Magento Imagine 2016 – A look back at the week that was

Last week was the 2016 edition of the annual Magento conference, Imagine Commerce at the Wynn in Las Vegas. Personally, this was my first trip to Imagine and given how much of a focus the Magento platform is for us at Swym, this was an event I had been looking forward to for the past several weeks. But even setting that aside for a second, a couple of other reasons added to the excitement – this was the first Imagine after Magento Commerce had become an independent company and there had been a lot of talk of a renewed focus on the latest trends in the commerce space. Throw in Las Vegas as the venue and an estimated 2500 attendees from the Magento community, many of whom had become virtual friends over the past several months, how could one not get excited?

First impressions didn’t disappoint – the venue was spectacular (although it involved quite a bit of a hike to get to the actual conference area everyday – the rookie that I was, I didn’t know better until after I saw @JoshuaSWarren’s tweet). The Magento community has a fantastic sense of shared ownership of the platform’s success and that spirit was demonstrated in ample measure throughout the conference. To see the collective energy of 2500 like-minded folks under one roof was simply awe-inspiring. The highlight of the first day for me was the Commerce Conversations sessions – groups of attendees got together at a table and had a hour-long candid, no-holds-barred conversation on a variety of topics around the latest trends in the industry, key business priorities etc. There was a good mix of actors at each table, and it was awesome to be able to listen to customers talk about their key challenges and have experts at the table help them arrive at solutions that had worked at other clients. I was fortunate to listen in on a very diverse set of conversations across four different tables over the course of the two sessions, and got a ton of learning from the exercise. Broadly, the conversations seemed to center around the following topics: the rapid mobile shift (which we love hearing about at Swym, of course), the challenges with SEO (possibly related to the mobile shift) and decisions around upgrading to Magento 2.0 – a clear indication of what was top of mind for the decision makers in the room.

Day two kicked off with a fun keynote from the energizer bunny Jamie Clarke (how he has as much energy as he does, I will never understand) and he definitely got the crowd going. I am not a big fan of the general topic keynotes as such, and prefer having individual, involved conversations with other attendees, so I skipped those sessions and spent time at the Sponsors Marketplace instead, getting to know several of the Solution Integrators as well as the Technology partners that were exhibiting at the event. Good, engaging conversations that once again underlined the sense of community that seems so unique to the Magento ecosystem. Day Two also had several interesting breakout sessions around the topic of Email Marketing and Mobile, both dear topics to us at Swym and it was great to hear from the folks that were in the thick of the action talk about what was working for them, what challenges they faced etc – Signature Hardware, Dormify, Elemis, Yakima, Johnny Was, Silver Jeans (and I’m sure there were others – there were only so many sessions I could attend) all had some very valuable experiences to share, and it was a great opportunity to meet them after the session and dive deeper on topics that were particularly interesting. In fact, I was fortunate enough to schedule a few offline 15-min conversations with several folks that had attended/delivered these sessions and those intimate conversations provided some of the best value from the event. Again, something that I felt was uniquely different from other conferences of this magnitude. Day Two concluded with a keynote from none other than Magic Johnson – and boy, what an inspiration he is. I’d love to talk about his session but that warrants its own post.

I spent the bulk of Day Three catching up with folks that I had set up time with for follow-on conversations – and the opportunity to have those candid conversations was super valuable. In general, there was a lot of optimism for the future and it was refreshing to see that folks tended to approach most topics/questions with a long-term perspective in mind. It definitely helps that we are in a conference setting – generally a more relaxed atmosphere than work typically tends to be, with attendees to figure out what they should take back with them in terms of learning – and how they’d apply that to their respective challenges back at work. And as a result, the conversations were much more focused on solving those hard problems for the long haul rather than driving any specific short-term (read sales quotas) agendas. Personally, I learned a great deal from virtually every single individual I met at the conference. And fittingly, the last session I attended was a talk by Phillip Jackson on the Future of Commerce – provocatively captioned The Death of the Shopping Cart. You’d have to have been there to get the full import of the talk but the slides are here if you are interested in taking a look.

I have no idea where the 3.5 days went but this was one trip to Vegas where what happened in Vegas will absolutely not be staying in Vegas. We are already putting some of the lessons into action back at Swym and hope we can help find solutions for some of the challenges that were highlighted. Not only am I looking forward already to Imagine 2017 next year, I am also fairly certain Swym will be playing a much more active role and adding to the value as active contributors. Thanks once again Magento Commerce, for a fabulous event!

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