Kevin CochraneAdobe launched its Digital Enterprise Platform last week as part of its goal of providing companies with a full suite of customer experience management (CEM) products in a multichannel age. 

We have interviewed Kevin Cochrane, Adobe’s vice president of enterprise marketing, who talks about the increased focus on customer experience across a range of business sectors and explains why technology is only part of the equation.  

Adobe’s announcement of the availability of its Digital Enterprise Platform last Friday is an important milestone for the company whose acquisitions have included Omniture in 2009 and Day Software a year later. 

The Day technology has provided the bedrock for Adobe’s web content management and digital asset management offering, while Omniture has powered its digital marketing suite with a focus on optimisation and measurement.  

Adobe, with its heritage in design and multimedia, has sensibly bet that more companies will make the multichannel customer experience a priority, with digital marketers rather than IT departments driving the business agenda. 

The move towards multichannel is being accelerated by a proliferation of devices and platforms which, according to recent research published by Econsultancy (in association with Adobe), is the single most important trend affecting digital marketers. 

The Q&A with Kevin below provides some business context for Adobe’s platform and strategy, which is aimed at “delivering engaging digital solutions across social, Web, mobile, and print channels.” 

Have you detected a change in recent months in how important customer experience is to organisations? What is driving this increased focus?

“We have seen a massive sea change in the focus on customer experience, and we believe there are three main reasons for this. Firstly, we have been going through digital transformation for many years. Part of that transformation is around being more focused on who the customer is, for example defining personas and how best to reach different people through different channels. Companies appreciate they need to think about the overall experience and emotional resonance if they want to drive conversions and improve business performance. 

“Secondly, the economy has been terrible and is not getting any better. Because of that, companies are looking for innovative ways to build a long-term relationship with customers to keep them engaged, and giving them a reason to spend money.

“It’s often companies within the most stressed industries, for example financial services, that are stepping up and making wholesale investment in the experience. They need to deliver a superior customer experience to get customers interested in new products.”

What else do you think is driving this increased commitment to customer experience?

“We are at the stage where there is a great awareness of the power of the voice of the consumer which has been building over many years. There is an understanding of what impact one bad experience can have, for example United Breaks Guitars. There are other examples every day of how something like this can spread in a heartbeat, and companies are saying that they can’t take that risk. 

“Also, the process is being accelerated by people involved with customer experience sharing tips and tricks. We are much more effective at sharing good ideas.”

Can you explain what you mean when you talk about ‘the consumerisation of IT’?

“IT organisations are realising that they can innovate with user experience and design. The technology is there to deliver exciting, interactive and compelling experiences to consumers. New technology can lead to a more design-centric approach. 

“You have to be hyper-responsive to the customer and be able to change very rapidly. IT has to be a more effective service provider and more responsive to multichannel requirements and, as a consequence, IT organisations are going through radical transformation.”  

What is the extent of the role played by technology in helping companies to deliver on customer experience?  

“Technology is the least important consideration on the entire journey. Those focused on technology alone are, frankly, going to lose. There is an organisational challenge around who is going to champion transformation so you need to have involvement across all points of interaction. 

“A c-level executive needs to state categorically that customer experience is part of the organisation. You need a c-level level champion but also someone with an operational background to make it happen and bring together different parts of the business. A lot of customer experience is emotional. If employees aren’t living and breathing your brand you aren’t going anywhere.

“The number one challenge is internal marketing not external marketing. The technical challenge is the least of the problems, and becomes a standard project management exercise once the organisational challenge is addressed.” 

Which systems integrators and agencies are you working with and why is this important?

“Our interactive agency partners [for example, SapientNitro] can help partners map customer journeys and explain what needs to be done. Neutral third parties are good for business process re-alignment, while we focus on generating the appropriate tooling, platform technologies and services, working on innovation labs and thinking about radical new designs. 

“From a platform perspective we cover all the technology, from mobile websites and cross-platform communication to digital signage and kiosks. We cover the whole gamut of potential touchpoints, powering the experience and also providing the analysis.

“With so many different interaction points, companies often think the problem is too big. But as a specific customer I’m likely to be going down a particular path which can be mapped. Once you know how customers are most likely to interact with you (and why, and when), you can be quite focused on how you need to optimise the experience. The problem becomes much simpler when you understand who your customer is.”

Are you competing with other IT giants or offering something different?

“A lot of tech companies are starting to focus on customer experience. IBM and Oracle are both focused on that transformation. But they are taking a more system-centric approach, an ‘inside-out’ approach. 

“At Adobe we take an ‘outside-in’ approach. Our first focus is on the customer. We design the right experience and then let the technology follow. We take a 180-degree different approach.”