Las Vegas was home to the recent Adobe Marketing Summit for the first time this year, and Sin City did not disappoint the more than 10,000 registrants, sponsors, and vendors who experienced a larger-than-life digital marketing conference at the gorgeous The Venetian/The Palazzo resort.
In addition to hundreds of breakout sessions covering the latest strategies and best practices in mobile, analytics, personalization, programmatic, omni-channel, IoT, and much more, attendees were treated to some Vegas showbiz glitz with appearances by actor George Clooney, soccer champ Abby Wambach, Silicon Valley's Thomas Middleditch, and a private concert by rockers Weezer.
In the following, I will list some of the broad announcements made by Adobe in regards to its Marketing Cloud.
I will also cover some of the most important trends you need to pay attention to as a digital marketer, as brought to light by my discussions with executives from Adobe and several other important players in marketing technology, such as the CEOs of Gigya and Clicktale. These insights should prove invaluable to you as you plan your marketing technology spends and campaigns in the years to come.
The experience business
The overriding theme of this year's Summit was that technology can help marketers shift toward creating more positive interactions or experiences with customers when marketing to them, rather than continue with the intrusive habits of the past.
Things like: pop-up ads; forced registration, surveys, or app downloads to access content; "spray and pray" spam campaigns, and excessive retargeting are increasingly falling into disfavor. Instead, a more holistic marketing approach, one which develops relationships with consumers instead of simply interrupting them, continues to gain a foothold.
Think of the sea change that occurred in sales some time ago, where transactional "hard sell" sales approaches made way for relationship-based selling, including the "trusted advisor" and "solution selling" models which are more organic and consultative. In the same way, marketing is experiencing a shift towards giving consumers messages they want to receive -- at the right time and on the proper device.
Here is what Adobe announced as part of its continued emphasis on providing better customer experiences:
- A cross-device cooperative where Adobe customers can opt-in to share information in order to identify consumers across their multiple devices. This networked data will permit a people-based marketing approach where brands can create more consistent and personalized experiences by knowing when people move from, say, a tablet to a desktop. (Personal or site visit data is not shared, and privacy and opt-out tools will prevent abuse.)
- A new OTT streaming platform built using Adobe Primetime that allows for better personalization, testing, optimization, and monetization of video content.
- A partnership with comScore to enable advanced digital TV and ad measurement across devices and better metrics for media planning and buying.
- Evolved data science capabilities across the Marketing Cloud, including predictive subject lines (more on this later).
The developments are more iterative than revolutionary, but they illustrate just how important data analysis and machine learning are becoming to the marketer.
So, does this mean robots are taking over?
No, robots are not taking over
"Don't fear the algorithms."
So said Patrick Tripp, senior product marketing manager for Adobe when we spoke about trends marketers should be focusing on. According to him, data science will become increasingly important, and is key to the upcoming bells and whistles in Campaign, Adobe's email marketing platform. He stressed it does not replace human intuition and creativity, but rather complements them and allows marketers to make better decisions.
One new feature in Adobe Campaign is called Integrated Analytics Triggers. Slated to roll out in Q3, it will allow marketing content to be delivered at a specific time, and with an exact degree of personalization, when a consumer performs a sequence of events, such as watching a video and then viewing a product page.
Campaign will allow users to define the touchpoints and messaging in an easy to use interface, with privacy and the responsibility to provide a great experience to the consumer top of mind, assures Tripp.
Another new feature rolling out soon is Predictive Subject Lines. When a subject line is created by a marketer, she can produce a color-coded word cloud with recommendations of more effective words and phrases, based on historical data, with a single click. As Tripp said, "You live or die by your email subject line," so this feature should improve open rates without the endless guessing and testing we all face today.
Other trends Tripp identified:
- Less is more when it comes to email frequency. In contrast to a "batch and blast" strategy, which provides diminishing returns in the long run, Tripp sees micro-targeted, timely email at the proper intervals as more effective for long term customer relationships.
- Email will be a viable career path for Millennials seeking an entry into digital marketing. It is a very visible, easily measurable digital marketing channel, and there is so much opportunity to reinvent it. It is still overlooked by many -- offering opportunities for new approaches.
Security and privacy are differentiators
Gigya handles customer identification and access management for more than 700 large consumer-facing brands, such as Northface, Colgate, Fox, Nike, and L' Oreal. In total, it handles the front-end registration and logins for more than 800 million consumers.
I spoke with its CEO Patrick Salyer about the recent announcement that it was chosen by Adobe to handle customer authentication and identification for the previously mentioned Adobe Primetime OTT. Among other things, this partnership will enable much greater personalization across devices through rich insights into viewer behavior.
"Once you can identify it's the same customer across all the touchpoints of a brand -- and you have actual data on that customer and connect that to, say, content recommendation engines, email engines, and ad serving engines -- that should improve what kind of customer experience you give to that consumer," said Salyer.
Salyer acknowledged that consumers want this high level of personalization, but not at any cost. Instead, he said ensuring security and privacy while collecting and using consumer data is a trend marketers need to jump on. Ensuring consumers opt-in and that brands comply with regulations are crucial. In fact, he predicts this will become a major differentiator and selling point for companies who tackle it thoughtfully.
- Cross-device identification will continue to grow in importance, so content delivery will be seamless from mobile phone to smartwatch to connected home theater screen.
- The cookie will die. Salyer said that the old way of tracking users isn't working anymore and that direct relationships and opt-in are taking over. "The holy grail would be to provide so much value that customers provide a constant feedback loop, telling you their preferences.
Experience the brand as the consumer
"I was really happy to see Adobe's focus on experience. From the very beginning, we've always been focused on how customers are experiencing the brand -- from their perspective," said Tal Schwartz, Clicktale CEO.
Clicktale, which was awarded Adobe's "Marketing Cloud Innovation Partner of the Year" at the conference, provides insight through heat maps and session recordings. Its technology allows marketers to view exactly what users did on brand pages and apps, from mouse clicks to page scrolls, as if they were looking through the eyes of the consumers. (User data is kept anonymous)
By seeing where viewers abandon pages, or experience errors, or simply do not scroll down the page and see a call to action, web design can be adjusted and conversion rates improved. One Clicktale client experienced a 60 percent conversion increase on a crucial landing page after viewing the heat maps and adjusting the button layout to reduce confusion.
"Put the customer experience at the center of everything you do," said Schwartz. As an example, one Clicktale client has its web designers watch recorded customer sessions for a couple of hours each month. This allows them to see the customer experience firsthand and make changes proactively.
Besides heading toward experience-centric organizations, other trends he identified for marketers include:
- An even greater emphasis on mobile. A lot of marketers still don't have their heads around it.
- An increased ability to get to the "Why?" Marketers are delving into data science in order to learn why things happen rather than simply react to them. Technology will allow them to glean insights in a quicker way.
Content is still king
Adobe social is a social media management platform for posting, conversation listening and moderation, and social analytics for social.
Heidi Besik, group product marketing manager for Adobe Social, says that the sophistication with which content is developed and used by social marketers is evolving. It no longer suffices to write a blog post, stick a stock photo into it, and call it a day. Instead, a trend toward greater consideration of design and on understanding how content is performing in relation to other marketing activities is emerging.
• Social will be positioned differently across the organization in the upcoming months. Marketing traditionally has been channel-first, meaning that content is planned and developed based on the channel of distribution (e.g., email, social, app, desktop). As we talk about experience, we will see a shift to content-first, with consideration of the channel coming in second.
• Touching on a trend mentioned previously above, she said marketers should, in the near future, expect to be able to pull deeper actionable insights from data (get to the "Why?" to borrow from Clicktale's Schwartz) without becoming an analyst.
Design immersive experiences
Philips is a large multinational with verticals in everything from healthcare to consumer electronics. Joost van Dun, global .com manager for Philips, said that Adobe Experience Manager has been instrumental in moving the brand's websites from catalog/product portfolio type of experiences to something else more immersive and useful, such as providing tips and tricks for a grooming product rather than just specs and features.
Creating immersive experiences for the consumer is becoming easier. For example, Philips' individual business units have the ability to develop websites and pages on their own thanks to AEM's modular architecture and ability to share digital assets across the enterprise, rather than rely on the IT department. At the conference, he demonstrated building a webpage in just 14 minutes, a task which he estimated would previously have taken at least two weeks using legacy systems and dealing with IT red tape.
Another trend which van Dun is excited for is micro-moments, a concept introduced by Google last year, which is catching on. These are defined as mobile queries done on the fly to solve an immediate need or answer a pressing question. Think "Where can I find a coffee shop nearby?" or "How many calories in an egg?" It is increasingly important to "be there" to respond to these searches, which are initiated dozens of times per day by the average person, with appropriate marketing messages.
• Most marketers still do not have a mobile-first mindset, and this will change rapidly. Rather than dumb down a desktop site for the mobile version, web designers will be thinking the other way around and design for the devices people interact with the most -- their smartphones.
• Echoing earlier sentiments, van Dun says digital marketing will shift toward providing experiences based on the person, rather than the individual device. This will require cross-device identification, which is the promise of the co-operative mentioned earlier, but is still in the nascent stage.