Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s CEO, has delivered his message that people buy experiences, not products to both U.S. and European audiences this year. Narayen also advised that products [aren’t the main] differentiator anymore. Companies are now competing for the hearts and minds of all customers and should aim to exceed their expectations at every point of the journey.
News that it’s less about the transaction and more about the relationship has given birth to “experience makers” who promise to bring this vision to life. Claire Cronin, the CMO of Virgin Atlantic, also waded into the experience factor by saying, “Tans fade, memories don’t.” However, the inconvenient truth is that business needs to use data to drive these experiences.
Data Privacy is Serious Business
Opinions of emerging technologies and how companies handle our personal information have radically changed in just a few months. Although this year’s summit has focused heavily on experiences, some might argue that Adobe appears to look at the world through the eyes of marketing rather than the consumer.
The elephant in the room is that we are now living in a post-Cambridge Analytica world where attitudes on both sides of the fence have evolved. It was no accident that before every keynote speech, the host advised that any data being used in their demo was fictitious. Everyone on stage and in the audience is now hyper-aware of their responsibilities around personal data.
On the one hand, consumers are demanding personalization and improved experiences with their rising expectation levels, but if a brand gets it wrong, they are deemed creepy. The responsibility of getting that balance right will leave many feeling both inspired and dejected in equal measure.
The nerves around GDPR and the hangover from recent events with Facebook will keep many treading carefully, but it should be seen as an excellent opportunity to master the art of customer centricity.
Adobe is on a mission to empower people to be creative and transform their business. But if you take your data outside of Adobe’s walled garden and into legacy solution, you could quickly run into problems.
Building Relationships and Trust is Crucial
As consumers, we are careful how much information we want to share with companies. Businesses need to understand that they need to build trust in the same way we build relationships with friends and colleagues. Nobody would ask a complete stranger a series of personal questions, so why should an online retailer?
However, we might be willing to share additional information with our favorite airline or entertainment venue if it improved our experience and there was already a relationship in place. There is no one size fits all, the consumer will determine how much or how little information they are willing to share based on the strength of their relationship.
Artificial Intelligence Will Revolutionize Marketing
The winning combination of AI and machine learning is already proving to be the most profound shift in computing we have seen for some time. While marketers have been focusing on leveraging a mobile-first age, it seems that we are now entering a new AI-powered world.
Complex workflows that have traditionally taken days or even weeks to complete will soon take minutes. The rising popularity of voice search and digital assistants such as Siri and Alexa is also changing the digital landscape. Sure, we need to question if voice control is practical or suitable in an office environment, but exploring the art of the possible will change everything.
The Rise of Voice Activation and Search
Do we need to continue clicking our mouse? Or are we finally evolving beyond touch when interacting with technology? Adobe’s vision of the future not only involves protecting and securing private data but also making the use of any solution quick and seamless. As we drift from device to device and increasingly use our voice to get what we want, technology is becoming invisible, and solutions just work.
Whether you are a rabble-rouser or wannabe experience maker, Claire Cronin, CMO, Virgin Atlantic, offered the best advice when she advised 5,000 European attendees why they need to embrace the speed of change. “It´s gonna stay and get faster. But let the customer be your compass.”
Get on the Bus, or Get Left Behind
Advances in technologies such AI, machine learning, blockchain, and voice search are coming at breakneck speed. But we also need to remember that the pace of change will never be as slow as it is today.
What will happen to businesses that failed to have an AI strategy or narrow the gap between ambition and execution? Laggards that continue to take weeks to perform tasks that their competitors can complete in minutes could quickly fall behind as a new digital marketplace continues to evolve.
Behind the numerous shiny new tech solutions and inspiring keynotes at Adobe Summits on both sides of the Atlantic, the inconvenient truth is that culture change is the most prominent barrier to providing unique customer experiences. How will businesses prepare for a business world where the relationship is more important than the transaction and the experience is more important than the product or service? Food for thought, indeed.