Last week, Gabriella and I were on location in San Francisco, California to attend BloomReach Connect 2018. Since it was only a one day event, our schedule was stacked with interviews we will be sharing in the coming weeks but in the meantime, let’s dive into what we experienced while we were amongst the energetic and excited BloomReach community.
To start the day we joined every attendee of the sold out event in the main room of the beautful, industrial styled venue, The Village, to take in the opening keynote with Raj De Datta, the CEO and Co-Founder of BloomReach. The quintessential modern tech style venue that surrounded us is a popular venue for local companies like Salesforce and Facebook to host events, so we felt very much at home in the space.
The Experience Era is Now
In his opening keynote, Raj explained that the environment we are all in today within the digital world was one he had been waiting for since starting BloomReach 9 years ago. It represents the time he could shift from waiting and finally say the experience era is now: “it’s the area in which we work, the area in which we live and in which we compete.” In a nutshell, he emphasized “experience is the thing” and he pointed out that nearly every market could and should take that view when thinking about what they have to offer. He encouraged the notion that every customer of a brand is having their own experience as well as being part of a larger collective experience, which should remain top of mind for a brand throughout their digital strategy.
In looking back, he made the point that few of us can remember a pre-web era, and even said “we’ve been at this web thing for 20 plus years” and we’re just now entering into the time BloomReach was created to thrive in.
“There is really only one thing to know about BloomReach. We are the DXP company, we are all about the digital experience platform. That’s our whole business, that's what we've been about since the beginning and that is what we’ll be about sitting here in 25 years. Because experiences move at the rate of the web and so we have a long list of things to do. The digital experience platform, that is the thing, that is the way to win in the experience era.”
He went on to explain where the idea of the platform came from. He told the crowd how he had started with a team of people who built Google, (the search engine in case anyone is unfamiliar at this point), and together they conceptualized a platform that could deliver an experience as smart as Google, because that is what the world of digital business would require. The DXP needed to not only be smart but also wide open to connect with anything and remain lightweight to get up and running in record time while still being able to “punch way above its weight”. And those things they anticipated it would need to connect and keep up with? Angular, React.js, Alexa, IoT etc. The caveat though, there is no place in this world of experience for an ignorant system: “We need the kind of DXP that is constantly serving and learning. Learning and serving.”
A DXP That Knows and Changes Your Business
AI and machine learning are tablestake capabilities these days in the world of digital experience because, as Raj explained, brands need digital experience platforms that know their business, something that wasn’t possible before. Because of these capabilities, “the software gets your business. It gets your business because it gets your customers, it gets the votes of those customers, it gets your products, it gets your searches, it gets your content, and it understands all of that and that is the digital manifestation of your business. It applies the algorithms built into the software to achieve your business outcomes in a self-learning way.”
When the CMS-Connected team attends events, we hear the term DXP said many times over and while we know the pros of AI and machine learning, we sometimes struggle to see the tangible effects or the ways in which actual job roles change when switching from a standard monolithic legacy system to a more agile and nimble DXP. To answer this question, Raj described how a DXP can change many roles within a digital team. For the example, he used those that are “the frontline troops who really build the experience, digital merchandisers.”
“In some way we’re all digital merchandisers, even as human beings we’re merchandising ourselves. We are our product. The promise of the DXP in this era of speed is instant merchandising. I am talking about highly curated and AI optimized product selections displayed to your customer on a personalized basis with the best of human and machine, delivered instantly and learning all the time. The result is pretty straight forward. So many merchandisers spend their life on operational tasks, loading SKUs, attributing them, managing them, publishing images, publishing product selection, publishing collections of pages, lets wave goodbye to those days. Let's turn the merchandising function into what it is supposed to be, which is a business optimization function to get the right product to the right person. Let's do that in a way where the data science listens to the votes of the customer and dynamically renders the kind of merchandising the customer is looking for in microseconds across search pages, across category pages, across product pages of all types.”
The Baseline of BRX
Many of us who have been in the industry for even a couple years remember in 2016 when BloomReach acquired the open-source content management system out of Amsterdam, Hippo CMS. In meeting the various employees, I have to admit everyone seems so connected, I had to remind myself when I met BloomReach executives Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer and Arje Cahn, that my first interactions with them (digitally of course) had been when they were with Hippo. Understanding mergers and acquisitions quite frequently here at CMS-Connected it was great to experience such a smooth amalgamation of employees at the event. While there, I sat down with Arje to discuss how the companies have come together now that the acquisition is more than two years on, so be sure to stay tuned for that in the coming weeks!
In his keynote, Raj did a great job of explaining how Hippo has become the 'super CMS' that acts as the ‘baseline’ of the newly announced BloomReach Experience Platform or brXperience, and how this differs from the old model of just a content management focus.“These days, it's much more than content. It touches search, it touches AB testing, it touches personalization, touches analytics and it doesn't stop at the web. In fact, what's the difference these days between the web and the apps in a world in which more and more websites are being rendered with technologies like SPAs like react and angular, where app like containers are being used to publish digital experiences. This is about every conceivable channel. This is about mobile apps, clienteling, voice, IoT. Indeed the DXP is the nervous system for your digital enterprise.”
BRX for Commerce
Many of the technology partners we met at the event were all commerce vendors, two of which we have covered extensively on CMS-Connected, commercetools and Elastic Path. We even got time with Elastic Path’s CMO Darin Archer for an interview to share very soon!
In hindsight, that theme of technology partners made a lot of sense when I remembered that in the keynote, Raj also let us in on the fact that BloomReach started as a platform focused on commerce providers. As that market specifically has grown, and their expertise in it, Raj admitted one of the things they are getting tired of was watching brands and retailers get ‘Amazoned’. He even pointed out to all of their B2B customers they weren’t safe either given Amazon’s $10 billion business in B2B commerce.
This common issue is exactly why Bloomreach built BRX for Commerce, an announcement they made a month ago at DMEXCO. BloomReach wanted to equip brands against the gorilla in the market and give them another option outside of what BloomReach heard was their biggest issue: “We built BRX for the folks who are tired of being amazoned. We heard from you, and we listened. We heard you’re tired of spending millions of dollars on a legacy ecommerce platform, only to end up with a transactional system that is not the core of your competitive advantage. Think about this, you take a couple million dollars and a couple years to deploy a new commerce platform and then every cookie cutter site run on Demandware or whichever looks identical to the Amazon site. So why should a shopper shop with you if you’ve spent a million dollars on something that pretty much looks like Amazon or arguably, not as good as Amazon. You win by putting your brand forward. “
Raj then noted, in the same way marketing automation, order management, inventory, A/B testing and even search systems are plugged into their platform as experiential elements, you can plug commerce into the platform as well and why Raj emphasized they partner “with some of the best modern commerce platforms, Elastic Path, commercetools, SAP Hybris, Skava and Symphony Commerce.”
The most prolific thing Raj said to describe the experience era is the way in which the digital world used to be where a business marketed itself and now, it’s where an entire business can live. We always hear people say consumers don’t buy a product, they buy an experience or even that the experience IS the product. For that to ring true, brands need to take the experience and apply the same innovation and optimization efforts to it as they do with their product or service, starting with the platform they select.
The sense I got from the event was very futuristic, very connected and very excited. All for what businesses are able to achieve digitally right now and the amazing things they will be able to do in the very near future.