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I see the role of a CMO turning into Chief Experience Officer : Umang Bedi

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I see the role of a CMO turning into Chief Experience Officer : Umang Bedi

At the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) 10th India Digital Summit held in New Delhi, Umang Bedi, Managing Director, Adobe, South Asia spoke about wide ranging issues related to the industry.

Excerpts from his speech:

About Adobe’s contribution…

When we think about the world today, it is moving at an extremely fast pace of creating these magical experiences that will change the way we think about content and data. We can go to places where we have never been before; we can see things we have never seen before, and we can actually imagine the unimagined.

At Adobe, this is exactly what we do. We’re the company that is immersed in changing the world into digital spheres by providing technologies to brands. We live in a world today where more people than ever think that they can actually change the world.  And our aim as a company is to bring to you experiences that make a difference. We give you tools, technologies but at the same time it is getting complex because it has become the norm and the complexity of the situation has become something that we have never faced before.

India today has the second largest market in the world for smartphones. People are consuming content on multiple devices, and that is one side of the story. The other side is that this generation wants personalized experiences on their smartphones. When you think about the amount of data one can use on the cloud or the device, it is amazing. Today the provider knows everything about my likes, my dislikes, my purchases, and my profile among other things, so when you combine these two: connected consumer and data exposure, what we see is “digital disruption” happening.

Visual consultation…

One of the key buzzwords that I keep hearing about in the industry, no matter who I meet, is visual consultation. Everybody seems to have embarked on some journey of this nature. My personal reflection is; visual consultation is one of the most massive dynamics that your organization can experience. It is not just binding roots to technology; it is about rising exponential change within your organization across the need to process that technology. When you’re thinking about this transformation, virtually every mark of your business, whether its cost decisions, infrastructure, systems, business market, whole market strategies, customer touch points, all of this needs to change.

 That is a fancy word to say, that to provide a software, something called Photoshop, something called advertising and something called InDesign we realised  our customers were telling us three things. They wanted to consume our trade market on multiple devices, on multiple platforms, no matter where I went. The second thing they told us is, I don’t want to wait 12-18 months for you to give a new version, you need to support HTML5. And they kept telling us that they want to collaborate along with people who were making that software. Our aim was to transform our environment, so what we ended up doing was we shut down that business, we moved the entire business to the cloud, so we had to change the way our engineering teams work.

 The Photoshop guy went out to the Acrobat guy went out to the InDesign guy. So we had to get the engineering teams to work together, here is Creative Cloud, its platform. So we change the way we engineers products, the way we develop our products, so it’s no longer in a dabba, but it is over the cloud.

New strategy…

We changed the way we recognized revenues and charged for the software because earlier we had multi tailored distribution model and we have now moved over to quantum cloud and Most of the business comes to We changed the entire financial system of the company. So when you think about it, whether it is business prophecies or customer touch points, that is, what’s involved in business transformation, it is not just the entire technology…and when I think about it, it’s the experiences that are extremely critical. If you think of adobe’s example, it is a 3 billion dollar franchise that we have on digital media, till about three years ago; it was less than a 100 million.

That’s the kind of strategy you need to adapt to. We were a traditional business and we ended up moving on to digital.

Experiences today matter more than ever before; they have become critical in today’s market place. Think about powerful experiences that changed the way we interact, entertain and work, the way we deal with the world around us. A great experience has four qualities: It needs to be compelling: engaging and attracting the audience on all devices, it also needs to be personal: It needs to know its customer: it needs to be useful: It needs you to deliver things quickly; It needs to ubiquitous: it needs to be present everywhere. Now, lets think about this from the business perspective; when you think about experience led businesses – they didn’t get here overnight, they got here over a period of time. For example, last year we had the back office transformation and this year we began with brands investing big dollars in backend systems, transform their HR systems, financial systems along with few others, and a lot of money was spent strengthening this. Over time, this transformation moved to front office wherein customers or brands started spending money on front-end interfaces.

Proliferation of Digital technology….

Today with the proliferation of digital technology, we kind of moved to the experience led businesses. When you think about experience in products and commodities, (it) has become absolutely redundant. The real differentiator is the experience. It is important that as business or market leaders in the room, we started thinking about the entire customer journey when we think about that experience. How many of you can buy a hotel room anywhere? You can buy a travel air ticket anywhere. Why you would go to a certain provider is because of that experience. That’s where it’s just not been mere product to service, it’s been commoditized. Truly in my mind, experience is the new brand. And, interestingly, customer journeys are the new product. We’ve learnt in our business evolution, where we support 15000 of the largest companies in the world with our digital marketing strategies, and what we’ve learnt is that there is no way you can ignore the importance of the customer journeys. If I can simplify this in my own mind, I think that the new product of the sole journey is data, and data is nothing but the voice of the customer. You’re listening to this data, you have these variables, you have these inputs with you, and its how you read that data and respond. And respond you do, with an experience. This is why customer journey is so critical in this entire piece. It gives face value. Think about it, people can buy a wide range of coffee beans. If you find coffee beans at any part of the world, you can actually buy them probably at a fraction of the cost that you pay in a coffee store with great experience, because experience creates value. As a result, consumer expectations are rationing up. They want instant access to instant information with the ability to buy whatever product or service they want to consume, whenever, on whatever device, with all of it being a consistent and continuous experience.

Two of the most important words from the last thought are consistent and continuous. These describe consumer expectations today. Let’s talk about consistent first. As a consumer do not expose me to your organizational chart every time I try and reach out to you. I need you to know me, love me and respect our history together. Is that too much to ask? That is consistency.

Uber story…

I’ll share my experience with you about a brand that has been absolutely consistent, and that is Uber. At a recent tour, I was staying at a hotel and ordered for an Uber, which they refused to cater to my location so I had to hail a local taxi to the airport and I cancelled the Uber cab. Along the way I got a message saying that I have been charged 100 buck by Uber. Now, it is not the question of money, but about being fair. I searched for the number to contact and realized that Uber is a mobile driven app and even on their website they do not state contact numbers to get in touch, there was no way to get in touch with them. Then I realized that there was an in-app way to report an incident and I did. By the time I reached the airport, they had refunded my money. That is an amazingly consistent experience. They had the ability to read the signals and know my profile and know that I was a regular customer who does not book and cancel cabs all the time.

Let’s talk about continuous. Experiences today have become mash-ups, they are non-linear. And what I mean by that is that they change with every device and every location for the same brand. Consumers today expect the experience to be continuous. Mobility is the underlying pace of consistency; it’s about moving the experience beyond the desktop and into your hand.

From digital marketing to marketing the digital age…

We as marketeers or business leaders have not delved into that kind of complexity. More importantly, providing these continuous and consistent experiences along the customer journey, with the proliferation of customer touch points, is becoming harder and harder. The brands of today and tomorrow recognize that they have to move to continuous and consistent experiences, and hence, marketing needs to move beyond itself. There is a very important concept around what we define marketing to be. If you think about it, it’s about enhancement of what we imagine the word marketing to be. In the world of visuals, it’s about providing the consistent experiences of providing the experiences of customer touch points.

There is an assumed contract between every customer and a brand, and that is simple – I will commit to a certain brand, as long as it stays. This is an unwritten rule for every brand marketer that you talk to. To me, a relationship is being reassessed every day, so there’s no way as a brand leader you can sit back and rest on your laurels if you’ve captured a customer. It needs to move on. Companies that don’t serve these consistent consumer experiences over time, will face the consequences of customers leaving. That is a reality of what we are facing today, and it is time for us to understand that marketing doesn’t end when you’ve defined a target audience or set up your campaign parameters. Certainly, it doesn’t end when somebody buys a product on your digital site. We have to use the fundamental principles of digital marketing and advertising, and apply it as a foundation across the organization. It’s about in-store experiences, product designs, user interface, dealing with returns, call centers, etc. The reality is, as brands, we’ve got to show up really amazing consumer experiences every day. It’s not our choice anymore. If you choose to compete in today’s digital economy, it’s not a choice. Forward thinking brands, both globally and in India, are not shrinking away from this. How cool is an airline for …? Lots of these economy airlines provide a great experience on ground and in the sky, and their aim is to transform their digital experience. A 100-year-old brand like Taj is going through a similar transformation. That’s an opportunity that needs to be met by more brands across the world or across India, if they choose to survive.

Our learning has been about three fundamental principles. The first is to keep the consumer at the center. They are reading the signals, every like, pin, tag, share, and are providing contextual experiences which work on mobile as a dominant interface. Fundamental experience matters, but at the end of the day, one needs to tag this back to RoI. Successful brands actually meet through a better outcome on business data. We have interviewed thousand executives of large brands in India and across the world, and two-thirds of them believe marketing in the organization needs to drive the mass of customer experience. Marketing is being put in charge to drive the entire transformations. Our roles have moved on from prioritizing major initiatives to coordinating across multiple channels.

Here’s how I personally look at it. If you don’t adapt, you find yourself facing destruction, and I think destruction is happening today from three particular points. The first is via an app, these apps that are a part of our lives today are becoming our reality. For example, my parents wanted to buy a second car and I suggested that they go for Uber cabs instead of buying another car. Once they did that, the realized the ease of commutes which this service provides and dropped their plan of buying another car. This way, Uber is disrupting the automobiles business. Much bigger than what one expected.

The second is what I feel start-ups in India are doing a great job in, is, unfunding (?) services.

The way I think of it is that we are moving from digital marketing to marketing the digital age. I see the role of a CMO turning into Chief Experience Officer. It’s all about delivering those experiences.


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