Making experience your business is good for business. It’s a fact!
Forrester tells us that experience brands enjoy 1.6 x higher brand awareness than other brands, they have a 1.9 x higher average order value and their employees are 1.5 x happier. That’s not all! Their revenues grow 36% faster than other brands. Who doesn’t want some of that?
Adobe are positioning themselves as leaders in driving the digital transformation that creates experience businesses. Adobe Summit comes to London this month and they’ll be sharing some of the news, trends and tech innovation that I was privileged to preview at the US Summit in March.
The Summit headline was the addition of Marketo and Magento to the Adobe product line, together with the release of the Adobe Experience Platform. However, the bigger story is the ambitious 3-5 year platform transformation story that Adobe embarked on 18 months ago. Think of a Force.Com-like experience platform being made available to clients and partners to build API-driven connected applications for experience delivery at scale.
In the meantime, here are a few technology trends that I’m tracking and that you’ll hear about if you listen carefully and look in the right places at the EMEA Summit:
Digitising the customer journey
Successful companies anticipate their customers’ needs and deliver exceptional experiences at every point in the customer journey. Achieving this requires a new kind of operating model, a data-driven digital operating model (DDOM). A DDOM provides an ecosystem that allows businesses to act on customer behaviours in real-time, responding with the relevant channel-specific interaction. Adobe unveiled the DDOM at US Summit, but why is it so important?
Customer journeys come in many different shapes and sizes. They are not uniform but it is possible to break it down into distinct phases. Adobe outlines the phases of the customer journey as Discover, Try, Buy, Use, and Renew. The DDOM is based around these phases, serving as both a framework and process to manage and track the journey. The Adobe technology also provides a dashboard that rolls up the real-time DDOM data so that experience businesses can see how their customers are navigating these journeys at the speed of digital. According to Adobe, this is what businesses have been asking for and now they are in a position to deliver meaningful and relevant experiences at speed and scale.
An experience platform for scalable platform experiences
Experience delivery needs an experience platform for scalable platform experiences. The trend here is the paradigm shift from integrated solutions to a platform-first approach. All the big marketing technology vendors - Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, IBM and SAP (OASIS) - are at different stages in their platform maturity, but the trend is clear: integrating solutions is too complex, costly and not sustainable. Future growth is through a platform-first approach to experience delivery. Platform solutions leverage mature technological advances in the web for standardised availability; mobility for on-demand ubiquitous access; cloud computing for scale; APIs for frictionless acquisition of new capability and social media for trust and people.
The Adobe Experience Platform (AEP) is Adobe’s next generation platform solution. It allows organisations to stitch together data from multiple sources, analyse it and act on it in real time. It’s the foundation upon which other Experience Cloud solutions can be used to deliver timely and relevant experiences to customers on the device of their choice. And it allows businesses to do this on a massive scale.
Connecting the data silos
For years organisations have been gathering data and failing to act on it because it sits buried within unbreachable silos. However, data is on a critical path to integration. The key to success is to connect, rather than breakdown the silos within the enterprise. There are typically two approaches to connectivity systems:
- Integration; collapse and combine systems to operate as one
- Interoperability; keep systems independent but collaborate as one
When connecting data silos, interoperability enables data to flow seamlessly between disparate systems. The goal is to connect every relevant system within an enterprise so that all data is accessible across the business, but each system remains independent. Interoperability opens up system borders to enable data to securely flow freely them.
Last year Microsoft, Adobe and SAP announced the Open Data Initiative (ODI) to make data across their solutions accessible. The ODI provides a common data model that is stored within a customer-chosen data lake. The unified data lake is owned by the customer to scale experience delivery through consumer-facing applications based upon their experience platform of choice.
Our customers are all trying to integrate behavioural, CRM, ERP and other internal data sets to have a comprehensive understanding of each consumer, and they’re struggling with the challenges of integrating this data. We’re excited about the initiative Adobe, Microsoft and SAP have taken in this area, and we see a lot of opportunity to contribute to the development of the ODI.
Stephan Pretorius, CTO of WPP
WPP’s commitment to the ODI, announced at the Adobe US Summit in March demonstrates the importance of accessible data across the enterprise for experience businesses.
Towards a marketing content hub
Great experiences are the result of a combination of both context (customer profile) and content (communication). Data sets up the context for the experience in preparation for content to deliver those highly personalised interactions that resonate with customers. Assuming we have the context activated, great experiences still need great content. However, scalable and accessible content remains a critical business challenge for most organisations.
Historically, Web Content Management Systems (WCMS) focused on content being copy, the text part of the communication. Separate Digital Asset Management systems (DAMs) dealt exclusively with assets such as images, videos, sound and documents, such as PDFs. The rise of billion dollar businesses like Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, and Spotify highlighted the importance of digital assets, or art, in delivering exceptional experiences.
So, WCMS added DAM-like capabilities to enable authors to assemble web pages that consisted of both copy and assets. And pure play DAMs added copy-based capabilities, but their evolution went more towards making digital assets accessible across all channels. In short, DAMs moved into the enterprise as highly scalable, centralised solutions for managing marketing assets.
Over the last few years DAMs have evolved yet again. The most common DAM integrations are with systems that deal with web content management, document management, digital rights management, customer relationship management, product information management and ERP. DAMs are moving towards a marketing content hub that makes assets more intelligent and accessible across the business than ever before.
Meanwhile, WCMS vendors are looking to break out of the web channel to provide channel agnostic solutions for assets, but they are in catch up mode. Sitecore’s recent acquisition of Stylelabs, a leading marketing content hub, is one smart way to catch up. How other WCMS vendors and/or pure play DAMs progress towards a marketing content hub is still an important question. But it’s becoming an urgent need for marketing departments.
Experience led commerce
Traditional e-commerce solutions are not experience led. They can’t create and curate content at the speed required to serve up multi-channel, personalised experiences at scale. Experience led commerce is a technology solution that depends upon the real-time activation of customer profiles (context), the delivery of accessible content to create moments, and the availability of commerce capabilities that seamlessly blend in conversion-like traits at every stage in the customer purchase journey.
Adobe’s acquisition of Magneto is the first step towards building an experience led commerce capability for both B2B and B2C clients across the Experience Cloud. However, for this to be useful and useable at scale, the end game is for the solution to be SaaS-based. For now, businesses must work with their partners in struggling to build their own point-to-point integrations, with a mixture of on-prem and cloud-based deployments. However, the long term value will be to take a platform-first, SaaS based approach that simplifies for scale in the first instance, but then expands the offering by growing in the areas of tried and tested client successes.
If any of these challenges strike a chord with you, come and talk to us at Adobe Summit. Feel free to get in touch to fix a meeting or find us at the WPP library in the Partner Pavillion.
Hero image by Austin Distel
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