Personalization is not necessarily unique content for every visitor. Even people who seem to share the same context have unique experiences, and may be pursuing unique outcomes.
In a Nutshell:
This is one of a series reviewing vendors’ personalization platforms.
Adobe is the market leader in enterprise marketing solutions, offering integrated suites of services for content creation, marketing, advertising, analytics and commerce. These suites are Adobe Experience Cloud, Adobe Document Cloud, and Adobe Creative Cloud.
Adobe Experience Cloud is comprised of Adobe Target, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Audience Manager, Adobe Campaign, Adobe Experience Manager, Adobe Advertising Cloud, Magento Commerce Cloud, and Marketo Engagement Platform. These all share the core and AI services of Adobe Experience Platform. Adobe Target is Adobe’s personalization solution, and the focus of this report.
Vision. Adobe’s vision and strategic planning are prime contributors to its success. The vision has been marketed as digital transformation, data driven marketing, and most recently as the experience business. Adobe invests its own marketing resources in guiding its customers and prospects in how (and why) to be an Experience Business. Customer Experience Management is Adobe’s moniker for the convergence of myriad separate categories, such as personalization, loyalty, customer data platforms, and cross channel campaign management, into a single broad category. Adobe of course dominates this category it has defined. Adobe’s participation in the Open Data Initiative, aimed at easing the management and use of a comprehensive and unified customer profile, is a recent demonstration of Adobe’s vision for customer experience management.
Accessible AI Services. Adobe Experience Platform provides Adobe Sensei AI services to all Adobe solutions. Within Adobe Target, AI drives decisions for traffic allocation, best experience, best offer, and product and content recommendations. Adobe’s Personalization Insights reports surface which visitor attributes the machine learning model found most influential in making decisions, and the audiences the model identified as important when determining the best experience or offer to deliver. Finally, the custom criteria feature allows marketers to apply the results of their own data modeling to Adobe Target Recommendations.
Automation. Adobe Target is able to automatically route traffic to the best-performing experience; end A/B tests; and deliver the best available experience or offer.
Best Practices. For a decade or more Adobe has been investing in identifying, understanding, documenting, and teaching best practices for optimization and personalization.
Breadth. Adobe’s digital marketing offerings include content and asset management; cross-channel campaign management; optimization and personalization; analytics; segmentation and audiences; customer data management; programmatic advertising management; eCommerce management; and a unified customer profile.
Overview of Adobe Capabilities
Adobe Experience Cloud provides personalization capabilities that include the following:
- A/B and multivariate testing to audiences
- Auto-Target experience personalization
- Automated Personalization for offers
Rules-based personalization (Experience Targeting)
Personalization Insights report
- Product, content, and media recommendations
- Personalized search
- In email personalization
- Mobile site and app personalization
- IoT personalization
- Voice assistant personalization
- Single page application (SPA) personalization
- Integration with asset (i.e. content) libraries, audience analysis, analytics
Adobe Target is used in personalization programs in Automotive, Retail, Financial Services, Media, Healthcare, Travel and Hospitality, Telecommunications, Consumer Packaged Goods, Technology, Government, Education, and more; by personalization newcomers and sophisticated industry veterans; in firms ranging from small businesses to multinational enterprises; and for both B2C and B2B applications.
Challenges Faced by Target Market
As consumers demand more relevant and consistent experiences, brands must keep up with an ever-escalating competitive environment. Adobe sees the personalization engine market evolving to address key challenges customers are facing in the following areas:
- Intelligent and always on. Personalization engines must enable scale by applying Artificial Intelligence and machine learning for faster and smarter testing and personalization. AI is the critical component to expanding personalization programs beyond manual rules. To support this growth, the AI must be demystified to make machine learning decisions defensible and understandable by all. A growing number of companies have in-house AI research and their own data science. The personalization engine must also support a bring-your-own approach that enables ingesting of data science to augment, experiment with, or potentially replace vendor-powered AI.
- Adapting to and evolving with changes in technology. As the technical environments continue to evolve and shift, personalization engines must grow to offer solutions for emerging technology trends such as single page apps and accelerated mobile pages, while being extensible and modular to support growing headless content management system (CMS) use cases. Personalization engines must continue to embed with content pipeline platforms, analytics and visualization tools, orchestration layers, and content and experience management tools for a holistic, unified view and management of customer experience.
- Everywhere consumers engage. Personalization has to move beyond the browser to support the ever-growing number of devices in consumers’ digital lives. The engine has to expand beyond web to app, IOT, living rooms, kiosks, brick and mortar, e-mail, call centers, voice assistants, and more. Adobe expects growth in unified orchestration layers for both inbound and outbound consumer interactions wherever they may occur.
- Connected across devices and embedded across solutions. Existing everywhere consumers engage will not be enough for the personalization engines moving forward to compete. Personalization engines must also support a unified, cross-device concept of identity or profile with consistent, coordinated, and seamless experiences across critical interactions.
- Intuitive to use for every user and scalable for every business. Even the best technology is useless if it’s too hard to use. The personalization engine must be accessible to a wide variety of audiences – from marketers to developers, product owners, and UX professionals. The features and functionality must be relevant for each audience and provide enterprise-level governance with permission structures that support local and global scale.
Solution Strengths Against the Challenges
Against these challenges, Adobe’s strength lies in the architecture and breadth of its services. Adobe solutions share a common set of services via Adobe Experience Platform that increasingly provide consistent data and functions across the Adobe portfolio.
Adobe’s broad range of marketing capabilities, and its broad partner program, create a personalization environment that collaborates with content pipeline platforms, analytics, visualization, orchestration layers, and content and experience management tools.
Adobe’s marketing suite applies artificial intelligence via Adobe Sensei, the AI layer of Adobe Experience Platform. Adobe Sensei services are used across all Adobe solutions and are also open to users who can add algorithms and models. Adobe demystifies AI by providing explanations of the algorithms used, how they work, and how to interpret the results. The data and insights captured within Adobe Target are to some extent available to users’ data science teams. In particular, the decisions made by the machine learning models in Adobe Target on what to show customers and how they responded is immediately available. Additionally, Adobe Experience Cloud can apply user developed algorithms and models to personalization decisions.
Because the effort to create, deliver, and manage personalized customer experiences engages people with many roles across many departments in a company, it is important that the personalization solution encourage collaboration. The top three requirements are support for many roles, immediately accessible learning, and enterprise controls.
Support for many roles. The average number of Adobe Target users in a company is around 10, with many more in organizations that are larger, global, or have mature practices. User roles include marketers, product managers, IT and developers, data scientists, and content producers. Adobe Target specifically provides workflows aimed at marketers, developers, and product owners, especially those working with data science.
Immediately accessible learning. Adobe Digital Learning Services provides online training and learning opportunities with online tutorials, skills assessment, learning paths, e-learning online courses, and custom learning opportunities.
Adobe provides a variety of free and fee methods for acquiring knowledge and skills including:
- On-demand and self-guided training
- Instructor-led training and in-person training
- Digital marketing skills assessment
- Certification programs with both in-person and remote proctoring available
- Personalization Thursdays Webinars
- Adobe Target Basics Webinars
- Adobe Target Tutorials, covering topics such as composing experiences and creating tests
- Adobe Target Online User Guide
- Robust help documentation
- Adobe Target Blog
- Adobe Experience League with Experience League for Target (online community of peers and experts and learning resources)
The knowledge bases and online learning programs make it possible for people to make use of Adobe Target capabilities as their roles and challenges change. The knowledge provided is oriented to how to use Adobe Target, but also includes playbooks on how to execute basic marketing functions such as creating and managing campaigns. If you are suddenly handed an assignment outside your experience, the self-learning environment makes it possible to tackle it.
Enterprise controls. Adobe Experience Cloud is an enterprise level solution, meaning it is designed for the safe use by multiple people and groups, including protecting data, access, and boundaries. Workflows support enterprise governance practices
Personalization is not achieved with a tool bolted onto your marketing environment. It is achieved with a broad range of capabilities embedded in most of what marketing does. Integration thus becomes fundamental to the value of any personalization solution. The top three requirements are customer data integration, app integration, and accessible services.
Customer Data Integration. Customer experience information can be immediately accessed by other applications, including what content was seen and what was clicked on, via the response tokens on web pages. If server-side integration is in place, this information is available via server calls.
All Adobe Experience Cloud applications can ingest third-party and CRM data to augment the customer data profile. There are limits to the number and type of attributes imported and how they can be used, but marketers have considerable flexibility to use the data that is important to them. Profiles can be queried and downloaded to third party apps as audiences or segments. Adobe recognizes the challenges marketers face in creating accurate and comprehensive profiles. In September 2018, Adobe, Microsoft, and SAP announced the Open Data Initiative, intended to eliminate data silos and enable a single view of the customer, through a common data model. The data model will provide for the use of a common data lake service on Microsoft Azure. This may ease some of the data cleansing and integration tasks marketing organizations routinely face.
App Integration. Adobe Experience Cloud provides hundreds of APIs via Adobe.IO, Adobe’s API gateway. The Adobe Experience Cloud Exchange is a single destination where customers can look for and get digital marketing extensions via apps, such as data connectors, custom configurations to Adobe’s core products, third-party applications, and reports. Adobe Target supports emerging standards including single page apps, accelerated mobile pages, and headless CMS use cases. Adobe Target can be implemented both client-side and server-side. This makes it possible to connect to devices that don’t involve a browser, such as gaming consoles and IoT devices. Adobe’s mobile visual design tools also put Adobe everywhere marketers engage customers. A marketer can set up an Adobe Target activity, including designing a new page or setting rules for selecting content, anytime he or she can use a phone.
Accessible services. Core services are available to all Adobe Experience Cloud Solutions via Adobe Experience Platform and a single UI. Adobe Experience Cloud solutions all share a single user profile, a single set of APIs, services, client-side and server-side implementation methods, and SDKs. Adobe Target integration with other Experience Cloud solutions allows the same data, audiences, attributes and metrics to be shared.
Adobe Experience Cloud has a unified customer profile that spans devices, time, and applications, including non-web devices such as IoT and gaming platforms. The profile data is accessible to all Adobe solutions via the People Core Service, as well as to user applications and analysis. It is constantly augmented with information on what has been shown a customer, and how the customer reacted. This information can then be used for targeting, audience analysis, and segmentation.
AI and Automation
Leaders in delivering personalized customer experiences are developing the capability to personalize any part of any customer interaction. Personalization is a challenge that can’t be accomplished at scale unless AI is effective at predicting customer reactions to each step in the experience, and automatically presenting the best next step. The top three requirements are control and automation; shared insights; and real time actions.
Control and automation. Adobe Target can automatically route traffic during tests; end A/B tests; create audiences and deliver the best available experience; and automatically divert more traffic to the winning experience during a test. As needed, marketers can create static or dynamic business rules to influence or control decisions made by the AI, such as global recommendations exclusions, boost/bury weightings, and filters. Offers can be further targeted and constrained by eligibility rules or brand and marketing guidelines. Customer profile attributes can be compared against static values (e.g., inventory is greater than 5) or by dynamic values (e.g., propensity to apply for mortgage is higher than propensity to apply for auto loan).
Shared insights. Adobe Experience Platform provides AI services to all Adobe solutions. Within Adobe Target, AI drives decisions for traffic allocation, best experiences and offers, and product and content recommendations. Adobe Target content and product recommendations and next-best offer/next-best action decisions are enabled by machine learning algorithms that consider a user’s omnichannel Adobe Experience Cloud profile. These decisions can be made in any channel including web, app, voice, OTT, and IOT surfaces and consumer interaction points.
Adobe offers two Personalization Insights reports that analyze AI decisions and describe them in terms that are useful to marketers. The Automated Segments report presents different segments that the machine learning models assembled automatically and determined were important when deciding which offers or experiences to deliver in an AI-driven personalization activity. It also shows you how many visitors were included in these automated segments and how they responded to a given offer or experience. The Important Attributes report shows the top visitor attributes of a visitor that influenced the model, along with their relative importance. These attributes could come from any first-, second-, or third-party data source being shared with Adobe Target—including data management platform (DMP) or customer relationship management (CRM) data. Adobe has patented an algorithm that generates human understandable insights from the output of the AI-driven activities in Auto-Target and Automated Personalization.
Adobe customers who have invested in building their own data models, such as propensity score models, can export the output of these models for use by Adobe Target Recommendations. These custom criteria can be used for real-time filtering rules, weightings, and customizations.
Real time actions. Models are updated hourly, with decisions happening in real time for every visitor on every visit.