Adobe unveils customer data platform, Commerce Cloud and fresh Ad, Marketing Cloud capabilities

Latest swathe of technology enhancements as well as data partnerships with LinkedIn, ServiceNow, Microsoft and SAP demonstrates Adobe's efforts to be the customer experience management vendor of choice for enterprises

Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen, at this year's Adobe Summit
Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen, at this year's Adobe Summit

A real-time customer data engine and platform, Customer Experience cloud improvements, a new Commerce Cloud and integration of Marketo into Marketing Cloud are among Adobe’s latest efforts to deliver the customer experience management vendor of choice to enterprises.

The vendor used this week’s annual Adobe Summit in the US to launch a host of fresh platform capabilities, technology partnerships and solution integrations, all feeding into its increasingly enterprise-wide focused Adobe Experience Cloud offering. Each is a deliberate step in the vendor’s ambition to take on the traditional enterprise software giants, such as IBM and Oracle, by connecting the dots from prospecting through to customer service and support.

As Adobe CEO, Shantanu Narayen, put it, organisations must increasingly reorient digital transformation of the enterprise around delivering better customer experiences as the key to competitive advantage moving forward.

"To win in today’s world, every business has to transform themselves to become maniacally focused on the customer experience," he told attendees at this year's summit.  Digital starts by reimagining the entire customer journey. It’s engaging them in the channel and way of their choice. It’s moving from one step to the next through a delightful experience."

Underlying any such effort is data, and Adobe’s most significant announcement this week is arguably the global availability of Adobe Experience Platform, an open and extensible customer data engine and platform for stitching data sets across the enterprise in order to enable real-time customer profiles. These can be used to drive intelligent decisioning across the vendor’s wider range of marketing and experience execution platforms via the vendor’s artificial intelligence engine, Adobe Sensei, and machine learning capabilities.

Importantly, Adobe Experience Platform is being designed to process data from multiple sources inside as well as outside the Adobe offering, including CRM, ERP and loyalty data sets. It takes its cues from the Open Data Initiative launched by the vendor last September in partnership with SAP and Microsoft.

And it's a move many in the industry believe is vital as the vendor looks to compete with traditional enterprise software giants such as IBM and Oracle, along with CRM giant Salesforce, who have all been building out respective experience cloud stacks encompassing campaign orchestration, audience data and analytics, media management, digital experience personalisation, commerce and customer management. It's also a response to the growing array of customer data platform (CDP) offerings coming into the marketing arena aimed at helping brands better utilise first-party data sets.

According to Adobe, its Experience Platform processes tens of millions of events per second, sorting these into experience data models of more than 50 CX schemas with standard language and vocabulary. These can then be used to activate insights across any Experience Cloud solution via Adobe’s new CDP.

The insights can be harnessed by data scientists for AI work, using either Adobe’s AI Sensei engine or alternatively, by bringing in their own AI models.

Adobe said a number of brands are already using the Adobe Experience Platform in beta globally including Best Buy, DXC Technology, Verizon Wireless and Sony Interactive Entertainment. The vendor first laid out its plans for a unified data offering 12 months ago during its last Summit.

“Solving today’s data challenges requires a cloud-based, hyper-scale architecture with a rich data pipeline and real-time customer profiles powered by AI and machine learning,” said Adobe executive VP and chief technology officer, Abhay Parasnis. “Adobe Experience Platform is purpose-built for capturing, processing and actioning data in real time, enabling enterprises to deliver rich and relevant experiences for customers.”

However, for martech industry commentator and founder of the CDP term, David Raab of Raab & Associates, the latest offering is an attempt by Adobe to extend the data management platform (DMP) capabilities of Audience Manager beyond core advertising use cases. He suggested the approach is still "piecemeal".

"It's largely separate from the open data initiative, which is the closest Adobe comes to a true customer data platform approach," he argued.

Building the end-to-end customer view

In addition to existing data software vendor partnerships with Microsoft and SAP, Adobe revealed a fresh partnership with ServiceNow to bring the latter’s customer support data into the Adobe Experience Platform. It will also see Adobe’s solutions integrated with ServiceNow’s customer service management offering. The two vendors plan to further integrate digital workflows, service catalogues, intelligent content and knowledge management capabilities.  

Both the data investment and the ServiceNow partnership are aimed at extending Adobe’s reach from prospecting and customer engagement, marketing’s historical remit, through to service and support, the focus of every next-generation customer leader looking to manage end-to-end customer relationships.

A third pillar is connection to commerce. Following its acquisition of ecommerce vendor, Magento, last year, Adobe announced this week its new Commerce Cloud, sitting alongside the Marketing Cloud, Analytics Cloud and Advertising Cloud offerings under the Adobe Experience Cloud moniker.

The vendor reiterated its commitment to leveraging Magento’s 300,000-strong developer network to support Commerce Cloud. As a first step, it’s built native integrations between Commerce and several pieces of the Adobe Experience Cloud, such as Analytics and Experience Manager.

It's a similar story around integrating Adobe’s B2B marketing automation player, Marketo, into its Marketing Cloud offering, which Adobe acquired for US4.75 billion in 2018. First cab off the rank is the ability to pull or edit content from Adobe Experience Manager or Creative Cloud and automatically build target lists for next-best action in Marketo's marketing automation platform.

Complementing this is a new data, marketing and sales integration partnership with LinkedIn, which will be combined with its existing Microsoft partnership to help support the account-based marketing (ABM) efforts of B2B marketing.

For example, teams will be able to combine Marketo Engage data with Microsoft Dynamics 365 to better articulate insights into targeted accounts such as individual roles, influence and preferences. LinkedIn data will supply insight into which are the right individual account to target as part of an ABM play.

“Orchestrating the engagement of multiple individuals in a complex marketing and sales journey is at the heart of account-based experiences and what B2B marketers do day in, day out,” said Adobe senior VP of digital experience business and former Marketo CEO, Steve Lucas. “With these new account-based capabilities, marketing and sales teams will have increased alignment around the people and accounts they are engaging, and new ways to measure that impact.”

New Marketing, Ad Cloud updates

Meanwhile, a number of enhancements to the existing cloud offerings have also been revealed this week.

Top of the list is a fresh release of Adobe Experience Manager, which brings AI and machine learning capabilities into managing experience cloud journeys. Other new features include predictive send time optimisation and predictive churn management in Adobe Campaign off the back of the Experience Platform, and the beta launch of predictive churn management.

Other AI services are now in beta as well, including one connecting data and content aimed at helping brands uncover specific user segments for campaign targeting. Another is Journey AI, an engine for orchestrating more relevant campaign journeys across users using behavioural data insights. A third AI release, Attribution AI, is designed to bring machine intelligence to resourcing decisions around owned, earned and paid media based on conversion impact.

New people-based destinations in Adobe Audience Manager also allow users to activate first-party data via their DMP in social media platforms using hashed first-party identifiers.

In addition, the vendor confirmed integrations between Marketing Cloud with Adobe Asset Link, Adobe Experience Manager with Dimension for 3D and Adobe Stock with Adobe Creative Cloud. Two more are on the agenda: Between Adobe Creative Cloud libraries; and Adobe Engagement Manager with Marketo Engage.

Advertising Cloud has a number of updates too, the most notable of which is a new partnership between Adobe and streaming technology player, Roku. This is aimed at helping brands better target audiences, manage ad frequency and measure campaign success by uniting their first-party data sets with OTT advertising.

Additional integrations between Ad Cloud and Analytics have also debuted to give brands a real-time view of both online and offline data.

And finally, AI is coming into the Ad Cloud, via new performance optimisation functionality. The vendor said stronger performance optimisation allows users to evaluate search marketing results in order to distribute media investments across campaigns more effectively using different bidding technologies, a move the vendor claims is the first time bid optimisation has been made available across search and bidding tactics.


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

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