Taking the Digital Leap Together: Highlights From Experience Acquia

Experience Acquia brought together digital visionaries to share stories of how brands can adapt to disruption and accelerate digital transformation.

the digital path forward

Events have always been an exciting source of community and connection. But with large in-person gatherings put on pause for the time being, Acquia wanted to bring that same sense of shared innovation to our customers, prospects and partners around the globe. While the world has changed, the desire to come together and help businesses accomplish their goals is stronger than ever. So on June 30, we gathered Acquia experts and digital visionaries online to host our virtual Experience Acquia event. 

The traditional playbook for digital experiences has been thrown out. Every industry from retail to travel to government has been disrupted and is trying to figure out how to survive in our new digital-first landscape. At Experience Acquia, we wanted to help organizations understand why it’s been so difficult for brands to fast-track their digital experiences. Over 500 professionals spanning all industries from healthcare to retail to financial services registered to participate in open and honest discussions about what they need to prepare for the years ahead and learn how they can provide the kind of value customers expect from brands moving forward. See our recap below and if you want to watch the full event yourself, download the recording right here!

How to Make the Digital Leap

Acquia CMO, Lynne Capozzi jumped into the first presentation with a focus on speed. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re seeing companies press the fast-forward button on their digital transformation plans. Lynne identified three major challenges for brands when it comes to digital agility and shared examples of how well-known organizations developed innovative solutions. Here’s how these brands were able to fulfill their promises to customers by keeping their minds educated, their bodies in shape and their stomachs full.  

The Challenge: In an incredibly short time, people’s lives have been altered and businesses need to adapt fast to meet new demands with relevant content, convenient services and on-demand digital experiences 

The Customer Solution: The City of Boston understood that it needed to provide clear and rapid information to its citizens to keep them up-to-date with the latest news regarding the pandemic. They leveraged the enterprise functionality of a robust content management system with flexible site-building tools to spin up new sites providing resources on COVID-19 and to post regular updates on the city and state’s daily press conferences. 

The Challenge: Outdated technology systems confine customer data to silos and make it difficult to gain a 360-degree view of the customer.

The Customer Solution: In the first week of physical store closures, athletic apparel brand lululemon used a customer data platform (CDP) to understand how to best pivot their marketing to reach their customers on new channels and maintain their community connection. They promoted online yoga, meditation and dance classes to their customers, using a CDP to understand who to target with what offer. 

The Challenge: An explosion of content and data along with increased online activity has added a burden to IT departments tasked with securing their digital ecosystems at scale and maintaining governance.  

The Customer Solution: When King Arthur Flour was hit with a surge of online orders and visits to their website as people turned to baking during lock-down, they quickly scaled their cloud infrastructure to support the interest. The King Arthur Flour team also launched new recipes and video resources to give customers a more entertaining experience. 

Customer Panel 

We followed up this strategic deep dive with even more stories from digital leaders who embraced innovative solutions to stay connected with their audiences and maintain momentum in the face of uncertainty.

experience acquia customer panel

Former financial television host Mark Jeffries moderated a Q&A with Steve Nathanson, Newell Brands Senior CMS Manager, E-commerce; Shaun McDougall, Director of Marketing at Leidos; and Nikhil Deshpande, Chief Digital Officer for the State of Georgia.  

All three digital leaders spoke about their ongoing journey with digital transformation over the past few years and how the pandemic pushed them to be more proactive about building digital connections, pursuing new technologies and channels and above all else, making sure to be an available and reliable presence to customers as they struggle to cope with so much other disruption.

As customers rushed to stock their homes with supplies in the first few weeks of the pandemic, Newell Brands saw unexpected consumer interest in products like food storage and cookware. “We needed to pivot our messaging to account for people’s new buying reactions, but we also wanted to maintain consistency across all of our 150+ brands and consolidate all of our different tech systems,” said Steve Nathanson. 

Steve is hoping to continue Newell’s digital transformation by focusing more on personalization and AI technology so that their teams are able to offer recommendations to customers that feel relevant even as their buying patterns change.

Nikhil Deshpande and the entire digital team at the State of Georgia also had to work fast to make sure all of their sites could accommodate the massive influx of web traffic as citizens turned to their state leaders for a plan. “Visits to Georgia’s Department of Health site spiked from 50,000 to 5 million sessions per day and citizen concern about COVID-19 has increased traffic to Georgia State websites by 1,100%!” 

Since the State of Georgia had already migrated their sites to the cloud, Nikhil said it was a straightforward process to scale. “We were able to expand to accommodate the capacity without interruptions. So as the demand multiplied, the panic didn’t multiply,” said Nikhil. 

Leidos supports the IT and digital infrastructure of organizations dedicated to public safety from aviation to biomedical research to the Department of Defense. With so much at stake, they had to remain always-on and ready to provide fast and dependable services. Sean McDougall at Leidos understood that the need to secure and equip their digital operations was extremely critical during this global situation.  

“We’ve been on a digital transformation journey over the past few years and building a foundation that can be relied upon to take us through the unknown,” said Sean. He echoed Lynne Capozzi’s earlier thoughts on the power of open technology as a way to look toward the future. “At Leidos, we talk less about digital transformation and more about integration. It’s not about doing something new but finding innovative ways to leverage the data we already have and get close to our customers without a literal face-to-face connection.” 

Deep Dive Into Acquia Marketing Cloud

Continuing with the theme of integrating data and building seamless solutions, Acquia’s Lead Product Evangelist Eric Fullerton gave Experience Acquia attendees a tour of the brand new Acquia Marketing Cloud

For far too long marketing technology had lacked true insight into the customer experience with customer data scattered across systems and teams. Brands who depended on these disconnected tech stacks, ironically, made the mistake of not looking before they leap. They were trying to engage a customer without first understanding the context of how each individual prefers to have a conversation. Eric referred to this as an “activation-first” approach. Marketers lack direction and end up trying to do everything at once (more posts, more advertisements, more emails) without a clear objective.

AMC journey

Acquia Marketing Cloud is the only marketing cloud solution that offers a data-first approach that shifts the lens of marketing away from activation and into understanding. “By providing unified customer data from multiple channels, stitched together by machine learning algorithms and grouped into more accurate customer segments, brands can send fewer, more effective messages,” Eric explained.

Especially in difficult, unfamiliar times, organizations need to make things as simple and straightforward as possible for their customers. A digital leap starts with open technology that removes the barriers to opportunity. The power of an open, data-first marketing cloud is that it helps brands know where customers are in their journey so they can guide them forward. 


If you weren’t able to attend Experience Acquia and you’re hoping to use some of our tactics to drive your own digital transformation efforts, check out the event recording as well as our resources page for The Path Forward: Digital Transformation.

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