I attended the Adobe Symposium 2015 in London a couple of weeks ago and caught up with John Travis, Adobe’s VP of EMEA Marketing. 

We spoke about customer experience: Its increasing importance within marketing, the way it is impacting the way we do business as a whole, and what brands can do to create a consistently positive experience for their customers. 

Read on to find out what we discussed, or to advance your own skills in this area book onto our creating superior customer experiences training course.

What are some of the trends you’re seeing when it comes to customer experience (CX)?

Two years ago we were maybe hearing a little bit about it, but now CX has become the biggest topic of conversation

One interesting thing is the realisation of the ‘complete’ customer experience. Organisations used to operate in siloes: I’m advertising, I’m on the call centre or I’m on product development. 

Now there’s the realisation that consumers expect one complete, consistent experience. I think that has dramatically changed what customer experience means. 

As marketers I think we always cared about experience, but we thought much more narrowly.

Now it’s a much broader concept and that means companies are increasingly looking to marketers far beyond areas such as advertising and PR and social media. 

The lines are blurring in terms of whether something is product, whether it is marketing, whether it’s an app.

Frankly it doesn’t matter. What matters is understanding that CX is one cohesive experience that we as brands are responsible for. 

How has this affected the way different departments interact within a business?

It has a massive impact. I joke that I’ve met more with IT in the last five years than I have in the last 20. 

Honestly, I don’t really care about the org chart at all, and I hear my colleagues in marketing say the same thing: ‘We were so siloed before.’ 

You just can’t be that way, because if you want to deliver a consistent experience your product has to behave just like your marketing, which has to behave just like your customer services department, and so on. 

The way I work every day is completely cross-functional. I don’t know how you would do it otherwise. 

CX has always been important, so why are we only now seeing such a large focus on it?

I think it goes back to customer expectation: this explosion of devices, the move away from the ‘one to many’ model.

We live in a world where people are consuming content everywhere. I don’t have to wait for the next season of my show because I can just binge-watch it on Netflix.

I get what I want, when I want it. And I can create my own content. 

That whole explosion has changed expectations, especially when you combine it with the insights we can get from data now. 

I didn’t used to know where my customers were, I didn’t know how they were consuming content, I didn’t know the impact of my message like I do today. So we’re getting a lot smarter. 

Consumers’ behaviour has exploded in terms of how and where they’re consuming content, and brands have realised that one customer experience is the way forward to be successful. All of that has come together to create this focus on CX. 

Yes, it’s kind of a buzzword right now, but at some point it will cease to be because it will just be a given. 

John Travis Adobe

What are some of the biggest challenges in delivering a consistent customer experience?

At the most basic level, collaboration is key.

If you have individual teams responsible for each area of marketing and they’re not working together, you’re going to have a disjointed customer experience. 

For me, the biggest area of focus is achieving the optimum mix in terms of how all the different departments work together.

In terms of managing data - another big challenge - consolidating it to one organisation helps. When you’re overloaded with data and everyone has a snippet it compounds the problem. 

The smarter we get with the data the more we can prioritise and take stuff off the list. Over time you learn what to focus on and what not to focus on. 

In terms of CX, what do you think we’re going to start seeing more of?

Two things: firstly, we’re seeing a huge rise in digital video. The idea of video as a way to engage with people is exploding and will continue to do so.

Secondly, apps. In terms of the relationship you can build with your customers you just can’t beat it, so more brands will be creating high-value apps.

There are other areas, such as location-based marketing, that will continue to develop, but in the relative near term I thing value-led apps and digital video are what we’ll see more of.  

Will automation play a big part?

I just don’t see it. Sure, certain elements within the mechanics of marketing may become more automated. They already are in some areas and it’s a great help. 

But connecting with people, storytelling, influencing: forget it. These are real people. You’re always going to need that human element. 

Where automation can help, however, is dealing with personalisation. That takes a lot of content. 

We used to have to create whole pages for the website, but now we can make little bite-sized elements and we can automatically populate the site with them.

It’s a completely different way of doing things, but it enables us to deliver that personalised experience. 

Let’s say you’re a Photoshop user visiting our homepage, for example: I want to give you a different message to an Acrobat user. 

It’s also a way for us to manage the explosion in content requirements. That’s where automation is enormously helpful. You just can’t do it by hand. 

You mentioned personalisation there: how important is this when it comes to CX?

Even just a small amount of personalisation can have really interesting results. If you go to the Creative Cloud website, for example, you see artists from whatever country you’re in.

It’s so basic, but the impact this has had on our results in terms of how long people spend on the website and how many sign up for free trials is unbelievable. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

It comes back to understanding your audience and having the right organisation to deliver that experience, but personalisation is key.

Frankly, as a consumer, it’s what I want. 

How can businesses get better at personalisation? 

Start at the beginning. Define segments and apply them across all areas of marketing. Part of the personalisation challenge is asking: who are you actually trying to personalise for? 

It goes back to the core basis of marketing: Who is your segment? Who is your audience? What do they care about?

And then: Do the people managing the website have the same segment as the people doing ads? In the past they didn’t. 

I have the same 20-25 segments I use everywhere, so I can start to really personalise the experience because I know who I’m targeting.

It sounds so basic but it really is about going back to the fundamentals of marketing. 

Any final words of advice?

When I travel and talk to marketers sometimes I hear this kind of panic that everything they’ve learned has to go out the window and they have to completely change what they’re doing. 

Yes, a lot is being reinvented. But despite so much evolution, the fundamentals of marketing are still the same: Understanding your audience, understanding your value proposition, great creative and content, traits like instinct and emotion.

As marketers we’re in the profession of communicating and connecting with people.

Everything we’re talking about around CX is still within the same foundation of marketing, except now we have more and better data to support it. 

Jack Simpson

Published 15 October, 2015 by Jack Simpson

Jack Simpson is a Writer at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

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