The Adobe Experience Forum 2018 addressed how AI can help businesses turn the problem of too much data into an opportunity to personalise their marketing, while also capitalising on GDPR rather than suffering from it. Felix Todd was in the audience

adobe experience forum

Panelists at the Adobe Experience Forum - Jonn Collins, analyst at Gigaom (left), Bernard Marr, strategic advisor and author (centre) and David Burnand, director of enterprise marketing for EMEA at Adobe (Credit: Adobe)

At a time when brands are “drowning in data”, artificial intelligence could be the answer to their problems by helping them deliver more relevant, personalised customer experiences – such was the focus of Adobe Experience Forum 2018.

US software giant Adobe’s event in London analysed how companies could use AI to make the most of the data they have concerning their increasingly online-native consumers, while also staying on the right side of the GDPR data regulation.

It conducted a poll of 600 senior business decision-makers across Europe, which found:

  • Although 89% of businesses see personalisation as important for success, only 31% are currently delivering the level of personalisation they deem necessary
  • Nearly half (49%) of respondents said the EU’s new data protection regulation had further slowed down their AI implementation
  • There’s a growing focus on hiring and training as businesses gear up for AI, with 70% of brands training existing staff, and 69% hiring new skilled staff
  • And 88% of businesses expect to be using AI for increased personalisation by 2020

Various experts on the topic were in attendance, including Adobe’s director of enterprise marketing for EMEA, David Burnand, author and strategic advisor Bernard Marr and Wired’s product editor Jeremy White.

Here’s what Compelo learned at the Adobe Experience Forum 2018.


Adobe Experience Forum 2018: Brands are drowning in data

Adobe’s research also revealed businesses feel they are being inundated with too much information, as 60% said they collect data from too many sources, while 56% said they cannot process it quickly enough and 50% reported not being able to use it properly.

Mr Marr, speaking on the event’s main panel, was quick to point out that 90% of all the data in the world today was created over the past 18 months, highlighting the exponentially quickening pace of this trend.

According to Mr Burnand, AI can help brands make the most of this data by providing a way to personalise the customer experience, making it more relevant and meaningful for the customer – but it isn’t being used enough yet.

“Every business in the world needs to break out of the mindset that we should only really use AI to do things slightly better, or slightly faster, or more efficiently,” he explained. “It has the potential to be much more impactful.

adobe executive
Director of enterprise marketing EMEA at Adobe David Burnand

“Incumbent brands shouldn’t copy disruptors’ strategies, they need to channel a disruptive mindset and think of themselves as challengers.

“Fail faster – that’s key. When testing, rolling out and implementing AI, the brands that fail fast will succeed earlier.”

Mr White agreed, though he pointed out the fact businesses sometimes assume the entire planet is online, which is not yet the case.

He said: “We like to think we’re living an internet age but the truth is less than half of the world is actually online – only 3.2 billion out of 7.3 billion – so it’s still growing at the moment.

“The worst mindset brands can have when it comes to AI is to pretend that it isn’t happening. It is, and those willing to embrace it are at a tremendous advantage.

“Thanks to AI and personalisation, even mundane products are being disrupted – this year, we might just see the world’s first mattress unicorn.”


Adobe Experience Forum 2018: Implications of GDPR

GDPR – or General Data Protection Regulation – is the EU’s data protection legislation that protects consumers’ information by giving them the opportunity to let companies know if they would like to them to keep their personal data.

Since coming into force in May this year, it has had huge implications for an industry such as marketing, where understanding your customers wants and desires is key.

Mr Burnand said: “GDPR is like that best friend who actually tells you what you want to hear – not like those Facebook friends who think everything is great, but the one who tells you the hard stuff you need to know.

“It’s been a really good things in so far as it has forced a lot of brands to take a good long look at themselves and evaluate whether they are managing data in the best way – for themselves and for their customers.

“There’s also a bigger public interest in this area now in terms of people knowing that companies have all this data about them, so it’s key to reform the relationship.”

In effect, GDPR gives people more control over their data and establishes a new interaction between them and the companies they buy from – one that’s more transparent.

Mr Marr argued this is an opportunity for businesses to jump on, but the legislation could prove a problem if they handle it the wrong way.

“I believe GDPR is a good thing – it’s definitely a step in the right direction because people should have their data be under their own control at the end of the day,” he explained.

Lots of companies are using data in a very secretive way, and in the wrong way – they end up getting an outcome that the customer doesn’t really want.

“So more transparency is a good thing, as I see it – it will help companies develop more trusting relationships with their customers.

“The only problem is that it could well slow the adoption of AI in some companies, which really shouldn’t be happening – they need to be ramping up their use of it now more than ever.”


Adobe Experience Forum 2018: Marketing has a skills gap

Marketing agencies have long come to the aid of big businesses, arming them with creativity and an external perspective.

However, at a time when data has the power to personalise marketing like never before, having in-house staff with the capability to make the most it is key.

Mr Marr said: “Brands should think carefully before outsourcing AI and data science – having this skill-set in-house will be a key differentiator.

solve the digital skills gap

“Most creative marketers are not also data scientists, which makes things really hard when it comes to bringing more people with experience in that area into the industry – something that really needs to happen more.”

“Things like having a data translator, for example, is really vital. Many companies do what we might call ‘coffee with a data translator’, where they will meet up with one and discuss their challenges and how data could potentially solve them.

“This is a step in the right direction, but it doesn’t really help the situation when it comes to integrating data science as a core pillar of marketing.

“A lot of the time, marketers will outsource the tech-heavy part of a job, but we really shouldn’t be doing that anymore because data science will become massively important in the future.”