SAP has dominated the ERP space for decades. During a press conference at the Adobe Digital Marketing Symposium, Brad Rencher and Paul Robson presented Adobe’s vision on marketing, or to be more precise on Customer Experience. We were particularly interested in their views on product portfolio and their place in the industry.

Adobe has long moved on from being the makers of Photoshop to a global player in digital marketing. It started down the martech path with the acquisition of Omniture in 2009, followed by data management platform Demdex in 2011. This became the Adobe Online Marketing Suite, and a martech giant was born.

Today Adobe is one of the big three in the marketing technology space, together with software maker Oracle and “no software” maker SalesForce. Messrs Robson and Rencher explain how Adobe plans on becoming number one. This involves going one step beyond digital marketing in order to offer solutions that manage the entire customer experience.

Paul Robson explained that brands are continuously struggling to keep up with customer expectations. Consumer tolerance for a poor experience is low, and still getting lower. To address this Adobe pledges to think beyond ‘just’ marketing solutions. Providing infrastructure and solutions that integrate the online and physical world is the key objective. Paul explained that where three years ago customers were still focusing on their website in the first place, today they are looking at the customer from a more holistic experience perspective.

Paul and Brad highlighted trends that they see emerging globally. Brad distinguished three major trends today:

(1.)  Principles of digital marketing are becoming the principles of customer experience.
(2.)  Customer mobility, which makes location and providing context extremely important.
(3.)  The use of data. Not so much the ‘classic’ data analytics but more specifically he sees a rising interest and use of machine learning in marketing.

Paul added the emerging trends in Asia, which according to him were:
(1.)  Companies are watching each other. If one competitor makes a move and invests in the improvement of their customer experience substantially, others follow. This is again by the low tolerance for a poor experience. When customers have a better experience at a competitor they will move.
(2.)  Companies increasingly focus on talent in the market. There is a shortage of talent in the area of data e.g. and companies are experiencing issues getting and keeping talent on board.
(3.)  Schools and universities want to include technology in their curriculum and approach Adobe for help. There are the first content management and digital marketing tracks that are now part of curriculums in many schools, specifically in Australia.
(4.)  Finally, there is a clear trend among companies are removing digital from digital marketing. It is now marketing because that is the only and best way forward.

The management of Customer Experience is quickly growing in complexity. Adobe follows this from an infrastructure perspective. For the hardware part in e.g. IoT and Virtual Reality Adobe aims to build a partner network.

The complexity of the marketing and customer experience solutions landscape does not seem to go away. So does Adobe intend to become an end-to-end solution provider? Or will they accept that their solutions will always be part of a stack consisting of a number of best in class solutions?

Brad’s answer to this was that Adobe’s strategy is clearly to be the most complete player in the market. Partially they try to do this through acquisitions. This is driven by the sheer speed of the development in the industry. Yet Adobe prefers to grow organically through their own R&D.

Data should flow seamlessly between solutions and should enable marketers and they should not be technologists. Our spokesmen claimed that ultimately they are willing to fit into in an existing marketing stack. But they also expressed confidence that customers want to invest more into the Adobe portfolio because it will make them more successful. In addition to organic and inorganic growth, they believe in an open partner driven model.


Brad went on to explain that we should come to a point where marketing software is so easy to use that your grandmother of 92 should be able to run a marketing campaign. This will require user interfaces that are almost as simple as current mobile apps are to use from a UI perspective.

This is an interesting perspective because indeed for too long marketing software was more suitable for IT nerds and marketing geeks with developer skills. Clearly this is no longer the case.

With the current portfolio of solutions, it looks indeed like Adobe is going down the path of the ‘one stop shop’ customer experience solution provider, just like its major competitors. The jury will be out there for a while to see if they and other vendors will be able to combine this with accessibility for both MNCs and SMEs and more importantly, if the user experience for marketers who work with their portfolio of solutions will an ‘easy to use experience.’

Interesting times are awaiting us.

Editor: Matthieu Vermeulen


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