The Future of Customer Experience in the Era of AI – The Six Five On the Road

By Patrick Moorhead - April 4, 2024

On this episode of The Six Five – On the Road, hosts Patrick Moorhead and Daniel Newman are joined by Adobe’s Eric Hall, CMO Digital Experience Business for a conversation on the revolutionary shifts in customer experience driven by artificial intelligence. Eric shares valuable insights from the Adobe Summit, discussing the challenges marketers face in this new era of GenAI and how Adobe is uniquely positioned to assist enterprises in achieving personalization at scale.

Our discussion covers:

  • Key themes and challenges for marketers highlighted at the Adobe Summit, focusing on the era of GenAI.
  • Adobe’s strategic approach to empowering Enterprise CMOs and CIOs with tools for achieving personalization at scale.
  • Exciting new products and offerings announced at the summit that are set to transform customer experience management.
  • The significance of Adobe’s role as customer zero in its marketing strategy.
  • The crucial role of partnerships in enhancing Adobe’s Customer Experience Management solutions.

Learn more at Adobe.

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Patrick Moorhead: The Six Five is on the road here in Las Vegas at Adobe Summit 2024. Dan, this has been a great event so far. I came in wanting to hear what does Adobe bring to the table B2B, all the way from creatives to marketers and everything in between, and it’s been pretty awesome.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, well, we knew we’d hear a little bit about the AI story. That’s going to continue to percolate throughout the industry. We’re hearing what the companies are doing from taking the concepts, proof of concepts, bringing them to market. We heard a lot from the executive team throughout the morning, throughout the big keynotes, and of course the investor event that we went to about sort of how this is going to proliferate, the expansion of the TAM, the opportunity. It’s a really exciting time, Pat, and we are in this really important inflection right now when it comes to businesses trying to reach their customers. And of course, how do they apply GenAI to that story?

Patrick Moorhead: That’s right. We’re moving from this, gee whiz, isn’t that cool to, Hey, what kind of productivity, what type of engagement improvements, what kind of differences can it make to the bottom line? And who better to talk about this? Eric CMO at Adobe. Thanks for coming on the show. First time on The Six Five.

Eric Hall: Yeah, pleasure to be with you guys. Thanks for having me.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, Eric, it’s really good to have you here. As a CMO, it’s kind of interesting. I know you guys talk a lot about being customer zero, and we’ll hit on that a little bit later. But what I would sort of love to hear from you is just some of the themes that you’re focusing in on here as Adobe at Summit here, and of course, what are some of the big challenges you and your fellow CMOs are hoping to address this week on the ground?

Eric Hall: Yeah, absolutely. So first of all, obviously everyone wants to hear about what is the future of digital marketing, the future of customer experience management in the era of AI and people have a lot of questions. Right? Is this simply going to continue to be a toy? Is it actually going to become a major productivity game changer? What do I need to be afraid of? Right? So there’s a lot of questions people have around that, but at the same time, marketers have a ton of challenges just in their day-to-day life because everything’s shifting. Social channels are shifting, people are moving off of cable, more and more going to different streaming platforms.

And all this means that it is harder for the marketers to find who they want to communicate with, their customers and prospects. And they’re in so many different channels. And so the amount of content you need is more than ever. You need to refresh that content for all the different channels that you’re trying to be in. And you’ve got to be really good on everything that looks like data so that you can find the customers you’re trying to communicate with, and then actually tailor messages to them. So those are just a few of the things that people I think are coming to Adobe Summit to hear about and the type of questions we’re trying to address.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, marketing has changed so much. I mean, it seems to take this stratospheric leap. I look at what I was doing as head of marketing for a company a long time ago and look what, it is literally, it doesn’t even look anything. It’s so digital. There’s so much data involved. And it seems like though, regardless of the method we want to get, I like to call it mass customization. I think you call it personalize at scale. And I’m curious, how are you positioned, what are you doing to help CMOs and CIOs with that personalization at scale?

Eric Hall: So let me hit a couple different things. First of all, big announcement today that I think people were super excited about, was the introduction of a new application, an AI first application called GenStudio. So GenStudio is taking the entire marketing workflow from planning to creation to what you do with those assets, to how you send them out to different delivery channels, and then how you measure performance. It’s putting them all in one workflow, allowing a marketer to do something that they’ve never been able to do, which is work in one tool that allows them to execute on hugely different parts of their job. And so I think that was the single biggest thing folks were excited about.

But they also saw what we’re doing with data and they saw our investments in the Experience Platform, a AI assistant for Experience Platform that is going to do a number of things. First of all, huge leaps in productivity. Secondly, it’s going to allow folks that aren’t nearly as deep of experts to be able to operate what is actually a pretty sophisticated platform. So this thing becomes your data guru, your customer journey manager, your data engineer. Right? It becomes a really helpful assistant. And beyond that, we’re also doing things to connect enterprise data more effectively. So we made a couple of announcements today that are about allowing companies to connect their data from various enterprise data warehouses. They don’t have to copy it into Experience Platform, which has been a big pain point because that is hard and expensive.

And so with this federated data feature that we show today, they’re going to be able to do that much easier. And then the other one is this notion of data collaboration between the brand and the publisher. And so that notion of, “Hey, I think I know the audience I want to speak to, and now I can reach out and directly connect with the publisher who has their own data from a streaming service and they can match that up.” And so now we’re getting past the third party cookie problem with data issues like that. And we’re getting into where first party data shared with privacy restrictions and governance in mind can allow marketers to do a lot of pretty powerful things.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, it’s interesting. Oohs and ahs aren’t a metric that I think is in the analyst community, but I have tell you, I saw different people probably coming from different walks of life, customers putting up their cameras. Right? And whether it was, hey, I’m ingesting the corporate standard and now I’m going to have all these different versions of creative, and then hey, I want to change a color. And then moving from that to which creative is going to work based on previous analytics for the best social channel and being able to change that. And then I saw different people when it came to data going up there. Obviously the data analysts who are part of the marketing group, but yeah, not a scientific way to gauge interest. But when the cameras come up, you know that there’s something new that they’ve never seen before, maybe they want to bring back to their own workplaces or maybe like Dan and I, put it on social media.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, the content supply chain I think has a lot of merit. And I think what a lot of people, you guys of course segment your business across multiple clouds. I think a lot of customers tend to think about these things more horizontally. They need to create it and then they need to make it part of the experience and then they need to measure it, and then they need to continue to modify the programs and then accelerate what’s working, invest in AI to support these initiatives that they have. Now, you kind of gave us a nice overview of one of the announcements you’re really excited about.

I’m going to give you a two-part question because A, there was a few announcements. Anything else that came out that kind of you’re excited about within Experience or across the Adobe platform, but also how fast are you seeing these new products, new services really being deployed into these businesses? You being a CMO, I’m just kind of curious what you’re hearing throughout the halls of the event and through the meetings that you’re having with customers.

Eric Hall: Yeah. Well, so first part of your question, a couple other things I’m excited about. So David shared what’s happening with Firefly, Firefly services, the advancements there, the ability. If you saw it today, the ability to hold style and then generate images based on that style is really, that’s powerful. And then the alternative, the ability to hold structure and then generate variations based on that structure, incredibly powerful. And you can put the two together obviously. So then you take that and you put it into APIs and you start to put Firefly directly into production workflow. Now we’re getting to some real at scale. Right? So that’s where we get pretty excited. We have traditionally had these different clouds, but we are bringing them together at a pace that’s more rapid than it’s ever been before.

And we just see this convergence, right, where a lot of marketing departments are frankly defined based on very narrow expertise. And sometimes that expertise is based on technology. Right? This is the group that knows how to operate the web technology. This is the group that knows how to operate the email technology or the customer segmentation technology. And you see a lot of folks out there today, they’ve been experimenting for the last many years with this notion of agile marketing, trying to bring those teams together so that they can kind of do things cross functionally. Well, what the technology’s starting to do is it’s going to allow individual marketers to say, “Oh, I can do segmentation. I can make some variations with the creative. I can start to activate through these channels.”

Because the technology’s allowing folks to play. Everyone’s creative. Everyone can think about data and customers, but you’re just limited a little bit by how much can you be an expert in 10 different types of technology. Well, now the technology’s starting to make it so that it’s no longer a barrier. So that’s pretty exciting because that also changes how marketing teams can think about what do we want to do with our org and our teams, and how do we allow ourselves to be more successful? So it’s kind of like a democratization. That word gets overused sometimes, but it is like that notion of a lot of different people can go and use these tools. So the bringing the clouds together is exciting. You also asked about deployment. And so this is enterprise technology. Some of it takes 90 days to put in place. Some of it’s really fast. Right? So we’ve built GenStudio to be a product that’s going to deploy very quickly, and we think folks are going to be able to use that in sort of days, not weeks.

Right? So that’s going to be a very fast deployment product. Some of the data technologies take a little bit more to implement, right, because you’re connecting with your IT departments and data engineering and these things, and there’s a bit more planning involved with things like that. So it depends a lot on the company’s readiness, more so than the technology itself, frankly, because some companies are super ready. Right? They’ve got their data together, they’ve got their teams together, they know what they’re trying to accomplish, and they can go and move fast on the tech. And so then they’re up and running in eight weeks on some things, and someone else might need several months because they’re doing some of their own homework as well. So it depends a lot on how ready the customer is as well as the tech.

Daniel Newman: There’s a lot of board level edicts these days. Do AI.

Eric Hall: Right.

Daniel Newman: Your company, you guys need to do some AI.

Eric Hall: Do what with it?

Daniel Newman: Yeah. And it’s like, what is that? But we are seeing a big increase, our data showing a big increase in companies making multi-million dollar investments in proof of concept this year, basically expecting to take proof of concepts and go to production. So that is a big thing, but maybe you’re doing some of it at Adobe. I don’t know, Pat. What do you like?

Patrick Moorhead: Well, what I like is you’re letting people experience your product at multiple levels. Let’s say if you come in the door, you want to use the full studio, great. But if you want to experience some of the goodness through a Photoshop or something like that where they’re seeing the benefit, they become explorers and they want to learn more,-

Eric Hall: Yes.

Patrick Moorhead: About the studio. I think that’s really important because some people are, “I’m sticking to my gun, I’m just doing this.” The other thing, as you were talking through the horizontal nature of what you can do, where you can have somebody who might have just done creative and not know marketing and doesn’t do any data, it brings them in there, it reminds me of this discussion of 10 person billion dollar companies. Right? And it strikes me as your new tool set could be the backbone for one of these 10. Maybe one person is the marketing person out of 10, maybe some engineers and some accountants. But it seems like it’s going from, that’s ludicrous to this is a very big potential. This is pretty exciting.

Eric Hall: It is exciting. And I think we’re going to see that marketers are going to get very powerful as a result because they’re going to be able to do more.

Patrick Moorhead: They’re showing up with the data. Right? It’s one thing to show up with this amazing creative or this amazing marketing plan, but to show how it’s changing business through outcomes and actually selling stuff or making a stickier experience for a future sale gets marketeers more respect at the table.

Eric Hall: Yes. Well, and they’re going to be able to try more things. Today, if you think of what it takes to produce one marketing campaign, there’s so much work involved.

Patrick Moorhead: Right.

Eric Hall: So I’ve got an idea. I know what I want to do. I know how I want to communicate this and what kind of customers I want to speak to. Now I’ve got to go do incredible amount of work to get that idea out there. When you start making the marketers more productive, they can say, oh, I don’t need to be limited to one idea.

Patrick Moorhead: Right.

Eric Hall: Right? I can go and have 10 ideas or 20 ideas, and no longer am I limited by resources, time, expertise. When you start to take all of those barriers down and not limited in that way anymore, you can do a lot of things. You can have a lot more campaigns out there and you can spend a lot more of your time being creative and thinking, how do I want to connect with my customers? What are ways that I can show customer empathy? I think marketers are going to get out of a world where they’ve got a lot of grunt work to do and into a world where they’re doing a lot more sophisticated thinking.

Patrick Moorhead: So I’ve heard the company talked about your customer, zero.

Eric Hall: Yes.

Patrick Moorhead: When I heard it, I think of, hey, I’m drinking my own champagne. Is there something, is that a bigger idea? Are there nuances to that? Why is that important as a marketing company,-

Eric Hall: Yeah so,-

Patrick Moorhead: That you do this?

Eric Hall: Well, so if you think about the part of the business that is the creative side of the business with Photoshop and Lightroom and all of those tools, those are used by everyone from students to the most sophisticated creatives in industry. Right? And so we have many, many, like literally millions of customers who are coming in and they’re buying just a $20 a month package. Right? So we have an entire marketing business that is going after those customers and trying to get them to try Adobe and trying to get them to be successful with those tools and teach them how to use Photoshop and move on to Lightroom and all those things. Right? So we have to be great at marketing for this very big creative business to be successful. Right? And it’s been an incredibly successful business over the last many, many years.

So we have to be great at marketing. And then we have the digital marketing business that sells to other businesses. Well, one of the most high performing marketing businesses on the planet is Adobe and So those are our customers. Right? What are their needs? What are their pain points? What do they like about our technology? What would they like us to change about it? What are our data requirements inside of Adobe when we have millions and millions of global customers? How do we run websites that are literally in dozens and dozens of countries and languages all around the world? We have to make technology that we can use because we’ve got to be successful in what we’re doing. So the first part of customer zero is, hey, you can actually have very close interaction with the people who are your target audience.

Patrick Moorhead: Right.

Eric Hall: Right? And if we can’t make them happy, then it’s going to be really hard to make the rest of the customer base happy. And we’re trying to run a really successful business on that side of the equation too. So we want to continue to give them more and more capabilities. Let me give you one simple example. Last year we released a new version of Experience Manager Sites and people have known Experience Manager for a really long time. We bought a company called Day Software over 10 years ago, roughly 10 years ago. And the same engineers that built Day Software are still with us. They’re still some of our best folks. And they said, “You know what? It’s time to do something different.” And so they built an absolutely brand new from the ground up version of Experience Manager Sites, and that has document-based authoring, and it has this different architecture called Edge Delivery that just really speeds page load time and publication, a lot of things. So our web team changed over to this new version of Experience Manager Sites over the last sort of year, year and a half. Right?

They’ve moved the entirety of over to that. When we launch an event like Summit, we update a lot of web pages, as you can imagine, and not just in the US. Right? We want to update thousands of pages globally. So this morning our web team updated almost 6,000 web pages and the entire time from pressing that button, so to speak, to done three and a half minutes, three and a half minutes to push 6,000 pages fully into production. That’s really powerful. And those are all web pages that are based on document-based authoring in the background. So it’s incredibly easy to just edit the text in a Word document, right? Incredibly powerful stuff. And just the speed and simplicity of that. So, by Adobe Experience Manager becoming a better product, we’re making more effective, which is making Adobe more effective. And therefore we’re like, if it can work for us, then it’s going to work for a lot of other investors.

Patrick Moorhead: Yeah, I’m sure. So you’re part of the product development process too where,-

Eric Hall: Absolutely.

Patrick Moorhead: You have feedback that comes in to product management, to engineering. Things happen. That’s cool.

Daniel Newman: Yeah, I mean if you think about the whole customer zero, this is the adage of drink your own champagne. I mean, if it isn’t working to take what in the last five years, I think the company went from 10 to 20 billion. Right? I think that was the numbers we heard today in the investor meeting. But the whole concept of that is you made a pivot to ARR subscription. But all those things, the information, the education, the subscription, the way people consume and buy were created in your own tools and then delivered. And I think in the era that we’re in, that’s really, really powerful.

But another thing that I think Eric is really powerful is the ability to have partners. You cannot deploy this stuff at scale, especially these large B2B deployments without large integrators, software partners, whether that’s and stack. Nobody’s got one software running their whole organ, especially in marketing. I mean, it’s always been a super convoluted stack. And as Adobe’s gotten bigger, it can do more and more. But in the end, you talk about partners, you talk about Microsoft, you talk about Deloitte. We spent some time here, Pat and I with IBM. I mean,-

Eric Hall: Yeah.

Daniel Newman: Talk a little bit about the thought and the strategy around partnerships at Adobe and Experience Cloud and how you are addressing the partnerships to help grow the business and meet your goals.

Eric Hall: Yeah. So partners are critical. Not only does technology require some implementation and you need folks with broad technical skills, but you’re talking about changes in the business and the companies that we’re working with. And those are changes in process. Those are changes in different aspects of sort of the broader IT infrastructure that you’re connecting into. You’re talking about a lot of change management with people. Right? And so our partners have deep expertise and usually know these customers often really well. So they understand all the nuances that are in place already. And so that puts them in a great position to say, this is how we’re going to take the Adobe technology and we’re going to really connect it to the existing data and process and the modifications that need to be made.

We work with, and you mentioned some of them, IBM, Accenture, Deloitte, so many of these great partners as well as the agencies, Omnicom, Publicis, right? We work with all these really big global partners, but we also work with a lot of smaller partners who are fantastic both in the US but especially in Europe and in Asia where the smaller partners are often the experts in their country. So we are trying to cultivate our partners, make them successful, help them find ways to really be experts on the Adobe technology as fast as possible because they’re some of our best evangelists. And if they can see the vision on the Adobe technology, then they’re going to be able to help their customers be successful with it.

Daniel Newman: Eric, the way your partners are the evangelists of your products, a little bit like how a lot of the creatives have become on the other side of your business, so they become the champions and they really do create that sort of inertia that has been such a big part of the success of Adobe. I want to thank you so much for joining us here on The Six Five. Eric, it’s been great chatting to you.

Eric Hall: Yeah, it’s a pleasure to be with you guys. Thanks for having me.

Daniel Newman: All right, everyone hit that subscribe button. Join Patrick and I for all of our episodes of The Six Five. We’re here on the road at Adobe Summit 2024 in Las Vegas. Thanks you all for tuning in, but we got to say goodbye for now. We’ll see you all later.

Patrick Moorhead

Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.