Adobe kicks off virtual tech customer event season

Adobe’s virtual Summit, a concession to the unprecedented circumstances created by the coronavirus pandemic, becomes the first annual customer event to try the virtual approach. While new product and strategic direction received less attention than at a regular event, and customer experience rather more, for Adobe specifically, that’s likely enough.

This year’s Adobe Summit, which was to have been in Las Vegas before the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic threw this and all other conferences, events and sports activities into a turmoil, went live Tuesday morning. The event, scheduled for 1130 ET, actually was available online a little before that, thus becoming the first technology conference within my memory to start early. It also went off on the same date that the original event was scheduled, which should get the people at Adobe responsible for the logistics of this promotions or raises. The conference is also unique for a couple of other reasons.

First, while tech vendors often have held virtual events with taped presentations and with no attached physical component to them, they are typically for more limited events such as channel kickoffs or regional shows. It’s certainly the first time I’m aware of that a major company event like this one has been entirely online, and for that reason is likely to be watched by other vendors in the same boat of having to rethink their spring conferences.

Second, the conference itself has had some major changes. Typically, these big customer events see vendors make major product announcements, and that was supposed to be the case here. However Adobe decided, apparently at the last moment, to postpone their big product news until a later date. The event was not bereft of news, as we will see, but it consisted primarily of informational and experience tools. Two Adobe Experience Cloud services were also announced as generally available, and three more were discussed on the roadmap for later in 2020. Overall however, the messaging of the event was more around experience than it was around new product, or strategic direction. For Adobe, whose overarching message is always about experience, that’s likely enough to resonate with customers,

Shantanu Narayen, Adobe’s CEO, kicked things off with a Welcome, filmed from his home office in California, an overtly visible concession to the circumstances behind the virtual event. He discussed Adobe’s response to the pandemic, and emphasized how this kind of event makes digital businesses more relevant than ever.

“Everyone is having to rethink the way that they operate, including us at Adobe,” Narayen said. “One thing is certain: digital is growing in importance. Our mission to change the world through digital experiences seems particularly significant now… We want to empower you to inspire, to transform industries, and move the world forward with our technology.”

As a tool to help with this, Narayen formally announced the Adobe Digital Economy Index [DEI], designed to provide a real-time barometer of the digital economy.

“Remarkably, there has been no single way to measure consumer trends in the digital world,” he said. “At Adobe we have access to data from trillions of transactions, tens of millions of products and thousands of retailers, which gives us the unique ability to assess the global digital economy in real time.”

Narayen said that to produce the Index, Adobe has partnered with leading economists and government organizations, who are anxious to use the data to provide a more complete picture of inflation and consumer trends. He noted that in the past few weeks, the DEI indicated that eCommerce sales were up 25% in the US, and 33% in the UK, and categories like daily online grocery sales increased 100% week over week in March.

“Through the DEI we will continue to give you up to the minute insights on global trends so you can adjust and adapt your business in real time,” Narayen said.

The next virtual keynote was delivered by Anil Chakravarthy, who will be new to most Adobe customers. The former CEO of Informatica, and as such a former Adobe customer and partner, Chakravarthy joined Adobe in January as EVP and GM of the Digital Experience Business Unit. Like Narayen, he delivered his segment from his home.

Chakravarthy focused on the new CXM playbook, one of the offerings available through Adobe’s Experience League, Adobe’s site to facilitate online learning and skills development. He emphasized that with the importance of digital transformation today, no matter what industry you are in, it’s important for you to have a blueprint to accomplish this kind of transformation.

“You need to have a playbook,” he said, indicating that to build it, Adobe has distilled their own digital transformation experiences as well as their customers’ experiences.

“The CXM playbook addresses the fact that digital transformation isn’t just about technology,” Chakravarthy stressed. “It’s as much about people and processes and creating new DNA within your company. Our goal is to help you align your team and your organization around a common vision, an actionable plan to elevate the digital experiences you are delivering to your customers. The playbook gives you a template and a customized plan to become an Experience business.”

Chakravarthy said that the CXM Playbook is both a high-level roadmap and a detailed guide, which is organized into six areas: Digital First; Data and Insights; Scalable Content, Optimized Personalization, Customer Journey Management, and Pervasive Commerce.

“Taken together, these six areas of the CXM playbook provide you with a comprehensive blueprint to become an Experience business,” he said. “In each of these areas of the CXM Playbook, you will find best practices, the opportunity to perform self-assessments, take notes and identify gaps in your current plan, Then, when you have finished each self-assessment, you’ll receive learning resources, a customized guide with recommended next steps, and a comparison to industry benchmarks, so you can see how you’re doing compared to your peers. When you complete the CXM playbook, you can download a personalized document to take away and share with your team or management.”

The CXM playbook is available now at Adobe.com, as well as through the Experience League.

Chakravarthy did address what tends to be a staple at on-prem customer events, product vision and strategy and in Adobe’s case how it addresses the customer experience challenges customers face.

He emphasized that their technology vision comes together as the Adobe Experience Cloud. He walked through the components of the Adobe Experience Platform, including recent innovations like Experience Edge, and discussed advances in AI and machine learning-focused Adobe Sensei, which they introduced four years ago.

“We are introducing a new class of intelligent services based on Adobe Sensei,” he said. “These are AI and machine learning- powered services to help you optimize customer experience and campaigns. Today, I’m pleased to announce the general availability of two of these services, Customer AI, and Attribution AI. Customer AI helps you accurately uncover specific customer segments and target each with the right marketing campaigns. And Attribution AI helps you see the conversion impact of owned, earned and paid media and make informed resourcing decisions.”

In addition to these two GA services, Chakravarthy indicated that three other services are on the roadmap for later this year.

“Journey AI, which will constantly analyze behavioral data across millions of your customers and help you activate experiences at optimal times, Content and Commerce AI, which will measure the effectiveness of content in driving merchandise performance, and Leads AI, which will accelerate your sales pipeline by intelligently scoring and routing leads to the right ales reps to maximize their effectiveness.”

Chakravarthy then reviewed the separate cloud applications on the Experience Cloud – Marketing Cloud, Analytics Cloud, Advertising Cloud and Commerce Cloud – some of which had news elements as well.

“We are pleased to introduce a new Analytics [Cloud] mobile app that can give you access to data and insights from any device,” he said. “Leveraging the Experience Platform, the app can analyze customer journeys across both physical and digital touch points. And customizable scorecards built by data teams can help eliminate ad hoc requests while ensuring that the insights are relevant to the user.”

In Commerce Cloud, Chakravarthy noted that product recommendations powered by Adobe Sensei will be available globally to all Magento Commerce customers staring in April. In addition, a new B2B purchasing workflow for Magento Commerce streamlines the pre-purchase authorization process.

Adobe is also making more detailed Innovation Track keynote videos available on Content, Data and Insights, B2B and Commerce, as well as videos of 100 breakout sessions, and a Sneaks video on some of the things going on at Adobe Labs.

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