The second (and hopefully last) virtual Adobe Summit (formerly Magento Imagine) was held last week with hundreds of speakers and sessions April 27-29. Accorin sponsored the Commerce Track sessions but many of us wandered outside of that track in search of some deeper understanding of Adobe’s AXP (Adobe Experience Platform) integration plans for Magento, a glimpse of state-of-the-art marketing tech, and some entertainment with celebrities.

The session catalog was overwhelming but given the virtual format it was nice to be able to double up on sessions and review and replay the video from sessions that you missed. Adobe also did an awesome job with its conference app. Some virtual conference apps are good, some are bad. Adobe’s was GREAT – I found myself browsing and listening to sessions by phone more often than not, just because the interface was more tuned to browsing.

Adobe’s annual conference is typically gigantic; 4 or 5 times the size of Magento Imagine. It was nice to be able to skip around to different sessions – something that is not possible “in-person.” One can only hope that this type of conference app can be combined with in-person format in the years to come.

Here are 5 sessions from the two days that we thought were the most compelling (at least to the Accorin team) from an e-commerce perspective.

1. The New Commerce Imperative with Jason Woosley

This session was a great mix of Jason (VP Commerce Product / Platform at Adobe and former Magento head of product) recommending how to apply Adobe Commerce’s top new features along with a glimpse of where the product development team is headed next in response to e-commerce market pressures.

Jason recapped the best features of recent releases, including the new features of B2B, new B2B workflows, and the integration of Adobe Sign into the checkout process. Adobe is pushing hard on integration of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven experiences because of its focus on AXP and Adobe Commerce fits right in.

  • Seller Assisted Shopping” is a value of the features framework as is the combination of Headless Commerce / PWA studio – with the focus of product development being to maximize flexibility.
  • E-commerce is complex, ever-evolving, and always on with all of its integrations and Adobe has a new Site Wide Analysis Tool (SWAT) that provides proactive site reviews and suggested changes – “best practices in one place – best practices as a service.” SWAT is available as of Version 2.4.
  • The integration of Sensei was a key topic that was discussed in a number of sessions including this one – including its importance for B2B as well: “B2B merchants are looking to create the ultimate B2C-like experience but with robust B2B requirements” and Sensei with AI-driven product recommendations is a key aspect of meeting B2B buyer requirements for satisfying purchasing experiences day after day.

Jason’s presentation stressed the 5 e-commerce success factors that can be achieved with Adobe Commerce:

  1. Agility – the ability to change, evolve and move quickly to changing market forces (are you ready for the recovery?)
  2. Continuous exploration of and opening of new channels
  3. Enabling new buyer journeys as a business innovates
  4. International expansion
  5. Flexibility and capability with insights and “best practices as a service”

2. 5 Fundamental Steps to Becoming Data Driven – Petra Blixt Svenska Spel Sports and Casino

One of the great things about the virtual conference at scale is being able to view off-hours international content on demand. Normally I wouldn’t attend the European sessions because of the time difference; however, at Adobe Summit Virtual the presentation format made it easy.

Svenska is essentially the state run gambling business in Sweden. Petra provided some great insights on how an organization became data driven by using practical examples from their work. Petra first defined “data driven” right from Google: ”……enabling companies to examine and organize their data with the goal of better serving customers and consumers.” She used some fascinating statistics about this: only 29% of companies achieve transformational business outcomes as a result of their data and AI investments and only 24% report having a created a data-driven organization.

She emphasized that Svenska stayed focused on 5 key fundamental steps to becoming data-driven:

  • Know Who You Are
  • Know Your Gaps
  • Manage Expectations and Mandate
  • Hire for Skills and Attitude
  • Eat the Elephant (take on small pieces at a time) – show a roadmap / Agile process worked best to create value in small pieces

Because Adobe Commerce, with its increasing integration with AXP / Adobe marketing products, are also relying on data this was a particularly relevant session and one of those great “operating framework” lessons for e-commerce merchants and their teams.

3. The Key to Sustaining Positive Change by Shawn Achor

Shawn Achor is the NY Times Best-Selling author of ‘The Happiness Advantage’ and ‘Big Potential’

This was another session that was a great break from marketing tech, creative tool evolution, and e-commerce. I never knew about Shawn until attending this session but wow am I now a big fan.

Shawn introduced the concept of Positive Psychology, which is no doubt an anchor concept in his book and in his consulting work. It’s such a simple concept and it’s stunningly easy to remember and apply. Basically what Shawn recommends is this: Start your day, your project, your year, your off-site, your X with an exercise in positive thinking. For example send two emails about positive work to your teammates prior to a team meeting where you have to address some substantive issues. The individual should start their day with positive thinking exercises – recap the positives of the previous day no matter how minute the detail and no matter how “bad” the previous day was.

Shawn gives great practical examples for how to apply this in simple ways and includes fascinating data about how Positive Psychology and drive performance in organization (and business results).

Learn how to architect positive realities based on true facts – and recording and analyzing true positive events! Checkout the recording of this session or checkout Shawn’s book.

One of the most practical motivational sessions I have ever attended at a trade show!

4. Commerce-Obsessed: How AI and ML Can Drive Results (A.K.A. Adobe Sensei Value Cheat Sheet) by Ryan Green

This was the one session that really pushed the value of Adobe Sensei to Adobe Commerce merchants. “We must design value in each experience” was the opening quote and in order to create that value, it’s important for customers to see, interact with, and experience touch points that are relevant. If you don’t, you’ll lose the customer to another merchant that does this successfully.

Ryan Green was super-passionate and a great advocate for Sensei boiling down the value for Commerce merchants to three key areas:

  1. Live Search (more complex catalogs with large SKU counts and categories especially) will help complex catalogs and product sets perform much better and result in higher conversion
  2. Product Recommendations – based on a mixture of data and visual elements – drives 10 product recommendation types
  3. Visual Recommendations – Sensei can make associations based on imagery and attributes of product images, helping to match relevant product information to buyers based on visual queues. (wow)

5. Malcolm Gladwell – A Crisis is a Terrible Thing to Waste

I’m normally not a huge Malcom Gladwell fan…he can make a lot of people feel like, “Yeah, I knew I should have acted the other way (Malcolm’s way) in order to achieve a certain outcome”. But Malcolm’s brief chat was good and practical and left the listener to fashion their own outcomes with his thoughts in mind for the upcoming recovery from Covid. He postulated that the upcoming post-pandemic era will be different — focused on one idea, one argument — a notion of decentralization Vs. hierarchy.

Gladwell started with one example many of us are immediately familiar with — that amazingly the vaccination rollout, which he believes is working great, is the fastest in the US because of its dependence on networks — non-centralized people and tasks that work together, albeit differently than other networks (in the vaccination example it’s States). The network model of education (multiple disciplines across multiple universities), coffee shops: Starbucks (hierarchy) Vs. Indy coffee shops – the network is the value.

Fundamentally Malcolm argues the story being told in independent coffee shops is so different than what the “soldier” in the Starbucks army says to you.” The implications are this – join a hierarchy (Starbucks) or join a network (Indy coffee shop). He argues that the Pandemic has brought this reliance on “networks” to the forefront of daily life and that it’s a good thing. Hierarchies aren’t bad — in many ways they’re great; but networks will continue to support the speed of innovation and business process – or at least Gladwell hints at this….maybe better than “hierarchies?” Maybe that is yet to be determined.

The Bottom Line

This was an awesome virtual conference because of the sheer volume of great content. Adobe did an excellent job with their app and this enabled users with tight schedules to pack 4/5/6 sessions into a couple hours. All content is still available for all registrants and most easily accessible through the app.

For those that didn’t register, many sessions are still available on demand, so go watch / listen as your schedule allows!