People no longer buy products and services, they buy experiences. At least, that’s what they remember, according to Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, who argues delivering experiences is now the key differentiator for businesses.

But Narayen and Adobe contend delivering those experiences consistently at scale can not be achieved with legacy infrastructure.

“We think at Adobe that the fundamental truth and challenge that’s facing every business today is this: People buy experiences not just products,” Narayen said.

“Products used to be the basis of differentiation but not anymore.”

Speaking on stage at Adobe Symposium 2018 in Sydney, Narayen delivered a similar message to the one he gave in America earlier this year. His advice for businesses is to consider themselves a subscription service rather than a seller of products and services.

However when considering customers as subscribers it is important to remember they can renew or unsubscribe “at any point with one click”.

“You’re competing with the hearts and minds of your customers and their expectations are ever increasing at every point in the [customer] journey,” Narayen told thousands of Adobe delegates.

He argued it is experiences that consumers remember rather than the specific products and services. Focusing on experiences is therefore an excellent way to gain and retain customers, according to Narayen.

“I think it’s the overall experience that stays with you and evokes feelings that create these lasting memories, build affinities and keeps us chasing those experiences over and over again.”

“I think these feelings influence the choices we make, where we spend our money, our time. Most importantly where we place our loyalty.”

Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen speaking
Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen speaking on stage in Sydney

During the keynote, the Adobe boss suggested the software company was the best placed to help brands deliver those experiences because it is the only platform that can combine powerful data and analytics capabilities with creative content to deliver personalised messages at scale.

Adobe argues that leading organisations have realised the experience imperative and that research shows they are being disproportionately rewarded for doing so. The company concedes changing to what it calls an “experience driven business” is challenging but “well worth the effort”.

“Many companies recognise this. That experiences today rise above everything else. They have built their businesses on this very premise,” Narayen said.

New architecture required

However many organisations haven’t, and struggle to deliver experiences because they are hamstrung by legacy systems that don’t have “predictive” capabilities, according to Narayen.

“The problem is that enterprise IT systems today were designed for a different time and a different task. And historically IT systems were focused on ERP or CRM, and legacy systems which reacted to business demands.”

Moving to the cloud won’t solve this problem by itself, according to Narayen. While cloud has been a “massive disruption in technology” the industry ultimately “fell short” in the move by focusing on efficiencies rather than outcomes.

“Because the [cloud] focus was on speed and reducing cost and not yet on integration or experience, and this must change,” Narayen said.

Instead what is required, Narayen says, is an organisation wide approach to delivering experiences, with customer outcomes as a guiding principle.

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