May 15, 2014
Adobe on Wednesday announced a series of enhancements to its growing Adobe Marketing Cloud, making a fresh case that it has the broadest, best-integrated, and most capable set of marketing tools.
Adobe's depth and breadth claims should sound familiar, as you're hearing similar claims from IBM, Oracle, Salesforce.com, and others eager to tap into growing CMO tech spending. Each company is building on legacy strengths. In Adobe's case that's the Digital Marketing Cloud it has built up around Omniture, the web analytics business it acquired for $1.8 billion in 2009. But Adobe also points to the combination with its Creative Cloud, which includes Dreamweaver, Flash, Muse, Photoshop, Premier, and so on.
[Want more on IBM's latest marketing moves? Read IBM Unites Marketing, E-Commerce In 'ExperienceOne'.]
"Marketers have thousands if not millions of [creative] assets floating all over the enterprise that need to be personalized and refreshed at scale," said Suresh Vittal, VP of marketing strategy for Adobe’s Digital Marketing Business, in a phone interview with InformationWeek. "They also have to ensure consistency in marketing and for the brand in general, and we uniquely solve that."
Wednesday's announcements dealt exclusively with the Marketing Cloud side of Adobe's world, starting with a new Marketing Cloud Exchange, a marketplace where Adobe partners can show off complementary applications. Google's DoubleClick Digital Marketing platform, can pass data to Adobe Analytics for measurement. Tableau Software brings visualization capabilities to Adobe Analytics data. And Microsoft Dynamics has created a connector for its CRM app to Adobe Campaign.
Think of the Exchange as Adobe's equivalent of the Salesforce.com AppExchange. About 150 apps are currently available (versus 2,200-plus for the seven-year-old AppExchange), but that's not a bad starting point for a marketing-focused exchange that's starting from scratch.
Adobe followed up on Wednesday with new predictive capabilities that were previewed at its March Adobe Marketing Summit in Salt Lake City. Adobe Analytics, for example, gained decision-trees algorithms that enable marketers to predict the decisions customers will make toward buying a product or service, watching a video, or taking another desired action. Further, marketers get insight into how geography, gender, purchase history, and other dimensions figure into these decisions, and they can take action on predicted decisions.
"We cluster the data and let marketers examine the traits so they can start to predict paths to conversion," Vittal said. "Once they've spotted these paths, they can create business rules that you can forward to a targeting engine, an email execution system, or a call center." In other words, you can trigger the right ad, send the a personalized email campaign, or trigger a preemptive call to a customer who's ready to bolt for the competition.
Adobe also announced a Unified Segment Builder designed to let marketers discover, create, and manage high-value audience segments by dragging and dropping key variables, such as gender, region, and average order value. Once created, these segments can be shared across the Adobe Marketing Cloud using the Master Marketing Profile service introduced in March. This makes segments portable and reusable across Marketing Cloud components and workflows.
Another new service across Adobe's cloud is Live Stream, which is said to open up a stream of live event data feeding into Adobe Analytics from Adobe Target, Adobe Social, and Adobe Media Optimizer. Possibilities for the feed include real-time monitoring and visualization of campaigns and web and mobile traffic or guided navigation for would-be customers stuck in user sessions.
"Marketers want to track their programs in real-time and they want to identify problems on websites or mobile apps so they can take action in real time," Vittal said.
The breadth of Adobe's latest announcements, less than six weeks after another round of upgrades, reveals just how competitive the digital marketing arena has become. This week IBM introduced ExperienceOne offerings said to preintegrate its many marketing and e-commerce assets. And earlier this month Oracle rolled out its new Oracle Marketing Cloud, which is a start on integrating cloud-based marketing assets including Eloqua, Vitrue, Responsys, BlueKai, and Compendium.
Noting the handful of big IT companies now consolidating digital marketing companies, Kevin Akeroyd, Oracle senior VP and Makerting Cloud general manager, said, "we can all buy [companies] and say 'I've got more toys on the shelf,' but the best integrator, not the best acquirer, will be the one that extends its lead" in digital marketing.
Compared with IBM and Oracle, Adobe's gap is the lack of any e-commerce capabilities, like their WebSphere and ATG Commerce servers, respectively. Vittal said Adobe is perfectly capable of integrating with any commerce engine.
"The shopping cart is a commodity capability," he said, protesting that Adobe's marketing tools are used by 17 of the top 20 retailers. "What's really differentiated is making that commodity capability intelligent by driving the analytics. We have visibility into those commerce engines and we're helping them to make smarter decisions."
E-Commerce clearly involves more than shopping-cart functionality. But where CMOs and other marketing decision makers are concerned, maybe that's a backend world that they're only too happy to let others worry about as after-the-sale details. As for Adobe, its case for integration is with the Creative Cloud, so don't expect any forays into commerce, CRM, or other non-marketing realms where competitors have strengths.
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