Acquia Engage: The Austin, Texas, Takeover, Day 2

Digital experience experts from West, Accenture, IBM iX and other industry leaders share insights on personalization, artificial intelligence and more

You can’t go to Austin without experiencing the nightlife. Luckily, the folks at Acquia Engage had all attendees covered with a very Austin-y customer party at Speakeasy. There was live music, a bowling alley, good drinks, delicious barbecue and … Wendy’s. Nothing keeps a party going like a tray full of Frosties and Baconators. As we rolled into Day 2 of Acquia Engage, our hearts, minds, and stomachs were ready to be filled.

Lynne Capozzi Acquia Engage 2018
Acquia CMO Lynne Capozzi speaks during Day 2 of Acquia Engage 2018 in Austin, Texas.

Lynne Capozzi kicked us off once again with more insights from our Customer Experience Trends Report that was released the previous day. In addition, Lynne announced that our #GiveBackMore initiative had raised $14,000 for Erik Weihenmayer’s nonprofit organization, No Barriers.

Centrica Acquia Engage Awards 2018
Centrica received the 2018 Acquia Engage Award for Excellence in Digital Marketing B2B along with their partner, IBM iX.

Acquia Engage Award Spotlight: Centrica

Next up was another Acquia Engage Award spotlight. Centrica, a British multinational energy and services company, was welcomed to the stage. They knew they had to meet the disruption of their industry head-on. Being a lean marketing team meant acting like a startup, and startups need good partners to leverage. They received the 2018 award for Excellence in Digital Marketing B2B along with their partner, IBM iX.

One of their key goals was supporting not just the U.K. but the U.S. and nine other regions. Due to a reorganization following several acquisitions which led Centrica to multiple CRMs and five legacy content management systems that all had to be migrated to Acquia.
However, through their work with Acquia and IBM iX, Centrica was able to launch within 12 months and have since launched nine sites in five languages, all with brand consistency. Their new sites focus on SEO and feature responsive design and multilingual support, thanks to Drupal 8, Acquia Lightning and Acquia Cloud Site Factory.

West and Acquia's Melanie Poitras at 2018 Acquia Engage
West took the stage with Acquia's Melanie Poitras during 2018 Acquia Engage in Austin, Texas.

How West is Changing the Way we Work with Open Source Innovations

Continuing with the theme of customer stories, West was next to take the stage along with Melanie Poitras, Acquia’s senior director of customer experience and product portfolio marketing. West supports everything from 911 systems to secure earrings information. They aren’t just a hosting company; West supports business critical communications.

To travel back in time to the old days of 2016, when Nasdaq was on the cusp on a massive migration (side note: West acquired the public relations (Public Relations Solutions) and webcasting and web hosting (Digital Media Services) products and services within Nasdaq’s Corporate Solutions business for approximately $335 million in January 2018). They had two major platforms, and about 10 years worth of technical debt.

The move to Drupal 8, which was still new at the time, presented many challenges that were worked out through the course of the migration.

The old legacy platform required a massive workflow to add new features; there was a lot of complicated customizations that slowed down the process. That was part of what inspired the move to Drupal.  They didn’t want another proprietary system, they wanted to work with a community, and Drupal has one of the best in the world.

With any major replatforming project, many lessons are learned. One of the lessons West learned was to make sure key stakeholders and end users were involved and understood what the platform does (which is something we talked about in our own guide to redesign).

When asked why West chose to pursue an open source solution, the passion and size of the Drupal community was a draw. In West’s observation, open source is a great path for midsize clients with lots of growth opportunity. Prior to the move, West couldn’t do small custom projects for clients, but now are able to say yes to clients more than they say no.

Internal change has also lead to positive effects within the company. Leadership has been working to breakdown traditional silos by blending of IT and marketing through the use of with cloud. It’s made it easier for collaboration and contributed to a faster time to market. With a new president it’s a new company and not just Nasdaq anymore. The energy is palpable.

Felicity Carson of Watson Customer Engagement at Acquia Engage 2018
Felicity Carson, chief marketing officer for Watson Customer Engagement, speaks at Acquia Engage 2018 in Austin, Texas.

Using Artificial Intelligence for Competitive Advantage

Felicity Carson, chief marketing officer for Watson Customer Engagement, said by harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI) we can sharpen business and customer insights, enable innovation in a digital-focused landscape, and create personalized customer experiences that make an impact.

AI is the next evolution of software. It can sift through a seemingly insurmountable amount of data, and more quickly than humans can. It can learn patterns and present information in an approachable way. It can help design the best experience, apply personalization, automatically assign lead scoring while you work on building a relationship with your customers. Carson urged the audience to let AI do the heavy lifting while we focus on the more human elements of marketing like empathy.

“Technology should work for people, not the other way around.” – Thomas Watson

Carson was clear; either you drive disruption or you're out paced by it. AI can help you zero in on unmet customer needs but it’s up to you to meet them. It seems like a tall order by today’s standards, but in 50 years time, our use cases will seem primitive.

Carson closed with a question for the audience, “I ask you, what are you going to do to build a bright future?” and she reminded us of another famous quote:

“Shoot for the moon.” – Margaret Hamilton

Acquia Engage Award Spotlight: United Rentals

United Rentals is the largest equipment rental company in the world with an integrated network of 1,054 rental locations in North America and 11 in Europe. United Rentals was one of the first true e-commerce rental experiences. However there was room to improve certain aspects of the website. Enter Acquia, VMLY&R and Argo Design.

United Rentals partnered with VML and Argo Design to architect a truly modern platform for the equipment rental industry, providing full lifecycle fleet management. The teams optimized the existing checkout process to eliminate barriers to customer conversion, upgrading to Drupal 8 to provide a streamlined app-like customer checkout.

Additionally, VML also began personalizing content with customized calls to action for customers, helping guide them to the most relevant next step in the conversion process.
In 2018, the United Rentals website is on track to smash all previous online rental records, reaching more than a 40 percent year-over-year increase in online rental revenue and the quantity of self-service orders has jumped more than 60 percent. They’ve set even more ambitious goals for the future and look forward to hitting them. Oh and they won the 2018 Acquia Engage Award for Leader of the Pack: Commerce. Not too shabby.

Ryan Garner of Accenture Interactive at Acquia Engage 2018
Ryan Garner of Accenture Interactive speaks at Acquia Engage 2018

Accenture: Putting the ‘Personal’ Back into Personalization

Presenter Ryan Garner, managing director for the experience design & optimization offering of Accenture Interactive, has a long history with Acquia. From 2007-2012, he was the vice president of direct-to-consumer services at Warner Music Group, where he led the decision and effort to move all of Warner's artist sites to Acquia's platforms.

Garner was candid and honest; Accenture has struggled with personalization and so have many others. Personalization itself is a simple idea but complicated to execute. It can’t be done by a single group. In Garner’s opinion, no one can credibly say that they do “personalization.”

We’ve all fallen into a familiar trap where taking a technology-led approach, spearheaded by our own industry, makes us think personalization starts with tools. But the only value people get is through the experience. By focusing on tools we’re delaying focusing on the experience.

“You don’t need all that tech for an abandoned cart notification,” Garner said.

So what constitutes a personalized experience? A personal experience equals experience that “listens” to a person's inputs and uses them in an intelligent way to provide a relevant and useful output. Collecting data via tracking is fine, but have you really thought about just asking customers what they are interested in?

Companies like Warby Parker and Vitamix have had success in working directly with their customers. Rather than trying to serve up slightly relevant content, they’ve built tools to help people find the right product themselves.

How do you lead with experience? Start with solving problems. We’re really bad at solving problems as a species. People usually make fast decisions, focused more on ideas than solutions.

“Remember it’s about people,” Garner said. “Start small, test, and have fun.”

Big Ideas in Digital

It wouldn’t be an Acquia Engage without the Big Ideas in Digital panel. Closing out the day, Acquia CMO Lynne Capozzi returned to the stage along with:

  • Gladys Nova, director, web & CX, digital technology, Baker Hughes, a GE Company
  • Mark Kramer, vice president, engineering & technology Pac-12 Networks
  • Vijay Kukreja, vice president, digital strategy, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

You can watch the full discussion below (because it’s worth watching the whole thing, it’s great discussion) but in keeping with tradition, here are the panel’s favorite and least favorite inventions.

Nova was grateful for Netflix and said Google maps saved her marriage. Kramer loves his Garmin watch and smart sprinkler system. Kukreja was pleased with his Nest + Google Maps integration so the lights are on when he returns home. On the flipside, Nova is not a fan of email or texting while driving. Kramer dislikes FTPs and “running your business on Excel / Google Sheets,” and Kukreja could do without popups and malware.

Watch Acquia Engage - Big Ideas in Digital on YouTube.


And that’s it for Acquia Engage 2018. We’ll see you in Sydney, London, and New Orleans in 2019.

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