Iconic Brands Pull Back The Curtain On Their Digital Transformations

“Your customer experience is everything.”

With these words, Adobe president Paul Robson kicked off Adobe Summit EMEA 2019, setting the scene for hundreds of brands and influencers to share their digital transformation stories and reveal how they are evolving to better serve their audience

“We understand that your customer experience is mission-critical to your business,” he told an audience of more than 6,000 at London’s ExCel Centre. “That’s why our focus is on helping brands put customers at the centre of everything they do.”

Robson also drew on Adobe’s own transformation to illustrate this point, explaining how the ability to serve peoples’ always-on mentality has helped the company to radically transform its relationship with them.

“Our users range from multinational corporations, to small business owners, to students, to artists working alone in their studios. This mix makes us unique, but it also means we also need to understand each customer’s needs to make sure our services add value,” he said. “This is why a data-driven approach has been hugely valuable. We now know who our customers are, what they like, and what features they’re using so we can continuously improve their experience.”

For the three brands whose executives took to the stage during the opening keynote, digital transformation has been about more than just new technologies. Unilever, illycaffè, and BT also made a commitment to changing the way their organisations work behind the scenes, from its operating rhythm, to reporting cycles, to the platforms their teams use to collaborate and bring digital experiences to life.

Unilever’s Journey: Transforming People And Technology
Unilever CIO Jane Moran fully endorsed the need for cultural realignment in addition to new technology systems. Speaking with Adobe EVP Abhay Parasnis, she explained that while she has had the CIO title for 18 years, the scope of her role has changed dramatically.

“It used to be about buying software and customising it for your business,” she recalled, “but over the past few years it has become crucial to create a platform that delivers both customer experiences and employee experiences.”

Moran is currently leading Unilever’s transition to this platform-based approach, helping the business to build increasingly meaningful relationships with its customers. Unilever is Europe’s seventh most valuable company, made up of more than 400 brands serving roughly 2.5 billion people in 190 countries. According to Moran, data-driven marketing is the key to engaging with such a large and varied audience on an individual level.

But she reiterated that technology is only as good as the people using it. “You also need a platform that helps people work differently,” she added. “It’s about people-powered transformation.”

This was a sentiment shared by many brands attending Adobe Summit EMEA. They are finding that without a system that can support mass targeting and hyper-personalisation, even their best intentions become logistically impossible to execute.

illycaffè: Driving Value Through Creativity And Mindfulness
illycaffè CEO Massimiliano Pogliano said he also believes the balance between people and technology is crucial, but added that ethics and creativity are just as close to his heart. Sitting alongside Robson and sipping a cup of illy espresso, he distilled the ethos behind one of the world’s most iconic brands down to three words: good, goodness, and value.

“You cannot make a good product if you are not a good company,” he declared. “You need to focus on quality, but that quality must be sustainable across the whole product chain. Then, beauty is how you tell stories. illy has been sponsoring art for years for this very reason. But aesthetics must still be married with ethics. Otherwise, what you are doing is just cosmetic.”

BT: Good Things Happen During Change
Also joining Adobe’s Robson on stage was Ash Roots, managing director of digital at BT. Roots broke down how the telecom leader is using data to get closer to its 30 million customers. He likened BT’s digital transformation to sailing, using the parallel to demonstrate that the destination is not always clear, and that his team must always be ready for changing winds and conditions in the market.

But the rewards are worth the effort. “We’re really trying to use data to make things more personal, and it’s not easy,” he admitted. “It takes getting all the right data, in the right place, and being able to interrogate it in the right way. But I’m also a firm believer that good things happen during change. It creates a lot of energy and a lot of momentum.”

Managing Transformation
Taking over the stage, Adobe’s Parasnis took a moment to reflect on how businesses are transforming the way they work with technology and to outline how Adobe’s latest product innovations are supporting their efforts.

In his eyes, brands must maintain a razor-sharp focus on customer-centricity to differentiate themselves. “Nobody is looking at their industry competitors as the benchmark anymore,” Parasnis said. “They are looking at the single best digital experience their customers interact with in their daily lives and using that as a measuring stick.”

However, he also conceded that building a digital experience is easier than delivering one, which is why Adobe is currently focussed on helping companies turn data into actions that will improve their offerings. Parasnis said he sees legacy technology as the biggest barrier for most brands, but made sure to point out that “legacy” doesn’t only apply to I.T.

“Businesses are paralysed by organisational siloes that impede collaboration and make it impossible to work in a customer-centric way,” he said.

Under these conditions, the practice of customer experience management (CXM) has proved to be both an art and a science. Brands need the right foundation of content, data, and intelligence to succeed—or as Parasnis put it, “They need a central nervous system for their experience and data.”

Only The Beginning
Looking ahead to what’s next for customer engagement, Robson was visibly excited about the possibilities.

“We are committed to changing the world through digital experiences,” he emphasised. “This is our company’s North Star, and delivering on that mission is what allows us to serve such a wide range of brands. More importantly, it’s how we will help them to radically change how they approach their customer experience.”

Moran was no less optimistic when discussing the future of data-driven marketing at Unilever. “I feel like we’re all at the beginning of this massive digital transformation,” she said.

But her next statement was perhaps the reflection how dynamic the digital marketing landscape has become: “I feel like I’m an old lady here,” she said, looking around the room, “but there’s never been a better time to be in technology. I do not want to retire. I want to stay in this business.”

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