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Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen talks about the business advantage of compelling and intuitive customer experiences at Adobe Summit on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Las Vegas.
Key Takeaways from Summit 2018’s Opening General Session

Key Takeaways from Summit 2018’s Opening General Session

Featured in Experience Cloud

On Tuesday, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen kicked off the first keynote session of Adobe Summit, our annual digital marketing conference, with a simple question for the 13,000 people in the audience: “What do you remember about your last vacation?”

That may seem like an odd question for a tech leader to ask at a technology conference where marketers, executives, publishers, analysts, and thought leaders are gathered, but it highlighted his main point.

“When you look back at the big moments in your life — your favorite trip, your make-or-break product launch, or the birth of your first child — you might remember some of the details, but it’s the overall experience that stays with you, evoking feelings that create lasting memories, build affinity, and keep us chasing those experiences again,” Shantanu said.

The same can be said for how consumers engage with brands — they want an experience and not just a transactional relationship. Companies need to recognize that experiences rise above all else in importance for consumers if they want to attract and keep their customers. At our opening general session, we unveiled a wide range of tools and an overarching vision for what organizations and their marketers need to do to become experience makers — individuals focused on transforming teams, processes, and the use of technology, with the goal of exceeding customer expectations.

We’re focusing on tighter integration of the Experience Cloud platform and on an increasingly important role for Adobe Sensei, our advanced artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning platform. We unveiled new capabilities for our Advertising, Marketing, and Analytics Clouds, as well as the Adobe Experience League designed to empower users of our products to become the architects of digital transformation at their companies.

“The fundamental truth — and challenge — facing every business today is this,” said Shantanu: “People buy experiences, not products.”

Benefiting from experience

“Making experience your business is good for business,” Brad Rencher, Adobe executive vice president and general manager of Experience Cloud, said during the main presentation. “So, if you and your company have not placed it at the top of your agenda, you need to get started — especially if you want to stay in business.”

Brad Rencher, EVP and GM of Adobe Experience Cloud unveils Adobe's new Experience League at Adobe Summit on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Las Vegas.

While the case for becoming an experience business is clear, it’s less obvious how to actually do it. Brad recognized two macro challenges that almost all organizations face — how to modernize technology, and how to amplify talent to use that technology. Even when talking about something as technical as technology, it starts and ends with the consumer. “Our enterprise conversations need to revolve around audiences, campaigns, journeys, and lifetime value,” said Brad.

Creating a unified customer profile is a core need for an experience-led business, but Brad said current systems are fundamentally incapable of managing the volume, velocity, and variety of data and content required to deliver unified customer experiences. Instead, a new system of record is required to unify the enterprise — a technology infrastructure that can manage and make sense of both data and content.

“The culmination of this experience system of record is the ability to design, measure, and optimize an omnichannel customer experience that delivers hyper-local personalization and that learns more and more as you interact with customers,” summarized Brad. Modernizing your technology unlocks the opportunity to make experience your business.

To amplify talent, Brad talked about individuals. While most Summit attendees are already “Experience Thinkers,” Brad proposed how to evolve to become “Experience Makers.”

“Experience makers are not customer centric, they’re customer obsessed,” said Brad. Experience makers come from all levels of an org chart and are the ones agitating and who refuse to celebrate until they know that their customers’ lives have been simplified and improved by whatever project they were working on.

James Sommerville, VP Global Design, Coca Cola, explains how the brand uses Adobe Experience Cloud during Adobe Summit on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Las Vegas.

John O’Sullivan, managing director of Tourism Australia, and James Sullivan, vice president of global design, and David Godsman, chief digital officer, both with Coca-Cola, all took the stage at points to share their experience maker stories. John highlighted that great creativity must have a clear purpose and that’s made known through being able to manage your data. James and David demonstrated how they look back in history to make the future better.

Integrating AI into the fabric of the experience ecosystem

“Our vision for Experience Cloud does not stop at making it the most complete set of solutions enabling enterprises to deliver personalized, consistent, results-producing experiences,” Shantanu said. “Our vision is to create a platform at the heart of the modern enterprise architecture.”  

But even as we introduce new product features, we’re thinking about what’s next. At the center of this process is a focus on developing enterprise-level tools for using content and data to drive innovation with real-time analytics and insights.

“If there’s one common theme that you’ve heard today, it’s that intelligence is foundational to everything we’re doing at Adobe,” said Abhay Parasnis, Adobe’s chief technology officer. “More than anything else, we believe that AI and machine learning will completely transform the future enterprise architecture. There is no question, we are in a new AI-powered world.”

Adobe CTO, Abhay Parasnis explains Adobe's vision for an AI powered world during Adobe Summit on Tuesday, March 27, 2018, in Las Vegas.

Abhay predicted the impact of AI will ultimately overshadow that of the Internet or the smartphone. “AI represents the most profound shift in computing for the next decade, and beyond,” he said.

Our AI framework revolves around Sensei, which is designed to blend the science of data with the art of creativity. Already, Sensei is powering hundreds of product features within the Adobe product family. All of these features share a common denominator of providing more intelligence companies can use to develop personalized experiences for their customers.

The journey for companies to make experience their business and arm their employees with the tools to move from experience thinker to experience maker will be a challenge. But as Shantanu, Brad, Abhay and other Adobe leaders and customers illustrated, those growing pains will be worth it — and we will be there to partner with and guide organizations along this journey.

See all the news announced at Adobe Summit here and follow all the conference happenings on Twitter.

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