Big conferences are fascinating. Premier events such as Adobe Summit evolve over time, growing in size and morphing to respond to the needs of their attendees. The best shows bring together both thought leaders and practitioners — connecting gurus who analyze trends to forecast what’s ahead with those who make stuff happen with the existing tools and tactics.
I’ve watched Adobe Summit advance over the past ten years and this year’s conference was no exception. Over 13,000 digital marketers, advertisers, analysts, and publishers — from C-level executives to channel managers — packed the halls. They came from some of the biggest and best-known names — seventeen of the top twenty technology companies, all of the top ten financial services firms, and eight of the top ten retailers.
Adobe built a show focused on one of the most pressing needs of organizations today: customer experience. Adobe promised to deliver “the latest strategies for building campaigns, managing your advertising, and gaining data insights, so you can deliver amazing customer experiences.” Many of the sessions addressed becoming an “experience business.”
From the conversations I had with folks throughout the weekend, delivering “amazing” experiences is forcing companies to rethink structure, product delivery, and of course, marketing. Several key themes emerged.
Here are four of the big ideas on everyone’s minds at Adobe Summit 2018.
Digital Transformation is Still a Work In Progress
Marketing has never been more exciting or more challenging. Digital transformation has changed the playbook and a number of brands feel like they’re still coming to grips with the possibilities of this new landscape.
New technology has transformed many industries permanently, perhaps none so much as marketing. Digital innovation has created a new set of challenges and opportunities for marketers as they integrate advanced capabilities into traditional strategies and tactics.
Yet some marketers have failed to keep up. They rely on traditional approaches and old school thinking that simply don’t meet the demands of the era. The professionals at the Summit were there because they realize it’s not enough to fall back on what worked twenty, ten or even five years ago.
Marketing to Real People is the Future
The growth of digital has given rise to a new category of addressable channels: online display ads, video, social media, paid search, digital TV, and email. These channels offer individual, user-level data so that marketers can track more touchpoints in the consumer journey than ever before.
Estimates of how many people might have seen a brand’s message have given way to knowing the location, device, time, browser, and action of every consumer touchpoint online.
But with opportunity comes responsibility. Consumers expect brands to know them and to design content that is personal, relevant, and useful. They also, rightly, demand that their data be properly protected and used appropriately.
“Companies are challenged to deliver engaging, highly personalized content that builds a positive, emotional connection during each customer interaction — regardless of the device or channel — and do so at a high velocity,” said Aseem Chandra, Adobe’s Senior Vice President for Adobe Experience Cloud.
This is people-based marketing and it requires a whole new set of technologies, resources and capabilities to be done well. Many Summit attendees were there to learn the latest tools that will help them make this shift.
Customer Experience is Creating a New Roadmap
The marketers I spoke with are on-board with the new paradigm and working hard to steer in this direction. They want to give their customers compelling experiences wherever they touch their brands. But the sheer number of online channels — websites, social media, apps — and offline channels — stores, kiosks, call centers — make telling a consistent story really challenging.
Today’s engagement path involves multiple channels, but consumers don’t distinguish between online and offline. They just want a seamless experience from their mobile device to the desktop to an in-store visit.
Forrester Analyst Erna Alfred Liousas summed this up simply: “Today, B2B and B2C customers observe a brand’s overall experience, not simply select products or touchpoints.”
Yet many marketers struggle to correlate online activity with point of sale purchases, in-store sales and other offline conversions – especially when pre-sale offline engagements can quickly add up to dozens or even hundreds of interactions.
Summit participants seemed to know that without the ability to bridge the gap between the digital and physical world, it’s impossible to optimize marketing and advertising tactics to drive different online and offline success criteria or effectively manage the total consumer experience
Decisions Must Be Data-Driven
The marketing pros at Summit have their foot on the gas pedal. They are well aware of the challenges they face and are harvesting all the intel they can to overcome them. The scale of many of their organizations makes this a daunting task, with some having databases of millions of customers.
These marketers have amassed greater quantities of audience and interaction data than ever before. Their task is to integrate multiple data sources, mine them properly, and to leverage the data to produce actionable insights. Only then can they deliver compelling experiences across every channel that will give them a competitive edge and earn their customer loyalty.