On October 2-3, 2017, the ecommerce marketing team at Enventys Partners had the opportunity to attend Digital Summit Charlotte. This two-day conference provided an opportunity for the team to brush up on their digital marketing skills and learn the newest trends and insights in online and ecommerce marketing through a variety of keynotes, presentations and panel discussions.

Here are our key takeaways:

Adam Holden-Bache

Will artificial intelligence replace marketers or enhance their marketing capabilities? Likely both, as we learned from Loren McDonald of IBM Watson during his presentation “AI and Machine Learning Technologies: What They Mean for Marketers Today and In The Future.

Loren shared how machine learning and AI technologies will be used to make decisions and improve the process side of marketing. In the immediate future, this will happen mostly through automating repetitive tasks that machines can do more efficiently, such as reporting, data analysis, automations, and testing and optimization.

While AI and machine learning will eliminate 6% of jobs by 2021, it will also provide an opportunity for marketers to focus on more human tasks including strategy and planning.

For now, marketers should prepare themselves for a future with AI and machine learning by embracing the concepts, experimenting and implementing AI technology, and educating their teams on how to embrace a future driven by machine learning. Getting ahead of the curve now will put marketers in a great position in the future.

Christine Lavery

One of my favorite aspects of going to conferences from year to year is seeing how quickly digital marketing can evolve, specifically when it comes to social media. Last year, when I attended Internet Summit with the team, I listened to Laura Wilson of Georgetown University speak about how her team uses social media to connect with students. This year, I attended a similar chat, however, it was interesting to see how her talk changed, even from last year, which speaks to the ever-changing dynamic of social media and digital marketing. Digital Summit was also very content-driven, which was interesting and helpful for me, as I walked away with a few new strategies on how I can approach content writing for our clients.

Although not totally applicable to the work we’re doing right now, one of my favorite sessions was led by Loren McDonald of IBM, in regards to AI and machine learning technologies and what they mean for marketing in the future. Assuming they should make our jobs more exciting and strategic, and leave more time for creativity because machines will be doing the data-sorting for us, I’m very excited to see what the future has to hold in that regard.

The real danger is not that computers will begin to think like men, but that men will begin to think like computers. – Sydney Harris

Dan Balda

Steve Rude’s presentation stood out to me the most. He talked about putting a real value on your testing and optimization program. Most marketers know the importance of testing and optimizing, but Steve took this to the next level. Marketers tend look at the “winning” test only, but forget about the monetary difference between tests. Using his PARI (Probable Annual Revenue I mpact) formula, he estimated the revenue of one test versus another. Assigning an actual dollar value helps us visualize and appreciate the impact of testing in businesses.

Drew Wilhelm

Digital Summit was packed full of wonderful and informative presentations. From the former CMO of Microsoft, to the senior director of social media and engagement for Georgetown University, to the vice president of advisory marketing at Wells Fargo, every aspect of marketing was covered. Having the ability to learn from such a variety of experts in their field was a fantastic experience.

Some of the presentations that stood out to me the most were Michael Salamon’s “UX VS Marketing”, Steve Rude’s “Putting Real Value on Testing and Optimization” and Laura Wilson’s “Gen Z These Days: Marketing to Digital Natives”, to name a few.

Seeing the perspective of UX versus marketing through Michael’s unique angle was incredible. Thinking of the two as chocolate and peanut butter, the two are great on their own but so much better together, gives a new way to approach campaigns and integrate the customer journey in to your marketing story.

Steve’s talk on utilizing testing and optimization, along with the formulas provided, has truly gotten me excited for the ability to optimize existing sites as well as grow and learn our strategies through data.

Laura’s presentation on how this generation is interacting with media and all social aspects of it was spectacular. Seeing the divide of how people view social platforms and the way we can begin to talk to those audiences in the ways that make sense to them will affect the way we reach out with our social campaigns.

Elizabeth Breedlove

One presentation that stood out to me at Digital Summit Charlotte 2017 was Jason Cranford Teague’s talk entitled “Trust by Design: Keeping Your Customer on Your Side.” His entire presentation was based on three principles of building trust through website design and UX.

First, you should be consistent in your design. As you’re building a site, keep any promises you make, know your voice, and respect the context of your site and it’s content. This is fairly simple, but it becomes a bit more complex as you move through each principle.

Secondly, be transparent. Guide your customers through your funnel, rather than dictating where they go. If you’re changing direction – say from one type of content to another – use transition to guide the viewer through the change. Make sure you are showing your customer what you want to convey to them, then you can focus on telling them the information you want to convey.

Thirdly, be kind to your site visitors. As you’re building your site, make sure your visitors are the hero of the story you’re creating, not you or your company. Focus on giving and taking, not just taking – for example, don’t just ask for an email address, but give them something in return. And finally, keep your language and design simple, but not simplistic; your goal is to make it easy for your visitor to digest your comment, without being condescending or speaking “down” to them.

Throughout this entire presentation, I was struck by the difference between building a site with you or your company in mind, and building a site with your customer in mind. The goal of any website is to tell a story, but it’s important to tell it in a way that instills trust in the reader.

Jared Strichek

“However you do it, make sure your site is mobile friendly.”

Obviously, going mobile-friendly is something all businesses should be doing, but how exactly do they get there? What makes one site more mobile-friendly than another one?

Theoretically, the most mobile-friendly sites in the eyes of Google would be the ones that work the best on mobile, right? But what if that site is just a basic HTML page with no styling and nothing to it whatsoever? Is that really what users want to see and use on a daily basis?

Developers of all sorts have long fought the battle of functionality over aesthetics. Form follows function, as they say. However, when it comes to mobile, design and functionality go hand in hand. Jason Cranford Teague’s session “Trust by Design: Keeping Your Customer on Your Side” offered a refreshing take on establishing and maintaining trust with your users through consistent design elements. What users see on a mobile site should reflect what they see on the desktop site. Keep your design consistent among devices and you’re more likely to establish trust among your users.

Once again, Mike King knocked it out of the park in terms of technical search engine optimization – for both mobile as well as desktop. His “Futureproofing your SEO” session incorporated everything you’d want to hear from a technical standpoint, while not losing sight of the fact that users also care about the experience. (It’s also where I got my quote at this beginning of this section from.)

Generally speaking, Digital Summit did well in attempting to bridge the gap between form and function. There seemed to be an increased amount of UX-centric sessions as well as a good blend of speakers who balanced the technical aspects of optimization with the visual principles of design and user experience.

Kyle Varian

The two presentations I enjoyed the most at this year’s Digital Summit related to establishing trust with your audience, and publishing honest, well-researched and unique content. These presentations were given by Emily King from Nextdoor and Melanie Deziel, a content marketing consultant and public speaker.

Ms. King’s presentation began with a slide showing a Rolex watch. She asked, if we were considering purchasing a Rolex, who would influence our purchasing decision the most: a celebrity, a social influencer or a neighbor? Without hesitation, I thought, “…of the three, probably a neighbor.” Her presentation went on to explain that although millions of marketing dollars are spent on celebrity endorsements and social influencers, we still rely on the opinions of our friends, acquaintances and sometimes, strangers, to make important decisions. My takeaway from this presentation is that even the lady next door can be an “influencer.”

Ms. Deziel’s talk was disruptive and began with a slide illustrating the incarceration rates of women over the last decade. Her talk was about applying journalistic principles in order to create authentic content that resonates with your audience. In a time when journalists are heavily criticized, it was inspiring to hear her speak about the importance of researching topics and sources, and to be truthful in your writing, even when storytelling. She was a terrific presenter and because of this, I signed up for her newsletter before the presentation was over!

Mitchell Abdullah

Of the many top-quality presentations given at Digital Summit Charlotte 2017, one that stood out for SEO experts was “Why Online Reviews Are The Future of Local & Search Marketing” by Daniel Lemin. This presentation demonstrated the importance of collecting and managing customer reviews in order to help drive site traffic and rankings on business listing websites such as Yelp. There are three potential levels of reviews a company can acquire from a customer: brand reviews, product reviews and location reviews. Each of these three levels of reviews impacts the business differently by impacting the reputation, product choice or behavior, accordingly. If a business wants to succeed on the modern web, they must seek out these reviews, publicly share open and honest feedback from customers and fix any issues within the business that are causing negative results.

Suzann Knudsen

Sometimes one small statistic can shift an entire marketing plan, or reinvigorate a channel that was lagging. The best bits for me at Digital Summit 2017 were in the factoids that were dropped throughout the presentations, and the notes I jotted down around them. Here are a few of my favorites.

“Chat apps are thriving. Over 60% prefer to chat instead of a call or email.”
-Anne Gherini, “Going Mobile: Adjust Your Marketing Strategy to Fit in a Mobile-First World”

Are your clients integrating chat into their ecommerce site redesigns, do they have the customer service manpower on their end to support it and are they using the best option for their needs?

“80% of U.S. disposable income is spent within 10 to 20 miles of home.”
-Emily King, “How National Brands Get Local”

Are you maximizing your client’s local impact and making sure they have a presence on the right regionally-focused platforms?

“By 2020, millennials will account for 40% of all consumers.”
-Laura Wilson, “Gen Z These Days; Marketing to Digital Natives”

Are you ready to market to an audience that has never had to use a modem, and can your clients move and adapt to the platforms they’re on?

“Approximately 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy — but they may be willing to provide contact information in exchange for valuable content.”
-Erik Solan, “Content Amplified: Building Conversion Volume with Full-Funnel Amplification”

Is your lead generation strategy compelling enough, is your landing page strong enough and do you have a remarketing plan in place to move them deeper into your sales funnel?

Not every presentation at a conference will capture your attention from start to finish (two notable exceptions were Susan Wenograd’s “Facebook Ads: Mastering the Power of the Demographic Fire Hose” and Michael Barber’s “Making Lemonade: Traits Beyonce Can Teach The Modern Marketer To Run the World”), but if you can come away with something that gets you thinking about a problem from a new perspective, then the hour is well worth it.