Updated: Adobe unveils common data approach to build better experience profiles

Martech vendor also announces new customisable AI algorithms and integrations between Ad Cloud and Creative Cloud

Creating a common data language to build a single customer experience record, customisable AI modelling and integration between creative assets and media targeting, are among the major product enhancements announced by Adobe at this year’s digital marketing summit.

The Experience Cloud vendor has taken the wrappers off a new Experience Profile across Adobe Cloud, the underlying platform that supports its offerings such as Marketing Cloud and Creative Cloud. This ‘experience record’ is being supported by several new data services that the vendor said will allow users to create a unified profile of their customers in real time, in order to target them more effectively.

Adobe is striving to do this by standardising all customer data, across Adobe clouds as well as third-party systems, through a common data language to make it centrally accessible.

In a pre-briefing with press, Adobe head of platform and strategy for Marketing Cloud, Cody Crnkovich, compared the state of data unification and usage for customer engagement to an orchestra full of musicians playing their own instruments well, but out of sync.

“The way many brands are accessing their data collection right now is similar to how this fractured orchestra sounds,” he said. “Teams are siloed, there’s little collaboration, and everyone is playing their instrument based on what they think it can deliver. Data is not often not unified into a single profile for each customer.”

The new Experience Profile is about supplying the “sheet music” for a more thorough understanding of how to delight each customer being served, Crnkovich said. Adobe’s technology and tools, such as its Adobe Sensei machine learning and artificial intelligence engine, then provide the “conductor” that harmonises the whole, he claimed.

“This new experience record and new data services create that complete, real-time profile, allowing a brand to deliver a delightful CX and make that person feel like a friend, not a device,” he said.  

To support this, Adobe has launched several data development-based capabilities. The most notable is Data Science Workspace, which allows data scientists to build and train custom models in the Adobe cloud platform. The service gives developers access to pre-built Adobe Sensei machine learning algorithms, via API, in order to develop new functionality.

“This allows you to blend data and then customise algorithms specific to your business,” Crnkovich explained.

This democratisation of AI is an approach that’s already being taken by Adobe rival, Salesforce, through its myEinstein platform, announced last year, based on its Einstein AI platform and allowing users to create custom AI-powered apps across any of its cloud offerings including Marketing Cloud.

Adobe’s first custom AI service is focused on algorithms that increase speed of content delivery and asset provision and personalisation, such as image tagging and cropping.

On top of this, Adobe has launched I/O Runtime, a new server-less platform to run custom code on the Adobe Cloud platform. According to Crnkovich, this ensure code runs closer to customer data, and reduces the time to deploy the technologies as there’s no service set-up and maintenance required.

There are also a number of fresh partner integrations in the Adobe Exchange marketplace including with Hootsuite, Microsoft, Observepoint, Branch, ElasticPath, TMMData, Digital River, Informatica and Infogroup.

Ad Cloud initiatives

Adobe also unveiled a number of enhancements to its Advertising Cloud, the result of its US$540 million acquisition of programmatic adtech vendor, TubeMogul, in November 2016.

At the top of the list is the launch of Adobe Advertising Cloud Creative, a self-service platform aimed at helping users break down the walls between creative and media assets. The offering is the result of fresh integration between Ad Cloud, Creative Cloud and Analytics Cloud, and functionality that makes available creative assets, along with first-party data, through the Ad Cloud platform. It expands off the back of Adobe’s Dynamic Creative Optimisation offering.

Adobe product marketing manager, Gauri Bhat, pointed to a recent Adobe survey which found 58 per cent marketers don’t change their ad collateral based on customer data they have gathered. In addition, 78 per cent of customers want personalisation in exchange for the data they’re providing, but only 28 per cent think they’re getting a personalised ad at present.

Features on offer initially include basic design features such as copy and imagery display, plus the ability to customise ads based on first-party data including browsing, loyalty status and user actions.

Also on the integration front, Adobe announced further links and updates to Marketing Cloud and Creative Cloud. Among these are the integration of Adobe Campaign with Behance, providing pre-built email templates within the campaign management platform, plus tie in between Adobe Experience Manager and Animate Creative Cloud, allowing users to create experiences then directly upload these to in-store screens.

AEM has also been integrated with Dimension Creative cloud, allowing users to create and repurpose 3D models; Stock, for stock imagery access; and Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

“All of this is about increasing the content velocity and improving the experience of cloud users,” Bhat added.

What the analysts think

Pund-IT principal analyst, Charles King nominated Adobe's Data Science Workspace at the top of his list across the product announcements.

“Not only is its success important to Adobe, it should also offer opportunities to show-off the benefits of working with AI-savvy partners, including Microsoft, which just extended its relationship with Adobe for advertising efforts in China,” he told CMO.  

IDC research director for marketing and sales technology, Gerry Murray, said the democratisation of AI is key to pervasive adoption with line-of-business, and especially marketers.

“The primary way marketers will interact with AI is by feeding data into algorithms. The more marketers can tweak and experiment with how different AI engines process different combinations of data will open up enormous creativity for delivering more value to audiences,” he said.  

Analysts also welcomed Adobe’s new Experience Profile as a way of shoring up its position against other enterprise players such as IBM, Salesforce, Oracle and Google, although there was some confusion as to just how deep the capabilities stretch. Several highlighted Adobe’s existing data sharing agreement with Microsoft, announced as part of its strategic partnership in 2016, was also vital to the way data sets are brought together.  

“In increasingly personalised advertising solutions, it isn't enough to simply offer insights into different channels. Vendors also need to prove themselves masters of a wide variety of data and the tools required to glean insights from that information,” King commented. “It's critical for Adobe to prove that its solutions and services can meet and beat competitors, including IBM, Salesforce, Alphabet/Google and Oracle.   

“The competitive picture is somewhat in flux, especially when it comes to analytics- and AI-based insight services. Adobe's partnership with Microsoft [and its integration with Azure] is a resource that every bit as critical to the company as Salesforce's integration with Google Analytics 360.”  

At first glance, Experience Profile offers similar promise to IBM’s Universal Behaviour Exchange (UBX), a data exchange capability launched in 2015 to facilitate the connection of multiple and disparate data sets to drive more personalised marketing campaigns. However, Murray pointed out UBX is both a data format and pub/sub messaging service open to other APIs.    

“I’m not sure if Adobe’s Profile is more than just a great way to attach and track behaviours to a customer profile,” he said. “The common customer data schema(s) Adobe and Microsoft are rolling out are also necessary so that the enterprise infrastructure can treat customer data as a service open to all customer facing apps with embedded compliance controls.” 

For Murray, the data pipeline integration with Microsoft is vital in Adobe's quest to unite data sets across the enterprise.

"It's not quite up to the level of Salesforce's acquisition of Mulesoft, but important for all the same reason," he said. "Ultimately, brands are going to be competing on integration, which is essential for delivering continuity across touchpoints, which is of course the true customer experience."

Principal analyst of Raab and Associates, David Raab, saw Experience Profile filling the customer unification gap that had loomed over the Adobe platform.  

“I’d assume this partly closes a major gap in Adobe Marketing Cloud, which otherwise requires an external customer data platform [CDP],” he said.  “But a good CDP stores fine details which a CDP does. None of the other marketing cloud vendors do this either. So it puts Adobe at parity or better.”   

  • Nadia Cameron travelled to Adobe Digital Marketing Summit as a guest of Adobe.

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