This year’s Imagine conference was a great success for Vaimo - we received no less than two awards which showcases the passion and hard work we put in delivering eCommerce solutions to merchants and brands all over the world. First up, Vaimo was awarded with the Imagine 2015 Excellence Award in Growth for Konga.com and to top it off Vaimo was named the 2015 EMEA eCommerce Partner of the Year. We couldn't have been more proud that our delegation of 9 representatives - Brendan Peo, Markus Åberg, Robin Carlsson, Torbjörn Lindblad, Alec Bedzir, Allan Paiste, Nickolas Matiychenko, Mika Leno and Janne Sävy - had the chance to receive the great recognition on the stage, but also meet existing clients, make contacts with new prospects and talk to current and future partners important for eCommerce success.
We would like to take the chance to give you our recap of the highlights from demos, speeches and roundtables we got to see, hear and participate in at Imagine 2015.
To start off, the common opinion of our sizeable group represented at Imagine, was that the overall organisation of the event was great - the coffee was delicious and there was also an easy app that all the participants used to plan their days at the conference. This time the conference was held at the Wynn Las Vegas, bringing together more than 2400 eCommerce experts from merchants, agencies, solution and technology providers from 45 countries.
After the initial registration at Imagine, team Vaimo decided to split up to be able to cover as many tracks as possible, here are the highlights of tracks from all 3 days of the event:
1. Customer Driven Innovation
The first talk was about the overall look and feel of Magento 2 admin. For what one could gather from the things shown, it will have a responsive backend which takes into account the way modern screen-sizes have mostly expanded on the horizontal scale - meaning, most of the modern screens are horizontal. So everything has been designed around the idea that horizontal axis is less expensive. So the new menu is now a vertical bar on the left side of screen.
It’s clear that Magento 1 admin has been done by developers [and not by designers]. Merchant experience must become priority in the new Magento 2 admin. Some other things one can expect from the new admin: it will be touch-friendly, meant to be accessible for mobile users; adding extra buttons to the menu will not break the design; better grid management (you can hide columns); inline editing for grid items.
Another oddity from Magento 1 that will be addressed in Magento 2 is the fact that people are quite often forced to hop around in different menus of the admin which leaves quite a lot to wish for when it comes to seamless intuitive experience. The funny thing about this is the fact that the design team itself failed to use the admin correctly in Magento 1, when a proper challenge was posed to them (to create a product and make it show on front-end). All the admin UI changes should be in merchant-beta in the Q3. For this, the team has introduced sub-process wizards, which will allow the users to concentrate on what they want to achieve and be less worried if they’re on the right menu/form/etc.
2. Commerce Conversations
During the Commerce Conversation session, we split up and sat at round table discussions. A combination of merchants, solution providers and technology partners. We discussed topics such as - what keeps you awake at night, what is trending in eCommerce, what type of investments will we do during the next 12 months in eCommerce. The outcome of this session all depended on the table that you sat. We certainly had the chance to make contacts with some interesting merchants.
Insights from: Commerce Conversations II
Important trends that impact business:
- Mobile - lots of companies/individuals that have Magento shops in US are just beginning the process of re-focusing on mobile.
- Personalised experience.
- Data prediction and suggestive services.
On what were your companies spending their investments last year?
- Online advertising, pushing traffic to the sites.
- Inventory Management/ERP integrations.
- Training people and improving their knowledge in relevant areas.
An interesting point is that in US companies often have a mindset where they spend most of their budget on a small number of loyal customers rather than a whole potential customer group. It was pointed out that in most cases 20% of customers are generating 80% of the revenue and those are the customers you should be focusing on. This strategy though has an inherited flaw of slow customer base growth. Not sure it's a prevalent trend though, the sample volume was too small to make any final conclusions.
3. Magento 2 Developer Deep Dive
During the technical sessions, Magento core team gave an overview on how they have progressed and what kind of choices have been made on tackling certain problems. One conflicting piece of information seemed to be about the fact that they are willing to give up on making really strict choices on what frameworks they use. This means that everything goes - as long as it’s useful. It’s hard to decide yet if this is a good or a bad thing, but it will definitely mean that one has to dig really-really deep and learn a lot to get into all parts of the Magento 2.
4. TDD and BDD when migrating modules to Magento 2
The first day of the conference was wrapped up by an overview about testing from three different companies that demonstrated how you do BDD and TDD with Magento. Interesting about this session was the fact that you did not really see that many hands flying up when it came to the question: who actually uses TDD for Magento? We at Vaimo definitely are moving towards it and are already seeing how it positively impacts the way you plan changes and architecture and how - in a funny restrictive way - it tears into bad-design and forces you to write your code in a certain, testable way. It was also mentioned that Magento 2 will allow the transition to TDD and BDD to be so much more fluid compared to starting with it in Magento 1.
1. Speech by Jamie Clarke, Co-founder of liveouthere.com & Extreme Adventurer
Jamie delivered a speech about imaginary limitations. A story about mountain climbing and cracked ribs caused by coughing due to the dry air up on the mountain (and duct taping your chest). “Much of what binds us is self inflicted - and that binding restricts us - KPI’s and conversion rates.” To rephrase the whole point of the speech: We have been trying to push brick and mortar shops away from us - as a competing solution, as a different medium/channel that we do not cater any solutions for - and have limited ourselves to the virtual world - eCommerce - it’s time to get rid of those mental limitations.
2. Speech by Craig Hayman, the President of eBay Enterprise
Everything in retail is up for grabs, the landscape has been shaken, and we’re all wondering how to rebuild. We can't get away from talking about the problems in the eCommerce industry however, and the one that gets mentioned a lot is scaling - “the problem of more”. Some solutions out there are very-very well done, but there is the problem of taking it to the masses. To rephrase this: the main problem is to spread the good thing to those who still don’t have it - to scale the excellence. Now the question remains: what exactly is this "well done" thing and how to make more of it? One thing is certain, retail is changing and physical store owners should stop playing defence and start playing offence.
3. Presentation by David Hess from Proficient, Inc.
The presentation focused on what makes B2B eCommerce unique and how Magento can deliver a world-class experience. David showed some customised features (quick order, special payment options, authorisations, unique terms, unique delivery options, personalised catalogues, etc) that Proficient develops and talked about how they are using standard Magento features to affectively market, manage and drive revenue. There are several extensions Perficient develops that we at Vaimo have developed for our clients as well.
The main areas that they bring up as B2B areas are:
Custom Catalogues - Subsets of Catalogues
Quick Order Entry Pads - similar to our Quick Entry, just a bit more user friendly
Payment Options - Partial Payment (Deposit) and on Account
Special Information - Certificates, Material Safety Data, etc
Personalised Appearance - Content based on Customer Type
Unique Terms and Conditions - Client Shipping Accounts, Prepaid Shipping, Partial Shipments, Bill to vs Ship To
B2C utilisation - Cross Sell, Upsell, Ratings, Configurable Products, Filtering, Refined Search
Negotiated Prices - Client specific pricing, Customised Catalogue Price Rules per Customer -
Customer Service Order Management - Manage and manipulate orders
Mobile Commerce - Vendor Managed Inventory, Field Service Ordering Tools
Channel and Dealer Locations - Store Finder, etc
Self Service Account Management - Authorisation, Special B2B Reporting, User Rights, Invoices, etc.
4. Overall idea: Omni-channel, vision for the future
Many talks featured the idea of seeing everything as a whole - giving similar experience to the customers over different mediums of commerce. Message being: we should stop seeing different retail forms as competitors and see them as different parts of the whole solution that compliment each other. We all need to stop playing defence and start playing offence. In the second keynote session, Steve Wynn said it the best by drawing a parallel between virtual and physical shopping experience and how physical factors should not be ignored.
“When it comes to my outfit, I want to try it on. I want to touch-feel things that I pay for. Everyone at Magento should focus on making merchants say that Magento provides a great bridge in bringing customers to their brick-and mortar as well as online stores”— Steve Wynn, Owner of the Wynn Las Vegas
We should see ourselves as digital maverics, where the constant innovation should be held as one of the highest values, and coming up with a good solutions should not be considered as less important from being able to spread it as much as possible. So in short: achieve excellence, scale the excellence. Why run? Because no great idea will remain unnoticed for long, so one should keep on moving to be ahead of the competition.
1. Developer BarCamp & Networking Event
Magento developers were explaining which core module they like the least. No surprises there. Page Cache was mentioned. This turned into an argument about FPC vs Varnish. William Harvey, responsible for performance and scalability in Magento stepped up for that one and quoted Magento developer on the subject: "FPC is a philosophical subject, do not expect a clear answer”. No one directly argues against Varnish, but they admit that there is no good solution (is it really so?) and promise that Magento2 will definitely have a solution for Varnish.
They also talked about upgrading Magento version in cases where you are dealing with really big databases. Giving a real-life example how to get database upgrade (the slow part of the upgrade) from 56h to 1.5h. (Upgrade was from 1.8 to 1.14 with 80GB database). Also mentioned how to get this near to zero-downtime. Good stuff.
Next was a section about the future of Magento Connect. Touching the topic of quality and talking about the verification process. It can take 1-4 weeks and things that are checked are: architecture, code standards, compatibility, logic, performance, security, etc. Un-obfuscated code has to be provided in case a module developer has been going crazy with ionCube or anything similar. "Do you like this verification thing?" All hands in the audience raise … "I can bet that most of you have been burned by the extensions..." Oh yes… *Note that your module will still be published when you don't go through the quality control, but there will be indicator about the fact that it's not high-quality module.
2. The aftermath of Las Vegas + Imagine
The third day of the conference was certainly more quiet than previous ones. It seemed some people had gone missing in the night since the opening party and legendary closing party had been amazing as usual. The second part of the day was mostly for knowledge-sharing sessions that covered many different topics on design and development.
“It has been great to see eBay Enterprise and Magento getting the balance and the blending of techniques right. The management teams are strong, the leadership team is coming across as a super unit and the messages given aligned with our sweet spot (midsized companies, B2B, etc). Every year the Imagine is just getting better and better!” — Brendan Peo, COO of Vaimo.
Hope to see you next year at the 2016 Imagine Conference!
*Insights and opinions featured in this article came from: Alec Bedzir, Allan Paiste, Brendan Peo and Nickolas Matiychenko.