Adobe executives (from left) Abhay Parasnis, Shantanu Narayen, and Brad Rencher during a discussion with the press at Adobe Summit in Las Vegas on March 21.

Published: March 23rd, 2017

LAS VEGAS – Much of this year’s Adobe Summit has been dedicated to showing marketers how they can use the vast repository of consumer information at Adobe Systems Inc.’s disposal to create “hyperpersonalized” experiences – but is that really what consumers want?

During an executive session on March 21, VentureBeat contributor Stewart Rogers asked Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, executive vice president of digital marketing Brad Rencher, and CMO Ann Lewnes whether they truly believed consumers would embrace individually tailored marketing to the extent Narayen and Rencher implied when revealing the company’s new Experience Cloud platform earlier that day.

“I’ve done some research on what consumers will actually accept from a hyperpersonalization standpoint, and you’d be surprised at what they don’t want,” Rogers said. “It seems to me the technology is sometimes way ahead of what consumers will accept.”

“What do we have to do to get them to that next phase, where they will actually enjoy all of this hyperpersonalization?” he asked.

Narayen said that based on Adobe’s own efforts, consumers were already at the enjoyment stage – provided the party building a personalized experience was transparent about it.

The more control a consumer feels they have over their experience, the more likely they are to enjoy it, he said.

“Our research shows that when it’s done intuitively and naturally, then it becomes an expectation,” he said. “What we’re finding is that the tolerance for not getting that experience is actually many times more of a put-off than how people react to it [in the first place].”

Rencher said that in his opinion, consumers were open to more personalized experiences provided brands followed what he called the “four tenets” of experience businesses:

  1. Know and respect your customer. Delight them, but respect their privacy.
  2. Speak in one voice, whether through marketing, product teams, or customer service, while always keeping the location or platform in mind.
  3. Make the technological element transparent. Focus on the experience, not the technology behind it.
  4. Keep in mind that today’s delightful experiences will disappoint tomorrow, and be ready to step up your game.

“When brands ask us, ‘what is it I can do so I don’t violate the relationship of trust that I have with my consumers?’ it really does come back to those four tenets,” Rencher said, noting that like Rogers, the company understands the value of recognizing that just because you can deliver a message a certain way, doesn’t mean you should.

“A lot of times marketers and those looking to provide an experience get enamoured by, ‘look, I can send an advertisement to your watch, or to your car,’ and just because you can do it, doesn’t mean it’s the right thing for the experience,” he said. “That’s one thing that we talk to a lot of our customers about – you have to make sure that… you’re providing consumers with that value exchange.”

CMO Lewnes said that any company thinking of implementing hyperpersonalized experiences should examine the available data first.

“We test everything, and that’s what I encourage all of our customers to do,” she said. “We look at bounce rates, we look at click-throughs, we look at engagement, we look all the way through conversion… The key is to look at the data, and if the data suggests that things aren’t working… you need to stop doing it because your customers are telling you what they want.”

So did that mean Google Home owners had asked to hear an advertisement for Disney’s live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast on their devices, Rogers asked, referring to an “experiment” that went viral last week, and not in a good way?

“You should send them a note,” Lewnes responded, to laughter.

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