The final chapter! The Storylines Tour has blazed a trail from New York to Paris, then London to Silicon Valley, and at last we arrive in Berlin.
Continuing the momentum from the Contentful Launch Event earlier this month, customers and partners attending in Berlin were inspired to tell better brand stories, embrace the power of composable content, and learn how to scale across markets, brands and beyond.
Plus, the day was a splendid opportunity to connect with a new community of peers and friends for advice and support in building the next wave of digital experiences.
The Storylines Tour Berlin is also something of a home-town victory lap; the venue for our last stop was the beautiful Contentful HQ in the heart of the city. Folks could help themselves to Kaffee und Kuchen between sessions, or whisk up a smoothie using the power of a bicycle.
Shifting into high gear with composable
Many household brands took to the main stage over the course of the day, not least among them ADAC, a.k.a. Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club, the biggest automotive association in Germany. Content is an essential component in the ADAC story, because millions of members trust and rely upon the club for critical information about topics like car care, safety, and responsible driving.
Hans-Hermann Kirchhoff, Director of Mobility & Digital Services at ADAC IT, spoke effusively about the rapid transformation his organization is undergoing thanks to Contentful. Now that they’ve made the switch from print to digital, he said:
“We deliver the content to our members as fast as possible, and this is something that always puts a smile on my face.”
But as Hans-Hermann explained to Contentful co-founder and CTO Paolo Negri, “The portal itself is nice, objectively, but the cool thing is that we are now at the top levels on Google search. When you have a problem with your car, you just enter the phrase into Google, and you’ll get an ADAC page.”
Today, ADAC is in a stronger position to offer new functionality and services like travel information, ecommerce, and insurance. But did this process of digitization change the structure and composition of the teams involved?
Most definitely, according to Hans-Hermann. “ADAC has 18 regional clubs,” he said. “The editors (in the main office) were so in favor of the new solution, they traveled around Germany and showed their colleagues how it worked and motivated them to use it. They were really enthusiastic about it.”
The art and science of customer experiences
The Professor of Video Games, Dr. Kris Alexander, returned for Storylines Berlin to deliver his keynote talk on impactful synergies: creating experiences which are unique, meaningful, and community-focused. The audience came away having learned that achieving these experiences entails making a series of choices about your brand, audience, and the stories you want to tell.
Continuing that theme, Dr. Kris remained onstage to moderate a stellar customer panel featuring representatives from Canyon Bikes, Vodafone UK, and Breitling.
Responding to a question about the role of storytelling, Sophie Top, Senior Content Designer at Canyon Bikes, cites it as a core strategy for keeping their customers engaged over the long term. “A bicycle is quite an investment, it’s not an impulse purchase, and so storytelling creates a reason for people to return to the site” she said.
“It creates a sense of belonging when you’re telling the right stories to the right people in the right way; part of our content is helping people ride safely and being able to use our products throughout their entire journey, whether they’re buying their first bike, assembling it, or connecting with our community.”
Michele Lo Forte, Digital Product Manager at Breitling, is tackling some of the same challenges. Discussing the customer journey at Breitling and how they tell the story of each product, he spoke about the mindset required for distinguishing — and then reconciling — the customer journey from the customer channel. “Next year, we’ll celebrate 140 years of the story of the brand,” he said, a unique history where Breitling transitioned as a maker of technical aviation instruments to luxury wrist watches (which are no less precise).
“This is the story we have and want to share with everyone, but we have to choose where and how and to whom we tell this story,” he explained, which they can tailor according to the maturity of the market. “This is why we need Contentful to shape a different customer journey in the US, where the brand is well known, or in Spain where our presence is still young. We don’t think in terms of home pages any more, but in terms of content.”
Turning to the topic of atomic content, Ana-Maria Pasparan, Software Engineering Manager of Vodafone UK, talked about building a system of content components that can be used over and over again. “At the base, we started by understanding what is content for us and then split it down and work from there,” she said. “We divided our content into really small atoms that could be reused not just across one platform, not just one journey, but across multiple journeys.”
All of which means that the website is not the only channel to benefit from this approach. “[The engineering team] involved everyone from Brand to UX to try and understand their use case for content,” Ana says. “Because while we have our main use case as the website, that’s not the only place we use our content; we use it everywhere, including our applications and our stores.”
Experiences across modern commerce
The world of retail is at a crossroads. According to Kerstin Muenten, Senior Partner Manager DACH & Eastern Europe at Commercetools, 60% of organizations worldwide report that their business model is under “significant” or “critical” pressure to adapt. And she argues that number should be as high as 99% — where the 1% that don’t feel any kind of pressure are probably already out of business.
Kerstin took to the main stage at Storylines to reiterate that the goal remains the same for many retailers — the seamless alignment of physical and digital commerce. The challenge is to keep pace with the evolving consumer mindset. Citing further statistics, she said “Sixty-four percent of consumers wish retailers would respond faster to their needs,” while “seventy-nine percent of shoppers would not return to purchase from a slow-loading site.”
The emergence of omnichannel marketing is about brands exploring new ways to engage with the customer in both the digital and physical world. Today there’s commerce taking place on social platforms, in gaming, and even in your car. She said:
“We’ve seen more commerce innovation in the last three years than the previous decade.”
Pulling together the threads of a volatile market, customer expectations and new technologies, Kerstin posits that MACH (microservices, API-first, cloud-native, and headless) architecture is how you can pivot to crafting outstanding experiences — as opposed to experiences that are barely adequate.
“A composable system combines independent and interchangeable components that can be added, swapped, or dropped at any time,” she explained. “Components like search, cart, or checkout communicate via an API-first approach and are independent of each other, so you can easily plug (or unplug) functionalities according to your business needs.”
Where customer experience is the key to the success and differentiation of your business, she concludes, modern commerce has to embrace the right tools to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Crafting compelling brand narratives
Another customer panel took place courtesy of Ninetailed, the personalization and experimentation specialists. The discussion revolved around how tailoring content, messaging, and experiences can create emotional connections and drive brand loyalty, ultimately benefiting the business. Moderated by co-founder and CEO Andy Kaiser, he was joined onstage by Madalena Boavida Guerra, Frontend Engineer at Ace & Tate, and Andreas Fess, SEO & Web Personalisation lead at Personio.
“Ninetailed’s deep integration with content sources effortlessly increases the testing velocity, enabling companies to inform every decision happening on the website,” Madalena said.
“The main benefit of experimenting quickly and having a testing velocity like this makes it easier to take more controlled and calculated risks to better understand every hypothesis that can affect the business.”
For Personio, meanwhile, the journey was also about replatforming away from a monolithic CMS and discovering new opportunities, thanks to a shiny new stack consisting of Contentful and Ninetailed. “Looking at the transition, what was key for us was that we had an iterative approach, so we launched one domain after the other and started with the smaller ones in the beginning,” Andreas said, “and that was really helpful for us to get into headless architecture.”
His advice is that it’s really important to do the research, test different systems, and come up with a proof of concept, because it’s not every day that you’re going to switch to a new content platform.
Onward and upward
All in all, Storylines Tour Berlin was a fitting capstone to a fantastic series of events that zig-zagged from the U.S. to Europe and back again. The day was packed with enough presentations and talks to have filled another day’s schedule entirely, while the breakout sessions were abuzz with the exchange of ideas.
Thank you to everyone who attended Storylines this year. Whether you were up on stage or you were sitting in the audience, the series wouldn’t have been so successful without your engagement and desire to build content better.
Not quite ready to say farewell? Visit the following links and relive the happy memories of previous stops in the Storylines Tour. And stay tuned for more brilliant, terrific, amazing stories of creativity to inspire you and your team, now and into the future.
*Editor’s note: statements made by speakers and panelists have been edited for clarity.