Recap of Bronto Summit 2014 “The Commerce Marketing Cloud Unveiled”

My trip back to the 2014 Bronto Summit was well worth the nine hour drive. Jon and I truly enjoyed the ride. We were excited to get up to Durham, NC, and reunite with some of our ecommerce comrades. Unfortunately we hit massive traffic on I4 before we even left Orlando. We were delayed about 45 minutes only 20 minutes into the ride. Not a great start but we wouldn’t let that bring us down.

The whole ride we discussed what was accomplished this past year and what great nuggets would we take away from this year’s #BSUM that we’d be implementing over the next few months. It’s so much fun to talk ecommerce and all the things you can do to engage customers, make them feel appreciated and grow your business. That – and a few phone calls – made the drive fly by and then “BOOM” we were in North Carolina.

When we arrived at the Washington Duke Hotel we checked into our rooms and freshened up for the opening night activities. Bronto’s event planners are amazing at developing an interactive conference schedule that forces opportunities for the attendees to mingle, network and get to know each other over a glass of wine or a local microbrew. This night’s event did not disappoint.

bronto tricycle racesWhen we made it down to event registration, people were riding tricycles in the lobby. Now that’s a fun and interesting start. As we were claiming our packets and badges, one of the two people helping us said “hey, do you have two kids and like to run?” I responded “yes” and he went on to say that he follows me on Twitter and reads my blog. That was nice to hear. I figured nobody reads this thing. The other person was Jon’s new account rep Clarence. Jon and I talked about Clarence on the way to the event and were very shocked when SHE helped us get checked in and ready. Definitely did not see that curveball. She said it happens all the time. I’m sure.

Opening night we just spent a few hours engaging with people, some new attendees and many from previous years. I spent most of the evening hanging out with a couple of ecommerce junkies like Roy Steves, David Workman and Nathan Maxwell. It was a great evening and definitely had some people a little sluggish for the next morning. Speaking of the next morning, we started that off with a nice 5k trail run around the Washington Duke. It was a nice way to sweat it out and get things started.

gary-veeThe 2014 Summit planning team brought in some amazing speakers, the most significant of which was Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary Vee was his truly amazing self. As the featured keynote, he spent about an hour discussing customer service, social media and many other topics while sprinkling in a few “F bombs” – Ok maybe a lot of “F bombs.” He was engaging, entertaining, and very informative. His passion, energy and New York bravado launched this conference to a new level. People we excited, swarming the halls and buzzing with energy. It was a tremendous kickoff to the event.

The rest of this day was consumed with breakout sessions led by industry thought leaders. I especially enjoyed the hour long session on the evolution of mobile led by Ben Pressley from Magento, and the heated debate over native, reactive and responsive design. It was interesting to listen to other professional opinions and fact-based reasoning. My personal favorite was the response from Ross, a very knowledgeable gentleman from Wisconsin, by way of South Africa. What a fun guy to hang out with and talk SEO and ecommerce.

Tuesday’s sessions came to a close and we all hopped on charter buses over to Bronto’s corporate office for an open house. This evening was well thought out, a ton of fun, and a great way to get people together and keep them interacting. After the open house they had a location next door reserved for us to all socialize and keep things flowing. Some of the attractions included karaoke with a live band, sumo wrestling suits and other crazy carnival games. It was a really, really fun night.

jamie clarke keynoteWednesday morning, the second day of the summit, came early, but not until after another 5k trail run. One great thing about #BSUM is even with all the crazy antics, the sessions, the libations, there is a still a group of us that gets up and runs the trail to start the day off right. The folks at Bronto are really engaging and adventurous people.

Day #2’s sessions started with a keynote from Jamie Clarke, CEO and Co-Founder of LiveOutThere.com. Jamie was amazing. A true storyteller. His background was so unique. He grew up in Canada where his mom told him “hockey is too dangerous, you should be a mountain climber.” Not sure where she thought that’s safer but that’s a whole other story. Jamie did indeed go on to be a mountain climber. Twice he climbed Mount Everest in hopes to reach the peak. The stories of the adventure, the health scares, the elements and his passion for the outdoors was an amazing way to start a day.

“Hockey is too dangerous, you should be a mountain climber.”

magento ecommerce platformThe afternoon was several scheduled breakouts covering all different topics. I attended several interesting ones and really enjoyed a session presented by an online retailer and their “developer integrator.” They had grown from an initial template store on a hosted platform (Volusion I believe, but maybe Shopify) to a Magento Enterprise site in a matter of a few years. The story about that growth from a self-built store, to a $25,000 custom theme, to a $500,000 Magento Enterprise deployment was pretty interesting. Their perspective on how spending money and investing in your infrastructure can truly drive sales. If only all Internet retailers understood that.

My sessions ended with attending my buddy Roy Steve’s discussion on data analysis, segmentation, and how identifying correlations can lead to tremendously targeted and optimized email-marketing campaigns. It was a great session. Roy is self-proclaimed data nerd and this session proved he’s a leader in his field. His passion for numbers, charts, plots and the app Skitch was oozing out of him. Too funny.

Wednesday night’s festivities were at the famous Angus Barn. This place is amazing. It’s so beautiful and the food is truly phenomenal. I spent the evening talking to a ton of different people we had met at the Summit. Most of the night was shooting the breeze about families, life, some ecommerce chatter and a ton of laughter. My highlight may have been when two Bronto’s came up and asked me “are you @Tc_Joe?” and I said yeah, and they said “we’ve been following you on Twitter all week. I had to laugh but I was quite active on Twitter chatting up the positives of a truly amazing Bronto Summit. Here is a recap video of the Summit and my tweet showcased on the thumbnail.

This year’s Bronto Summit was even bigger, better and more informational than last years. It’s a premier conference and if you’re in the Internet marketing or online retail space, you absolutely need to be there next year. It’s that good.

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