• February 1, 2009
  • By Jessica Tsai, Assistant Editor, CRM magazine

Next Customer, Please!

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For many of us, our interaction with Adobe is limited to its free offering, Adobe Reader, which accesses high-quality documents with names that end in ".pdf"—denoting the PDF file format created by Adobe in 1993. But it's not for this that Adobe sought out iLabs in June 2007.

The iLabs team—the strategic research division of California-based business process outsourcer 24/7 Customer—has roughly 50 mathematicians, statisticians, process experts, and analysts who have developed mathematical algorithms and statistical modeling to predict consumer behavior in real time.

"Adobe has an extremely broad, but also a very mature, product line and it's really important for us as a company to know if we're simply moving revenue around into different buckets or if we're truly bringing [in] new revenue," says Dawn Monet, senior manager of Adobe's contact centers worldwide. With that in mind, Adobe looked to iLabs' SalesNext product, a real-time decision-modeling tool that aims at improving engagement and, in turn, increasing conversions.

SalesNext helps Adobe automatically determine a visitor's propensity to buy—or what Adobe defines as a customer's "expected revenue"—based on that visitor's behavior on the site. The software promotes efficiency, allowing Adobe to "choose to spend our time where we have the most expected revenue," Monet says. At the same time, the solution also indicates products that aren't performing up to expectations.

The ideal target for SalesNext, according to Monet, is not the loyal customer who regularly purchases Adobe products; rather, Adobe wants to focus on the customers who are coming to the site to conduct research but aren't sure what they're looking for, or simply can't find what they need.

Given the wide range of audiences that are coming in, she says, it's nearly impossible to address the needs of every individual. With SalesNext, however, Adobe has been able to get a little closer.

Typically, SalesNext is triggered in one of two ways, Monet says. When a customer is backing out of a shopping cart, she may have either simply changed her mind or, more often than not, she has experienced a problem. That's when a live person—a 24/7 Customer chat agent contracted by Adobe—jumps in with a simple "Hello, I'm from Adobe. Can I help you?" Another common issue? If a returning customer can't seem to get through the login process, an agent will pop up to guide her through.

"We can really target who needs help and we can do that in a way that's more customized to their needs," Monet says. "We can improve their experience, and...[we] find that of all of our customers—phone, Web, and chat—the chat customers are the most satisfied."

Based on results from regular A/B testing, Monet confidently attributes direct incremental revenue to SalesNext. "These are the folks that would not have purchased from us if we did not engage with them," Monet asserts. Visitors who did engage with Adobe via chat converted at a rate of 22 percent; only 8 percent of a comparable control group converted. Chats also trump purchases made through the call center, which converts at a rate of between 16 percent and 18 percent. In addition, Adobe sees a $50 increase in average order value among those in the engaged model.

Adobe sees an immediate benefit: Surveys indicate that 35 percent to 40 percent of customers would have called the contact center had they not engaged on the Web—and the cost per engagement on SalesNext is half the cost of a contact center engagement. Moreover, surveys indicate that consumers actually prefer to make a purchase on the Web but only call in because they couldn't find what they were looking for. Not surprisingly, Adobe has expanded its rules and algorithms to deflect more calls to SalesNext.

Monet says that, from a marketing and sales perspective, the level of data and analysis achieved through SalesNext has been "phenomenal." Chat sessions provide a wealth of data that Adobe can mine for trends. This comes in handy, she says, especially around product-launch periods when the company is trying to understand customer response.

The SalesNext implementation currently exists only on Adobe.com, where Monet says its use is considered relatively small and appropriate only for a few of the creative products, but the company is already hoping to extend consumer insight out of the store environment and into making overall Web-site improvements. With SalesNext, Adobe can specifically help customers understand what they might already own, what they need today, and what they want to do tomorrow—and, of course, how much it will cost. All told, Adobe will be able to help each visitor find the most appropriate product.

"There are a lot of complicated ways...to navigate that [information now]," Monet says. "We want to move out and get into where folks are really trying to investigate that information so that we can better answer their questions there." 


With iLabs’ SalesNext, Adobe.com:

  • increased online conversions from 8 percent to 22 percent;
  • saw a $50 increase in average order value among online purchases;
  • saw a reduction in calls to the contact center with a solution that costs half as much per engagement; and
  • identified trends that pointed to problematic areas on the site in need of improvement.

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