The Next Web Europe 2015: The Latest Digital Economy Trends

Veröffentlicht am 4 May 2015 | von Sebastian Pieper


The Next Web Europe – one of the most significant conferences in digital economy in Europe – took place from 23rd until 24th April 2015. artegic was there to learn about new trends, innovations and creative ideas and here we will summarise our overall impressions.

Large visitor turnout for The Next Web Europe 2015

Large visitor turnout for The Next Web Europe 2015

The Next Web Europe conference in Amsterdam celebrated its tenth birthday this year. Over 3,500 international visitors discussed the latest developments in the digital economy, got inspired by top-class speakers of leading companies, such as Google, IBM, Amazon and Adobe, and were introduced to innovative new ideas by start-ups. We are focussing on four speakers whose contributions were particularly significant.

Cloud computing as the fourth revolution in information technology – Jonathan Wisler, General Manager at Softlayer (an IBM Company)

For Jonathan Wisler, Cloud computing is the fourth revolution in information technology after data centres, PCs and mobile terminal devices. Cloud computing, however, is not a technology as many incorrectly assume, but is in fact a business model. According to Wisler, the biggest winner of the Cloud revolution are not the companies with the technical infrastructure. Instead it is the companies which operate platforms based on this infrastructure. “You don’t have to own the asset to actually leverage the asset, to make money of the asset. That’s how cloud works.” This philosophy can be found very clearly in companies such as AirBnB or Uber. These companies do not own the services they are providing to their clients, but only serve as intermediaries. This philosophy is also reflected on the customer side. Why own your own vehicle and continuously pay taxes and insurance even though the car is not used most of the time? Car sharing platforms are shifting the trend from ownership to usage depending on demand. Why watch TV according to a fixed schedule when platforms such as Netflix enable you to communicate any content to any terminal device at any time?

For marketing, the Cloud computing revolution means saying good-bye to mass communication. “The age of the audience is over”. Over 400 Percent Sales Increase – 6 “to Dos” for Individualised Email Marketing. Cloud offers companies access to a variety of customer data and technologies (e.g. marketing automation software) which can be used for an individualised approach. Wisler asks why marketing measures are still optimised according to the A/B test procedure although it is theoretically possible to test hundreds of measures for each individual user in order to achieve the best result. A to Z tests instead of A/B tests. Particularly important in this context is the topic of realtime. Truly effective marketing in the age of the Cloud needs to be able to output the adequate measures in a matter of split seconds.

As another relevant trend in the context of the Cloud revolution, Jonathan Wisler mentions The Internet of Things – Opportunities for Marketing. The potential of this market (sales from platform and technology providers + efficiency gains with users) – according to Wisler – could amount to trillions and therefore lie ahead of the consumer internet. Wisler gives the example of retailer Tesco who would be able to save energy in its freezers through cloud-based temperature control, as well as reduce the perishableness of chilled groceries and therefore save several million pounds.

Supporting innovation and enterprise among employees with the Kickbox – Mark Randall, VP of Creativity at Adobe

In his talk, Mark Randall presented a creative and for some surely unusual method used by Adobe to promote innovation within the company – the so-called Kickbox. Every Adobe employee who has a creative idea he would like to see realised can apply for a Kickbox. The Kickbox is a cardboard box containing amongst other things a credit card with $1000 and a six step guide on the structured conversion from ideas into a product. Every employee, independently of his position, can receive a Kickbox without having to present his idea to a superior first. Part of the employee’s working hours will be reserved for the project. At this point in time, the employee works independently on the implementation of his idea.

For Adobe, the Kickbox is a method to tap into the creative potential of all employees and to encourage them to develop ideas which might not have anything to do with their actual field of activities or which cannot be implemented within the framework of running processes. Since employees work completely independently, the motivation is boosted. Furthermore, employees can develop their up to now possibly hidden potentials and study for themselves, which in turn benefits their regular activity. Despite initial scepticism of some board members (the employees, e.g. do not need to prove what they spend the $1000 on), this method is very successful at Adobe and has already been adopted by other companies. The content of the Kickbox – with a void credit card of course – can be downloaded at

Hackathon at The Next Web Europe 2015

Hackathon at The Next Web Europe 2015

Traditional business thinking as an obstacle of the digital transformation – Martin Gill, Vice President at Forrester Research

According to a study by Forrester, 39% of CEOs take personal care of their company’s digital strategy. However, only 21% of other executives believe that the digital strategy of the CEO is clear and sensible. There is a gap between demand and feasibility. Martin Gill sees the cause of this problem in many CEOs being trapped in traditional business thinking. One solution for one problem. The lengthy path to this solution is determined based on previous experiences (deductive procedure), recorded in a roadmap and implemented step by step. The times when it was possible to predict the world in 5 years and set fixed targets are gone – says Martin Gill. “Digital transformation is a journey not a destination.” Roadmaps do not provide for flexibility in order to respond to changes in time. Gill gives the example of the British retailer B&Q. The company followed a multi-annual strategy for multi-channel transformation without taking mobiles into account as this channel showed hardly any relevance at the point of strategy development. However, this changed (hardly foreseeable!) within only a few months. Adapting the set roadmap to the mobile boom extended the already 100 million Pounds transformation process by another year.

Instead of holding on to traditional business thinking, Martin Gill recommends companies to orientate themselves on design thinking and the abduction approach within with concept. With design thinking, you first try to understand the causes of the problem. Which requirements of a customer lead to this problem? Why does he have these requirements? Only then, the problem is defined. Instead of finding ONE solution based on past experiences, different solution approaches are derived from logical considerations. Each of these possible solutions is developed in the form of a prototype in order to make them “tangible”. The prototypes are then presented to customers, their response on the prototype is evaluated and the customers will be encouraged to incorporate their own ideas. The prototype which is liked by customers will then be developed into a final product, all other concepts will be discarded. The ability to accept failures is one of the biggest challenges here. “It’s impossible to design the future now and get it right … Most importantly, most uncomfortably you got to learn to fail.”

In the case of digital platforms, Martin recommends to start with some basic functions and develop the platform in a modular way by gradually adding those prototypes which were liked by customers as features.

Databased machine text optimisation in marketing – David Atlas, Chief Marketing Officer at Persado

The right content for the right person in the right channel at the right time. This is the often repeated mantra of individualised marketing. According to David Atlas, in the data-based optimisation of the factors “person”, “channel” and “time”, marketing is already well progressed due to the high degree of maturity of big data and marketing automation technologies. When it comes to the optimisation of texts, however, companies still work with the traditional procedures, such as A/B tests. A copywriter produces several copies of a text, e.g. a subject line for an email. These variants are then sent to an approval group and the variant with the highest response rate is chosen. The problem: you can determine the best of the tested versions, but not the best possible. Depending on the text length, there are many other variants which were not considered by the copywriter or which would be practically impossible to manually create. The coverage of the response rate between the worst and the best possible copy is approximately 800%. The manually created copy is somewhere in between, it is not known where exactly.

Speaker David Atlas at the The Next Web Europe 2015

Speaker David Atlas at the The Next Web Europe 2015

Copywriters create marketing texts based on brand guidelines, empirical values, tips from specialist magazines etc. According to David Atlas, this type of text creation is only based on assumptions. Copy should instead be produced in an automated and databased manner. This is now possible. There are three different language categories: emotional, descriptive and functional. Each of these categories can be sub-divided. Emotional language which is responsible for 70% of responses in marketing, e.g. in different emotions such as desire or fear. These are then broken down further until the level of individual granular language fragments which again can be linked to each other. This will allow to automatically generate a large number of versions from a single copy suggestion (by exchanging phrasing with synonymous language fragments, different combinations, changes of the position within the text, formatting etc.). Based on a comprehensive database for the performance of texts used in the past, it is now possible to use mathematical procedures to identify the variant for the current text which will probably result in the highest response rate. “It’s just language and mathematics”.


You can find more trends of the digital economy in our free report “8 Digital Marketing Trends 2015”. To the download:

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