Hailed as the biggest digital marketing conference in the world, attendees enjoyed keynote sessions featuring top Adobe brass as well as actor Michael Keaton, and also chose from hundreds of sessions and hands-on labs covering topics ranging from e-mail optimization to big data analytics to asset management and the Internet of Things (IoT). The following is a brief wrap-up of the highlights of the conference, and what changes you can expect to see hitting the advertising and marketing worlds starting today and in the near future.
With so many different sessions and keynote points, to distill the biggest single takeaway is a challenge, but I think the best way to sum up the main lesson of last week is:
"CONTEXT IS KING."
While that phrase has been kicked around for a while now by various media pundits, marketers should start taking it very seriously. The way they interact with prospects and customers through digital experiences is changing in a profound way, and the presentations and discussions in Salt Lake last week hammered this home.
At the opening keynote session, Brad Rencher, Adobe's SVP & General Manager, Digital Marketing emphasized that the lines between product and marketing are blurring, with consumer experience across devices and locations as much a part of the product as the actual good or service.
And the key to ensuring great experiences moving forward is serving targeted messaging and content at the exact right time and based on the user's exact current circumstances, to maximize contextual relevance.
As an example: picture beacon or GPS technology utilized to offer you a free croissant with a "Welcome to Paris" note on your mobile phone when you walk by your favorite fast food chain after landing in France. Or imagine you enter a bank and not only are you greeted by name, but are asked if you would like a cappuccino, which they know is your favorite hot beverage thanks to data from previous visits, while you wait for an associate to take care of you and incidentally offer a higher yielding account based on an analysis of your past 12 months account activity.
Well, this is all now within the realm of possibility, and Adobe is one of the leaders in the charge towards this new reality with the Adobe Marketing Cloud, its robust, end-to-end enterprise-class marketing solution comprised of various modules addressing analytics, email, content management, social, targeting and testing, and more. With 30.4 trillion transactions handled annually and $1.2 billion in revenue last year, it is the current forerunner in digital marketing suites, outpacing offerings from Salesforce, Marketo, Oracle and other big players in this space.
And in order to maintain that lead, Adobe is focused on enabling a deeper interaction between marketers and their audiences by allowing them to reach prospects like never before.
The Internet of Things
As the much-hyped $349 Apple Watch is set to finally hit stores next month, and with other manufacturers muscling in to secure their positions in the wearables pecking order with their own cheaper offerings, the Internet of Things might finally transition beyond pie-in-the-sky concepts (I like to make jokes about useless talking toasters) into practical use. And Adobe, like most other tech firms, is betting on it.
Adobe's Experience Manager, which is basically their CMS platform, now offers marketers the ability to create interactive experiences with web-connected physical locations such as vending machines, hotel room door locks, retail store displays --and yes, watch screens -- everywhere.
Connections are continuous and feed the analytics engine with a fresh stream of data, triggering interactions on the fly. Changes to content are easily managed. An eye-popping demonstration was made wherein the large Coke sign in Times Square was instantly updated with a new background image right from the stage at the Salt Palace. Imagine being able to do the same thing across a multitude of screens and devices with highly personalized content automatically pushed out based on what each member of your target audience happens to be interacting with at that precise instant.
Talk about relevant, contextual marketing.
The importance of using data to derive context and respond optimally in real-time was driven home in a breakout session by Aurelie Lepley, Product Marketing Manager for Adobe and Alyssa Nahatis, Director of Email Deliverability. They cited a 2.5x increase in conversions when shopping cart abandoners were retargeted with an email exactly one hour after an incomplete transaction. Data analysis showed emailing sooner was considered "creepy" while anything over an hour reduced email opens and clickthroughs.
And in a conversation I had with Kerry Reilly, Director of Product Marketing for Adobe Campaign, when asked what she thought the greatest potential lay for marketers in the near future, she said "the ability to use data to drive relevance" and cited the strength of Adobe Campaign in creating dynamic emails which, for example, can use a customer's location to provide appropriate messaging.
To get an idea of how this would play out in real life, consider delivering an email to your customers that would use geolocation to determine where they are and show them either a map to your nearest physical store if they are nearby, or an offer for shopping online if they are not.
This level of sophistication in marketing requires an equally sophisticated data collection methodology. According to Reilly, some of the things that Adobe Campaign can track and use in conjunction with Adobe Analytics and other tools include:
- What customers are buying and how often (loyalty)
- How they are interacting with the brand at the moment
- Where they are while interacting
- What devices they are using
- What is happening around the user (weather, traffic, etc.)
- Offline behavior and data from other systems, including CRM
All of this might bring up some privacy concerns, but Reilly assured me that Adobe is committed to following industry best practices as far as opt-in and opt-out, CAN-SPAM, and related measures.
One of the most popular attractions at the yearly Summit is the Sneak Peeks by Adobe Labs, where experimental concepts are presented to attendees to "vote" for by their cheers, applause, and tweets. While not all of these products and features will see the light of day, Sneak Peeks nevertheless provides a glimpse into both the ingenuity of the minds at Adobe and the potential demand for these from the people who would likely benefit the most -- namely those marketers, developers, and execs from 44 countries sitting in the audience. Here is what was presented this year, aided by comedian and actor Wayne Brady:
- Freeform - enables complex data queries through a drag-and-drop interface
- Benchmarker - allows marketers to easily and visually compare their digital marketing metrics with the anonymous, aggregated data of over 5,000 companies worldwide
- SmartPic - my personal favorite, one of its features is that it compares newly uploaded pictures with existing ones to automatically generate tags. Imagine uploading a picture of a day at at the beach, and the engine automatically recognizes and tags things such as "sand," "beach," "summer," and "ocean," making searching for assets a breeze later on.
- DataTone - a natural language interface to enable marketers to access marketing information more intuitive.
- CreativeNow - integrates over 35 million stock images from Fotolia to make the design process easier for marketers.
- Mobile Reality - allows the physical tracking and analytics of users' movements in stores and other locations using beacon technology. Helps detect traffic patterns and optimize brick-and-mortar spaces.
The world of Minority Report, where hyper-personalized contextual ads popped up as our hero portrayed by Tom Cruise walked by sensors in a mall, is no longer a far-off dream. Thanks to the ubiquity of mobile phones and tablets, the expected surge of IoT web-connected devices, and the innovation of companies such as Adobe, marketers can take a leap into the future and design better customer experiences that leverage the wealth of data now available to us.
Web-enabled car dashboards, digital screens in retail stores, beacon-enabled billboards on the highways, smart watches, airport displays, connected soda machines, and other devices which surround us or are carried with us 24/7 are the next frontier of digital marketing.
Is your brand ready?