Adobe Summit 2019: How digital transformation will separate the leaders from the laggers

“To win in today’s world every business has to transform themselves to become focussed on the customer experience,” said Adobe president and CEO Shantanu Narayen as he took to the stage at the Adobe Summit.

What followed was an event about peoples’ purchasing of experiences, not just products.

“Today all business must focus on delivering these great experiences to win in an increasingly competitive world and strive to exceed their customer expectations at every point in their journey.”

It may sound like a straight-forward idea, but Narayen prefaced the event around the challenges many businesses have in relying on legacy systems that cannot keep up with customers’ expectations – particularly when it comes to personalisation.

And beyond technology, Narayen also said many businesses face being paralysed by organisational silos and a lack of processes that stop the customer being put at the centre.

“Whether you are in tech, retail, travel, hospitality, banking or government – all the challenges exist.

“Having the ability to put the customer at the centre of your digital strategy and orchestrate the customer journey for them to deliver the world-class end-to-end customer experience they expect will separate the leaders form the laggers.”

“We are honey”

One business that has overcome that challenge and placed its customer at the centre of what it does is Best Buy, a consumer electronics retailer. To explain, its CEO, Hubert Joly, took to the stage and took a trip down memory lane.

“Seven years ago, people thought we were going to die,” he said, discussing the challenge Best Buy found itself when faced with the “Amazon Effect”. People were visiting Best Buy stores to look at a product before going home and buying it online, a movement that saw Best Buy’s sales and stock drop.

With the realisation it was not performing in a sustainable way, the business opted to reinvent itself in 2012 with a strategy it calls “Renew Blue”, that saw it invest in the customer experience.

“We said, ‘we are not in the business of selling products, we are not in the business of doing transactions with you. We have a purpose and that purpose is to enrich lives with the help of technology’,” said Joly.

Hubert Joly and Shantanu Narayen

Recalling the strategy to the summit audience, he said step one was to match its prices to competitors and essentially take price off the table as a reason for people not to buy from Best Buy.

Parallel to those price changes, it invested in the experience its customers had when engaging with the brand online.

“We focussed on the experience,” he said, “We re-did the website, invested in search, and in information. We have used shipping as a key tool too,” adding it now ships as fast as Amazon and for free.

While those solutions are driven by improving business numbers, its purpose to “enrich lives with the help of technology” comes through in three other examples Joly gave.

The first was its ‘In-home Advisor Service’ that sees its team visit the homes of potential customers to aid in finding the right product for their needs.

“Technology can do wonders but for many of us it can be overwhelming – what to buy, what to choose – so we wanted to help our customers with this.”

The ‘In-home Advisor Service’ is free of charge, while Joly’s second example of supporting the customer comes at a $200 charge per year. For that, customers get around the year service to support all their technology at home.

Using the case of Netflix no longer working, he said Best Buy is the one who answers the call when it needs to be fixed.   

“We are the honey who comes and fixes it.”

The final example is Best Buy’s work with ageing seniors, by enabling them to stay in their own homes for as long as possible. Using technology, Joly said it can monitor those using the service and send alerts when something goes wrong — such as missed medication or a fall.

On top of Best Buy’s work outside of its stores, Joly also said its brick and mortar offer was also transformed with further investment put into staff.

They’ve been trained in new product categories, giving them the knowledge to educate customers as well as sell to them.

Not only was this better for the customer experience, Joly said, it also motivation staff as and reduced the turnover rate to under 30 percent.

Data is key

When talking about how Best Buy has transformed itself, Joly credited data as the key to its success.

“We are seen as a store-based company but the customer journey goes across multiple touch points,” he said and it’s data that links those up.

Contextualising the importance Best Buy places on data, Joly said in 2012 80 percent of its media spend went on mass marketing, and today 90 percent of that spend goes on digital marketing.

And where’s that going? One example he gave was the 40 million versions of its promotional emails to make sure each is personalised.

“We don’t see ourselves as a brick and mortar company. We see ourselves as a business obsessed with customers and in serving them in a way that truly solves their unique problems.”

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