The rise of ‘app only’ organisations and other tech-fuelled disruptions

The rise of ‘app only’ organisations and other tech-fuelled disruptions

Digitalisation is impacting all organisations and prompting CIOs, CTOs and CMOs to work more closely than ever.

“Every business has to be a real-time enterprise. They need to interconnect all their systems so they could get a more unified view of the customer,” says Shantanu Narayen, President and CEO, Adobe, on a top issue facing all organisations today.

“We are swimming in these devices and data and more people are connected to the internet through something other than a computer as their primary device,” he says. “All of us need to stretch our ideas on what it means to focus on this customer experience.”

Markets no longer operate in silos, says Narayen at the 2015 Adobe Symposium in Sydney.

“We are in the era where your product is actually marketing,” he states. “How do we deliver that right digital experience to the right person at the right time?”

He says traditionally, marketers were given a product and their job was to market it. The questions they sought to answer were how they shall position the product, deliver the brand message and allocate media spend.

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We are in the era where your product is actually marketing.

Shantanu Narayen, Adobe

“But I think the new question is, are we thinking broadly enough about what this product truly is? How can I bring the power of digital marketing not just into market a product but actually creating a product?”

He says other companies such as retail, travel and other services industries have known for quite a time that the product is marketing.

“The service they deliver is synonymous with the brand, and it is not what they sell, it is how they sell that makes them stand out from the competition. It is how they bring that entire experience together.”

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He says businesses that have operated in the digital realm, like WhatsApp and Uber, understand that the mobile app is their business, and the product is the marketing.

“We have to find brand new ways of communicating with our customers by extending the definition of our product,” he states.

“The customer expectation for personalisation is increasing the bar for all marketers, and it keeps on rising.”

Going digital

Read more: ‘As customers transition to smartphones, so should you’

“We’re seeing a fundamental shift in the role marketing is playing in business strategies as today’s marketers redefine fundamental concepts of marketing,” says Paul Robson, president, of Adobe Asia Pacific.

Robson says the conference is the biggest digital marketing conference in the southern hemisphere.

He says 300 people attended the conference in 2012, and they were mainly marketing professionals.

Three years later, the attendees included CIOs, CTOs and those holding emerging roles in such as chief digital officer and customer journey manager.

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“The greatest increase in the role in this event is the CTO and CIO, we are seeing more IT people join the audience.”

“Marketing is changing the role of how the business strategy is put together,” he says.

He says the region is increasingly disrupted by technology, and changing the way people live – from the way a taxi is booked to making a restaurant reservation.

In Asia, for instance, he points to the rise of ‘app only’ organisations.

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Consumers are literally bypassing the PC and exist only on tablets and smartphones.

Paul Robson, Adobe

These are businesses building their model around mobile, and engaging their products and customers on mobile-only devices.

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“Consumers are literally bypassing the PC and exist only on tablets and smartphones,” he states.

“With much disruption, it is easy to get caught out and be confused on where to start this journey,” says Robson.

“We are no longer looking at the future for digital, we are in the era of digital,” he states.

The great disruptor

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Brad Rencher, senior vice president and general manager, digital marketing, Adobe, says in the digital era, consumer behaviour is getting more complex and fragmented.

“Experience defines the brand today and tomorrow and why marketing must go beyond marketing,” he states.

“Gone are the days when marketers come up with a great idea, a unique proposition and broadcast it and change behaviours,” he states. “Digital is everywhere and technology is changing the definition of marketing.”

If someone is opening their hotel door with their phone, is this marketing or is it the product or is it something else?

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This change is happening across industries, whether bank, retail, university, government or media.

“The new digital reality is bringing massive transformation,” he adds.

“The experience your customer has with you, that is the brand of your organisation and the gauge of your success.”

Enterprises need to pivot, and these include members of the C-suite – CIOs, COOs and even board members must focus on this as well.

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When it comes to customer experience, he says, “marketing is no longer one department among many…It really is the epicentre of this transformation.”

Consumers today have more opportunities than ever to interact with brands.

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Just because you can show an ad at 2.30pm on my watch, is that something we should do? Is that good for the brand, for the experience we are looking to provide?

Brad Rencher, Adobe

They expect instant access to instant information with the ability to buy whatever product or service they want, whenever, wherever and however they want in a secure and privacy compliant way.

They want their experiences to be consistent and continuous, the two words that he says are the most important when describing customer expectation.

Consistent means not asking the consumer to reintroduce or provide his or her details every time they interact with the brand. Continuous means having great experience mashups that are nonlinear in device and location.

Read more: Fail fast is negative, try ‘iterate fast’

“How are we making sure there is continuous experience in bridging the digital and analogue world?”

He points to mobile as the great disruptor that is moving experience beyond the desktop to what is in their pocket, wrist, wall or the car.

“Mobile increases the velocity in which consumers interact with the brand.”

This means we have more opportunities than ever to meet consumers but also have more opportunities to disappoint them and miss the mark.

Read more: Doing business with Brendan Maree of Interactive Intelligence

“Getting invited to be on someone else’s risk is a level of intimacy that we have not dealt with as an industry,” he says.

Marketing does not end when we identify our target audience, or optimise our advertising brand, or when consumers click and make a purchase.

“It goes beyond,” he states. “Brands have to earn it every day; at each touchpoint, we either win or lose.”

“Just because you can show an ad at 2.30pm on my watch, is that something we should do? Is that good for the brand, for the experience we are looking to provide?”

These are the questions we have to answer as an industry and being consistent and continuous is becoming more and more important, he says.

The best form of marketing

Create great apps, that is the best form of marketing you can have, advises Ann Lewnes, Adobe CMO.

She points out video is the best media format on mobile and desktop. “Online video is the killer app right now.”

The community is your brand, they will tell you what they like and don’t like.

Ann Lewnes, Adobe

She says one one of the oldest principles in business is that the customer is king.

Today, the community is king and queen, she says.

“The community is your brand, they will tell you what they like and don’t like. If you don’t listen to them, shame on you. They will not stop until you listen to them.

“Transparency is key.”

Starwood Hotels: How to build a ‘creative hub’

Chris Norton, vice president, customer relationship management and channel intelligence at Starwood Hotels and Resorts, shares a strategy the group uses to fast-track work on innovation projects.

He says the hotel group has created the Starlab that “serves as a creative hub”.

Through these, they are able to innovate “very, very rapidly”, he says.

“Starlab typically allows us to cut through tape. We take good bite sized slices of interesting development and get it done quick and fast,” says Norton.

A recent project of Starlab was creating an Apple app in 10 weeks.

He says projects in innovation start to bog down when 30 to 40 people are in a project site.

So the Starlab is composed of teams of people from digital, analytics, design, IT and brands that work with different business units when working on new ideas.

“We created a very small, highly matrixed team” to work on these projects.

They also bring in some representatives of other units, like HR.

“If we will have a product that is going to be in hotels, we have to understand the HR element that it impacts,” he explains.

We embed analytics in everything we do.

Chris Norton, Starwood Hotels

“We use these teams to innovate very rapidly, we embed them from the strategy phase. We use analytics religiously to inform and guide our path.”

What has changed in the last two or three years is guests are demanding experience to be more mobilised and digitised.

For instance, the digital key – where guests enter the room through a mobile app - is now being used at 150 of their hotels and are very popular with guests. “Mobile check in experience allows you to bypass reception.”

At the same time, the hotel is thinking about how to create a “seamless travel experience”.

So it has partnerships with companies like Uber and Delta. The hotel knows they have landed, got on the Uber car, and what time they are arriving.

The hotel is also a good place to “bring internet of things to life”.

He says they are piloting in the rooms tablets that are providing targeted offers. An example would be providing golf tee time discounts to customers.

They are also checking out iBeacon technology to instantly recognise guests when they enter the premise.

“We embed analytics in everything we do,” he says. “If these initiatives don’t drive key metrics, we move on.”

“We fail fast and learn from it.”

Related: ‘Disrupt digital businesses before you get disrupted!’ - Ray Wang, Constellation Research

Divina Paredes attended the 2015 Adobe Symposium in Sydney as a guest of Adobe.

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