How Adobe is Shaping Customer Experience: Tamara Gaffney

How Adobe is Shaping Customer Experience: Tamara Gaffney


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About Tamara Gaffney

Tamara heads up a new program at Adobe which is focused on measuring consumer expectations and business impact of the experience-led business. She also uses her long history in the technology industry and ability to interpret big data analysis coming from the Adobe Experience Cloud to identify key trends. In her current role she is frequently quoted on television, radio and in thousands of press articles where she has established a track record of accurately predicting the future of digital experiences. 

While at Adobe, Tamara created the Adobe Digital Insights program and has received recognition for her ability to decode huge data being named one of the Top 20 Big Data Analysts in the US by Fortune Magazine and one of the Top 100 Data Influencers in the UK by DataIQ Magazine.

Learn more about Tamara Gaffney 

Follow Tamara Gaffney on Twitter@tamarag
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Follow Mary Drumond on Twitter@drumondmary

Tune in to the Voices of CX Podcast to hear conversations with top leaders in CX, marketing, data analytics and beyond.


People are constantly in digital contact through their smart devices. We live in the digital age and companies can no longer rely solely on traditional metrics. Adobe’s Tamara Gaffney suggests marketers focus on measuring more than feelings when it comes to customer interaction.

In order to give Adobe more depth and help them go down the right path to truly being an experience-led company, Tamara and her team of researchers created The Experience Index.

The Experience Index

The Experience Index is built to be a broad-based consumer research program. Tamara’s team collected over 1500 responses from the U.S. and over 1,000 responses each from India, Japan, United Kingdom, France, and Germany. They also did another study of businesses to try and draw some comparisons between what consumers say they expect and what businesses are working on. The goal is to help benchmark what consumers’ expectations are in a general sense. This was not a study of Adobe’s particular products.  A broad population of 18+ was surveyed based on one qualifying device, which is most likely a smartphone, in order to come into the sample.

Experience makers or breakers: Four tenets

In the survey, Tamara’s team of researchers presented a random group of consumers with specific scenarios in the retail, travel/hospitality, financial services, and media and entertainment categories. When these examples were scored, they were grouped in the positive or negative. The positive side were labeled “experience makers” and the negative were labeled “experience breakers”. They scored them accordingly, weighed them, and then grouped them into four tenets:

  • Know me, respect me
  • Delight me
  • Make tech transparent
  • Speak in one voice

These tenets were drawn from natural groupings that were already in the marketplace, but in the near future, all of the information from the global research will go through a cluster analysis to see if the groupings created actually work. 

In the Experience Index, the 18-24 year olds, Gen Z’s, whom Tamara refers to as “crafters”, had an experience score of 221 out of 400 points; 25-34 had 211 out of 400. This was one of the biggest differences among cohorts. The crafters, called because they are the Minecraft generation with a tendency to build/create things, hasn’t entered their peak of being a consumer so their expectations weren’t as critical as the 25+, who had the most critical scores of any age group.

There are clusters of people who will break over a company that others won’t. An example is found in those who had the highest experience scores. Consumers in the 50-64 and 65+ age ranges didn’t have the most negative reactions to the most negative scenarios.

“We suspect that what we’re seeing is the wear out factor that happens after you’ve tried and tried to improve experience and failed; that you’re no longer vocal. You either don’t send any signals and leave or you accept a level of lower experiences that younger cohorts are willing to accept. It didn’t come from being more delighted by an experience maker. It was that they were less negative about a breaker.”

Sorting through data: Data artistry

A question Tamara is frequently asked is, “What do you do with this ocean of data to pinpoint the most valuable insight to act on?”

Most of her journey has been in big data analysis to build huge predictive models. Fifteen hundred responses is small change considering she is accustomed to “trillions” of responses. It’s a challenge to get beyond the obvious and find those insights. A lot of intuition goes into it. It’s the intersection between art and science. She calls this “data artistry”.

“Data is scientific, but we also have artists. I consider myself a data artist. I look at data and I see patterns, a vision of what it means. I see correlations of what’s not necessarily obvious, but once I suggest to an analyst to dig into it, they usually find something interesting. It takes a village. A bunch of different skill sets combined like journalism, designers, analysts, to pull together the threads. It’s not enough to look at a bunch of dashboards. We have to have the people in place to churn through the data.” 

When Tamara was asked what advice she would offer to those new analysts who don’t have the years of experience under their belt, this is what she suggested:

  • Look very broad, then look very narrow. Find a few specific things to zoom in on and try to understand them in depth. Watch for broad trends. When something starts to look like it’s changing, then that’s the time you want to dig in on something else.
  • Have a diverse group and respect that diversity. You need right and left-brain thinkers. Where a left brainer may say, “Well, the data doesn’t say that,” “You can’t prove causation”, or “I think you’ve interpreted this a little more than what it means”, a right brainer is more prone to get out in front of the data a bit. If decisions are to be made, you have to get ahead of the data to make a recommendation because it’s not going to tell us everything we need at that exact moment. That’s a good thing and it will be out of your comfort zone at times.

Tamara adds, “By the time you get to some of these strategic decisions, even a half of percent of a push in one direction or another, can make the difference between making it or breaking it for an entire company. These are the kinds of decisions we are faced with.”

Future trends

At Adobe Summit, Tamara addressed future trends. One that she found interesting was the idea that virtual reality was better than an augmented reality experience. One thing the data shows is that a huge number of people have already had a virtual reality experience.

“When I dug into the research, I asked how much people would be willing to pay for an experience and they said around $20-30 per experience. Pair that up with the lack of tenants and a lot of mall space, and you have the perfect future VR entertainment explosion ready to happen. I see us having great experiences that are close to us.

Given that the technology is here, the desire is here, and the money is ready to be spent, I think malls have a perfect storm for them to offer a startup for a good experience. If you’re in business at all, then go to a place called The Void at Disney in Anaheim.  Write it off [as a business expense] because if you want to understand what the future is, that fits the puzzle pieces together nicely.”

Gaining CX Support at your company

A major challenge for those in CX departments is getting approval or visibility from the C-Suite to get projects pushed through. Tamara’s advice is to figure out how to speak to your business leaders about what value the things you need to do or intend to do have, and identify the stakeholders for that value proposition. This may require some data with some insights and intuition mixed that is presented in story form to executive leadership. It should clearly explain to them either the vision, or nightmare that they can see happening and also draw a lot of correlation with how it will impact their business. That can get resourcing.

The experience league

Keep your eye out for the Experience League. It’s a community Adobe is starting up where those involved in creating digital experiences or experience makers can be in an environment to help them gain access to data they need and learn what’s necessary to make their business cases.

Subscribe to our Podcast about Customer Experience – Voices of CX


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Crystal Garrett

Crystal Garrett

I’m an extrovert, beach lover, and baseball fan with a passion for writing. I’ve spent over 10 years writing content for screen (tv/film) and demand-generating copy for digital, social media, and search marketing. My strengths lie in creating and developing original content for tv/film, inbound marketing content and strategy, and brand messaging. I love creative collaboration, possess great communication skills, enjoy problem-solving, and have a reputation for being innovative, effective and efficient.



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