Experiences Over Products: Adobe Summit Keynote Recap

This year’s Adobe Summit is the largest to date, bringing together over 17,000 engineers, data scientists, marketers, and designers and over 100,000 online viewers. During the first keynote, Adobe’s CEO Shantanu Narayen was joined by leaders from Best Buy, SunTrust Bank, Intuit, and Chegg.

Originally, Adobe focused on creative software products and only could provide updates every 12 to 18 months. While they were profitable, they weren’t keeping up with the pace of content creation and innovation. This presented an opportunity to rethink their ecosystem and business model. “To win in today’s world, every business has to transform themselves to become maniacally focused on the customer experience,” says Narayen. Digitally transforming meant they needed to leverage data as much as creativity. Adobe evolved into a company that “relied on customer intent to deliver a personalized experience at every single touch point,” says Nayaren.

Making Every Experience Shoppable

Adobe’s VP Products for Magento Commerce Cloud, Jason Woosley, introduced Adobe Commerce Cloud—built on Magento Commerce. “For the last 12 years we have been at the forefront of digital transformation in retail,” says Woosley. Over this time, they’ve seen content and commerce link together, as content becomes a prominent role in the customer experience. From personalized products to shrinking delivery time, Magento has been there to lead the pack through this transformative time.

In 2018, over $155,000,000,000 GMV went through the Magento platform alone. Magento’s strength comes from the power of its open source ecosystem of over 300,00 developers, merchants, and partners. Core Magento capabilities were born from their collaboration and contribution. This has allowed them to integrate and operate with numerous third-party systems.

As part of the Adobe Experience Cloud, Adobe Commerce Cloud stands along Adobe Analytics Cloud, Adobe Marketing Cloud, and Adobe Advertising Cloud. The combination of content, commerce, marketing, and data is a solution they announced last year: experience-driven commerce. “Integrating our commerce and digital experience capabilities gives us a very unique, holistic view into the end-to-end journey of customers with your brand,” says Woosley. Adobe Commerce Cloud has unlimited flexibility and customization across B2B, B2C, and hybrid models, allowing brands and retailers to “make every moment personal and every experience possible.” For example, merchants can use automation to adjust merchandising based on insights from behavior rather than relying on months’ old plans and data.

“We’re helping brands improve time to market, streamline operations, and exceed customer and business expectations,” says Woosley. Merchants who use Adobe Experience Cloud will be able to build the most comprehensive customer profile in the industry based on both behavioral and transactional data. Woosley adds that the cloud brings futuristic features to life such as “dynamic pricing, virtual supply chain optimization, and immersive personalized shopping experiences to every storefront—physical, digital, and virtual.”

Personalization Cannot Happen Without Data

To help organizations keep track of all their customers across all their channels, Adobe is launching DDOM—Data-Driven Operating Model. DDOM combines the narrative of the customer journey with customer data to show you how it unfolds in real-time. On the homepage of the panel, you will see a summary of KPIs as they relate to each phase of the journey—Discover, Try, Buy, Use, and Renew. You can filter the data by time, geography, market area, and segment or dive deeper into each phase to fully understand the customer and their path to purchase. Narayen describes the panel as a “single source of truth” that allows them to democratize data and focus on insights-driven actions.

All businesses should have their own version of DDOM that’s designed around the customer experience, tracks the shoppers in real-time, and presents the data in a clear narrative. The platform surfaces actionable insights that would have otherwise gone unnoticed. Without this type of data and intelligence, it’s impossible to create personalized experiences that are responsive to the customer’s behavior.

Every customer starts its journey as an anonymous user in the eyes of the brand or retailer. Adobe Experience Cloud helps merchants turn that unknown user into a customer profile rich with data. As soon as the shopper hits your brand’s site, Adobe immediately starts filling out the customer profile and personalizes the experience in real-time. They may leave your brand’s site and open Instagram, but now you can place a targeted ad in front of them based on the products and content they viewed on the site. The customer clicks on the ad, providing even more data to populate their profile. As the profile continues to grow, the better you can understand and predict future behavior.

“People today buy experiences, not products,” adds Nayaren. Based on what he’s seen, people who engage with you across devices are more likely to be brand loyal and make repeat purchases. Unfortunately, many organizations across all sizes and industries are trapped by their legacy systems that lack the velocity to keep up with customer high expectations. Having the ability to put the customer at the center of your digital strategy will separate the leaders from the laggards.

Experience Data Model (XDM)

Anjul Bhambhri, Adobe’s VP, Platform Engineering, says, “We want to delight our customers every step of the way.” He continues, “To do that, we need to know our customers, need to know their preferences, and we’re always attempting to understand them at a holistic level.” But getting there isn’t easy. Personalized experiences are built on the foundation of interactions, and interactions generally mean data.

The need for brands and retailers to collect, analyze, and scale data in real-time led to the creation of Adobe’s Experience Data Model (XDM). XDM can process tens of millions of events per second in order to build a rich customer profile. The platform personalizes experiences in real-time at scale and uses the artificial intelligence and machine learning components to stitch all the data together and automatically take action. The new AI layer connects data and content, ensuring brands always deliver the right message to the right person in the right channel.

The Power of Sensei

Sensei now has a voice. Sensei is Adobe’s artificial intelligence and machine learning solution that improves the design and delivery of customer experiences. David Nuescheler, VP of Enterprise Technology at Adobe, demoed Sensei’s new technology in Adobe Experience Manager (AEM). In AEM, users can use voice search to find any stored asset. For example, Nuescheler used Sensei to find an image of a sneaker. He asked, “Help me refine my search,” then said, “more vibrant.” Sensei found product images of bright-colored sneakers. Nuescheler picked three images, and Sensei immediately suggested next action steps, such as put in a folder for a new experience.

These same assets can be sent to Aero, Adobe’s augmented reality tool. In store, customers can use their phones to see products in AR, filter those products by size or color preferences, and see which ones are available to try on—all without having to ask a sales associate to walk to the back of the store to find their size. In the backend of this experience, Sensei is gathering this data to predict future behavior and provide relevant messaging and product recommendations.

The new Sensei services available are Customer AI, Journey AI, and Attribution AI. Customer AI allows brands to uncover new segments and target with relevant, personalized campaigns to improve retention and LTV. Journey AI provides brands a way to “orchestrate journeys across millions of users, constantly analyze behavioral data and activate brand experiences at the optimal times,” says Adobe EVP & CTO, Abhay Parasnis. Attribution AI show brands their conversion impact driven by paid media across the entire customer journey.

New Partnerships

Nayaren announced its new partnership with ServiceNow to help businesses break down the silos between functions and deliver the best experience possible. The integration between Adobe Experience Platform and the ServiceNow Now Platform allows brands to create digital workflows, connect data across the organization, and serve a seamless, personalized experience.

The new partnership will “power the end-to-end customer journey for the future which improves customer satisfaction and builds brand loyalty along the way,” says John Donahoe, CEO of ServiceNow.

Additionally, Adobe is extending its global partnership with Microsoft and LinkedIn. Together, they will be launching ABX, an account-based marketing tool within Marketo. Microsoft will integrate account data, enabling real-time “hydration” of account profiles. As a result, marketers can deliver personalized content to every individual associated with an account and tie those interactions into one account profile view. LinkedIn will identify who those decision makers are in each account based on their LinkedIn profile information—allowing users to target those specific accounts in the professional networking site.

Digital Transformation in Real Life

Best Buy: Avoiding Death by Showrooming

“Seven years ago, people thought we were going to die,” states Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly. The cause of death? Showrooming. Customers were visiting Best Buy stores to compare products in person only to buy it online at a lower price. Unlike other retailers who fell victim to this—Circuit City, Radio Shack—Best Buy shifted their focus to the online customer experience. They completely revamped the website, adding a search engine with a machine learning component, more product information, and free shipping. Today, they ship as fast as Amazon for free.

Next, they tied the new enhanced online experience with the offline experience. This “New Blue” era as Joly calls it is all about addressing real human needs. For example, most people don’t know what technology they need or how it would fit in their home. Best Buy now has in-home advisors that will visit your house and assess what technology you need and coordinate delivery and installation—all at no charge.

Best Buy has evolved into a company that’s truly “obsessed with the customer.” To survive and thrive in this digital transformative era, they bridged the gap between online, in-store, and in-home experiences. They know customers still want to walk into a physical store to compare products. Once they are ready to make a purchase, Best Buy made sure their digital experience lived up to the expectations. The fact that they have personal one-on-one time with shoppers in-store and in their homes, this is what gives them an edge over Amazon.

Chegg: Shifting From a Product Company to a Service Company

Four years ago, Chegg had fewer digital customers than there were people in the room. Today, they have close to five million customers. When Chegg went public five years ago, it provided the wakeup call they needed to completely shift the company. “How do we build a company on top of the brand we had built with college students?” asked Chegg CEO Dan Rosensweig. They started with identifying the biggest pain points of their target audience, college and high school students.

Originally a textbook rental company, Chegg now offers an online subscription service. The service includes tutoring, an internship job board, solution finder, in addition to textbooks. The company’s primary KPIs are subscriber growth, renewals, conversion rates, and revenue. Renewal rates are now around 85%, says Rosensweig.

Chegg uses analytics to monitor student behavior across all their channels. Today, they can predict how many students from a specific school will need tutors during a specific timeframe. This helps them prepare resources and ensure they have the tutors available. “We have the opportunity to know what matters,” says Rosensweig. They’re essentially using analytics to understand what they’re doing wrong, in the customer’s opinion, so they can immediately make it right.

Being customer-obsessed isn’t just a mindset, it’s an entirely new way of operating a business. Nayaren ends with, “Business transformation isn’t easy, but we think that the pay off is great.” By breaking down the silos across functions and channels and leveraging the right technology, brands and retailers can create a cohesive, responsive, personalized experience in real-time.

Miss the other keynotes? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered!

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