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JH attends Magento Imagine 2017: a roundup of the conference of the year

Magento Imagine is a global event where the best of the best converge upon Las Vegas to talk about the future of Magento and share lessons learned over the past twelve months. In 2016 we missed the event and woke up to over a hundred notifications when at 3am GMT it was announced we’d achieved something historic for our company by winning Best Mobile Experience for our work with Sunspel – and we weren’t there to receive it.

That couldn’t happen again. We had to be there to experience the grand spectacle of Magento Imagine first hand, and we couldn’t wait nine months to receive our awards in the post. We packed our bags, and headed to Magento Imagine 2017, to see everything first hand.

We set the bar high.

Spoiler: I was a very happy man.

The Magento product announcements

Magento had major announcement after major announcement ready for the ecosystem, and it’d be wrong of us to not start with these. Magento announced new features and products at such a fast pace that it was not unusual to hear a few people puffing between tweets trying to keep up.

We’ll cover each of these in follow up posts in much more detail but to skim across the high-level detail for now:

  • Magento B2B – Magento is launching a set of features aimed at the B2B market for their Enterprise users that will accelerate the speed customers can roll out B2B for their stores. This includes features like payment on credit, the ability for multiple users to be attached to each account, and giving full control over this administration directly to B2B users themselves. We love B2B and consider it a speciality, so we’re really looking forward to getting our hands on this.
  • Business Intelligence (new tier) – Magento’s Business Intelligence offering has a new lower-tier aimed at lowering the cost of entry into the product. It’s an absolute must-have for data-informed merchants and this will only help get it into more hands. Bob Moore’s talk was the talk of the conference for us, and it was all powered by Magento Business Intelligence’s data.
  • Magento CMS – Magento acquired Bluefoot CMS last year, and have announced that it will be refactored into something even better and introduced later in the Magento 2 roadmap, likely 2.3 or 2.4. The features shown included drag+drop content blocks and the ability to extend the templates available to administrators of each store. We can see this replacing installs like WordPress in the future and having spoken to the team working on it we’re in no doubt it will.
  • MCOM rollout to Solution Integration Partners – this is big news for the Magento Commerce Order Management system, making it much easier to deploy for the likes of JH. Previously this was done hand-in-hand with Magento and now it’s being offered directly to SIs to deploy, just as we would with Magento 2.
  • Magento Shipping – this solves a key problem for all merchants. Shipping almost always required some kind of third-party extension (hat-tip to WebShopApps here) or an external platform (ShipperHQ) to solve Magento’s limitations out-of-the-box. With this move to extend default functionality, Magento are looking to solve the problem directly. You’ll likely only need to plug something else in to solve your shipping needs if they’re truly advanced. What we saw was built-in rule management and matrixes for shipping rules, which is a vast improvement on what currently exists
  • Magento Social – merchants love selling on social platforms, like Pinterest, Facebook, and Instagram, to name just a few. Magento have acquired a platform aimed at providing this functionality directly themselves. For merchants in verticals that cover this space this will become a big selling point of the platform
  • Magento 2.2 soon – we’re hearing the next big release will happen in the next three months, but the date wasn’t specifically announced. This will come with the B2B functionality announced and might include the release of Magento Shipping
  • Magento 2.3 late 2017 – we could have sworn we heard late 2017 but couldn’t get concrete dates down. The functionality is still being finalised, but it’s good to know Magento have a date in mind to work toward

The Excellence Awards

We were thrilled to win Best Mobile Experience at the Magento Excellence Awards for the second year running for our work with Perch & Parrow. We’re told it’s the first time a category has been won two years running, and we’re really pleased to be the first.

What made this even more astounding is the extremely long run from the back of the hall where we sat for the announcements, a moment I had almost zero practice for in my life. Janak very kindly caught it all on video just in case I didn’t make it to the stage in one piece. Luckily, I did.

The talks, the community, the grand spectacle

As a team we were prepared for all eventualities that could come up with Magento Imagine. Lots of partying and alcohol? We’ve prepared our whole life for that. Very long days and little sleep? I’ve got two young kids, I’ll be well rested. Vegas is crazy? We’ve all experienced Nottingham on a Saturday night.

It would be hard to put into words what a great event Magento Imagine is and what it means to the community at large, but to keep it short: it’s grand on the level it should be and spectacular in its delivery. Magento Imagine provides an event that celebrates everything Magento is to us, and everything the community has made it. From celebrating the wonderful Magento Masters, to the Excellence Awards, and a thorough Magento Partners Summit, it has something for everybody. The Magento team behind the event deserve a lot of credit for how well the end product was delivered to the attendees.

Our one disappointment were the breakout sessions at the conference, which were simply not good enough for the level that Magento Imagine operates at. The development track can be held back from this criticism as the talks there were much better (most Magento Masters were in attendance, after all!) but the rest it was poor, and our feedback to Magento is that they need to do better in the future. We did sit in a handful of great talks – including our partners over at Elastera talking about LEAN processes with Graze – and this has encouraged us to submit our own talks to future Magento conferences to help improve quality going forward.

In general sessions speakers like Jamie Clarke (from LiveOutThere), Jessica Herrin (from Stella & Dot), Serena Williams, Robert Moore (from Magento Business Intelligence) and many more have us pumped up to do even better than the year before. The motivation delivered was in abundance and the speakers chosen here were excellent, particularly Jessica Herrin who I’d highly recommend listening to. The panel on diversity within our industry was most welcome and something we hope to see done on a regular basis at all Magento conferences going forward.

We were left with the apt reminder that we’ve all come a long way in the past eight years. When we look back and around us we can see that we’re surrounded by an ecosystem that has grown more successful with us, and as veterans within that ecosystem we looked around at Magento Imagine proudly. We caught up with hundreds of people between us, and our only regret is that we didn’t speak to even more.

We’ll be booking flights, hotels and tickets as soon as they’re available for 2018. We’ll see you there next year.