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Adobe Exec: Commerce Has Reached A Tipping Point

This article is part of our collection from the Imagine 2019 conference. Click here for more.

It is a truly a momentous time to be in commerce, according to Gary Specter, VP, commerce sales and customer success, Experience Business, at Adobe, who kicked off the Monday evening keynote at Adobe’s Imagine 2019 conference in Las Vegas.

“We’re seeing changes in the way people shop and the way they interact with brands,” Specter told the audience of approximately 3,500 attendees. Customer expectations are rising, he said, “and the expectations are that the experiences will be personal and you’ll meet people where they are and whenever they want.”

According to Specter, retailers and brands need to think about what an amazing experience looks like today—across generations. He challenged attendees to expand their definition of the customer experiences they provide and to stop focusing on the single transaction because that isn’t a long-term growth strategy.

His advice? Look at the customer experience across channels and create a seamless, omnichannel experience that follows customers no matter where they take the journey next. That includes all the new ways to interact, such as voice, virtual reality, and augmented reality.

The customer experience today spans many different channels and touch points, from marketing to revenue, creative to commerce, and all the way through awareness and ownership, Specter added.

“It’s time to reimagine where we fit in and how we can add value at every step,” he said. “We’ve reached a tipping point. Together, as a community, we now have an opportunity to reshape, redefine, and own the customer journey like never before.”

These dynamics, Specter said, present new challenges and opportunities to expand our own skill sets. Today’s customer experience professionals need expertise in data, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning. They also need to use insights to drive real-time relevance and personalized experiences. This requires even greater openness and collaboration across functions both within and beyond our organizations, he said.  

Digital Transformation Lessons Learned
Rob Giglio, Adobe’s SVP of GTM and sales, digital media, also took to the Imagine stage to talk about Adobe’s digital transformation, which started in 2011 when the company evolved its business model from a product in a box that was updated every 12 to 18 months to a cloud-based service. He shared some of the lessons learned.

His first piece of advice: Test everything. “Take a subset of customers and trial that hot promo, new messaging ... or different checkout experience,” Giglio said. “With testing and digital marketing, you get data. You’ll find you can’t get enough of it, [and] it delivers great insights.”

For example, Giglio said, the Adobe team was astonished that the checkout experience in Germany should be radically different than the rest of European Union. “Data gave us that insight,” he said.

His second point was about the importance of staying close to customers. That means getting out of the office, going to events, and talking to customers to hear firsthand how they use your products and services, he said. ​

It also involves mapping and anticipating customer journeys, as data-driven decision-making has become critically important. ​For Adobe, existing employees had to gain an entirely new skill set and become increasingly data-driven. “We hired new employees where we needed them,” he said.

Part of the digital transformation journey was also a complete overhaul of processes. Today, customer experience management (CXM) is always on at Adobe. It’s not episodic. “We can test, monitor and make changes in real time,” he said. “We’re applying AI and machine learning on data to anticipate customer journey trends and drive personalized experiences.”

Lastly, Giglio said, automate wherever possible, taking human decision-making out of mundane tasks and freeing up time to do the more important work. “Not only will you speed your programs to market, you free your teams to focus on what humans are great at: creative problem solving,” he said.

Building A Culture-Driven, Retail Lifestyle Brand
One brand heeding the call is Zumiez North America, which has been “expanding the experience” for customers for over 40 years, said Brown, president of the trendy clothing retailer. Today, the company, which caters to the 12- to 24-year-old age cohort, has 705 stores in four countries, with websites in more than 18 languages.

“We are an edgy, culture-driven, retail lifestyle brand,” Brown said. “We got here by expanding the experience for multiple years.”

Zumiez’s formula for success is to know its customers and their expectations—so that the fashion brand can exceed those expectations. “Our mission is to blow our customers’ mind every single time,” he said. “The mantra [at Zumiez] is adapt or die.”

According to Brown, Zumiez doesn’t see channels. In fact, it doesn’t even measure e-commerce sales vs. in-store purchases. “We just have customers,” Brown said. “One hundred percent of our business is digital. Customers ... want choice, [and they] want speed.”

With that, Brown predicted that Zumiez’s customers will continue to become more digital but less Web-centric. And they’ll continue to want everything—now. That’s why the company closed its main fulfillment center and opened over 700 all over the globe. “[We have to] expand the experience to be more immediate,” he said. 

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