No customer experience spin for Adobe as it sets out its CEM stall

18th May 2012

John Mellor tells MyC why customer experience has become a vendor battleground and why Adobe's approach is unique.

Customer experience management has been targeted as a happy hunting ground by a range of vendors over the past 18 months. SAP has shifted its CRM message from relationship to experience. Oracle executives have outlined how customer experience represents the next step for CRM, while the company spent big on acquiring RightNow and its CX platform. And predating this activity was Adobe’s own announcement that it had entered the customer experience management arena.
To some, this activity smacks of vendors misappropriating customer experience, something that will only devalue the field.
But for John Mellor, VP of strategy and business development for digital marketing business at Adobe, the shift is more a reflection of maturing technology than any rebranding exercise – and he can understand the popularity that CEM is attracting.
“Vendors only go after something if there’s something real there and this is past the stage of validation,” he explains. “There is real customer demand. Everyone wants to go to a site and have a personalised customised experience – who doesn’t?
“Why now? Because if you tried to do this 10 years ago – as some did, such as epiphany – it wasn’t possible technologically. There were problems with processor speed and bandwidth, and general infrastructure problems and the software side. So as much as you wanted to offer a personalised experience, you couldn’t do it.”
Fast forward 10 years, however, and the technology landscape is very different. Processing speed and bandwidth, for instance, have evolved enormously.  
“These are underpinning digital marketing, and they are what is making it so explosive,” Mellor continues. “All the digital ad exchanges are all delivered in milliseconds. The decision about what ad to show is made almost instantly. The technology is now available to deliver a personalised real-time experience based on data at that instant.”
However, while the technology is now available to support such personalisation, this does not mean that all companies are doing it.
“Many businesses have technology that was built over 10 years;  they have content management systems that are legacy, they are not built for this real time interaction, they don’t have the other SaaS infrastructure built on top of those for the data exchanges that need to happen.”
He emphasises: “This is the vacuum: you have the technological ability to do it, and consumers are in the mode of demanding it and once they have tried it and seen some results they start to demand this type of interaction, so they will go to the vendor that will give it to them. But big vendors can’t give it to them yet because the technology isn’t there and it’s a giant opportunity for enterprise software companies to come in and help companies get that.”
CEM differentiation
Given this scenario, it is unsurprising the level of attention that customer experience management is attracting at the moment. “Any large commercial or market opportunity is going to have companies racing to it – whether they can actually do it with real technology or whether they bend and spin their technology to get there,” admits Mellor.
But he also stresses that Adobe are very much in the former camp. And with its focus on the marketing side, Mellor also explained that the company had very specific strengths to offer in the customer experience management field.
“Our heritage is with marketers. Most of our message is around marketing. And we believe that the marketer will be the primary influencer in these technology decisions, whereas 10 years ago it was the CIO and the CTO. Oracle, SAP and Siebel made the CIO’s office and the CFO’s office and the CTO’s office. We don’t believe there is a single company focused on making the CMO successful from a technology standpoint. Yet we believe the CMO is going to be the primary influencer in these technology decisions.”
He continues: “We’re going to bring different strengths to the table. The CMO wants to replatform for a very specific customer experience purpose – to convert. This might be to read more articles or to generate a lead. But I have a purpose. Therefore my requirements are tied to that purpose. And that is where Adobe is very close to it.
“We’re not from the back office side. We’re fresh and breaking a lot of rules from the CIO’s perspective. But we feel passionate about it because we think the replatforming is justified by more efficient ad spend. The marketers that are spending today $60bn on digital ad spend and that is growing exponentially. Advertising is probably the squishiest line item in any corporations P&L statement and CEOs and CMOs are interested in getting more efficiency and more accountability out of that ad spend and the more you can tie ad spend to the site experience, and create a seamless link, the more efficient your ad spend will be. And web experience isn’t just on your dotcom, it’s also what is happening on your phone and your tablet and so on. We have a unique position on this.”

Replies (1)

Please login or register to join the discussion.

Shaun Smith
By Shaun Smith
21st May 2012 11:36

I agree with John Mellor when he says there is a real demand for Customer Experience Management and that is why we are seeing vendors like Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce all vying to claim the CEM space.

There is no doubt that the new technologies are both exciting and enabling, and the personalised experiences that are now possible are bringing a richness to the consumer experience that we could only dream about 10 years ago.

Mellor is also correct in saying that the power has shifted from the CTO to the CMO. But this should not be a signal for vendors to simply brush-up their their old pitches and adapt them to the new buyer. To do so, runs the risk that, as in the worst days of CRM, the technology becomes the driver rather than the enabler. If technology vendors wish to partner with marketing then this requires a different approach in my view - and that is to start with the client's CEM strategy and then propose the technology that is most likely to enable it. At this point, you may well be saying 'well of course- that's obvious'. Obvious it may be, but in the work we do with leading brands to help deliver their customer experience, carts and horses are frequently seen the wrong way round.

The consequence of this is that the technology sell is becoming increasingly complex and requires the vendors to have real expertise when it comes to CEM methodology, or at least the willingness to partner with those that do.

I think we are reaching a point when effective CEM implementation becomes the responsibility of the 'C-Suite', not just one function, and requires a number of vendors working together to ensure the right fit between people, processes and technology.

See my MyCustomer article for more on this.

Shaun Smith

Thanks (0)