Adobe Summit 2016 Recap

“A New Moore’s Brand Law – Customer Expectations Double Every 18 Months”

At Adobe Summit 2016, 10,000 people united to see the first Adobe Digital Marketing Summit in Las Vegas, NV after a 10 year run in Salt Lake City, UT. It’s now the biggest gathering of digital marketing professionals in the world and there’s always amazing revelations.

Welcome to the experience economy

We are now living in the experience economy. It’s no longer about selling products and services, it’s about selling experiences. Moments matter more than materials. Surviving in this new economy means becoming a business that delivers experiences. Digital experiences need to be personal, provocative and predictive.

1And survival is becoming even harder as consumer expectations continue to rise. There is a new Moore’s Law in town: “Customer expectations double every 18 months”. That means that your customers expect your experiences to dramatically improve every 18 months. Experiences are now the basis for competition. And those that don’t get it right, won’t be around very long. In the past 15 years, over half the Fortune 500 has turned over. This is a true example of delivering poor customer experiences.

A new wave of disruption

There is a new wave of business transformation upon us that many companies are not prepared for the experience business wave. To put this in context, it’s useful to understand the first two waves.

The first wave was the back office wave where companies implemented large ERP programs to automate core business processes. This resulted in huge decreases in time to market and better cost control. User experience was not a focus and the users tended to be internal and small in numbers. This is no longer a differentiator and is considered table stakes.

2The second wave focused on the front office and used CRM to improve the sales and marketing processes by providing a customer management platform and improved workflow. These systems replaced the physical rolodex systems. Field organizations benefited from this by having much better tracking of customer interactions. But the focus was still internal.

The third wave is experience based driven by the end customer. This is about delivering a consistent, continuous, personalized experience at scale.  It’s about reducing friction and simplifying the interaction. It’s about having a holistic view of the customer and delighting them at every step of the journey. It’s about delivering great experiences and then getting out of the way. Everyone in a company needs to become a steward of the customer experience – from the CEO to the janitor – it’s not just the marketer’s job.

Building a customer experience business

Building a customer experience business requires re-orientation around the customer – A disruption in the way the customer is viewed, contacted, and retained. There are four criteria that will be measured in an experience business – all through the eyes of the customer:

  • Customer respect. First, you must know and respect your customer. That means anticipating your customer’s needs, predicting their behavior and delivering a captivating experience. And this should be done while considering and respecting their privacy.
  • One voice. An experience business speaks to their customers in one voice. The message is consistent across channels and devices. And it is always in the context of their needs. The marketing, sales and support teams engage consistently and deliver relevant information.
  • Seamless experience. An experience business makes the technology invisible. The medium or the platform is not the message. Companies need to stop marketing to devices and channels and focus on the end customers. Customers don’t care about channels; they care about experiences.
  • Meaningful moments. And lastly, an experience business delights you at every turn. Today’s new experience is tomorrow’s so what. The success of an experience business is very democratic – your customers will let you know directly and publicly.

Reinventing your brand

Reinvention is hard work. McDonald’s, arguably one of the best known brands around the world, needed to 3transform their brand and get more aggressive in digital. They needed to move their expertise from mass production to mass personalization. Over the past 18 months, they’ve been working on changing all aspects of their customer experience from upscaling their menu, implementing all day breakfast, providing mobile ordering and mobile pay, providing personalized offers, creating virtual reality happy meals, etc. The Hamburglar has grown up and is now digitally savvy! And it appears to be working as in 2015 they ended up as the second highest performing stock and had their largest Q4 profit in history.

Digital meets physical

Experiences these days are transcending devices, channels, online and physical. Experiences that are truly seamless and orchestrated across the digital and physical worlds have the highest potential to transform the customer 4experience. A great example of transforming a retail store experience was the REI helmet demo that leveraged product RFID tags, a smart bag, and a mobile device to create a real time shopping cart where items found in the store and placed in the bag automatically showed up in the mobile shopping cart.

Furthering the concept of online and offline integration, The Adaptive Store framework illustrated how the retail experience could be further transformed. By using a large panel display and camera to capture individual attributes, the framework is able to do real time analysis and recommendations, based on local styles and your personal preferences thereby helping shoppers find the perfect outfit.

Virtual experiences on the rise

Virtual reality will drastically change digital experiences. This year at the Summit 2,000 attendees received a 5Cardboard VR kit with instructions for turning their smartphones into virtual headsets for exploring the conference. Cardboard viewers such as this and Google cardboard provide a simple and inexpensive way for transforming content on your phone into an immersive experience. Conference attendees were able to engage with additional multi-media content from many other Summit presenters. While VR has mostly been associated with gaming applications, it is rapidly entering the digital marketing and experience space.

Reinvention is the best invention

Sometimes you become a prisoner of your own success. Some brands and their products have become so iconic that it’s hard for them to foresee the need for change. It’s amazing how fast your customer and business can change around you.

Mattel’s, the iconic toy company, Barbie faced this exact situation. Sales had plummeted in recent years as the doll has struggled to remain relevant to little girls who do not look like her and who were not competing with time against the digital channels such as video games, online media and social media. Barbie needed to contemporize the band.

Barbie’s reinvention was delicate as Mattel needed to modernize the image without damaging the brand. The approach was to reflect the evolving expectations of consumers and embrace the cultural shifts that have occurred since her original introduction. To stat, they introduced diversity in body type, style, and skin color. They unveiled curvy, petite and tall versions of the doll whose unrealistically thin shape has attracted criticism for decades. They didn’t stop there. They introduced modern capabilities like “Hello Barbie” and interactive, artificial intelligence (AI) driven toy. If Amazon Echo can do it, why can’t Barbie?

The most powerful form of invention is re-invention. Reinvention requires you to question everything you do. You must embrace uncertainty and relentlessly experiment. You must not be afraid to fail. Put results before process. Breakdown barriers to collaboration and sharing.

If we learned nothing else at the Adobe Summit this year, let it be that experience expectations are rapidly raising so it’s time for re-invention!


Frank Palermo

Executive Vice President - Global Digital Solutions, Virtusa. Frank Palermo brings more than 24 years of experience in technology leadership across a wide variety of technical products and platforms. Frank has a wealth of experience in leading global teams in large scale, transformational application and product development programs. In his current role at Virtusa, Frank heads the Global Technical Solutions Group which contains many of Virtusa’s specialized technical competency areas such as Business Process Management (BPM), Enterprise Content Management (ECM) and Data Warehousing and Business Intelligence (DWBI). The group is responsible for creating an overall go-to-market strategy, developing technical competencies and standards, and delivering IP based Solutions for each of these practice areas. Frank also leads an emerging technology group that is responsible for incubating new solutions in areas such as mobile computing, social solutions and cloud computing. Frank is also responsible for overseeing all of the Partner Channels as well as Analyst Relations for the firm. Prior to joining Virtusa, Frank was Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Decorwalla, an emerging B2B marketplace in the interior design industry, where he was responsible for the overall technology strategy, creative direction, and site development and deployment. Prior to that, Frank was CTO and VP of Engineering for INSCI Corporation, a supplier of digital document repositories and integrated output management products and services. Prior to INSCI, Frank worked at IBM in the Advanced Workstations Division, and took part in the PowerPC consortium with IBM, Motorola and Apple. He was also involved in the design of the PowerPC family of microprocessors as well as architecting and developing a massive distributed client/server design automation and simulation system involving thousands of high-end clustered servers. Frank received several patents for his work in the area of microprocessor design and distributed client/server computing. Frank holds a BSEE degree from Northeastern University and completed advanced studies at the University of Texas.

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