All companies are now experience businesses, and every employee is an experience maker. That was the opening salvo from Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen at Adobe EMEA Summit 2018 in London.
“The fundamental truth–and challenge–is people buy experiences, not products,” he told more than 5,000 delegates on Thursday. “Products used to differentiate businesses, but now companies have to compete for the hearts and minds of their customers. They have to exceed their expectations and always operate with a subscription mindset. Customers can renew or go to a competitor with every click.”
Imagining, creating, and delivering these great experiences call for a marriage between the science of data and the art of creativity, Narayen explained. Three elements are required for new experiences: creativity, intelligence, and a move to systems that combine the two across the enterprise.
“Great experiences start with great design, but then companies also need to be wired for intelligence,” he said. “They need to know their customers, see their pain points, and take the right action quickly to develop new, personalised experiences.”
Make Your People Experience Champions
Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager of digital experience at Adobe, was also on hand to remind businesses that when it comes to technology and insight, the best tool any business can deploy is its own people. They are the eyes and ears on the ground, and they all share the single most important human characteristic of all–empathy.
“Empathy allows people to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. It’s what truly makes all of us experience makers,” he said. “It’s why we’re all always thinking up new experiences. If anyone isn’t doing this, if they aren’t championing experience in their organisation, they need to as soon as possible.”
The point was underlined by Virgin Atlantic CMO Claire Cronin, who spoke about how a top executive recently underwent cabin crew training to get a frontline perspective on the customer experience of flying with the airline. Another executive, she said, the airline’s VP for customer experience, came from a hotel background and, when he first walked on to a Virgin flight, asked why the airline did not have its own scent to welcome guests, like a hotel would. It now does.
It’s not all emotion, though. Tech plays a vital role. Cronin, who confessed to having lost her passport in the past, said it was the sight of anxious passengers patting themselves down for travel documents that prompted the development of a biometric check-in option for baggage and for accessing Virgin Atlantic lounges.
To deliver on this human emotion and genuine interest among customer-obsessed employees then, enterprises will always need the right tools to deploy what Rencher called “an experience system of record.”
Developing this business advantage requires a three-step process that starts with a unified view of the customer. Next comes smart processing and analytics through an AI interface to understand the customer and then, crucially, predict the next part of his journey. Finally, the right content needs to be created and delivered to the right person, on the right device, and at the right time.
This is the loyalty strategy taken by Shell in analysing the needs of its 30 million customers in 70 countries. Delegates got a peek at the inside working of its Adobe Sensei-powered service, which records and understands customer interactions with the brand so the next part of the journey together can be predicted.
This better understanding is implemented through personalised messages and offers that can anticipate what the customer will need at any given time. Messages can be delivered to whatever device he has in his hand, the petrol pump display he is using, and as a prompt for a sales assistant at the cash register.
Experience Drives The Bottom Line
Becoming an experience business might sound complicated–Rencher did refer to it as “the million-dollar trick” –but an early glimpse at new Adobe research, for the EMEA region shows it pays off. (Note: The global findings can be found here.)
The research, conducted by Forrester Consulting, demonstrates that businesses that obsess about customer experience in EMEA see a massive lift in loyalty and revenue metrics. Brand awareness increases 1.4x, order values go up 1.5x, customer retention improves 1.8x, and revenue growth is 36% faster.
Delegates also got an inside glimpse of how this obsession works in practice. Rob McLaughlin, Sky U.K.’s head of digital analytics, insight, and decision science, discussed how the media and entertainment company uses Adobe Marketing Cloud to identify and understand customers and anticipate what they want. The majority of Sky’s customers interact across three channels; Adobe technology helps to unify these insights and provide a personalised service, he said.
This is most readily seen in the entertainment recommendations it makes for customers based on data which reveals the stars they like, the teams they support, the sports they watch, or the cinema and drama genres they love. Processed and combined, these insights allow Sky to predict and suggest what its customers might want to watch at any given time on whatever device they are using, rather than wade through a massive list of programmes and channels.
This point remains, as Rencher pointed out, that technology is only one half of the equation. Just as businesses need to transform, it is also every person’s responsibility to make experience their mandate and go back to their organisations to be a champion of experience.