Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager of the Digital Marketing Business at Adobe, said the industry is in what he refers to as the third wave right now. He described the first two waves as the back-office and front-office waves, respectively.
The back-office wave saw software developed for in-house processes, including inventory control, payroll and accounting. The front-office wave ushered in customer relationship management (CRM) solutions to help businesses streamline their data to better interact with customers. Now, the third wave is upon us, Rencher said—the "experience business" wave.
Technology from both the back-office and front-office waves is now ubiquitous and now simply "table stakes," he said. "The previous two waves were about us—they helped us do our jobs more efficiently, but this (the third wave) is about the consumer," Rencher said. "To accomplish this wave, the enterprise as a whole needs to become experience-based. It is the new competitive high ground."
Indeed, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen said, "Life is made so much better through digital experiences. Digital experience needs to be provocative, personal and predictive." Put another way, Rencher said, "We're no longer in the business of selling products; we're in the business of selling experiences."
Rencher said the glut of data available to individuals and organizations has raised customer expectations to unprecedented levels—customers now demand a compelling experience and companies must deliver personalized customer experiences on every device and at every connection with consumers, from websites and mobile apps to retail environments.
"Everyone has a voice now and they know how to use it," said Rencher. He noted there are four rules customers expect and organizations must adhere to in the experience business wave: "Know me and respect me, speak in one voice, make technology transparent, and delight me at every turn."
Christopher Ross, a research director at Gartner, said he believes Adobe's big-picture focus on experience is "incredibly important. Adobe has a lot of the pieces critical to making this happen," he said, noting that nobody has all the pieces together in one place. "You've got to have strong content and tools to deliver content, and they got that. They also have analytics and tools for audience and campaign delivery.
"One of the challenges marketers have but don't really understand is the 'experience' they're supposed to be delivering," Ross continued. "That is not always apparent through analytics. It's not necessarily a technology or an analytics problem, so instead of understanding the experience, many vendors just throw technology at the problem. Experience is such a problem because it demands so many different parts to be in play."
Also at Adobe Summit, Adobe announced the next generation of the Adobe Marketing Cloud, which features enhancements to help drive an experience business. The enhancements include a new user interface with simpler workflows, new mobile innovations and data science functionality, Rencher said.