My thoughts on the X-Change conference 2013 Berlin

x-change conferenceDuring 12-13 of June 2013 I attended the X-Change conference held in Berlin. It is a conference mostly for web analysts with a bit of a twist. It is organised in discussion groups called huddles. These discussion groups contain a maximum of 15 people and you can choose multiple sessions during the two-day period. In total the conference had approximately 100-150 attendances from companies such as Zalando, Siemens, Virgin Media, Dell, Soundcloud and many more.

 

The good

  • To be able to meet fellow web analysts from all around the world. About 15 countries were represented.
  • Small, medium and large size companies were present.
  • The format is unique. Having discussion sessions is much better than listening to presentations. You get closer to the real problems people face.
  • Intimate session which means you talk to a lot of practitioners even after the end of the session.
  • I have never talked to so many people at a conference and never exchanged so many business cards.
  • The conference was well organized, and the sessions in general fun to attend.
  • The format allows you to get a more intimate insight of other companies problems and solutions when it comes to analytics and e-business.
  • No selling from consultants. Although one of the USP of the conference is no consultant, this was not true. I must say that the consultants attending were extremely well behaved. No sale pitch at all from anyone, which was a unique experience.
  • There were some really smart people attending. It was mostly web analysts but you could also find consultants and business people.
  • Businesses that can be considered to be in the forefront of the web development attended although the US true giants were missing.

 

The bad

  • How the sessions are experienced depends a lot on the moderator. A good moderator makes people talk and the conversation gets a natural flow.
  • Many of the discussions went too much in technicalities, which in the end of the day is more or less specific to each business model making it hard to extract knowledge from the discussion. I would rather see discussions based on the business value hence raising the bar of the topic.
  • To many people in the session which hampered the discussion. There is a sweet spot around 8-10 people, bigger than that and you have a hard time having a discussion. There was a tendency to have small monologues instead of discussion a bit like the presidential debates on TV.
  • There should have been more business value sessions. Sessions discussing the business value and how you can use technology to move your KPI needles.
  • The price of the conference. 1400 euros is a lot of money even for big companies.
  • The representative of Facebook cancelled (did it have anything to do with the Prism scandal which erupted the days before?).

Main takeaways

  • The mobile web holds a lot of focus for the companies. Many of the companies have native apps but few think about responsive web.
  • Identifying unique users on multiple devices is a problem. The most prominent use unique ”fingerprints” for various devices.
  • The general consent is that serving segmented content increases the conversion although only one company had numbers on it.
  • Privacy issues are a big concern for all companies. The coming data protection law that the EU is cooking is also seen with great concern.
  • A lot of the attended companies have done AB testing in one way or another. Only one company though (Zalando) had a team called Conversion Optimisation. I think that explicitly naming a team like that sends strong signals to the rest of the organisation. Most companies do AB testing under the web analytics umbrella.
  • Tracking is still a big issue for most organisations. The complexity of having multiple products and in multiple countries adds to the challenges companies face. Global organisations also ad another layer of complexity with teams and stakeholders scattered.

 

Will I attend again?

Well, this is a hard question. Returning customers is actually an extremely good measure of how good your product or service is. I enjoyed the conference and met many interesting people but I feel that the takeaway from the sessions were smaller than justified especially if you consider the price. I would say that I might return in a few years but if the format would improve a bit then I would definitely consider returning earlier. When I say that the format should improve I imply to the fact of having some sort of quality control for the huddles. It could be cutting the groups in half which will spur the conversation further, make the huddles more work shop like for example let people use post-it notes and the whiteboard, provide a summary in the end of each session, and finally lower the price below 1000 euros which would make it an extremely competitive package.

In general conferences are a mixed bag. You never know what you will get. My main mantra is to attend various conferences outside my area of expertise to learn about the various parts of the web like seo, ppc, mobile etc, which lets me grow my online knowledge further.

If you attended I love to hear your thoughts on it.