Last week Adobe hosted its annual Adobe Summit in Las Vegas. As is the custom, the event lasted nearly the full week and featured big-name celebrities such as Sir Richard Branson (entrepreneur), Leslie Jones (comedian), and JJ Watt (NFL player). We actually sponsored the event a couple years ago, but starting last year, our offer to sponsor was denied since Adobe (accurately) identified Evergage as a competitor. So last year, we took the opportunity to make a little noise outside the summit by promoting our differentiators and Adobe’s flaws on t-shirts, on a mobile billboard, in a funny video, and on social media using the hashtag #AdobeAlternative. This year, though, I simply registered and attended the event. I also used the opportunity to speak with marketers and Adobe customers and partners about their needs and perspectives.

The most interesting thing I noticed was that throughout the event, Adobe publicly admitted the flaws in its architecture and implicitly endorsed Evergage’s approach to personalization, promising to build a platform like ours. I’ll explain what I mean by this statement in this blog post.

Evergage is built on the “The Power of 1”

Six years ago, Evergage launched a real-time personalization platform built on four big ideas that we call The Power of 1. This whitepaper covers these ideas more thoroughly, but here are the highlights (it’s important to understand these before we get into what Adobe is doing):

  • 1 Profile: All behavioral, customer, attribute, segment, model, and survey data is stored in one single profile for each individual, collected from interactions across channels. Our point of view has always been that, without a single view of each person, how can you deliver experiences tailored to each person?
  • 1 Moment: All data is collected, interpreted, and acted on to deliver a relevant, personalized experience in less than 20 milliseconds (i.e., real-time). After all, how can you be relevant to a person if you aren’t responding to them in the moment?
  • 1 Platform: All areas related to customer engagement (behavioral tracking, surveying, A/B testing, targeting, triggered messaging, recommendations, customer data integration, analytics, and attribution unified across web, mobile, email, ad, and in-person channels) exist in one cloud-based platform powered by machine learning to ensure maximum relevance, power, and ease of use. From the beginning, Evergage was built to be a customer data platform (CDP) united with a personalization platform.
  • 1 Mission: Evergage brings to bear the best people and resources to enable every one of our customers to achieve their customer experience — and greater business — goals.

Adobe’s CEO says Adobe is investing in a platform like Evergage’s

For years, Adobe has told its prospects and customers that it could provide real-time, one-to-one personalization (i.e., what Evergage does) — when the architecture to do so did not actually exist. This led to untold confusion by prospects and frustration by customers and services partners who were promised one thing and received another. Well, Adobe finally admitted – publicly at their summit last week – that the Adobe Marketing Cloud cannot deliver real-time, one-to-one personalization or serve as a central hub of customer data. Acknowledging how important that is, however, they then announced that they are now building what Evergage’s clients have had for six years with their next-generation Adobe Cloud Platform.

In an article in CMO Australia, Nadia Cameron outlined the four points that Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen mentioned as the way of the future for this new Adobe Cloud Platform:

  1. Working to define a unified customer profile
  2. Building an Adobe Cloud Platform that can bring all profile data and context together
  3. Incorporating machine learning to deliver better recommendations
  4. Creating an ecosystem because “no platform is an island”

Note that Narayen didn’t say that Adobe could already deliver these fundamental components of one-to-one personalization; rather, he said that they are investing in these areas. Don’t these points seem suspiciously similar to what Evergage already has and has been delivering for six years? They do to me. One single profile and one platform are both elements of our “Power of 1” philosophy, we recently published the book on using machine learning for one-to-one personalization, and we have long supported data integration and synchronization across systems in an easy and intuitive manner.

Adobe admits it does not provide a unified customer profile — but it needs one

According to Nadia Cameron in another CMO article, Cody Crnkovich, head of platform and strategy for Adobe Marketing Cloud, “compared the state of data unification and usage for customer engagement to an orchestra full of musicians playing their own instruments well, but out of sync.” This is a very accurate analogy, but who’s the supposed market leader in customer engagement? In other words, if there is a problem with the current state of customer engagement, who created that problem? Adobe, of course.

According to Cameron, Crnkovich said that:

The way many brands are accessing their data collection right now is similar to how this fractured orchestra sounds. Teams are siloed, there’s little collaboration, and everyone is playing their instrument based on what they think it can deliver. Data is often not unified into a single profile for each customer. This new experience record and new data services create that complete, real-time profile, allowing a brand to deliver a delightful CX and make that person feel like a friend, not a device.

And why do brands not have access to a single profile for every customer? Because Adobe hasn’t provided one! Adobe has multiple user profiles in Adobe Target alone, another in Adobe Analytics, another in Audience Manager, etc.

Let’s be clear, Adobe stood on stage and said you cannot achieve one-to-one personalization with their current suite of products — products that many customers have already spent millions of dollars on (and wasted years of time) because Adobe promised they could achieve one-to-one personalization.

Adobe admits current Adobe Marketing Cloud is not real-time — but it should be

To coincide with the announcement of the next generation of the Adobe Cloud Platform, Adobe published a blog post with some details. Here’s a quote directly from the Adobe blog (emphasis in bold is mine):

At today’s Adobe Summit, we’re announcing the next generation of Adobe Cloud Platform, the industry’s first and only way to work with an enterprise’s vast array of experience data in real-time. This involves bringing together all behavioral data into one place and building services on top to understand the customer and to deliver the right experiences, which we call the Experience System of Record.

Adobe was not the “first” to allow an enterprise to work with a “vast array of experience data in real time.” Evergage has been doing that for years. But the most important point in that quote is the word “only.” With that word, Adobe is saying that the next generation Adobe Cloud Platform is the ONLY way to personalize in real time. But if it is the ONLY way, then Adobe’s current Marketing Cloud (the one it is asking you to spend millions of dollars on) is not capable of being real-time. And if you can’t act/personalize in real time, then just how relevant are you?

Adobe’s next-generation is flawed in design and won’t be fully real-time

Finally, let’s unpack a particularly complicated quote from the same Adobe blog article.

The Experience System of Record facilitates experience-related actions to be completed at the right time on the right channel. Fast access to this data is necessary for real-time activation use cases, such as web personalization, advertising, or mobile marketing. Also, this real-time activation occurs in a large and geographically distributed network of decision-making nodes that Adobe calls the Edge. The Edge Activation use cases require only a subset of the Experience Cloud Profile for decisioning. Acquiring this data is achieved by creating one or more projections of this data combined with new computed attributes like propensity score.

This is how I interpret this quote: Adobe can’t just build and provide you with a platform like Evergage. Adobe has a bunch of legacy personalization and customer engagement products they have already sold to customers, like Adobe Target and aspects of Adobe Campaign. When Adobe releases this new Cloud Platform, it can’t just replace Target. So you’ll still have Target as an Edge component. But how will Target act on a “unified profile” in real time for personalization? It appears it will get a subset of the profile and that profile will be “projected to Target” along with outputs of machine learning which will also be projected. Target or other Edge systems will then use the projection to personalize or perform mobile marketing.

But, what happens if the projected data and propensity scores are out of date the moment they arrive at the Edge because of new customer data or behavior? Evergage updates its model propensity scores continually, in real time, and leverages these continual updates in the platform’s machine learning and rule-based targeting and triggers into any channel.   

We’ll have to see how this plays out. Will it be yet more integration work? Will it actually be full relevance in real time? Good luck, Adobe.

Adobe is trying to become Evergage

I’m not kidding. Adobe is trying to make its next-generation product into Evergage. Just give that blog post a skim and you’ll find references to concepts Evergage was designed to incorporate from the start. At the very least, the fact that the industry leader has publicly stated that it is moving in the same direction as Evergage validates that our approach is the correct one. We appreciate the compliment.

Given that Evergage is a smaller player in this space, you might suggest that Adobe doesn’t even know about Evergage and that the similarities are a coincidence. But that’s not the case.

While Adobe is just now working on its unified customer profile strategy, Evergage has had unified customer profiles for both B2C and B2B organizations for years. Let’s take a look at the unified profile Evergage has for Adobe based on their visitors to Evergage’s website:

adobe summit

adobe summit

In the past year, 151 Adobe employees have visited Evergage’s website, many of them spending 20-30 minutes of engaged time on our site.

You can see that most of them want a job at Evergage, but many were reading our blog post comparing Evergage and Adobe and other pages like “Why Evergage” which outlines The Power of 1 elements.  

adobe summit

Additionally, I attended the Adobe Summit to meet with organizations who actually want to do real-time, one-to-one personalization. While there, I signed up for an Adobe lab as Karl Wirth, CEO of Evergage. Instead of politely letting me know in advance that I wasn’t invited to that session, someone was waiting at the door to identify me by my face (prior to looking at my badge) to turn me away.

Let’s be clear. Adobe knows about Evergage.

Evergage’s Integration with the Adobe Marketing Cloud

We recognize Adobe has several key Marketing Cloud products that companies use effectively. And Evergage’s platform plays quite nicely with them. For example, Evergage integrates seamlessly with Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Campaign. We recognize that many companies have already made significant investments in these core CMS and email platforms, and Evergage provides real-time, one-to-one personalization into both of them.

Evergage also integrates seamlessly with Adobe Analytics, informing it of the personalized experiences Evergage displays for different visitors and allowing Adobe Analytics to be the source of truth for what is happening in the digital environment.

Adobe Audience Manager and Adobe Target, on the other hand, are more flawed solutions and more affected by Adobe’s failings as discussed above. While third-party data is decreasing in value, Audience Manager can still be effectively used as a third-party DMP, and Evergage is able to easily leverage its audience data for insights and personalization. Likewise, Evergage can coexist with Adobe Target, and some Evergage clients will continue to use Target for A/B testing while using Evergage for one-to-one personalization, but Adobe Target is the component best fully replaced with Evergage.

So, what should you do?

No one gets fired for buying Adobe, right?

They are the market leader and everyone knows who they are. And they spend a lot of money to make sure you know who they are. I mean, they did have celebrity athletes and SNL actors at their over-the-top summit.

But these recent Adobe announcements certainly should give you pause before you invest hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars a year to deliver great customer experiences for your prospects and customers. Adobe just told you the experiences will not be real-time and will not be the best possible…not until they deliver a platform like Evergage’s.  

You could wait around for another six years hoping that Adobe will one day deliver what you need, or you could give Evergage a call today.