“I Don’t See Designers Being Replaced by AI”: Adobe’s Alex Amado

“I Don’t See Designers Being Replaced by AI”: Adobe’s Alex Amado
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While B&T was attending Adobe’s MAKE IT conference in Sydney yesterday, we jumped at the chance to interview the company’s vice president of experience marketing, Alex Amado (pictured above), who gave us some solid insights into CX strategy and where brands and marketers are going wrong in this space.

Adobe’s latest research findings show that local businesses understand the importance of putting customer experience at the heart of their strategy, but they’re lagging behind in creating CX programs. Why is that?

I think there’s probably a lot of different reasons, but my belief is that you always identify the problem ahead of dealing with it. I also think it really requires a change in the entire way that you think about experiences, which for businesses involves a change across all of their departments and functions. I think driving that kind of change is really challenging – it’s easy to say that we know we should be re-examining end-to-end experiences, but it is legitimately a lot of work and a lot of effort and intention to actually put that into practice. I do think that many more companies will get there though.

What’s the biggest mistake that brands and marketers are making when it comes to customer experience?

The biggest mistake I see companies make is trying to optimise an experience too narrowly for a single outcome. One of the things that has become a really standard practice for any company that sells online is a lot of optimisation of that commerce process, and I think a lot of companies focus on optimising for short-term business outcomes rather than optimising for customer success and satisfaction. The latter is harder to pull off, because commerce data is much easier to measure than customer loyalty and satisfaction, but in many ways customer loyalty is even more important because it’s way more valuable to retain an existing customer than it is to have to go and get a new one. So, I think that’s a mistake a lot of companies make – optimising too narrowly just for customer acquisition instead of the whole customer life cycle.

Alex Amado speaking at Adobe's MAKE IT event

Alex Amado speaking at Adobe’s MAKE IT event yesterday in Sydney.

What’s the secret to experience marketing? How can brands build a winning experience marketing strategy? What should they be investing in?

I don’t think there’s one magic solution that works for everybody, but I do think that one of the key elements for delivering a better customer experience is really listening to your customers. It seems so simple and sometimes quite analog, but listening to your customers and understanding their pain points has to be the start of reinvenitng any process or experience. Sometimes it can be as simple as getting some of them together and asking a question, and sometimes it’s more complex and intricate when you’re trying to do it through the streams of data you’re getting through customer engagement, but at the end of the day it’s all about listening to your customers and understanding how you’re not satisfying them and how you can satisfy them better.

For every company that’s investing in and constantly embracing this, it’s a journey, not a destination. I know for us at Adobe, we have invested a lot and spend a lot of time thinking about trying to do this stuff, and we work with a lot of customers to help them reinvent these processes and rethink their entire flows, and I think the thing all of them have in common is that it is never a “great, we’ve achieved it” mentality. Any time we work with a company or any company I observe makes a big leap forward, it unlocks a next set of opportunities to fix problems that are one click further or really the next biggest pain point for those customers.

How will experience marketing evolve over the next 10 years?

The crazy thing about the marketing business is that it’s changed more in the last five years than it did in the 50 previous years. The rate of change with the explosion of devices and social channels makes it such a rocket ride, and predicting the future a really hard thing to do.

That said, I think we’re going to be more reliant on machine learning to help us pass through data. Right now we’re at this particular moment in time where we string a lot of sources of data together and do a lot of manual processing of it, and I really think there is an evolution right around the corner that is going to enable us to draw a lot more conclusions from that data a lot more easily through machine learning and artificial intelligence. In turn, that will help free up marketers to think more broadly about experiences rather than how to measure it and optimise it narrowly.

Customer expectations are going to become more extreme. Every time someone manages to have a breakthrough in a particular industry or level of service, that quickly becomes the expectation for that entire vertical. Customers are becoming more and more demanding, and as someone who helps deliver better customer experiences, it feels like we’re scrambling to keep up, but I also think it keeps us focused on the right thing, which is the customer and their satisfaction or success.

I think the other thing that’s going to be true, whether it’s two years from now, 20 years from now or 200 years from now, is that design is always going to play a very pivotal role in delivery of experiences. I don’t see design and designers being replaced by artificial intelligence or machine learning. I think there’s still a level of insight, intuition and empathy that designers bring to problem-solving that hopefully machines can help free them up to do more of.

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