Adobe Summit, Day 1: Don't Just Sell Products—Create Experiences

Facilitating memorable customer experiences—and the ways in which companies must adapt to do so—was the key theme on day one of the Adobe Summit, as Adobe representatives emphasized how the multichannel digital world has challenged businesses to make the most of their data—to use it to drive actions and create seamless user experiences.

"Consumer expectations and technology advances are causing every organization to rethink their digital strategies," said Shantanu Narayen, president and CEO at Adobe, during the general session. "In the experience era, customers demand great experiences, and businesses must re-imagine how they interact with their customers in a digital-first and in a digital-enabled world, and maintaining the status quo is no longer an option.”

Since businesses in all industries now look to differentiate themselves through the experiences they deliver to customers, connecting directly with consumers is crucial in the digital age, Narayen noted. Innovations such as store-within-a-store concepts and rich e-commerce apps are among the ways companies are trying to capture and maintain consumer attention. "Shopping has become a competitive sport," he added

Narayen laid out three questions for companies to ask themselves: Are we ready to compete in the experience era, or are we at risk of being disrupted by someone who's more nimble? Are we putting the customer experience front-and-center in everything we do, or are we still thinking of our channels as distinct silos? And do we have the right technology platform in place to power customer experiences, or is our technology getting in the way?

Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager of digital marketing at Adobe, added that creating worthwhile customer experiences sometimes requires marketers to take a step back: "We're closing the gap between people and the things that they want to do, and the people that they want to be with—our job is to deliver that, and then to get out of the way."

Rencher went on to outline four key customer expectations. First, an experienced business should know and respect its customers and anticipate, predict, and deliver the experience that a customer wants while also respecting that customer's privacy. Second, an experienced business should speak with one voice that is always in context: the marketing, sales, and support teams demonstrate consistency and always deliver relevant messages to customers. Third, an experienced business should make its technology transparent: It knows that the experience—not the medium—is the message. Finally, an experienced business should continue to innovate in order to meet and exceed customer expectations.

To create these customer experiences, businesses may need to adjust their platforms and culture. Casey Hall, senior marketer at Thomson Reuters, discussed how his organization improved its approach to social media in both areas. "The first one was technological—we had to make a lot of changes in our platforms and in the way we were approaching data," said Hall, in a joint presentation with Sam Haseltine, solution consultant at Adobe. "But the other one was really cultural: how are our teams working together, how are we organized, and what was the workflow that we were using as we were approaching our goals."

Jeff Allen, senior director of product marketing for Adobe Analytics, said that transforming analytics insights into actions required teamwork as well. "Acting on insights is the whole game, [and] there's a chasm there," Allen said. "The reason that that gulf is there is because, on the technology side and in the organization, it crosses boundaries." Bridging the chasm requires collaboration between the technology and personnel that handle the numbers, and the technology and personnel responsible for creating the campaigns that reach customers, he added.

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