Adobe Summit 2018: what’s driving the experience economy?

10 May 2018
Josie Klafkowska
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Last week we joined 5,500 Experience Makers at the Excel Centre as Adobe once again stormed London for Adobe Summit. The focus was on building an enterprise experience that enables organisations to deliver customer experiences with their latest Cloud Platform, the Experience System of Record, as the beating heart of the technology stack. With all behavioural data in one place and with Sensei services built in for swift execution, marketers have never had it so good in terms of being able to react to customer insights in real time and deliver true value back to those customers. 

You can read more on that in our US Summit highlights but, in this article, I’d like to focus on why making experience your business is so good for business, with a sneak peak into Forrester’s latest report, unveiled at Summit. Starting from the inside out, organisations that are leading the experience game are reporting 1.8x higher employee satisfaction, benefitting from 1.4x higher brand awareness, enjoying 1.8x more customer retention and, most importantly, reaping 1.5x the average order value and 36% faster revenue growth. 

These statistics prove the point; customers buy experiences, not products. Which means that being an experience business isn’t something to aim for these days, it’s a hygiene factor for survival. As Brad Rencher said, “it’s no longer the charge of the marketing department, it’s a mandate now for CEO’s. Experience is under their stewardship.”

So I started thinking, if experience is now a hygiene factor (although that’s not to say that we’re not all still working incredibly hard to get it right!), what will be the new differentiator for brands within the experience space. To answer that question, we probably need to look at the forces that are driving and shaping experiences. Many of the sessions at Summit touched on this and, for me, there were four key societal trends that stood out; the desire for truth, the need for trust, the demand for relevance and the authenticity of having a clearly articulated purpose.

Truth
Although fake news is not new news, the uncertainty that it triggers has a strong grip on society and there has never been a stronger call for transparency from consumers. When truth is a scarce commodity, its star begins to rise and that’s why brands that currently exhibit openness and transparency have a competitive advantage right now. 

It’s undoubtedly a factor in the boom of platform business models such as Uber and Airbnb. A decade ago, we wouldn’t have dreamt of accepting a ride with a stranger or staying in an alien home in a foreign city. But platforms that directly connect producer and consumer bring with them an openness and transparency that inspires a level of certainty. If I can engage with the guy whose apartment I’m going to stay in, freely and openly on the platform before I travel; well, that doesn’t seem so scary.

Adobe’s John Bates gave the best presentation that I’ve seen to date on blockchain at Summit where he conceptualised it as “certainty as a service”. Acknowledging from the outset that blockchain is not just about money, the entire presentation was through the lens of the marketer. As an irrefutable source of truth, blockchain has the potential to disrupt marketing and advertising more than any other technology. Here’s six reasons why, with consumer identity and privacy protection perhaps being the most relevant right now as we approach May 25th and the enforcement of GDPR. 

He also pointed us towards identifying potential non-financial use cases across various sectors:

Summing up, John described blockchain as the biggest potential disruptor of “the trust era”, which got me thinking about the relationship between truth and trust and why both are such key drivers in the experience economy.

Trust
Whilst truth is all about honesty and integrity, the quality of being true to something or someone; trust is the resulting confidence that truth inspires. So trust is core to the relationships created between brands and consumers; an essential ingredient in the experience mix and at the heart of brand loyalty.

German beauty care retailer, Douglas, showcased the work behind their Beauty Card, the loyalty scheme at the heart of their CRM programme. It’s a great example of a company getting the data value exchange right at a time when data scandals are hot news. In a move away from transactional based relationships to a lifetime value approach, Douglas created a frictionless sign up process that involves giving away very little data at the outset. Customers are then rewarded with beauty points as they gradually consent to handing over more data as the relationship and trust deepens.

Douglas then work hard to win their customers hearts with relevant and inspiring content, as shown here, which is so key to driving that trust.


Relevance
The industry seems to be reaching consensus that good personalisation is not actually about aiming for the nirvana of the one-to-one relationship. Instead, contextualised relevance is emerging as the new buzz term in what is hopefully a realisation that overuse of personal data is not just creepy but an infringement. Behavioural data, interpreted and actioned upon by AI, such as Adobe Sensei, is enabling brands to be far more relevant in a timely manner. 

Summit introduced Sensei Agent and previewed some truly inspiring use cases of campaigns created within a matter of minutes, based on customer insight, and built using voice commands and image and concept recognition. This is the future of creating immediate contextualised relevance at scale.

Adobe’s retail specialist, Michael Klein, outlined the potential business benefits of delivering this kind of immediate, contextualised relevance to customers. It pays!


Purpose
In order to establish a brand truth, drive trust and engender loyalty, brands need to have a purpose. Dove don’t sell soap, they sell a healthy relationship with beauty and positive self-esteem. Nike don’t just sell trainers and sporting equipment, they sell inspiration by the bucket load. 

Purpose builds a bridge between consumer and product that lies at the core of the experience. Virgin Atlantic’s, Claire Cronin, clearly articulated their purpose in their quest to become Memory Makers. It was great to hear how Virgin are heavily investing in technology to align this purpose with the experience. Listening to customer feedback around the need to constantly produce passports and boarding passports at airports - leading more often than you’d think to the loss of these key documents - Virgin are pioneering biometric technology that will allow customers to check in with a fingerprint. And why not use customer data to surprise and delight customers with a birthday or anniversary card on the right day? Not a Virgin branded card but one that the cabin crew have picked up at the airport. Sometimes it’s the lowtech, real-life touches; the actions triggered by data and technology that have the most impact.

So there you go, my take on this year’s EMEA Adobe Summit, four key drivers that I feel currently sum up the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of what we, as Experience Makers, do. But as we all know, Summit wouldn’t be complete without some awards for outstanding Adobe Partners. Once again, we were more than a bit chuffed to be named as Delivery Quality Partner of the Year. This is a big deal for us and comes hot on the heels of our VOCalis award for Customer Satisfaction and being named Adobe’s Experience Cloud Global Solutions Partner of the Year for 2017, as part of the WPP Alliance.

If you’d like to join us and Adobe for more conversation around what it means to be an Experience Maker, we’d love to see you at Unconference on July 2nd at the Mondrian Hotel. Find out more and register here.