The Wednesday Stack: News From Barcelona

MagentoLive kicked off in the Catalan capital today, and I was briefed on the Magento — or should we say Adobe? — announcements. The main focus, expectedly, is the integration of the Magento commerce platform into the Adobe Experience Cloud, with the acquisition about four months old.

Magento is offering capabilities across the board to enterprises and SMBs. Enterprises will now be able to:

  • Build shopping experiences at any touchpoint on the customer journey through integration with Adobe Experience Manager
  • Personalize the experiences through integration with Adobe Target, powered by Sensei AI, and
  • Derive predictions about future customer needs from behavioral patterns surfaced by Sensei in Adobe Analytics.

Below the enterprise level, Magento customers will see multiple enhancements with a new release of the Magento platform, including: a new PageBuilder to create engaging content online; ProgressiveWebApplications to design more effective mobile experiences; Magento Payments to streamline payment processes and manage risk; new reviews and ratings management options; and integrations with Amazon Sales Channel, Google Merchant Center, and Advertising Channels for Google Smart Shopping Campaigns.

Loni Stark, senior director of Strategy & Product Marketing, Adobe Marketing Cloud and Peter Sheldon, senior director of strategy for Commerce, Adobe, shared some background details with me, especially on scale. Adobe Experience Manager handles over 200 trillion customer transactions each year, while Magento handles over $150 billion of online sales (including for 80 of the 100 largest U.S. web retailers). Adobe Experience Cloud has a holistic grasp on the consumer experience, from creative, through awareness, discovery, consideration, conversion and retention. Magento will now play a key role in those last two stages.

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Meanwhile, just across the Atlantic from Spain, the CMS, commerce, and personalization platform Sitecore is holding the Sitecore Symposium in Orlando, Florida, accompanied by a hefty list of announcements around the Sitecore Experience Cloud, as well as the breaking news of the acquisition of Stylelabs, the content hub and DAM platform. Ryan Donovan, CTO, explained it all.

“Sitecore has signed an agreement to acquire Styelabs, a digital marketing software company based in Brussels, Belgium, that gives us digital asset management, and is a substantial expansion of our capabilities and really extends our place in the marketing technology stack.” Clients were facing a “content crisis of epic proportions,” unless they were reaching out to a third party DAM system to manage their assets, Donovan explained. “What we saw with Stylelabs was an opportunity to own the entire content production lifecycle, end-to-end, right from initial creation, to delivery, to handling product master data, to delivering it up through our experience platform.”

Sitecore has always specialized in behavioral insights; the acquisition adds content performance insights, and ties the two together. “It’s also a technologically synergistic acquisition,” he said, “as we both have our roots in the Azure cloud, so Stylelabs was top of the list for ease of integration. We expect to be able to deliver on the value relatively quickly.”

I asked if the initiative replaced existing DAM capabilities in Sitecore. “We’ve always had our media library,” said Donovan. “If you wanted to stretch it, it was a lightweight DAM. It’s not going away, but now we’re going to be able to offer a feature-rich, best-in-breed solution for managing media assets.”

Below the fold, Sitecore is announcing its 9.1 release of the Experience Cloud, featuring:

  • JavaScript Services allowing JavaScript developers to build Sitecore-powered experiences, opening opportunities to a much larger developer community (previously it has been restricted to .NET programmers)
  • Sitecore Cortex, a platform for machine learning within Sitecore, helping to (1) automate the creation of personalization rules (instead of manual segment creation), (2) automate content tagging, and (3) identify segments with high propensity to convert
  • Project Horizon, in customers’ hands for the first time for preview, aimed at moving the needle on content productivity for authors and editors — for example by combining analytics with the creation experience in the same dashboard.
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Adobe takes another swing at Stack piñata, bringing us news of a new report produced jointly with call tracking/analytics solution Invoca: “Emotions Win. What Customers Expect in the Age of AI.” The key take-away: AI-powered automation is great, but customers still want the human touch:
  • Although 69 percent of consumers interviewed believe AI will govern brand communications in the next five years, and 61 percent think it will make shopping faster, 61 percent also thought it would make the experience less personal
  • More than half those interviewed would rather interface with a human being than a computer
  • Consumers under 35 are twice as likely to believe that voice assistants can deliver a satisfying “emotional quotient” in the interactive experience than consumers over 55.

Brands which combine seamless experiences powered by automation, with human-to-human connections, seem likely to win.

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Finally, a quick look at survey results from Pega which dovetail neatly with the preceding story. In this one, 3,500 global consumers say chatbots are still too dumb (anyone surprised?). Yes, they’re fast and convenient for simple tasks, but 65 percent of respondents still want a human on the other end of the conversation. Chatbots are viewed as competent for tracking orders, providing basic information, and answering simple questions. The top complaints were lacking the smarts to answer less simple questions, lacking conversational context, and — hey — they act like robots.

There’s also a significant, older segment, which won’t talk to chatbots at all. And they’re hold-outs: 45 percent of these consumers without chatbot experience said they won’t try one in the next year while another 30 percent aren’t sure.

One day, we’ll be lucky if bots will talk to us.

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