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Why people buy experiences, not just products: StopPress reports back from Adobe’s Symposium

As Adobe president and CEO Shantanu Narayen opened the show, he set the scene for what would be a hot topic across the next few days: experience.

“We think at Adobe the fundamental truth and challenge that’s facing every business today is people buying experiences not just products,” Narayen explains.

“Products used to be the basis of differentiation – not any more. Businesses must now deliver these experiences to win in an increasingly competitive world because you are competing with the hearts and minds of customers and their expectations are ever increasing at every point of the journey.”

With this, he suggests operating your business with a subscription mindset, knowing customers can chose to renew or cancel at any point with any click.

Narayen also suggests transforming how you operate as a business to be always on, “knowing the past and anticipating the future across every device, channel and moment”.

But what’s the payoff?

During the presentations, Adobe head of digital transformation Scott Rigby shared the findings of its research, completed with Forrester Consulting, called ‘The Business Impact of Investing in Customer Experience – A Spotlight On Asia Pacific’. It found long-term investment in customer experience is paying off for those brands willing to embrace it.

So much so, Asia-Pacific brands focusing on customer experience achieve an average revenue growth rate of 23 percent, compared with 13 percent of other companies surveyed.

“The age of the experience-driven business is well and truly upon us and it’s encouraging to see brands across APAC investing in experiences and customer loyalty,” said Rigby.

“There is a higher cost for these businesses, but the boost to their revenue growth rate, customer lifetime value, and even the happiness of their employees all mean the investment is worth it.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • Experience-driven brands sacrifice short-term wins in favour of creating holistic experiences. Organisations that prioritise holistic customer experiences report higher costs, however, they enjoy more than twice as much return on ad spend. They also report 80 percent higher year-on-year growth rates, and a doubling of their customer lifetime value. 
  • Experience-driven businesses are customer obsessed. They invest in specific customer experience and marketing initiatives such as loyalty programmes and customer analytics; they are also twice as likely to increase their investment year-on-year.
  • Experience-driven businesses report happier and more engaged employees. Employees in these businesses enjoy 60 percent greater personal and team satisfaction than their counterparts in other businesses. They also feel 30 percent greater company-wide satisfaction. 

However, only 29 percent of Asia-Pacific business can claim to be experience driven based and Rigby warns as customers become more accustomed to experience, businesses that don’t manage to deliver that are likely to be left behind.

Talking data

According to Brad Rencher, Adobe’s executive vice president and general manager of digital experience, it’s not the responsibility of one department – it lies with everyone in the organisation.

It’s about breaking down internal silos and creating a unified approach across the organisation and customer touchpoints.

“The same individual may be customer in email, a member in loyalty programme, a visitor of your website, a cookie in your ad server,” he said, they are not recognised as one person.

However, collecting data requires doing so in a way that protects the customer’s privacy – and not all data can be used in the same way.

It’s here Rencher brings up GDPR, but not in a compliance obligation kind of way. Rather he sees it as an opportunity for competitive differentiation for brands.

“GDPR does not come without complex challenges but it’s a great opportunity for marketers and advertisers to lean into customer-centricity and advance the customer experience by looking at privacy from the customer’s point of view.”

Putting themselves in their customers’ shoes and breaking down internal silos are two of Rencher’s main points and it’s those steps he said will take brands to the next step.

“Have you made the transition from being an experience thinker to being an experience maker?”

Who are those experience makers?

One of the brands earning the title of experience maker is The Coca-Cola Company and as its chief digital officer David Godsman took to the stage, he gave some context about the customers it’s connecting with.

“We serve 1.5 billion consumers a week and they drink just shy of 14 billion beverages a week and they do that in 200 markets in the world. If you do the math – depending on which population you use – it’s 18 percent of humanity every week we engage with.”

It’s an enviable number, but a challenge for Coke – and all brands ­– lies in the fact those consumers are individuals who have different preferences.

To help solve this, Coke is undergoing a transformation to deepen its relationship with consumers, perfect the idea of mass personalisation and bridge the digital and physical world.

As an example of how it’s moving forward, Godsman uses the example of two print ads both featuring someone cooling off under water. One of from the 1970s and another closer to today.

Older ad

Newer ad

The difference between the two, Godsman said, is the second image brings in sensorial aspects and the story has been expanded with a second character.

“You can feel the experiences even in still imagery,” he said.

A feature in both ads is also a Coke bottle and he said everything it does is centred around packages because that’s the physical point of engagement with the customer.

To further drive that point, he gives the example a campaign Coke ran in response to Australia’s postal survey on marriage equality.

It released a limited edition can featuring the word ‘love’, in Coke’s signature font, as well as a rainbow heart.

Image Coca-colacompany.com

And beyond Coke’s own creative, Godsman pulled up a montage of images taken by customers featuring the Coke can or bottle to further demonstrate the power of its packaging.

Pushing the boundaries

Another brand on show as an experience creator was Tourism Australia and its managing director John O’Sullivan took the opportunity to talk about the ‘Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home’ campaign.

Disguised as a series of movie trailers for a new Crocodile Dundee movie starring celebrities including Danny McBride, Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie and Russel Crowe, the audience had no idea it was actually a A$36 million marketing campaign.

It was created to boost the number of North Americans visiting Australia and wasn’t until the final trailer was unveiled to the more than 100 million Americans watching the 2018 Super Bowl, that its cover-up came to light.

Excitement over what was believed to be a film saw the campaign generate an estimated $74 million in advertising revenue from 12,000 media articles.

It’s also clocked up millions of views on YouTube, with the Super Bowl ad seeing over 7.5 million on Tourism Australia’s channel alone.

But, more importantly, according to AdNews, Qantas doubled its leads in the 24 hours after launch.

But why did it work?

O’Sullivan said it distinguished itself from other tourism campaigns by focusing on its people and the Australian experience.

“If you look at what a lot of tourism boards do, it’s about beautiful landscapes and classical music, probably shot by an English art director so the sky is dark and stormy. It’s great stuff but at the end of the day it goes into the sea of sameness.”

It’s no surprise then his advice for all those watching was:

“It’s about having a go, having a crack and doing something different that makes you feel uncomfortable. It’s easy to sit back and do the same things every day and feel comfortable and secure in what you are doing, but take that leap and really produce something that is out of the box.”

This piece was originally published on StopPress.

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