The Adobe Experience Cloud

03 May 2020 » Opinion

Today I want to give an overview of the Adobe Experience Cloud. Now that I think about it, I should have done it a long time ago. I just got into the habit of explaining how to solve individual problems, that I never actually thought about the bigger picture. So, if you are familiar with the whole Adobe Experience Cloud or are looking for specific solutions to certain issues, you better skip this post. On the other hand, if you came here trying to understand what the Adobe suite of tools is about, this is for you.

Digital Marketing

The first thing that needs to be clarified is the area the Adobe Experience Cloud (AEC) focuses on: digital marketing. Some people also call it MarTech. Adobe took this very conscious decision and all the acquisitions since that decision have been around this area. In fact, you will remember that we used to call it the Adobe Marketing Cloud. However, as I explained in my previous post on People Buy Experiences, Not Products, marketing has shifted towards experiences and so has the Adobe suite of tools.

It is also important to note what it is not. The AEC does not include a CRM, a Business Intelligence tool, an ERP, supply chain technology or banking software. Some clients wonder why we are lacking these tools. The answer is very simple: it is a matter of specialisation. I know that some Neolane clients used what today is Adobe Campaign as a CRM, but that could only work with small companies. Even when Adobe Sensei was unveiled, it was not a general AI technology; it was only focused on experiences.

So, with this minimal introduction, I will jump into the summary of each of the tools.

Adobe Analytics

This was the first solution I learned and it is still very dear to my heart. Adobe Analytics is all about behavioural data, what in generic terms we call web analytics. There are two main sides to this tool:

  • Reporting. This was probably the first reason for this tool. Managers want data to take decisions: which campaign is bringing more sales, is the number of visitors increasing… There is one thing to be mentioned here. Having data just for the sake of it does not make any sense. We want data for a reason, not to hoard it. In other words, it does not make any sense to just send all the data to Analytics.
  • Insights. If your employer purchased Adobe Analytics only for reporting, you would be underutilising it. In my personal opinion, what makes Analytics really powerful is its capability to uncover hidden gems. Knowing that the number of visitors is increasing can be soothing, but knowing that visitors from London who speak Polish and visit your website for the 3rd time in a week are 3 times more likely to convert than a unknown visitor, is gold dust. This is where the value of the tool is: helping our clients find where the money is.

Adobe Audience Manager

AAM is Adobe’s proposition in the DMP market. I have been an AAM consultant, so I know it fairly well. However, I am also aware that it is a tool that is difficult to understand if you are not in the display advertising industry. And let me remark understand, not use it: the concepts can be difficult to grasp, but once you get it, using AAM is piece of cake. In case you need a deeper dive into this tool, I recommend my post on DMPs: data in, data out. In summary, a DMP is a real-time segmentation tool of website and app users. It is mainly used for display advertising: create audiences and show each one a different message in media. However, AAM has used these capabilities to also enhance other Adobe tools, mainly Adobe Analytics and Adobe Target.

I have found a few times the struggle between the practitioners and the managers regarding acquiring this tool: practitioners want it, but managers are reluctant because of the cost. However, as a partner once put it, it is a tool that pays for itself. I have witnessed, for example, a 25% drop in cost per acquisition just by setting up a very simple AAM campaign.

Adobe Target

With this solution, you can mainly do two closely related things:

  • Optimisation. Also called A/B testing. With this feature, you can test multiple alternatives to your website and evaluate which one brings a higher conversion. You can test almost anything: changing colours or fonts, modifying menu entries, adding call-to-action buttons, changing the order of the elements on the page… Remember that the website is not for you, but for your users. You need to find out what they prefer and change the website accordingly. You should always be working on ideas of areas you can optimise.
  • Personalisation. Instead of offering the same experience to all visitors, you should modify the website depending on the visitor. I am not talking about a unique experience to each individual visitor, but you can create a number of different experiences for groups of visitors (i.e segments or audiences). As with the optimisation, there are endless things you can do. A few examples:
    • A travel agency specialised in exotic holidays could change the hero banner of the home page depending of the location of the visitor, knowing what the inhabitants of that region prefer.
    • A retailer could promote coats or umbrellas on a rainy day.
    • A bank will want to offer the best credit card to each visitor, hiding those that the visitor will probably find useless.

Sometimes I have the feeling that Adobe Target is not taken as seriously as it should. Some clients say they do not have enough time to prepare A/B tests. However, I have seen cases where, after we helped a client with Target, they were making and additional £1M+ per year. I am wondering how someone can say they do not have the time to make a lot more money.

Adobe Campaign

The first thing that comes to mind when talking about Campaign is sending emails. However, this solution is much, much more than that, it is what we call a marketing automation tool. Granted, you can send emails with it, but this is only a small part of its capabilities.

Where Campaign excels is in its workflows, with which you can do:

  • Organise all your activities in a structured way.
  • Create audiences based on any combination of the attributes you have collected about them.
  • Personalise the message replacing placeholders with any profile attribute.
  • Use any previous messages sent for audience segmentation.
  • Act based on actions taken by your consumers, either through Campaign (like open an email or click on a link) or through external signals.

In summary, the idea is to create customer journeys, where you send different messages depending on the step in the journey. In case this sounds too abstract, let’s use a hypothetical example. Consider a bank, which wants to promote a savings account to its customers. It could do something like:

  1. Select all customers that do not have a savings account (you do not want to send an email to customers that already have the product you are promoting).
  2. Send them an email, with the name of the customer and main branch personalised to each recipient.
  3. If they have the bank’s mobile app, 5 days later send a reminder though a push notification; otherwise, send the reminder through SMS.
  4. After 30 days, if they have opened the savings account, do nothing more; otherwise, send another email with a credit card offer.

I am not claiming that this journey makes business sense, but it illustrates what you can do with it.

Adobe Experience Manager

I could just say that AEM is a content management system (CMS). However, one thing I learnt at Adobe is that there are a wide variety of CMSs. WordPress, which is what I use for this blog, is one of the most popular for simple websites. I am not going to try to sell you here this tool, as I would be a terrible sales person. However, when it comes to big, sophisticated websites you need another kind of CMS. In fact, AEM is made of 3 main sub-products:

  • Sites. This is what we usually think of a CMS: a place to create a website and populate it with pages. You may think that any CMS would do, but it turns out that, in the corporate world, CMSs need to have an array of advanced features that simple products like WordPress struggle with or, simply put, lack.
  • Assets. If you are not in this world, you probably have never thought of asset management. Well, it turns out that this is an important tool for big corporations. Managing thousands (millions?) of images and videos, with all sort of sizes and encodings becomes a real burden. Not only store them, but easily finding them and putting them in your messages.
  • Forms. Less popular than the other two, this feature allows you to create complex web forms. I know it does not sound sexy, but some companies need exactly this.

There is so much more to say about AEM that I could spend the rest of the day writing and you would just not read it. What I can tell you is that it is the most complex Adobe tool of all. If you are an AEM developer, you know it and you also know that the market demands this role a lot, with very good salaries. So, if you are a Java developer and want to switch, I definitely recommend AEM.

Main products

So far, I have explained the main products in the Adobe Experience Cloud. In most of the setups you will come across, you will get a combination of them. I hope that this has clarified your questions about the products you did not know about. If you still have some specific questions, please, leave your question in the comments and I will reply.

There are 3 more products, which I will explain in a later post: Magento, Marketo and Ad Cloud.


Photo by Kevin Ku on Unsplash

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