities.
Bonobos Guide Shop is an example of a store without inventory; when a sale is made, it's fulfilled from a warehouse. Eventually, a transformation of stores and delivery will occur, and shopping malls will look different in the future. Retailers often have a fragmented inventory distributed over several locations; but the customer expects to buy anything, anywhere. View the full presentation here.
Maximising Social Media Opportunities to Enable Commerce Success
The panelists in this session came together from every area of the social ecosystem to discuss how they utilised a channel to drive social commerce success. The panelists revealed strategies that Magento retailers and social networks are utilising to craft trending content, create engaged communities, and increase sales. The session was designed to teach how to improve conversion rates, maximise customer acquisition, and increase social media investment. View the presentation here.
John Webber, Present at Carved, talked about the various channels they use to interact with customers, such as their primary one, Instagram. The company uses Instagram to announce new products and get feedback, and also to literally sell their products. When it comes to Facebook, the company purchases ads for people who like their page. Twitter, another main channel for Carved, is great for customers who want to tell their stories. Snapchat, on the other hand, is used to show the inner workings and day-to-day life at the shop to create a closer relationship with customers. Carved aims for "authenticity without filters," meaning that employees are free to post through the company's social media channels. This allows customers to see the employees who are actually crafting the products. The funnier the videos, the better! John also talked about the importance of a responsive website, as 50% of the traffic to their site is via mobile.
Robb Crocker is the Founder & CEO of FunnelBox, a video production company that optimises videos in different channels to drive results. They usually start with Youtube as a channel, as often, their clients don't have competitors in Youtube. Robb advised to get an audit of one's Youtube channel, so that the correct direction will be more obvious. Robb believes that in the next 10 years, Facebook Video will be the primary video channel, with 8 billion current views per day.
Jenna Warren is EVP & a Magento Certified Solution Specialist at Creatuity, a company that provides an integration to Pinterest Buyable Pins. Pinterest is a visual catalog of inspiration that people browse, and it's a great spot to inspire potential customers easily.
Gabriel Francis is Global Product Marketing Manager at Facebook, and he talked about how they are starting to build extensions to be used with Magento. As there has been a fundamental shift to mobile devices in recent years, the question is, how do you reach customers on mobile? People spent time in apps - this means retailers need to be present where their customers are spending the majority of their time. Facebook currently has over 85 million active companies and 70% of people feel they can learn anything from Facebook. Gabriel advised that search is not a natural point of entry, and that retailer should not wait for customers to search on mobile; instead, they should provide customers with relevant personal messages. Millenials use Adblocks for blocking advertisements, but why are people using AdBlock in the first place? If a retailer's advertisements are targeted and relevant, people will block the ads less frequently. Gabriel offered that push notifications can be an important part of social strategy, as it's linked to the app, and organic conversions are higher in apps.
Winning the Requirements Game: Keys to a Successful Magento Project
Rob talked about best practices for ensuring good Magento project requirements. He taught merchants how to craft solid estimates and create successful Magento project results. Rob hinted that there must be a trusting relationship between a merchant and a solution provider, because when you hit challenges together, it's important for trust to already exist. He stressed that conversation is important during the project, and that it's vital to understand one another and what drives different people. Also, everyone needs to be engaged, as IT projects generally need a massive amount of engagement from the client's side. While every project is different, business processes matter; Rob advised people to avoid being too feature-focused, as processes are also important.
According to Rob, ROI is the best metric, and too much change during a project is a bad thing. A retailer may want to change their entire business stack (ERP and eCommerce platform), but he may not survive the challenge. He also encouraged retailers to accept that there are many unknowns, and that building eCommerce sites are akin to creating customised buildings. An agile approach is key, because unexpected things will come up, and it's good to be able to adapt. Finally, Rob encouraged the usage of user stories, because it's easier for everybody to understand the goal of a feature, and gives people the chance to make the product better by understanding the "why." View the presentation here.
The Evening Activities
The Magento Marketplace was open again all day, with booths full of interesting businesses. The evening session featured the Magento Excellence Awards, where Vaimo's client, Selver, won honourable mention in the Best Commerce Launch of the Year category. The evening keynote speaker was none other than Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who shared his story of success and stressed that it's vital for retailers to overdeliver to their consumers. Later that evening, attendees were treated to the Legendary Imagine Evening Event at the Encore Beach Club that featured Latin-style music and food.