millennials think tank

According to Shantanu Narayen, president and chief executive officer of Adobe, brands and retailers focusing on consumer centricity are already behind the curve. Instead, he proposed that companies should be “obsessed” with their consumers. During Adobe’s annual summit last week, the tech company introduced several new platforms and software updates to expedite speed to market, decipher shopper behavior and improve internal transparency, all with the main goal of contributing to elevating shopper journeys.

“Companies are now competing for the thoughts and minds of their customers and exceeding the ever-increasing expectations that they have during every point of the journey,” Narayen said during his opening speech. “It involves every business thinking of itself as a subscription model, knowing that consumers can choose to renew, cancel, or grow at every instant with every click. It means transforming how all of our businesses operate — always on, knowing everything about the customer, anticipating the future on every device and every channel.”

To aid its customers in accomplishing this, Adobe rolled out a series of refreshes that ranged from invigorating its artificial intelligence tool, Sensei, to adding an Experience Cloud Profile to its cloud-based platform. The latter will arm marketers with a holistic, real-time look at aligned data for increased optimization of Sensei. In this vein, Adobe’s new Advertising Cloud enables marketers to independently add basic revisions in addition to the ability to leverage brand metrics.

“Many marketers today still struggle to deliver relevant advertising messages to their customers. We’re making it easy for brands to deliver well-designed, personalized advertising to consumers who may currently ignore their ads,” said Keith Eadie, vice president and general manager of Adobe Advertising Cloud.

Case studies that displayed best practices and the software in action helped depict relevance of the tools — and need in the market — for such advancements. Adobe customers that took the stage ranged from executives at Tourism Australia to Coca-Cola to the NFL. And though these businesses might appear disparate on the surface, they shared plenty of commonality. Across the board, each case study and customer testament demonstrated their need to broaden their footprint by rejuvenating consumer engagement and deploying data collection tools for new strategies.

This especially came into focus during a presentation demonstrating how Marriott Hotels delivers hyper-personalized visits for their patrons. Audience members were taken through a life cycle of a guest’s stay beginning with the booking of a trip to entering the hotel to planning activities and meals. The experience was frictionless, organic and most of all, customized specific to the guest’s tastes, which were based off previous visits.

“How did Marriott do this?” asked Nichole Giamona, group product manager at Adobe, who led the presentation. “They used data. But more than just the data itself, it’s what they’re doing with the data with the help of the Adobe Cloud platform. Experiences like this are easy to show, but extremely hard to do and you all face three main pain points as you try to do this. First: Your data is siloed. Second, it’s not even in a structure that’s actionable, and third: you lack a unified profile or view of your customer.”

This rings especially true for traditional retailers and merchants. Despite much being discussed about the likes of Everlane, Warby Parker and Glossier, most retailers continue to search for their footing in supplying organic and intuitive experiences for shoppers.

“Problems are prevalent throughout the shopping journey, but brands rated the biggest challenge
 as engagement and discovery (32 percent), followed by awareness and acquisition (24 percent),” said a recent Salesforce report, “Consumer Experience: In the Retail Renaissance.”

In both the summit and the aforementioned report, a widening disconnect between internal operations has resulted in subpar consumer experiences. “An underwhelming 10 percent of brand leaders said in the survey that value and emotional connection of shoppers were their focal point,” the Salesforce report said.

Retailers need to get out of their bubble. While it might unrealistic to remodel a business strategy after a digital native, it’s not impossible to look at how other, established companies in different categories are mining success.

Perhaps most applicable: Coca-Cola. During Day One of Adobe’s conference, executives of the company presented how they’ve delivered captivating marketing campaigns rooted in customer engagement. In a consumer landscape that’s transfixed with wellness and healthy eating habits, Coca-Cola has encountered challenges of remaining relevant to a newly health-conscious consumer. This caused the company to pivot in its marketing strategies, highlighting strengths like its international scope by tapping into consumers’ design savvy.

James Sommerville, vice president of global design at Coca-Cola, explained the intersection between digital and physical presences. “If you go down into our archives at Coca-Cola you’ll see these amazing images, print images no doubt, way before digital. But it’s the storytelling, the composition and the work that’s been done. And then we look at the consumer and how the consumer is changing, and has changed,” Sommerville said.

He then showed an example of how a marketing campaign for the Australian region was realized in not only traditional methods, but also in augmented reality functionality, too. “What does tomorrow look like at Coca-Cola?” He continued, “The first thing I want to reimagine and invite the creative community to reimagine the word ‘experience.’ For everyone in this room and the planet has a right to work with Coca-Cola and reimage that experience.” He then explained how one of the company’s latest initiatives began by reconsidering the product and the packaging — two pillars of the company identity — for future growth.

It’s this type of adherence to core values that perhaps is most relatable for retailers. By holding the brand DNA central to each decision and opening up once siloed departments while creating a dialogue with consumers, brands possess the opportunity to collect deep insights about shopper preferences to better respond to their demands, and maintain revenue.

Think: Nike’s product customization options or Nordstrom’s personalization shopping quiz. Both of these initiatives rely on data and artificial intelligence, but also capture even more information with every engagement.

For brands and retailers to succeed in a current landscape that’s mired with increasingly complex consumer behavior and spending habits, they will need to deploy rich data collection, predictive analytics and comprehensive, transparent operations as cornerstones in every business decision.

More from WWD:

Retailers Stumble Delivering Seamless Consumer Experiences

Consumer Preferences for Low Prices Fades

Social Media’s Evolving Role in Retail: Commerce, Product Testing

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