Adobe Summit 2021 is a wrap — but the innovation and excitement are just getting started

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It’s been a year — and that’s the understatement of the year.

For brands and Experience Makers, navigating 2020 and early 2021 meant digging deep, being agile, and adapting to every unexpected shift and heightened customer demand. Then came Adobe Summit 2021, a much-needed chance for us all to pause, reflect, and learn from the brands and innovators driving the customer experience landscape — the leaders that pivoted quickly and thrived.

How brands are thriving in a digital-only landscape

This year’s opening keynote explored where we are, where we’ve been, and what it takes to excel as we shift into a post-pandemic landscape. “We’ve gone from a world with digital, to a digital-first world,” Adobe chairman and CEO Shantanu Narayen explained in his opening remarks, “and there is no going back. Because today, every business has to be a digital business.”

Tennis champion and entrepreneur Serena Williams added that digital experiences are bigger and broader than ever — and brands need to be all in. “In China, users are shopping via text messages and AR,” she said, citing her tech-meets-fashion brand S by Serena. “That’s what we want here in the USA. Our social engagement… has been cool — it’s like a conversation with customers. We are not trying to sell — but just finding out how they’re doing, especially in the last year.”

During the global keynotes, Anil Chakravarthy, EVP and GM of Adobe’s digital experience business and worldwide field operations, announced the all-new Journey Optimizer.

Adobe Experience Cloud, with its new innovations released today, is bringing businesses closer to their customers, enabling them to deliver the best digital experiences at speed and scale,” he said. Journey Optimizer will optimize customer journeys across inbound and outbound touchpoints, with intelligent decision-making to deliver one-on-one engagements.

Wrapping the opening keynote, Narayen and Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, sat down for a candid conversation on the pharmaceutical brand’s epic work during the pandemic. “It was an impossible task,” Bourla said during his one-on-one. “You must believe it. And not only must you believe it at the top, you must take this belief all the way down to every single person, that this is working. To make the impossible possible, you need to have thousands of people believe that they can do it. And it was a glorious demonstration that people never know what they can and cannot do.”

Bringing the in-person experience online

Narayen’s “every business has to be a digital business” message carried throughout the entire two-day event. Summit 2021 delivered more sessions and training content than last year — including a Collaborative Workfront Management track highlighting technology from Adobe’s recent acquisition, Workfront — as well as new interactive experiences. During live sessions, 55,000-plus attendees participated in Live Chat discussions. Between sessions, they could explore customer success stories from sponsors and partners, connect with Adobe experts in office hours, or participate in fun break events and sessions.

This year’s extended programming included five product-focused Innovation Super Sessionsthat dug deep on relevant product innovations and customer-driven use cases. With themes spanning content creation, personalization, B2B marketing, commerce, analytics, and collaborative workfront management, executive leaders from Adobe, Coca-Cola, Verizon Media, Poly, Walgreens, and more shared their insights, success stories, and product evolutions.

Also generating massive buzz and engagement: Trends and Inspiration track sessions. These diverse sessions were packed with solutions, themes, and insights from the biggest marketing trends of the year and from brands excelling in today’s digital-led marketplace. Luminaries including Malcolm Gladwell, Charlene Li, Rachel Botsman, and Ray Wang hit the virtual stage during key sessions, offering their unparalleled expertise and forward-looking perspectives.

Summit 2021 attendees also had chances to network with each other using the Braindate app, engage with Adobe experts, and win amazing prizes from sponsors.

As at live events, Take 5 gave Summit attendees an opportunity to relax and enjoy the fun — with special giveaways, exclusive offers, and, yes, even the puppies via our live puppy cam sponsored by WPP. Summit itself kicked off with attendees hopping on for a dedicated Peloton ride or walk to jumpstart the sessions.

Between sessions and before and after keynotes and wrap-ups, Summit attendees also dove into the plinko-style interactive game, Learn, Earn, and Win with Adobe Experience League. By answering a few questions about Experience League, attendees earned chances to win prizes, including Adobe swag, work-from-home essentials, and more.

Taking Summit global

This year’s Adobe Summit also replaced a number of regional summits and symposiums in Europe and Asia Pacific. Regional leaders took the stage to address key challenges and opportunities impacting their customers and partners. In EMEA, Paul Robson, president of Adobe’s international business, echoed those sentiments. “It’s the customer experience that has become the competitive differentiator in this new era of digital experiences,” Paul said. “Customer expectations have never been higher and digital interactions have to match those expectations…From the initial brand engagement, all the way through to that final purchase.”

Likewise Simon Tate, president of Adobe Asia Pacific, explored the importance of Adobe’s unique digital experience and how it sets the business apart. He explained that, during the pandemic, companies in Asia have expanded their customer experience management efforts.

Sneaks previews the future of customer experience

An annual favorite, Adobe Summit was also a chance to present the latest from the Adobe labs. This year, Emmy winner Dan Levy hosted Sneaks, walking through seven finalists:

What comes next? Everything.

While Adobe Summit 2021 is in the books, the activities and key learnings continue. Learn more about the cutting-edge innovation by tuning into on-demand sessions, including all Innovation Super Sessions, Sneaks, and keynotes. Then, go to the Community to revisit networking opportunities, explore customer success stories, and discover some great work-from-home tips in Take 5. You can also learn more about your Experience Maker type and get tailored on-demand session recommendations in our interactive Adobe Experience Maker Type quiz.

Adobe Summit was a record-setting event, welcoming 50,000-plus companies and driving more than 20 million video views to date — and the excitement and innovation is just starting. Check out the Summit site to catch up, browse sessions, and revisit some of your favorite moments.

See you next year.

Browse Adobe Summit on-demand keynotes, sessions, and training workshops now.