All the best bits from the dotdigital Hack Week 2019

The end of December at dotdigital sees Hack Week - our yearly step into the unknown with a mix of our software engineers, product designers, deliverability consultants, and systems administrators getting away from their usual work and creating crazy, forward-thinking hacks.

2019 was no different, with 11 teams taking part in dreaming – and building – the future of customer engagement.

Why dotdigital Hacks

Hack Week, now in its seventh year, gives our wider product and technology teams the chance to work on things that are just a little bit different from the day-to-day. It can be hard to take a step back and innovate when you’ve got your head down finishing a sprint, so Hack Week forces a pause in what we do.

The winners of 2019

2019 saw the introduction of a judging panel that scored every team, and our winners were the teams that scored highest. The judges were an excuse to introduce a little more role diversity – we had judges from Product Management, Customer Success, Engineering, Pre-Sales, and Training. These are the hacks they awarded most points too.

Voiceitronic Editor Control

Ever wanted to create an email campaign with your voice? For the two million people living with sight loss in the UK alone, it could make all the difference to their Engagement Cloud experience. The team used the speech recognition library annyang to allow EasyEditor to be controlled by voice – everything from selecting building blocks, moving them to a campaign, reorganizing them and, ultimately, sending, was included.

Creating on-demand Magento environments

Ok, so this one doesn’t have the catchiest name – but it solved a very real problem: creating test environments in a particular version of Magento with a specific branch of our Magento integration can be time-consuming (and just a wee bit dull). But it’s important, as we need to test our connector against all the Magento versions before we ship changes (otherwise some of you, understandably, get upset). And so the team set to using Docker to create a Slack bot that allowed the engineers to ask Slack to create a test environment using very specific configuration requirements. What’s more, it even added some sample data to aid the testing. That’s a 40-minute job taken down to seven minutes, on average.

In too deep

It wouldn’t be a hack week without machine learning being used for something, and so this team used TensorFlow Models hosted in BigQuery to provide real-time product recommendations on websites. It’s amazing what can be done with the data held in Engagement Cloud! (Incidentally, if you haven’t got your order data and product calalogs in your account yet, then you really should – once it’s there you can do many, many useful things.)

Interactive mobile landing pages

Ever think that simply sending a customer a discount code isn’t exciting enough? This team wanted to make the process much more fun, with scratch-off panels and spinners that revealed discount codes. The aim here, of course, was to gamify customer engagement, with the team working off the premise that, “humans like interacting with things that give them a reward.” Pavlov’s Dog not included.

Ok Google, how to win Hack Week?

And finally – the judges’ overall winner. This team created an entirely new voice channel for Engagement Cloud via the Google Assistant. What was really nice to see (and one of the things the judges loved) was that it was very consumer-focused. Using the data that lots of our users will already have in their accounts, it allowed someone to check in on order statuses, make changes, and so on. It really was the perfect mix of engagement, data, and innovation.

They also produced a nifty little video of it in action (I think they might be angling for an Oscar to go alongside their Hack Week win):

dotquizulator

There’s actually one more hack from the team that won the ‘popular vote’ from live voting on the day. (We allowed staff from all around the world to vote via SMS using upcoming functionality that will be available later this year – so keep an eye out for that.) This team extended our pages and forms tool so that competitions could be built within a form, including questions that had ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ answers, and even a live tally of someone’s score. It’s very easy to imagine this in our product one day!

Hack throwback

Our Hack Week is a yearly ritual. If you’d like to see previous hacks, check out the blogs from years past

Join us and hack too

If experimenting with new technology and solving customer engagement problems in new and innovative ways seems like something you’d excel at, have a look at our open positions over at careers.dotdigital.com. You never know – maybe next year your hack will be featured here!