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“The new era in experience will be born digital”: Lessons for publishers from Adobe’s 2021 trends report

“As business leaders look towards the new year and scan the horizon for a return to normal, it’s apparent that the new era in experience will be born digital,” writes Alvaro Del Pozo, VP, International Marketing, Adobe in the company’s 2021 Digital Trends Report

The recently published report tracks changes among marketing, advertising, eCommerce, creative and technology professionals around the world. It is based on a late-2020 online survey of more than 13,000 people, 41% of whom are at the director level or above. 

While the report focuses on marketers, the insights hold for publishers as well because they are increasingly going digital and emphasizing reader revenue. They are not only relying on ad revenue but also branching out or increasing emphasis on subscriptions, eCommerce and events. So whether it’s adopting digital technology or deriving customer insights from data, publishers and marketers are facing similar challenges. 

Whether demand for their products and services has increased or decreased, businesses are all grappling with the same challenges: remote working, new digital customers, the need for greater convenience, changes in buying behaviour and, added to that, their employees’ and their customers’ well-being. 

Alvaro Del Pozo, VP, International Marketing, Adobe

“Jump of five to ten years in projected adoption”

The pandemic drove people “online at a rate that amounted to a jump of five to ten years in projected adoption,” according to the report. Nearly half of consumer-facing companies report a burst of customers that were previously unknown to them. Additionally, an unusual growth in digital/mobile visitors is reported by almost 2/3rds of these companies. 

Instead of deviating from predicted trends, the dramatic events of 2020 have acted as an accelerant for digital transformation. Topics that were years away from consideration are now at the top of today’s agenda.

Alvaro Del Pozo, VP, International Marketing, Adobe

The online shift also means that the customer has more power in a digital relationship. Over one-third of respondents say that customers are less loyal to products or brands and half say that their existing customers have exhibited new buying behaviours. 56% report new paths to research and purchase. 

“Make empathy the future of experience”

This makes user experience a critical part of business strategy. The results of the survey show that “past investments in customer experience have paid off,” says Del Pozo. “Which further underlines the importance of speed and personalisation as we enter the new era in experience.”

Convenience on digital platforms is a commodity, not a unique selling proposition. To differentiate their experience, brands must first think of their customers as people, not as datasets, and make empathy the future of experience. 

2021 Digital Trends, Adobe

The previous editions of the Digital Trends reports have shown a growing disparity between companies based on their adoption of a customer experience focus, according to the report. This difference was thrown into sharp relief in 2020 “proving that not only are companies with strong customer experience (CX) more likely to achieve long-term growth than their competitors, but they are also better positioned to adapt to changeable customer behaviour, markets, and external conditions.”

More than two-thirds of the companies with top-tier CX functions outpaced their sectors in the second half of 2020. Additionally, they were three times more likely to have ‘significantly outpaced’ their sectors than the rest of the sample. 

Source: 2021 Digital Trends, Adobe

“A sophisticated, integrated approach to CX is the unifying thread for the companies that outpace their sectors,” the authors suggest. 

“Key to mitigating loss and fostering growth”

Businesses also need to understand and act on data more quickly. “Speed to insight was the key to mitigating loss and fostering growth,” according to the report. However, only 23% of the  executives rate their organisation as ‘very strong’ in their speed of gaining accurate insights. 

CX Leaders have already invested in their infrastructure of insight and thus have an advantage in growing their marketing and experience budgets. They are twice as likely to have significant insight into the drivers of loyalty and retention (53% vs. 26%) compared to Mainstream. 

The top three barriers to a great digital experience identified by the study are: workflow issues, legacy technology and a lack of digital skills. Legacy technology is indicated as the most common barrier to effective marketing and CX across all businesses except the CX leaders.

The solution for some companies is to start from scratch on a new, unifying platform. But for most companies, the best strategy is combining existing tech with a layer of cloud-connected data management. 

“One of the most powerful effects of moving to a cloud connected data platform is efficiency,” according to the report. In a recent study of the Media and Entertainment industry companies that had moved to a cloud-connected approach from another solution reported an average time savings of 25%.

Source: 2021 Digital Trends, Adobe

“Building a responsive, insight-based strategy”

Personalisation is a critical part of CX. It is ranked as the top opportunity among emerging marketing capabilities. Now that third-party cookies are being phased out media companies will have to rely on first party data to personalise their offerings. However only 17% of the organisations say that they are ‘very effective’ at gathering first party data to deliver strong experiences throughout the customer journey. This is largely due to the challenges of legacy technologies and the fragmentation of data across functions.

True CX personalisation means overcoming these barriers, as well as building a responsive, insight-based strategy and implementing the ML/AI technologies to act at the speed of the customer.

2021 Digital Trends, Adobe

Understanding and responding to audiences’ emotional states is the next step in the evolution of experience management. It was underlined during the pandemic when publishers pivoted their content strategies to help readers manage themselves better in a time of extraordinary uncertainty. CX Leaders have greater insights into their users’ motivation and challenges. 

Source: 2021 Digital Trends, Adobe

“An opportunity and a challenge”

“The world will likely start to feel more familiar through 2021, but people, culture and markets will continue to evolve at a feverish pace,” the report predicts. Most organisations expect continued disruption in customer behaviour, technology and market conditions. However, “every disruption is simultaneously an opportunity and a challenge.”   

Over 80% of executives see their customers’ move to digital channels as disruptive and a vast majority look at it positively. But many companies will fail to exploit the shift, the authors write. “How companies prepare for and respond to change has always been the basis for their success or failure,” the authors write. They point at the CX Leaders in the study who see opportunity in every disruption, because their primary skill is effective change management.

“Customer experience is not a tactic or one discipline among many, but a governing business strategy that should involve every dimension,” they conclude.

The full report can be downloaded from Adobe:
2021 Digital Trends Report