“Adobe has the most complete end-to-end solution for managing the customer’s online journey.”
VP/GM, Global eCommerce, Digital Marketing and Platforms
The customer is king.
When Ajit Sivadasan joined Lenovo in the Spring of 2006, the Chinese technology company was busy embarking on its global ambitions. A $1.25 billion acquisition of IBM’s PC division-complete with its iconic ThinkPad laptop-had just turned Lenovo into the world’s third-largest PC maker, overnight. But for Sivadasan, a digital disruptor and e-commerce pioneer, the company had a major problem: “We had no footprint really when it came to e-commerce,” he recalls. “I actually came here to build the online business.”
Back then, Lenovo sold its personal computers online in just five countries. “[Lenovo] was not very e-commerce centric or friendly,” says Sivadasan. “It was, quite frankly, a big exercise in change management.” Born in India and based in the United States, Sivadasan is a deep thinker who likes to study the work of psychologists like Amos Tversky. He’s fascinated by the science of decision-making. “How have we got a view of the customer that’s almost 360 degrees?” he asks. “How can we influence decisions or take actions that serve our customers in near real-time, whether it’s marketing, driving demand or it’s closing a sale?”
After slowly converting his counterparts to the power of digital, Sivadasan focused on launching e-commerce operations in the world’s top ten markets. They analysed countries in terms of per capita income, population and Internet penetration. “Then we moved to the next ten,” Sivadasan recalls.
Soon, Sivadasan had a front-row seat for Lenovo’s epic transformation. In just over a decade the company turned from a simple PC-manufacturer into a global leader in providing innovative consumer, commercial and data centre technology. Today, Lenovo boasts over 50,000 employees and operations in 180 markets. It designs, develops, manufactures and sells PCs, tablets, smartphones, workstations, servers, IT management software and smart televisions. Since you started reading this article, Lenovo has sold 720 devices, at a rate of four per second, reaching annual revenues of a staggering $50 billion. But its journey of digital transformation is far from over.
As the leader of the brand’s e-commerce and digital strategy, Sivadasan has an equally formidable target—to double digital sales in three years. The mission revolves around one important question, Sivadasan says, “How do we get the customer to be in the centre of the journey?” The answer was a new technology stack and a company-wide change in culture.
The rise and rise of Lenovo.
Founded in 1984 by Liu Chuanzhi and ten computer engineers, the company started life in a small bungalow in Beijing, with just $28,000. In the mid-1980s, it rebranded to Legend, selling IBM-compatible PCs to the Chinese market. By 1994 it was China’s biggest PC manufacturer. Renamed as Lenovo in 2003, the company acquired the IBM PC business in 2005 and nearly 10 years later added the x86 server business from IBM and Motorola from Google. The challenge of merging companies was how to unify their customers’ disparate journeys.
Lenovo needed to put its customers first, personalise journeys and optimise their media spend across channels to drive qualified traffic, conversions and revenues. It’s what Lenovo calls ‘audience automation’ - creating a contextual conversation that allows them to better predict customer needs. Most importantly, the company needed to use data from previous marketing efforts to make more effective data-driven decisions about future campaigns. Personalisation at this scale is not easy, but for Lenovo, it could boost revenue by up to $70 million.
“The larger the organisation, the harder it is to deliver a consistent experience,” says Barbara Venneman, Global Advertising, Marketing & Commerce Leader at Deloitte.
Sivadasan is a former Deloitte consultant and it was Deloitte, an Adobe Platinum Partner, who were instrumental in securing Lenovo’s digital transformation with Adobe.
Lenovo uses these Adobe products.
Adobe Experience Manager
Combine digital asset management with the power of an enterprise-ready CMS.
Analyse online and off-line behaviour to get a full picture of the customer journey.
Data management platform, audience segmentation, audience insights, real-time action.
A team effort.
Following a January 2019 meeting at CES, the Adobe digital strategy group invested over a hundred hours with key Lenovo stakeholders. Together they built out the business objectives needed to take Lenovo to that $2 billion target. “A series of Adobe Days, workshops and IT architectural sessions aligned Lenovo behind Adobe Experience Manager,” recalls Jason van Namen, a Global Account Director at Adobe who works on the Lenovo project. “Lenovo realised it could strengthen B2B engagement and improve campaigns by replacing existing solutions worldwide.” The move would contribute to a saving of $11 million in workflow efficiencies.
Today, Lenovo is all-in on Adobe’s full suite of Experience Cloud products, as they revolutionise their customer journey, discover data about their customers and deliver the perfect marketing message through Adobe Advertising Cloud and Audience Manager. The decision was made easy, according to Sivadasan, because Adobe has “probably the most complete end-to-end solution to manage this journey online.”
“Over the last five or six years we have moved to a much more Adobe-centric system. It’s simply because the data we get about our customers is coming from Adobe technology.”
Head of Global Online Sales & Marketing at Lenovo
“Over the last five or six years we have consciously moved to a much more Adobe-centric system,” explains Sivadasan. “It’s simply because the data that we get about our customers is fundamentally coming from the Adobe technology. Target is integral to what we want to do in terms of experimentation. And Audience Manager is trying to understand our audiences better and understand the customer journey better. How do we really get the value proposition for a group of people… target them the right way and show them the right experience?”
For Lenovo, Sensei empowers them to understand how the price of a particular computer processor performs in different markets and allows them to use AI to find the sweet spot. “As the provider of the analytics solution, Adobe Sensei can really try and start triangulating what is really important for your customers,” says Sivadasan.
Speaking fluent customer.
To demonstrate the power of segmentation, the Adobe team outlined customer journeys for two audiences: computer game players aged 25 to 35 and IT professionals at small- to mid-sized businesses. The team explained how Lenovo could easily segment the customers with Audience Manager then deliver personalised messages. “We figured out that these segments would be a great way for us to test our ability to go to market,” recalls Sivadasan. “[Gamers] do not behave how the rest of our customers behave.”
“Four years ago, we invited gamers to come and give input into building a commercially-developed game. That told us a lot of things that we did not know. A big part of it was that gamers really, really want to be involved in the process. It’s not sufficient for them to buy technology. They want to have a say. And the more they engage, the more loyal they are to the brand. We have changed the business model to be much, much more inclusive, immersive and collaborative,” says Sivadasan. Using data-driven insights, Lenovo laser-targeted a video game product and enjoyed a 300 per cent growth rate.
“So, the Adobe Experience Manager product allows us to piece together all of these things in a very seamless way and most importantly connect them to our analytics product, so we are able to figure out the impact in almost real time,” says Sivadasan. “When we started working with Adobe it was much more about data analytics and insights. Now it’s a lot more immersive and it’s a lot more of us pulling what we need from Adobe, to shape the experiences we think are pivotal for our customer experience. So, it’s gone from being a somewhat passive engagement to a much more active engagement,” says Sivadasan.
Adobe’s van Namen recalls the sheer size of the task at hand. “Digital transformation is difficult no matter at what scale,” he says. “And to do this globally in multiple languages, in 32 or 34 countries…it’s astronomical in terms of what they’re trying to accomplish and at speed.”
Sivadasan recently told Digital Bulletin magazine: “The reason I like Adobe is selfishly because of its technology and the technology platform it provides. Ultimately, what we are really trying to do is figure out how to leverage technology to help solve the customer journey by connecting the dots.” The result is a picture of one entire brand - not three.
More than just a PC company.
In September of 2019, Lenovo launched “Smarter Technology for All,” a multi-million-dollar campaign marking Lenovo’s commitment to not only making technology smarter, but accessible and available for everyone - and that benefits everyone. Ernie Navarro, Lenovo’s Brand Content Producer explains: “I use Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects to edit videos that showcase our mission and brand values. We’re not solely a technology company that creates PCs and laptops; we create smart products and solutions for companies dealing with real-world, life-changing health and environmental issues, space technology…things like that.”
Using Adobe Creative Cloud, Lenovo’s creative teams have been busy producing videos and designing stunning toolkits for the campaign’s global roll-out. “The bulk of my work is really done in Illustrator and Photoshop, I use InDesign less often these days but it’s still essential,” says Creative Designer Melissa Herboth. “The applications are really seamless. They’re just intuitive, once you learn one interface you can use any of them. Herboth says she helps to create guidance documents and toolkits, then delivers them to the various global teams and instructs them to “go play.”
Changing the world.
Today, at Lenovo, every employee’s badge reads: “We focus on the customer in everything that we do.” It’s a change that also had an effect on Sivadasan, who shifted his focus from operations to strategy. At Lenovo’s Morrisville office in North Carolina, where Sivadasan is one of 3,000 employees, he goes to the office three days a week. “Mondays are thinking time, strategy, paper, writing,” he says. “Fridays are office hours, so if people want to talk to me about stuff, I’m always open.”
Jason van Namen describes the close relationship that has blossomed between Sivadasan and Adobe: “He loves cigars. And he loves golf. That really helped facilitate some of those open personal conversations,” he says, with a laugh. And there are plenty of achievements to toast. “Lenovo and the global e-commerce team are definitely on the path to exceeding their goal of doubling revenue in three years,” says van Namen.
The journey has been a rush, Sivadasan admits. “I literally feel like an entrepreneur running my own business. I started with a $150 million business that’s almost $3 billion today. So the level of empowerment to go get things done, is tremendous. What else do you want in life?”
With his mission on its way to completion, Sivadasan says he is now motivated not only by Lenovo’s bottom line but in using technology to help the human race. “If you really think about a lot of the work that we’re doing,” he says, “whether it’s with a hospital in Utah doing cancer research or enabling genome research in Barcelona, it’s really about using technology to solve humanity’s greatest challenges.”