To drive profitable growth, European brands must listen to consumers and bridge the trust gap

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There are few certainties in today’s fast-changing world, but one thing is for sure. Consumers in Europe and in advanced democracies around the world expect more from brands. People have become more tribal, more polarised, and more sceptical of each other’s motives, and with that they have also become more conscious and engaged in choosing who they interact with each day.

These trends were turbocharged by a global pandemic, especially the role technology played in keeping us connected during that challenging time. Technology became a lifeline for billions of people in a socially distanced reality. It also underlined the social and economic benefits of digital platforms, both to combat disinformation and to help businesses meet the demands of an ecommerce boom.

As businesses, our licence to operate has become more fragile than ever. Consumers expect more, while governments the world-over are under pressure to protect their citizens economically and ethically. Important policy questions have risen around themes like privacy and content authenticity, digital inclusion, the remote economy, and of course, artificial intelligence (AI).

In this time of rapid change, digital technology plays a vital role in enabling business and governments to meet the needs of our citizens and economies, and to pave the way for a more connected future. For brands to adapt and drive profitable growth, they must build and cement customer loyalty through deeper levels of personalisation, while leveraging real-time data to drive critical business decisions.

Today’s new consumer truths

Profitable growth will be driven by customer experiences. By understanding people, not just the trail of data they leave behind, and delivering what they need in the moment.

Those needs are being defined by a new, younger generation of consumers, which is why to adapt to a new reality, brands must listen and learn from what I call today’s new consumer truths. After all, a new reality requires new rules of engagement.

The loyalty paradigm has blown up

Customers are not only more demanding, they are also more volatile. If the experience you offer them is irrelevant, slightly deceptive, or worse, intrudes on their privacy, they will switch to another brand with no hesitation. According to a recent study we commissioned, 32% of customers around the world would stop doing business with a brand they loved after just one bad experience.

Customers’ tastes and aspirations change. Constantly.

Past data tells us who our customers were yesterday, but people expect brands to listen and know how they are in the moment, in real time. And to show empathy along the way with thoughtful gestures and offers suited to their mood. They also expect consistency across every touchpoint, whether they are shopping online or in store.

People value individuality and identity

Customers expect businesses to be authentic and responsible, and to treat them the same way. They don’t want to be stereotyped or segmented based on generic labels like age and gender. They want to be treated as individuals.

Generative AI will set off a wave of transformation

The potential of generative AI like ChatGPT and Adobe Firefly is tremendous, winning over millions of consumers in weeks. Brands, governments, consumers, technologies. Everyone and everything will be affected and will need to adapt, quickly.

Bridging the trust gap

Crucially, these truths must also be viewed through the lens of one overarching principle. The primacy of trust in today’s digital economy. At Adobe, we believe trust is the foundation of a healthy brand-customer dynamic, and the key to driving profitable and sustainable growth.

And consumers agree.

Nearly 40% of respondents to our recent survey say trust is the most important factor for them when choosing where they spend their money, followed by price, product selection, and relevance.

Therein lies the challenge. All too often when I talk with CEOs, CROs, CMOs and CIOs, they bring up their struggles to reach customers in a meaningful way. More specifically, they cite a lack of data-driven insight to grow their business, poor collaboration and content creation capabilities across departments, or a disconnected and sluggish technology.

In all these scenarios, the result is the same– a complete inability to listen, learn and react to consumer behaviours in real-time. And while 85 percent of marketers classify their customers’ experiences as “amazing”, the truth is more sobering. Just 63 percent of consumers rank the customer experiences they receive as amazing, signalling a clear disconnect.

Big challenges, bigger opportunities

I firmly believe that with change comes opportunity. Brands today have a massive opportunity to differentiate themselves by leveraging the power of technology to make the digital world more creative, more productive, and more personalised.

Businesses that succeed in offering their millions of customers true personalisation at scale – in real-time and across every touchpoint – will establish a sustainable competitive advantage. At Adobe, we call this experience-led growth.

Experiences drive personalised connections, which in turn build trust and long-term customer success. Unless you are a hard-discounter, why would you want to compete on price when you could charge a premium for the quality of experience you provide?

In today’s world, the quality of your customer experience can be an even more meaningful differentiator than the products or services you sell. What’s more, it’s generally harder for competitors to counterfeit an experience than a product.

Adobe Summit EMEA 2023

At Adobe Summit EMEA, we revealed how businesses across Europe are leveraging Adobe Experience Cloud to derive greater value from real-time data, overcome their technological roadblocks, and deliver impactful customer experiences that have set them up for long-term success. Brands like Covento by Vestas, Prada, Lufthansa, Pfizer, smart Europe, Stellantis, TeamViewer, The Coca-Cola company, TSB Bank, Warner Bros, and more, covering virtually every industry across B2C and B2B.

Adobe Experience Cloud is now powering the digitization of 87 percent of Fortune 100 companies. An increasing number of CEOs and Europeans brands are turning to Adobe to drive their sustainability agenda, with the likes of Hugo Boss and Prada using our technologies to work more efficiently and responsibly.

Four pillars of experience-led growth

How are these brands transforming their businesses to thrive in a digital economy? By addressing the consumer truths head on and engaging differently. I also believe there are four pillars or profitable growth.

Building trust

Unsurprisingly, trust and transparency are the foundational layer of any digital business that wants to succeed. Building trust has become an even more pressing imperative as major internet browsers phase out of third-party cookies, forcing bands to implement a first-party data strategy.

Unleashing data

Next up is data, specifically using data as the fuel to understand every customer, recognise their needs in the moment, and connect with them in a meaningful way, in meaningful moments. A foundational bedrock of experience-led growth is a unified data platform that serves as a single source of truth for multiple teams, allowing brands to synthesize new data into customer profiles in real-time while providing robust data management and governance functionality. As regulations and customer privacy considerations evolve, a centralized platform will enable brands to stay both compliant and contextually informed over time, while delivering personalization at scale.

Content supply chain as the backbone

The third pillar is what we call the content supply chain, the ability to plan, produce and deliver content efficiently. Demand for content has surged in today’s digital world, doubling for 88 percent of companies. With people browsing social media, spending time in digital spaces, and working remotely, brands are under pressure to create and deliver personalized content at scale more quickly, while keeping costs in check with more productive teams.

Generative AI

Finally, we come to the tech on everyone’s minds today: generative AI. Generative AI will supercharge and automate the content supply chain, helping brands scale their efforts to serve millions of customers in a way that feels more human and entirely personalized.

Our new generative AI technologies, announced at Summit, are a testament to that vision. Using Adobe Firefly for enterprises, brands can generate commercially viable, professional quality content directly in their creative workflows, using their own branded assets. We’ve also enhanced Adobe Experience Manager, Customer Journey Analytics, and Marketo with natural-language interfacing for querying data.

As the only company whose DNA is built on content and data, Adobe is uniquely positioned to help brands the way with AI-driven personalisation at scale while upholding the values of trust and transparency that are so important to consumers, and our users.

The best part is that we are just getting started. Adobe Firefly, announced at Summit EMEA, is now coming to enterprise. This new offering will bring the only commercially safe, generative AI image creation and editing capabilities to millions of enterprise users who will be able to modify images in Photoshop, Illustrator, Express and Experience Manager. We will also be integrating new intelligent capabilities and services into Adobe Experience Cloud and workflows, changing the way humans and technologies interface in a world of hybrid work.

Not just changing but improving. That is the goal of any successful transformation. Positive change that drives profitable growth for brands, trust and engagement for their customers, and a more sustainable future for all parties. By following the new rules of engagement being set by consumers today, leading businesses will set themselves up to compete, grow, and continue differentiating themselves as we all adapt to a new reality.

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