People Buy Experiences, Not Products

Do you remember the last vacation you took? Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s CEO, does, and he shared that experience—a trip to New York City—on stage at Adobe Summit 2018

We saw Hamilton, via StubHub, and visited a number of sites,” he told the 13,000 attendees in Las Vegas for the conference. “It was 48 hours, and when I think about that experience, it still brings a smile to my face.”

When customers look at all of the experiences that stand out to them, of course they remember some of the details, Narayen added. But it’s usually the sum of the experience that stays with them. These experiences in their entirety influence where consumers spend money and time and who they give our loyalty to.

“Consumers are seeking phenomenal experiences,” Narayen said. Successful companies recognize that “experiences rise above everything else.”

Think of football fans, as a prime example. The majority probably never go to a game, but they are loyal to their teams and consume massive amounts of content online about their favorite players.

Today, people buy experiences, not products,” Narayen said. “Products [aren’t the main] differentiator anymore.” Instead, he told attendees, companies are competing for the hearts and minds -and ultimately the attention – of all customers and should aim to exceed their expectations during every point of the journey.

According to Narayen, organizations have to break through the noise and speak to the customer to make a lasting impression. To achieve that, companies need to design for the long term, rewire the entire organization for maximum impact, and create an architecture for action. The latter will enable them to deliver customer experiences across all channels, break down silos, and rip out the costly “duct tape” that is holding so many back.

It’s a tough challenge to master, one that takes a significant investment of time but is worth the effort, Narayen added.

That is, optimize for the short term and you get the castle; optimize for the long term and you get the keys to the kingdom.

With that, Brad Rencher, Adobe’s EVP and GM of digital experience, took to the stage to challenge brand marketers to “make experience your business.”

He reeled off several brands heeding the experience business call:

– Delta, with its mobile notifications
– Marriott, with its mobile key feature
– Adidas, Nike, and Vans with their “personalize your own sneaker” campaigns

Making experience your business is good for business,” said Rencher, who had the stats to prove it. According to a study by Adobe, in partnership with Forrester Research, businesses that have made that commitment have:

– 1.6x higher brand awareness
– 1.9x higher average order value
– 1.7x higher customer retention,
– 1.9x return on spend
– 1.6x higher customer satisfaction rates.

“Modern consumers are everywhere: on mobile, social, and in your store,” Rencher said. “The experience business wave requires a new system of record to unify the enterprise. In fact, it requires a purpose-built tech that can manage and make sense of data and content. [We’re calling this] an experience system of record. It is[data] the center of gravity within the organization.”

Beyond technology, Rencher said, organizations, big or small,  “need to transform from the inside out, and that starts with people.”  Generally speaking, these folks have spent a ton of time thinking about the types of experience customers want and need, “but we need to change from experience thinkers to experience makers,” Rencher said. “We need to be customer-obsessed, not customer- centric.



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