Reimagining business and customer experiences

Adobe vice-president and managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Suzanne Steele, discusses the implications of the pandemic on business and customer experiences and how marketing needs to evolve

Suzanne Steele
Suzanne Steele

Inspiring tales of brands adapting to digital acceleration and reimagining CX are the positives to come out of tough COVID conditions, says Adobe’s vice-president and managing director for Australia and New Zealand, Suzanne Steele. Here, she shares her insights and how brands and leaders continue to build CX for a post-Covid future.

The acceleration of digital capability and adoption is a striking outcome of the global pandemic. How have you seen this impact Adobe, as well as your customers?

Suzanne Steele: COVID-19 has dramatically accelerated everything. Small and mid-sized businesses had to quickly set up digital storefronts. Enterprises had to take generational leaps, not steps, toward digital. And it doesn't matter if you’re B2B or B2C or B2-everything in-between, digital transformation became a make-or-break move. It’s no longer ‘on the roadmap’, it’s now or never.

This dramatic shift represents a significant opportunity for Adobe, with our mission to change the world through digital experiences never being more relevant. We continue to see tremendous momentum across our creative, digital documents and customer experience management (CXM) businesses, as people reimagine how to connect, work, learn, be entertained and create new customer value in a digital-first world.

In retail and tourism industries, among the hardest hit by COVID-19, customers like Woolworths, Coles, Petbarn and 7-Eleven rapidly accelerated digital strategies to implement contactless and click-and-collect capabilities to create safe in-store experiences. Tourism Australia was able to overhaul its website and digital marketing activities to launch its first significant domestic marketing campaign to provide much needed support to tourism businesses across Australia.

Across all industries, we have worked incredibly close with our customers during these disruptions and continue to be inspired by countless examples of resiliency, agility and ingenuity to adapt to an ever-changing environment.  

How has this impacted how Adobe thinks about business growth short and long-term?

Steele: Adobe has always been focused on looking around the corner, driving towards the next big market opportunity to solve customer challenges and anticipate their needs. We are a leader in three significant growth categories – creativity, digital documents and CXM – all which sit at the nexus of today’s rapidly accelerated digital revolution.

For Adobe Creative Cloud, we are furthering our strategy of ‘unleashing creativity’ for all. Over the last year, we have seen the critical role creativity has played in the world, from students to social media creators to creative professionals in enterprises. We are expanding our leadership in exciting new media types, including screen design and prototyping, 3D and AR, and driving new innovations across applications like Spark to advance our vision to democratise creativity.

In this digital-first business environment, seamless document workflows across every device and platform are mission-critical in powering the modern workforce. With Adobe Document Cloud, we are ‘accelerating document productivity’ by powering the paper-to-digital transformation and enabling all document actions to be frictionless across Web, desktop and mobile applications.

The digital-first economy also runs on customer connections. Customers now expect engaging, personalised digital experiences delivered to them in real-time, in a way that respects their privacy and delivers value. With Adobe Experience Cloud, we are furthering our strategy of ‘powering digital businesses’ of all sizes by giving them the most comprehensive set of applications for CXM integrated onto a common, cloud-scale platform to enable exceptional experiences at scale.  

Even before the pandemic, we were seeing a reimagining of customer experiences. What is it going to take for organisations to keep reinventing CX into the future?

Steele: Now more than ever, delivering amazing customer experiences requires the right content at the right place and the right rime. To make this a reality, marketers must seamlessly connect each step of the experience they deliver across every interaction in the customer journey. Real-time personalisation, leveraging AI and machine learning, is critical.

Marketers must do this while navigating a new world where third-party cookies are quickly becoming a thing of the past and, yet, where insights derived from first-party data have never been more important. And with the understanding that while customer expectations for personalised experiences continue to rise, consumers are more privacy-aware and attentive to the data they share. Privacy regulations continue to shift as a result.

The future of business and reinventing customer experience is anchored in consumer trust. Brands must adapt quickly to changing consumer expectations, double down on innovation, and be authentic and transparent in order to build two-way engagement and trust with customers.

The Adobe 2021 Digital Trends Report revealed increased demand for marketing to contribute to overall business strategy. What role do you see CMOs playing at the executive table during this time of rapid change?

Steele: According to the AICD, low digital literacy in Australia boardrooms could hamper organisations’ digital transformation efforts. Marketing leaders are well-placed to educate and inform the board and executive on the data strategy, stewardship and governance measures needed to underpin any successful digital transformation and help to mitigate any risks.

Businesses today must act in real-time, from data to applications to employees, in an ever-more distributed working model. To do this, executives must understand digital trends, know their customer’s journey inside and out and have an ability to coordinate and empower teams.

What’s more, brands must also have the right technology to not only adapt to changes in our landscape, like the elimination of third-party cookies, but technologies that enable you to deliver personalised customer experiences in the moment, at scale. That is what modern-day customer experience management means, and it’s the great opportunity in front of us all right now.

What other cross-functional alliances do you believe CMOs need to forge in order to champion better customer experiences in their organisations?

Steele: Marketing agility is critical as marketers are increasingly on the front lines of customer experience delivery. Whether that be reskilling the team, breaking down silos, rethinking how to bring intelligence to all employees or structuring your martech stack to enable flexibility. To achieve this agility, it’s imperative that marketing and IT functions deliver on customer experience together.

Adobe believes it is the responsibility of the CMO and CIO to partner on this, as CMOs becomes more data-driven and CIOs become more customer-centric. Both leaders must maintain a clear roadmap for martech capabilities, a data strategy to fuel real-time personalisation at scale, and deliver an employee experience that shifts the organisational dial on customer experience.

With all of us working longer hours and feeling more pressure to be always-on, can you share what steps you’re taking to ensure your teams remain resilient?

Steele: Many of us have felt the impact of the pandemic on our work-life balance. New research by Adobe has found more than half (52%) of Australian enterprise workers and 65 per cent of SMB leaders are feeling the pressure to be ‘always on.’ In addition, 75 per cent of workers cited poor work-life balance as key reason to switch jobs, with longer working hours leading to employee burnout.  

Leaders can build resilient teams by building a culture of communication through regular check-ins, creating more flexible policies and practices that are inclusive and digital-first. And of course, modelling healthy behaviours to encourage better work-life balance. During our ‘Adobe Global Days Off’, where employees are encouraged to switch off and use the day to recharge, I ensure I lead by example and actually turn off to encourage my team to prioritise self-care and set boundaries.     

Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. We help our customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide—from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on our established design leadership, we enable customers not only to make great content, but to manage, measure and monetise it for maximum impact. For more information, visit




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