The importance of delivering great, personalized customer experiences was the focus of the recent Adobe Summit. As I watched the massive stage, slick videos, and live interview with none other than George Clooney, I found myself reflecting on the Wizard of Oz.

If delivering a unique, personalized, digital experience to individuals in your site, app, and emails is important to your business, you need to take a look behind Adobe’s curtain. While Adobe’s marketing smoke and lights show is unquestionably impressive, even a glance at what’s behind it reveals that – when it comes to personalization – there’s just not much steak behind the sizzle.  

Why is it so important that you look behind Adobe’s curtain?

Before I explain, let me be clear about something. Adobe is a good company with some strong products (like Adobe Analytics and, increasingly, Adobe Experience Manager). These are products lots of companies depend on every day. There is a good reason Adobe is the Marketing Cloud industry leader.

However, when it comes to personalization, Adobe’s market visibility dwarfs its expertise, and, like the Wizard of Oz, Adobe’s marketing hype dwarfs its capabilities.

This mismatch between hype and reality has set the market’s expectations for what is possible with personalization. This became even more apparent to me earlier this week as I was showing an analyst at a prominent research firm the websites of a large bank, retailer and tech company that run Adobe Target, Adobe Analytics, and more. He acknowledged my point that these sites were barely personalized and certainly not personalized to the individual, but suggested that it was just too difficult for these companies to achieve this.

Every week, I encounter marketers whose experiences with Adobe have caused them to believe that fully personalized, real-time, 1:1 experiences are beyond their reach. If the market leader can’t enable them to do it, it must not be possible.

“Behold the Great and Powerful Oz”


The truth is that Adobe has cobbled together a flawed personalization solution by acquiring many companies and attempting to integrate them together into an overly complicated package with gaping functionality gaps. Key components, like Analytics, were built long ago without real-time personalization in mind. Other key components, like Target, were also built long ago without any ability to manage or use big data. These are not architectural oversights that can be fixed with a little integration.

The contrast with Evergage’s approach is stark. We began with easy-to-use, big-data-powered, 1:1, real-time personalization as the goal, and developed a purpose-built solution very different from Adobe’s. Understanding the difference is as simple as understanding The Power of 1.

Let’s take a look behind the curtain and compare Adobe’s approach to Evergage’s.

(Note to executives: Your eyes may glaze over at the complexity of Adobe’s solution which is partially laid out below. Please don’t skim. This is what your teams have been dealing with day in and day out for years. While reading, turn your pain into a commitment to helping them!)

The Power of 1
Adobe: The Failure of Many
1 Platform to use

A single personalization platform purpose-built to provide customer analytics, segmentation, targeting, predictive recommendations, A/B testing and attribution reporting – across channels and connected to your existing data sources.

Many products to stitch together

Adobe Target is Adobe’s personalization product. To provide the equivalent of what Evergage provides out-of-the-box, Adobe Target customers must enable and integrate:

  • Adobe Target
  • Adobe Target Premium Recommend
  • Adobe Target Premium Automated Personalization
  • Adobe Analytics
  • Adobe Data Warehouse
  • Adobe Audience Manager
  • Adobe Core Services Profile and Attribute services
  • Parts of Adobe Campaign

Each integration has its associated teams, projects, effort, and limitations.

As Forrester wrote: “EMSS (Enterprise Marketing Software Suite) offerings are not platforms; they are portfolios of loosely integrated components — usually based on acquired assets”

This reviewer on TrustRadius puts it well: “Being a relatively Adobe shop, I got sick of the 'Adobe Promise' of it integrates perfectly with your other Adobe solutions and products. They all talk and work well together.... or so they say.  I worked on three different Adobe product integrates; one was relatively simple, but the other two were jokes.”

1 Profile driving 1:1 experiences

In-depth behavioral data is captured, external attribute data is synchronized, and everything is available in a single unified profile for each individual visitor/customer/account.

Personalization is unique to each person, truly 1:1.

Many profiles driving 1-to-many experiences

Effective personalization requires deep understanding of each person and the ability to target each person uniquely and individually. This requires a unified customer profile.

Adobe’s understanding of each person is (a) spread across multiple tools (b) limited in historical depth and (c) used to create 1:many experiences. For example:

  • Adobe Target captures very limited behavioral data and discards it if the visitor doesn’t return for 12 weeks
  • Adobe Target Recommendations does not store any data in a visitor profile as it does not recommend down to the individual
  • Adobe Target Automated Personalization optimizes promotions to an individual, but the data is stored in a separate profile that is in not integrated with Analytics
  • Adobe Analytics stores additional behavioral data (clicks, not time spent/engagement) but you only can use 20 of these segments in Adobe Target unless you buy Audience Manager
  • Adobe Data Warehouse is where deeper segments can be made but the same limits apply.

Adobe Audience Manager and Audience Profile Service are meant to be the answer to integrating your understanding of a visitor across all these profiles.

  • Integrating each of Adobe’s different products with Audiences is a project in itself, full of additional complexity and limits as is outlined here.
  • Once you have a shared audience in Adobe Target through the profile service, remember that you can’t combine that with other data that you already have in Target to personalize to a combined audience.
1 Moment to engage visitors

All aspects of every visitor’s complete history is combined with everything the person is doing in the current session and second, and everything you have learned from others, so you can deliver split-second personalization into web, mobile web, mobile app, email or search.

Many days to respond to a visitor

Adobe provides next-time personalization. In Adobe’s own words:

  • “No visitor qualifies for the Campaign the first time they match the criteria for the Analytics Segment or Audience
  • The system uses the first match to catalog and classify the visitor
  • Visitors qualify for the Campaign if they return within 24 to 48 hours of the first visit
  • Upon return, a visitor triggers the Campaign based on the qualifying Analytics Segment or Audience”
  • This is re-emphasized here and here
  • Even pre-loaded attribute data isn’t available for 20 minutes for a first-time visitor

Is this what you are looking for? Do you want your digital experiences to be one visit or two days behind or do you want true real-time?

You have the scarcest resource, your customer’s attention. You’ve only got one moment, one opportunity. Don’t waste it by personalizing based on outdated information.

1 Marketer to manage the solution

A single marketer can launch personalization campaigns in a matter of hours, without the need for developers or IT. And using built-in attribution analysis, the marketer can iterate rapidly to ensure delivery of the experiences and algorithms that get the best results.

Many people and teams needed to manage the solution

With Adobe, multiple marketers are needed, who, in turn, require the following:

(1) Technical Resources

  • Developers are needed to write this kind of script to define and target user segments
  • On G2Crowd, one technical person saw this as a big advantage for going with Target. “What do I like best? I like how Target would still need a technical role to maintain the tool and it still keeps the demand for a technical person, like myself, within Marketing.”

(2) A Project Team

  • Another reviewer on G2Crowd said it well: “You need to have a dedicated team, not just part time folks, that are only focused on testing and optimization. You must have a marketing person, an analytics person, and most importantly a tech/dev person who knows how to write the html or js code to get the tests up and running correctly.”
  • This point is also supported here and here

(3) A well-honed ability to open tickets, deal with your organization’s bureaucracy, attend meetings, and patiently wait.

1 Company dedicated to your success

Personalization experts, including a dedicated Client Success Manager, are passionate about helping you get the best results possible. They provide know-how, best practices, proven “playbooks” and more – all at no additional cost.

Many companies required for your success

Adobe relies on its professional services organization and system integration, consulting and agency partners to implement, integrate and maintain its solution for clients. And Adobe tells its partners that they should expect to make 3x to 5x in revenue for such services over what clients spend on the underlying software. Those clients may need to spend even more for consulting and ongoing services and support over time.


Let The Power of 1 Work for You

Marketers, I know you are frustrated. For over a decade, you have wanted to deliver highly personalized digital experiences to your visitors and customers. It is a top priority (according to our recent study and virtually ever other study conducted). But, in survey after survey, marketers like you say that it is too hard. Too hard to integrate. Too hard to collect and use in-depth data. Too hard to iterate. Too many teams and projects. The reason is that the leading solution provider with the loudest voice – Adobe, which many of you are using and benchmarking your efforts against – provides a deeply flawed personalization solution.

Stop hoping that the Wizard of Oz will make things great for you and your company. Evergage empowers you (without IT or big project teams) to use the brains, courage, and heart that you have always had to deliver real-time digital experiences that are unique for each person, highly relevant, and result in higher engagement and conversion rates.  

For a humorous take on these principles (devoid of Wizard of Oz references), view our new video comparing Evergage and The Power of 1 to the Adobe approach.