Our Takeaways from the 2019 WP Engine Summit


In late June 2019, WP Engine, a managed web hosting company for WordPress and the first WordPress Digital Experience Platform, hosted their annual WP Engine Summit. The company calls the event the Breakthrough Summit, meant to help agencies, marketing professionals, and developers find new ways to build meaningful digital experiences.

Vice President of Business Development Katherine Cox and Customer Happiness Hero Marlowe Justus were able to attend the Summit at the Fairmont Hotel in Austin, Texas. They learned some inspiring ideas about web design, content, and the future of marketing. Here are a few of their takeaways from the event.   View this post on Instagram  

Our customer happiness hero learning some knowledge ???? #WPESummit

A post shared by Kat Cox, Writer (@katcoxwriter) on Jun 25, 2019 at 8:37am PDT

Values are what drive meaningful online experiences

Several of the presenters tapped into the fact that consumers are driven more by the ethos of a company than ever before. In the panel with Generation Z leaders, for instance, the statistic came out that 69% of young people prefer to buy from socially conscious organizations. This means if your organization hasn’t defined your values and shown the world what you stand for, you are setting yourself up to lose customers in the long-run. 

Speaker Dr. Chris Brauer, director of innovation for the University of London, gave a densely packed presentation about artificial intelligence and the future of predictive online experiences., but the greatest takeaway was that the values we hold as human beings are what allow us to go on journeys, whether that be literal (like Odysseus in The Odyssey) or figurative (like in using AI to create experiences). Online followers, especially Gen Z, can see right through inauthenticity in content. Consumers will learn to trust businesses through the values we live and be more willing to work with us.

Experiences are the new social currency

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Happy to see you! ????????????#WPESummit @wpengine

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Traditional advertising is no longer the way to reach audiences, although advertising is still important. You can no longer spend your way into relevance, according to John Eckman of agency 10Up. Instead, experiences are the way to reach people. You have to build relationships through content with value, as Joe Corr of agency Crispin Porter Bogusky said. Personalized, human experiences are quickly becoming the expected norm. According to Steven Moy of agency R/GA, one way to think about this shift is considering how big brands who provide a lifestyle, like Apple, Nike, and Amazon don’t need to advertise; they’ve become ingrained parts of our lives by becoming synonymous with the experiences they provide to us. Of course, not everyone can build the same ecosystem as Nike or Apple, at least not in the short-term. However, you can provide value, especially in social media, by having a human presence online and provide an experience that bots can’t. 

At the same time, this means that consumers are your partners in marketing. And thanks to our reference culture, consumers are no longer the end result of your marketing program; instead, they’re a key input into it. If you create content that people will want to engage with, especially if you can get them talking about it with friends, you can gain their attention, their trust, and their business. Lean into what your target audience is actually looking for, not what you think they want from you. This takes a lot of listening as well as trying new and different techniques until you find what resonates, but in order to keep your business thriving in the current landscape, it’s an important investment to make. 

AI is becoming more and more important

In spite of the fact that consumers want a more human experience online, artificial intelligence is becoming the differentiator in creating those experiences. In fact, 91 percent of consumers want more personalized recommendations from brands, according to Heather Hildebrand of Accenture Interactive. In order to be able to provide these sorts of recommendations, you have to be able to collect and make sense of data. 

AI is by far the best way to compile and make sense of data, as well as produce personalized results from that data. There are new tools coming out every day to present your findings to human beings automatically when they visit your site. There are chatbots that can intelligently help a person find what they’re looking for or get them to the right human customer service person. 

Unfortunately, AI can get creepy if it is personalizing in ways that a consumer isn’t expecting, for instance, providing a recommendation for children in the family when the consumer wasn’t specifically shopping for their children in that instance. More and more, it appears that balancing AI with human intelligence is the way to go, so that AI augments or enhances the work of humans rather than replacing it.

Emmitt Smith is still a major crowd pleaser

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True story: I did not name my pup after this #legend #emmittsmith #WPESummit

A post shared by Kat Cox, Writer (@katcoxwriter) on Jun 26, 2019 at 8:48am PDT

While he’s been out of the public eye in terms of his football career for 15 years, Emmitt Smith is still capable of holding a crowd’s interest and getting folks revved up. Although his speech had nothing to do with WordPress or even digital marketing, his experience in commercial real estate and business building tied in with his experience in the NFL made for some relevant content. He tailored his motivational speech to the audience at the Summit, talking about how to get to a breakthrough moment.

Our biggest takeaway from his speech:

Empathy added to humility will lead to growth, especially in business relationships. No one works alone or in a vacuum. You have to learn to give credit to your entire team in order to continue to grow. “All of us are clothed in a level of talent,” he said, but in order to bring that talent out, you have to surround yourself with the right team.

Overall, we were inundated with ideas from the Summit, and have plans to integrate these to produce breakthrough moments for all of our clients in the coming weeks and months. We look forward to attending the Summit again next year!