Adobe Named a Leader in the Forrester Wave Report on Data Management Platforms (DMP)

Marketing Cloud

We’re proud to announce that Adobe was named a leader in “The Forrester Wave™: Data Management Platforms, Q2 2017” report published today. This marks the third consecutive DMP wave report in which Adobe Audience Manager was recognized as a leader.

The marketing landscape has evolved rapidly since the original DMP Wave was published in 2013. Consumer behavior and their expectations have shifted over the course of the past decade as the proliferations of media channels, mobile devices, smart home systems, and VR sets indicate. In this connected world, it’s become critical that brands and publishers understand their customer and deliver delightful experiences at every turn.

At it’s heart, Adobe Audience Manager, Adobe’s DMP, has led the way for marketers to adapt to this new paradigm. The DMP has evolved from powering audience-based experiences in programmatic platforms, to becoming the hub of customer intelligence and audience activation for enterprises around the globe.

As noted in “The Forrester Wave™: Data Management Platforms, Q2 2017” report: “Adobe is a smart choice for marketers focused on extending control across channels…….Adobe was a DMP Forrester Wave leader in 2013 and 2015, and continues to set the pace in this Forrester Wave. More than 84% of its customers appreciated Adobe’s professional services, segment creation and management capabilities, data security and leakage prevention, custom report creation, and user privacy capabilities.”

We believe that our role at Adobe is to empower marketers across industries to thrive as experience driven businesses, by providing best in class solutions coupled with powerful integrations across our technology stack. It’s with pride that we see Forrester recognize Adobe Audience Manager with scores of 5 out of 5 in 27 criteria including: Data ingestion, sync prioritization, and syndication, data analysis, and corporate strategy.

We’re honored to receive this recognition and see it as further validation of our strategy — to enable our customers to become experience businesses with the help of Adobe Audience Manager. Learn more by reading our press release.

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Make It Fluid — Creating a Seamless Experience from the Shopper’s Perspective

Marketing Cloud

About three years ago, business for the sustainable fashion brand, Reformation, was booming. But their physical stores were so jam-packed with product that the customer experience was, in short, not good. Founder Yael Aflalo began to think about how to minimize the available merchandise, but at the same time have enough for the increased foot traffic. She settled on a model similar to Tesla showrooms that are conspicuously missing a parking lot of cars, or Apple stores with very limited inventory in the front of the store. Soon, Reformation stores only displayed one of each of the most popular items. However, all merchandise options are viewable on touchscreens.

“Around the store, there are touchscreen monitors that allow customers to scan through outfits. When they find one they like, they can click on the size and it will appear in the dressing room, as if by magic,” explains Fast Company. Behind the scenes, sales associates pull all of the garments selected by the shopper and organize them in a dedicated fitting room. On the touchscreen, customer options only include what is in inventory with near perfect accuracy. And in the background, Reformation is able to collect data about the outfits and sizes that are most popular and how long customers spend trying on clothes.

It’s a huge success — Reformation runs more efficiently, and the customer feedback is overwhelmingly positive as they are able to move seamlessly from touchscreen to dressing room. If there is a question, sales associates are trained to help shoppers effectively interact with the touchscreen and they also support the dressing room experience. Yael is already planning additional improvements, such as being able to send purchases directly to a customer’s home after an in-store touchscreen purchase, or having a dressing room ready with selections the customer made while shopping online from another location.

Creating Fluidity — and Fluid Experiences
Every retailer should focus on delivering a consistent and cohesive omnichannel experience. But more and more it’s becoming clear that sophisticated shoppers want more. They want fluidity between all touchpoints — whether digital or physical — and it’s raising the bar for omnichannel marketing.

Designing fluid experiences enables retailers to create and manage omnichannel experiences across all touchpoints — including in-store associate apps, social media platforms, physical signage, IoT devices, and smart screens. Content that is centrally managed and optimized, along with the ability to automatically edit and resize images and copy based on the channel are two technologies that help you create fluid experiences at scale.

Fluid experiences also help retailers maximize the unique capabilities of any platform without the added legwork. For example, a department store promoting its semiannual runway event may promote a new collection to its customers via email. The same campaign content could then automatically be positioned for Facebook, web content, or Twitter with just 140 characters, and provide detailed personal and relevant information about the promotion — including event timing, accessible locations, and specific offers.

Granted, the level of fluid experience varies by vertical. As I explained to the New York Times, “If it’s high-touch retail, you want to provide great experiences and entertainment. But if it’s grocers or big-box stores, the technology needs to make that experience more seamless and efficient.” What unifies these moments, however, is that they’re consistent across platforms and create powerful experiences that keep customers engaged in a delightful and personal way, and keep them coming back for more.

Personalizing experiences when there’s no single path-to-purchase — and when those paths involve both physical and digital touchpoints — requires leveraging data to deliver cohesive experiences at the highest level.

Do Personalization Right
With all the intelligence and technology available, it’s essential to match each piece of content to the right individual persona so the experience delivers value. And as a word of caution, no personalization is better than bad personalization — if you don’t leverage properly the data you have, you can deliver a flat-out terrible experience that alienates customers and prospects.

For example, there is a particular retailer that I love, but I’m ready to sever ties because even though they know I’m male, they consistently show me female-focused products, services, and content. For example, I’ve never given an indication that I want or need a slimming swimsuit, but I regularly receive “personalized” messages encouraging me to invest in one. When mistargeting mistakes like that happen, your customers will quickly move on to the next retailer — a retailer who will deliver a more relevant experience.

Additionally, if you deliver an experience that’s not personalized to the platform or device your customer is using, you’ll sink more than you swim. Desktop ads viewed on mobile devices lose 50 percent of their effectiveness — they’re just not the right experience for the small screen. And 50 percent of consumers under 50 take it a step further, saying they prefer ads personalized to their specific interests, traits, and preferences — and another 30 percent under 50 say even that’s not good enough.

Driven By the Customer — and YOU
Because experiences don’t happen only in the digital world, building fluid experiences crosses over into brick and mortar as well — as Reformation noted when creating a new model for their store. Now, when shoppers visit a store’s physical location, digital signage, associates’ apps and point of sale technology are all in sync creating a consistent, choreographed experience. The end result? A powerful brand experience in the customer’s journey that transcends platform and individual touchpoint. And it couldn’t come at a better time — customer experiences are far from linear, and aren’t completely digital either.

It’s a clear departure from the traditional funnel and from omnichannel marketing even a year or two ago — and that’s good for everyone. Data empowers digital marketers everywhere to deliver more effective and more efficient promotions and experiences across all channels, provided companies are willing to tear down the silos and flesh out 360-degree views of their customers. This, at the end of the day, is the Holy Grail when it comes to producing and delivering highly-relevant and incredibly timely content at scale — in other words, personalization done well.

Learn more more about how your organization can create and manage fluid experiences across all touchpoints and platforms. It’s a simple process that will take your campaigns to the next level — syncing your messaging, and enabling truly great customer experiences you can manage without long, drawn-out system overhauls or massive investments. It’s a win-win — fluid for customers and fluid for your business.

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Adobe Advertising Cloud named a leader in Forrester’s Omnichannel Demand-Side Platforms report

Marketing Cloud

More and more often, we hear marketers who work with multiple advertising-technology vendors, complaining about how difficult it is for them to reconcile disparate platforms and efficiently manage their ad-spend across channels. According to the latest Adobe Digital Insights (ADI) “Digital Advertising Report 2017,” 41 percent of marketers work with three or more media-buying platforms, three or more media-planning platforms, and three or more analytics platforms. All these platforms make it operationally challenging for advertisers to manage their audiences’ reaches, de-duplicate conversions in reporting, and efficiently plan their ad budgets across channels and devices.

Many advertisers are realizing that they need fully integrated, cross-channel, media-buying platforms as part of their ad-tech stacks — one platform to rule them all, with unparalleled access to all paid advertising channels.

Adobe Advertising Cloud — One Platform to Rule Them All.
Adobe Advertising Cloud is the first independent, end-to-end platform that unifies lower-funnel performance tactics, such as search and display, with upper-funnel brand tactics like video and TV.

Combining the capabilities of Adobe Media Optimizer with those of recently acquired TubeMogul — a leader in “The Forrester Wave™: Video Advertising Demand-Side Platforms, Q4 2015 Report” — Adobe Advertising Cloud was named a leader in “The Forrester Wave™: Omnichannel Demand-Side Platforms, Q2 2017 Report,” achieving the highest score possible in product strategy (5 out of 5) and the top score in digital-ecosystem footprint (4 out of 5) criteria.

The TubeMogul acquisition was pivotal in fulfilling Adobe’s vision for being the industry’s first omnichannel media-buying platform, as the report notes that “Adobe Advertising Cloud is the only vendor that has gained access to all paid advertising channels.”

Complete Integrated Stack for Delivering Ad Experiences Across Channels.
Adobe Advertising Cloud reaches audiences with dynamic creative that delivers personalized ad experiences to end users — regardless of where they consume content. The Adobe Advertising Cloud has a native integration with the Adobe Analytics Cloud, empowering marketers to activate audience segments from Adobe Audience Manager and Adobe Analytics as well as from more than 40 industry-leading, third-party data providers.

We are excited to see Adobe Advertising Cloud designated as a leader, and we believe this recognition further validates our position as the industry’s only end-to-end platform for full-funnel ad-buying.

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Why Mobile May Be the Best Technology for Your Retail Stores

Marketing Cloud

When making a grocery shopping list online, do you ever get frustrated with your grocer’s online sales flyer — the one that’s simply a digital image of the printed version that arrives in your mail each week? Then, even when your online list is complete, depending on which app you use, it can be hard to share it with another family member who has offered to do the shopping. And once you are in the store, there is no way to organize your list in order of where items are stocked — unless you have the store layout memorized.

Grocery shopping is a retail experience ready for improvement. Customers often visit the physical space, but frequently do their planning ahead of time on digital devices — whether reviewing recipes for meal planning, finding sale items, gathering coupons, or making shopping lists. In an attempt to show how current technology can help bridge the divide between online and offline retail experiences, Adobe partnered with global digital agency Valtech to create a proof-of-concept demo.

For the shopper, mobile is a massive part of their retail experience. People check their mobile devices an average of 85 times a day, but desktops still boast 75 percent of online revenue. And while retailers still struggle to convert mobile views or interactions into sales, physical retail locations are struggling to maintain foot traffic — due to the success of online shopping. Given this scenario, mobile interaction becomes a critical component for boosting loyalty and enhancing the overall customer experience, allowing shoppers to move seamlessly from digital to physical and vice versa.

Mobile Devices Help Deliver the Complete Experience
The grocery example looks at many small ways to change the relationship between a customer and a grocer so that loyalty can be built. The loyalty comes from the value a customer receives when grocers — or any brand — help them make the best decisions through a variety of interactions throughout their entire shopping journey.

“If marketers don’t offer a fluid shopping experience across digital and physical worlds, their customers will go to competitors that do,” says Michael Klein, director of Industry Strategy for Retail at Adobe.

Consider these additional mobile experiences that are helping retailers provide fluidity and value as customers move between online to offline spaces.

Help locate items. Finding specific items in a grocery store can be a drawn-out process for the novice and veteran shopper alike. Similarly, finding just the right pipe fitting in a big-box store like The Home Depot can be a frustrating experience. Basic digital features can help direct in-store shoppers to the item they are in search of, and also suggest additional related items they may need, whether for a recipe or a weekend DIY project.

With The Home Depot’s mobile app, shoppers will notice a subtle and automatic switch once they enter a store. The “in-store” mode helps customers quickly identify the item they need and then provide its exact aisle and bay among the other 35,000 items. No two stores have the exact same layout, so the mobile app uses location services to tell which store a customer is in and then access that store’s layout.

Provide consulting. Another way The Home Depot is using mobile technology is by providing input on purchase decisions. According to The Home Depot, about three-fourths of customers decide to forgo a paint project — and purchase — because they can’t decide on a color. By leveraging mobile devices and their cameras, the retailer created an app that lets people take a picture of their hopeful paint project and then change the colors to see how different paints will look on the space. This app uses mobile technology to connect a customer’s home with the paint selections found in store and takes some of the guesswork and anxiety out of a basic decision with a major obstacle.

Ease checkout. While most retailers have adopted mobile payment systems, others are pushing the boundaries by eliminating the checkout process altogether. Amazon, which has a handful of brick-and-mortar stores despite trends of decreasing foot traffic, is testing its system at the Amazon Go grocery store in Seattle. Shoppers — currently limited to Amazon employees — scan their phone on the way into the store, shop, and then walk right out without stopping to pay at a cashier or kiosk. The shopper’s Amazon account is simply charged for items taken, which are identified through a combination of AI, computer vision, and data pulled from multiple sensors.

Another retailer, Walmart, is rolling out its Scan & Go app that allows you to scan items with your smartphone as you put them in your cart, total the purchase on your phone, and generate a receipt. Ultimately, shoppers can bypass the checkout line and exit the store hassle free.

Says Michael, “When the items to be purchased are charged to an app on the shopper’s phone — through a variety of technologies — this is a great example of bridging the mobile, the digital, the online, and the offline into a seamless customer experience.”

Retailers Get Big Benefits Too
The retail examples above are designed to provide a fluid and exceptional experience to retail customers. But retailers should also be careful not to miss out on the benefits for themselves. Here are a few ways to do that.

Attract customers to the store. Joshua Young, vice president of global partner alliance and strategies for Valtech, explains that their ideas for the grocery app aren’t designed to keep people from the store, but rather to drive them there, while at the same time easing their experience as they walk through the aisles. “We want to leverage mobile technology that shoppers are already using, to help them easily find all the products in the store that they want to receive,” Joshua says.

Other retailers are focusing on connecting the benefits of merging online and offline experiences too. Nordstrom, for example, has a variety of online and offline brands, including HauteLook and Trunk Club, which allow the cross branding of services. For example, if a customer buys online with HauteLook, they can take that item and return it to a Nordstrom or Nordstrom Rack store. Michael explains the benefits. “This is an online to offline experience that is positive because it allows shoppers to have instant gratification in terms of getting a return back to the retailer and then getting the credit. When I made a return in this way, I actually purchased additional items while I was in the physical store. It was a win-win for both the brand and me.”

Another way Nordstrom is connecting digital and physical experiences is with value-add services. Michael shares that Trunk Club directs customers to take their selected purchases to a Nordstrom store for any desired alterations. The cost for alterations is based on Nordstrom’s rewards program — and it’s complimentary for the most loyal customers.

Sell more items. Getting customers to a store is a great opportunity for another sale. However, Valtech’s grocery app also gives retailers the chance to increase total purchases by upselling in a way that’s relevant and personalized given the context of their experience at any given time.

“We want to improve the opportunity for grocers to suggest additional products in a very logical way, based on things that we know about the shopper,” says Joshua. “By using the context of their experience — past purchase history, dietary preferences, planned meals, health concerns, and even where they are in the store — we can personalize product suggestions in a helpful, non-intrusive way.”

Capture data from physical — not just digital — experiences. It can be hard to capture data from shoppers during in-store interactions, but with mobile you have a way to give both them and you better information. Grocery loyalty programs already store a wealth of data that is necessary for historic information that will give context for relevant and personalized experiences, as mentioned above. But mobile interactions can continue to feed those databases with new and expanded information for a richer customer profile that will only lead to a better understanding of what customers want.

Another mobile technology with the ability to capture data is bluetooth low energy (BLE). It was quite the rage a few years ago, but never really took off as a tool for push marketing. “Apparently, shoppers weren’t interested in getting pinged endlessly as they walked through stores,” says Michael. “However, we are seeing the value of BLE in collecting data and other more operational items like understanding traffic patterns and dwell time in certain locations.”

The Win-Win of a Holistic Retail Experience
In an industry that has long been fractured by competition between the online and offline, mobile devices are proving to be the technology that can connect the two for holistic, fluid experiences for the shopper, and valuable feedback and contextual marketing opportunities for the retailer.

For more insights on how retailers are adopting new technologies for more personal customer experiences, read more from our digital marketing retail series.

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Adobe & Econsultancy Release New Research: “Technology Companies Lead the Way in Digital Experience Delivery.”

Marketing Cloud

The industry characterized by constant invention, rampant competition, and rapid obsolescence cycles also leads the way in digital adoption. A report recently released by Adobe and Econsultancy reveals that, perhaps fittingly, companies in the technology industry are leaders in both becoming digital first and digital integration. The “2017 Digital Trends in Technology” report is based on a sample of over 900 respondents working in the technology sector who were among more than 14,000 digital professionals taking part in the annual Digital Trends survey.

In this report, we highlight differences between industries, specifically profiling the technology industry. More importantly, we were able to tease out some of the nuances underlying the differences in the technology industry such as the motives, dynamics, and disruptions that are driving behavior. The report offers a wealth of valuable information — not just for practitioners in the technology industry, but for anyone who deals with the technology industry. Following is a summary of some of our key findings.

Companies in the Technology Industry Are Digital Leaders.
Our research revealed that organizations in the technology sector are, in many ways, digital leaders. For example, technology organizations are nearly twice as likely as their peers to classify themselves as digital first (19 percent vs. 10 percent), putting the sector in third place (after gaming, gambling, and media) out of the 15 key sectors we analyzed. This eagerness for digital may, perhaps, be explained by the drastic changes in purchasing behaviors that have driven a shift toward hybrid, agile product offerings, and ‘as-a-service’ models of payment. This has created the need for tech organizations to foster an ongoing, high-touch relationship with their customers, which is more easily accomplished using digital technologies.

Caption 1 — Digital-First Organizations

Shifting Customer Demands Mean That One Size No Longer Fits All.
The technology sector experiences rapid innovation that translates into relentless competition. As a result, companies place increased emphasis on providing value for their customers, differentiating through customer experiences. The vast majority (81 percent) of technology companies are putting customers at the heart of all their initiatives. Almost one-third (32 percent) of respondents said their highest customer experience (CX) emphases were being placed on value.

Customer journey management is the second-most-important priority for 2017. Ensuring a consistent CX is especially challenging in this industry due to the complex ecosystem of players — partners, resellers, field representatives, and others — that touch or play a role in delivering the customer experience. This challenge is being met internally through hiring skilled staff members to engineer good experiences. Encouragingly, the proportion of companies that have the CX skills they need has increased by 9 percent in the last two years.

Caption 2 — Where Organizations Place the Highest Emphases in Terms of Improving Customer Experiences

New Technologies Will Enable New Levels of Customer Relationships.
Although differentiation is top of mind, differentiation strategies vary greatly even within the technology industry. Again, almost one-third (29 percent) of respondents plan to use product or service innovation to differentiate themselves from competitors over the next year. However, digital-first organizations are 52 percent more likely than the others to see customer experience as a key differentiator, highlighting the inseparability of digital maturity and customer experience delivery.

The Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and augmented and virtual realities have been introduced to the industry over the past couple of years but are yet to see integration into business-as-usual strategies. The technology industry is likely to be the first to see this integration, either through internal-innovation labs, collaborations with other technology providers, or even companies from other sectors. Technology respondents see this opportunity and are three times as likely as their peers in other sectors to regard the IoT as an exciting opportunity to connect with customers. Accordingly, technology respondents are also more likely to acknowledge the future potential of AI and bots.

The full report contains many more insights with much more depth and detail than can be described in a blog post. For a comprehensive discussion on all the technology-industry insights, download the full report today.

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Site Search — More Than Just a Box

Marketing Cloud

Your site search could be a rock star for your business. It’s the one digital marketing capability for your website or mobile site that explicitly tells you what your customers want. It’s a customer-intent agent with the power to give your customers a “Wow!” experience by putting the right product or content in front of them. Yet most brands still view it as basic utility — a site requirement that’s been met when you have a search box on your website. If you fall into this group, or you’ve been using the soon-to-be-retired Google Search Appliance (GSA) or Google Site Search (GSS), consider this your chance to re-evaluate the role that search plays on your site.

Get Results Like Intel Did
In a recent webinar, Intel’s search guru, Shawn Basalyga, shared the company’s experiences after they switched their search to Adobe Search&Promote. With it, they could leverage profiles, behavioral data, and visitor search terms to dial in and deliver more accurate search results.

After fine-tuning search results in February, click through rates rose 8.5 percent compared to the out-of-the box search results they’d experienced in January. Searchers found what they were looking for more easily, too — the average search-results position that the visitor clicked on bumped up from 2.9 to 2.7. Even when searches on seasonally dropped by 180,000 in March, clicks still climbed by 10,000.

To get results like Intel does, look for the following four characteristics in your search solution:

1. The Ability to Own Your Data.
In the past, a search engine periodically indexed website content and looked at the index to deliver results that most closely matched a search term. Today, search engines have much more data at their disposal to determine what results to display — visitor location, device type, browsing history, profile data, behavioral data, and more. If you’re using an Internet search engine, you’re giving away that data. Yes, these engines are powerful, but, because you don’t own your customer data, you never learn what drives visitors to your site. As a result, upsell and cross-sell opportunities become a guess. You need to own that data.

2. The Ability to Scale, With no Sweat Equity Required.
If you work for a large enterprise, you may have sites with thousands to millions of pages or products, and high-traffic volumes searching those sites. The last thing you need is a system that hiccups when pushed to its limits. If you’re like most, you don’t have time to keep backend-technology updated. You’d like to just slip behind the wheel, turn the key, and start driving. Look for a SaaS solution that handles the technology side for you.

3. The Ability to Retain Extreme Control Over the Search Algorithm and Display Results.
Rather than managing software updates, you need a solution that lets you focus on optimizing search results and delivering great visitor experiences — like Intel did. You need to be able to choose what data to index, and even how to weight your index in the results. Site search solutions like Adobe Search&Promote ensure your site search shows visitors highly relevant results with the content you want to promote.

However, you shouldn’t just cross your fingers and hope that you’ve zeroed in on the right index and weighting. A good search solution should let you easily A/B test and validate your choices.

By the way, with Internet search engines, you can’t control the algorithm to influence results. This means you can’t promote content for best results. For example, you can’t push the latest content to the top, promote a new product, or surface the most popular customer-support articles. You also can’t control how often the engine re-indexes your site, so new content will take a while to appear in search results. And, frequently, you can’t customize how results display, which can cause a jarring user experience when search results don’t feel like they’re part of your brand. Solutions like Adobe Search&Promote let you set up business rules that determine what to display and when based on specific keyword-search triggers.

4. The Ability to Easily Set it Up and Assure Quality Results.
Ironically, some search tools make you search high and low for the functionality you need to set it up and assess the quality of your results. Look for a solution that lets you work in a consistent, marketer-friendly user interface, and that easily works hand-in-hand with other digital marketing solutions for digital analytics, A/B testing, recommendations, targeting, and audience management. Make sure you can easily assure quality results before you push your site search live, so you are confident in the relevancy of those results and how they display.

Carpe Searchem — Seize the Site Search Opportunity.
Not to hammer on this point, but site search has come a long way. It’s ready and waiting to help you deliver those “Wow!” experiences that pay off for your customers and your business. If you’re ready to get the most from your site search, explore Adobe Search&Promote. It ticks all the boxes. And if you’re already using solutions in Adobe Experience Cloud (Adobe Target, Adobe Experience Manager, and Adobe Analytics), your customers will experience even more accurately personalized results, so your business will reap even bigger rewards.

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Transcend Technology With a Digital Foundation

Marketing Cloud

In 1993, NetApp — a young enterprise storage solution provider — shipped their first data storage system to an administrator at Tandem Computers. The network appliance was simple, yet incredibly effective. Unlike its competitors, NetApp’s system could reboot in 30 seconds instead of hours — thereby decreasing downtime and giving Tandem a competitive edge.

In the more than 20 years since that first shipment, NetApp has gone on to power some of the world’s most notable businesses, universities, and scientific achievements — helping organizations worldwide manage and store their data. The angle that keeps this high-tech company on top is its ability to deliver innovation that positions their customers ahead of the curve. At the center of this customer-focused strategy is a solid foundation of digital technology.

For stand-out high-tech businesses today, being strategic and forward-thinking with digital initiatives is mission critical. Eighty-nine percent of companies expect to compete on customer experience in 2017 and 81 percent said digital helped them improve their customer experience. Yet, pressure from disruptive technologies and competitors looking to out-innovate is fierce, causing tech brands to become reactive, instead of proactive — thereby becoming followers instead of industry leaders.

According to research conducted by Ovum, smart businesses are evolving. A full 62 percent of high-tech companies have invested in a digital marketing platform, and a full 78 percent are working to create a unified approach to digital. Because 81 percent of tech companies expect competition conditions to be extreme, they’re planning their digital foundations now, so they’ll be more prepared to scale and stay ahead of fast-moving competitors.

NetApp Prepares for the Future
Like many brands interested in maturing their digital strategy, NetApp first decided to get a sense of their current digital environment before taking next steps. By working with Adobe Professional Services, they discovered they weren’t as far along as they thought in regard to having the right assets in place. Rather than start from scratch, they chose to re-align their resources to build a better digital foundation, with capabilities that could grow and be integrated as digital programs matured.

With the help of Adobe Marketing Cloud, NetApp gained improved insight into their customer base and audience segments, increased conversions by 13 percent, and added scalability and new digital capabilities. Today, they’re more prepared to meet their customers’ needs, innovate quickly, and develop more consistent, value-driven relationships with their customers.

They’re ready for the Experience Era.

Here’s how they did it — and how you can follow suite to build intelligent digital initiatives that will keep your business bulletproof into the future.

Transform Data. Build Intelligent Digital Programs.

“The more data we can capture about a customer throughout the long deal cycle, the better,” says Zann Aeck, director of digital experience at NetApp. Like many companies today, NetApp realized that to improve online experiences, they needed to better understand their customers’ behaviors and preferences throughout their journey with the brand. Sure, they collected fragmented information on customers — how often they visit the site, what pages they’re viewing, and what devices they’re using. But, to truly understand their customers, they needed more visibility into the entire journey and new ways to capture, measure, and leverage data. And, they sought to employ advanced testing to boost conversion, engagement, forms completion, and other KPIs.

With the help of Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target, NetApp was able to jump-start customer journey testing, analytics, and reporting. This insight helped them make interactions more engaging. By providing information to customers in more relevant ways, they encouraged higher form-completion rates, and better supported sales. They built intelligent digital programs and transformed data into actionable insights that could drive optimization.

Like NetApp, a digital platform into which you can integrate testing, analytics, and targeting capabilities lends to gaining a 360-degree view of customers and their needs. As such, brands gain actionable insights that will lend to delivering a cohesive and great customer experience to meet customers’ ever-changing needs.

Answer the Questions that Drive Optimization. Make Better Marketing Decisions.
With new digital programs in place, NetApp’s next step was to get answers to the questions that could help them know what to improve. Using their digital foundation — including integrated testing and personalization capabilities — NetApp marketers discovered that more than 90 percent of their visitors arrive on the site during business hours from desktop computers. This informed the decision to take a desktop-first development strategy.

However, by looking more deeply into customer segments, they also found that up to 30 percent of customers responding to campaign content were using a smartphone — a segment that was experiencing a six percent overall annual growth. This prompted the company to adopt responsive design elements within its strategy to optimize mobile experiences.

Overall, testing with Adobe Target helped answer the right questions — leading to better decisions. Insight supported the company’s complete site redesign, creating a 170 percent increase in click-through rates and a 13 percent lift in engagement — all without developing new content.

With testing that reveals optimization opportunities, brands can work to continually improve on their cohesive customer experience. In turn, they better reach their key-performance-indicator (KPI) goals and customers are delighted with cutting-edge experiences that meet their immediate and long-term needs.

Get Strategic with Your Value Proposition.
With customers expecting compelling experiences instead of just products, pressure to rise above the competition is reaching a fever pitch. Sadly, many companies are reacting to competitors instead of becoming the competitor to beat:

  • 75 percent of respondents claimed to have lowered their prices because of competition.
  • 67 percent said they rushed into new markets because of competitor pressures.

Instead, leading tech companies prepare themselves to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. They do so by understanding their customers and the value proposition of their brand that makes them uniquely valuable. Then, via testing, they gain insights regarding how to relay and deliver their value to individual customers in a timely and relevant way. In turn, as they forge a new value proposition in the industry and deliver it on a one-to-one basis in a relevant way, their standing as a leader no longer relies on beating the competition. Think about Uber’s ability to render a taxi’s value proposition obsolete.

Deliver Value Where Your Customers Are. Create a Competitive Experience.
To articulate and then deliver their value, top tech companies ensure their lead-to-revenue management is aligned throughout, allowing for a consistent message across all touch points and through the entire customer journey. Lead-to-Revenue Management — sales and marketing methods that focus on generating revenue throughout the customer life cycle — is one area where tech leaders can use a digital foundation to respond to opportunities more quickly. Look how the sales funnel has evolved: today, it’s a complicated web of customer touch points across multiple devices, and marketing and sales teams must work together for success.

NetApp transformed their marketing and sales teams into a collaborative business group by communicating online interactions to offline conversations with sales teams. As organizational silos were dismantled, cross-functional teams were able to have timely and contextually-relevant interactions with customers.

“We don’t just want our digital properties to broadcast information to customers,” says Aeck. “They’re powerful tools for starting valuable conversations and keeping them going. To have better conversations, we need more visibility into the full journey.”

With full visibility of both online and offline interactions with customers, brands can ensure customers not only join the conversation, but continue it through to conversion with their sales teams — regardless of whether that conversation flows online or off throughout the journey.

In Sum — Stop Reacting to Competition. Start Delivering Value to Beat.
By 2018, nearly 75 percent of all high-tech companies will use a digital marketing platform. Future growth revenue won’t be coming from hardware, but from services or platforms. When done right, the investment in digital can help you communicate more consistently with your customers and better understand how to deliver value across the board and on a 1:1 customer basis. This is more than simply responding to opportunities. This is making them.

Changing customer expectations and extreme competition are likely to be long-term realities of the high-tech industry. Rather than responding by rushing into new markets, lowering prices, or tinkering with new products, as many companies do when faced with uncertainties, innovate the way you understand and interact with your customers to create a customer-experience competitive edge.

Like NetApp, the tech brands that lead, the ones that rise above the competition, are likely to be the ones that understand the value of building their future on a solid digital foundation. This makes it possible to create opportunities to deliver what tomorrow’s customers really want.

To learn more about how tech companies can rise above their competition with a solid digital foundation, download our white paper.

The post Transcend Technology With a Digital Foundation appeared first on Digital Marketing Blog by Adobe.

Conversing for Commerce: How the Rise of Chatbots Will Improve Your Customer Experience

Marketing Cloud

Imagine meeting a personal stylist online who will make specific recommendations for clothing you need to purchase — including matching items and accessories. No more filters or hundreds of search results to click through. Take that a step further, and your stylist will be able to parse recommendations based on your size and budget, as well as available inventory. Finally, you can easily get input from your trusted friends online, make a final decision, and then click once to purchase.

With recent improvements to messaging, chatbots, and artificial intelligence technology, that scenario is entirely possible, and the stylist doesn’t even need to be a real person. Artificial intelligence (AI) platforms can do much more than comb through product listings and return search results. They can learn and save customer preferences, customize results to match those preferences, and even recommend related products that others found useful or entire outfits to match a customer’s personal style.

Rue21, a specialty retailer of teen apparel and accessories, is one of the latest to embrace such innovations and launch a chatbot. Designed by (a company that builds platform-agnostic, AI-powered virtual style bots for retailers), rue21’s chatbot is a virtual stylist that works to learn a shopper’s interests and preferences, respond to their requests, and even make recommendations for complementary items. These features serve to simplify and personalize the shopping process for customers, improving their overall brand experience.

Facing pressures experienced by many brick-and-mortar stores, rue21 recently closed about one-third of its physical locations. To continue to connect one-on-one with customers as associates would in a physical store, the retail brand is integrating its virtual stylist chatbot on Facebook Messenger to help retain and engage customers in a new way.

“Chatbots offer an opportunity for retailers that shouldn’t be missed,” says Karen Ouk, senior vice president of business development for “For the first time, millennials have the most buying power — and yet they are the least engaged consumers. However, they’re very, very active on messaging platforms, indicating there is a need to engage with them and younger generations on a platform where they’re already active.”

Progressing from Customer Service to Customer Experience
While traditional chat interactions are hosted on brand sites to facilitate customer service conversations between a human agent and the customer, chatbots are hosted on a messaging platform, are powered by AI, and fill needs far beyond customer service inquiries. Chatbots can even respond to customer queries posed by voice, text, or images, and can manage a group conversation as customers invite their friends to the chat.

Michael Klein, Adobe director of industry strategy for retail, explains that while chatbots can lessen the load of a customer service team and sales associates, the bigger opportunity maps back to personalization and engagement. “Retailers can’t afford to make the mistake of selling chatbots short. They have the potential to not only deliver exceptional online experiences, but also inspire purchases and increase the number of items in people’s shopping carts.”

In the example of rue21, the chatbot is dubbed a “virtual stylist” to immediately communicate its purpose — helping customers select items for purchase that will match their style, needs, and budget. Narrowing the scope of a chatbot to a single purpose is an important step toward creating helpful, rather than frustrating, interactions. Quick reply buttons also can help customers navigate the chatbot and educate them on what the features and functionality of the bot are.

Beyond chat, which at this early stage may be limited by the bot’s ability to understand a natural-language description, includes a visual analysis function. Shoppers can upload a picture to the chatbot, select an article of clothing from that photo, and get recommendations for similar items from the retailer. But they don’t need to believe the chatbot stylist when it comes to fashion recommendations. Using new social sharing features in Facebook Messenger, shoppers can get input from their friends by simply clicking on a share button and selecting the friends they want to consult with.

Working Through the Learning Curve
The catch is that chatbot technology is relatively new. Many current generation chatbots are like children — eager to please but lacking in depth of experience — and sales and service can have a very steep, unforgiving learning curve. Fortunately, with AI, each new interaction teaches chatbots how to behave in order to be most helpful. But that process can be costly if those interactions turn away customers.

To facilitate learning, brands need to focus on simplicity and make the experience as intuitive as possible. They should also offer some guidance to customers, teaching them how to interact with chatbots for a positive experience. To put it in perspective, consider online shopping. Just 15-20 years ago, nobody bought much online. Connections were slow, options were limited, and the interface was confusing. Now, shoppers can expect that nearly every online store has roughly the same visual layout, creating a streamlined interface that feels comfortable for customers no matter the store.

Chatbots will undergo a similar evolution. At Facebook’s F8 developer conference in March, the company announced additional features in its Messenger app that will improve the chatbot experience, including a menu structure. The interface is starting to standardize, and improvements to the experience are ongoing with phased roll-outs from retailers.

According to Eitan Sharon, founder and CEO of, “Chatbots are developing faster than apps did when the App Store was introduced. Every month, messaging services roll out more functionality that improves chatbot capabilities — resulting in more and better chatbots.” Pioneers in the space, like, will set the bar for everyone else to follow.

Examining Best Practices for your Chatbot
In addition to limiting the scope of a chatbot and guiding shoppers through the experience, a key to smoothing the transition from physical to digital interactions is to set the right expectation for customers. Some brands like to make digital interactions as human as possible. The problem arises when the gimmicks work too well. If people initially don’t realize that they’re talking to a computer, they have a different expectation. When the chatbot hits a snag and can’t help the customer, the curtain drops and the computer behind it is revealed. On the other hand, when proper expectations are set, customers typically are not put off by a chatbot’s limited understanding or ability, and their impression of the interaction remains positive.

To further reassure customers, companies need to have an effective fallback mechanism. For example, if your customer is overbilled for an order or receives the wrong size, the chatbot may not be able to help them. Errol Denger, director of the commerce program and strategic alliances at Adobe, says, “You need to have an effective protocol to say, ‘I’m sorry. I’m unable to help you this time. Let me transfer you to a live representative who can.’ And then you make sure the problem is resolved, so your customers don’t lose faith in the entire process.”

In that scenario, sending a shopper to the right channel for help provides a great experience. However, brands with chatbots should also recognize that they can design a complete experience for their customers in that single channel — from browsing all the way through purchase. Karen says, “We see the success of one-click purchases on Amazon, and other retailers who can offer this same seamless, mobile, frictionless experience will see higher engagement and conversions. That’s what we’re hoping to help retailers with.”

Evolving Channels Uncover New Opportunities
In the end, chatbots are still an emerging technology, but they are quickly taking root and it won’t take them long to mature.

Eitan shares that 1 billion people from other parts of the world are already actively participating in e-commerce via messaging. “This channel is a very successful trend and retailers should become believers. This is something that has already happened and we are late to the game.”

Karen explains another appeal to the messaging channel: “It took us less than one month to get the rue21 virtual stylist out the door in a live, brand new channel that has the potential to reach 1.2 billion Facebook Messenger users. There are not very many new channels that retailers can launch in, in this short amount of time and with that amount of reach.”

In the near future, getting a new look from a chatbot fashionista will feel totally natural — and then we’ll wonder how we ever got by without it.

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