LAS VEGAS—At its Adobe Summit digital marketing conference here, Adobe introduced its Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op, a network that will enable companies to work together to better identify consumers across digital touch points, including smartphones, tablets, desktops, laptops and other devices.
While seemingly a brilliant idea, particularly to marketers, the announcement set off immediate concerns among some observers. However, Adobe said the solution has been designed to ensure the highest level of privacy and transparency.
In a blog post on the privacy of the network, Meme Jacobs Rasmussen, Adobe’s chief privacy officer, said, “This is a solution I’m quite proud of. It exemplifies the concept of Privacy by Design.”
The Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op will “empower” participating brands to recognize their consumers so they can deliver more personalized experiences across devices and apps at massive scale, said Brad Rencher, executive vice president and general manager of the Digital Marketing Business at Adobe, in introducing the offering. Early measurements indicate that the Adobe Co-op could link as many as 1.2 billion devices seen by Co-op members worldwide, Adobe said.
“The Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op will enable brands to intelligently engage with their customers across all the different devices they are using,” Rencher said in a statement. “By harnessing the power of the Co-op network, members can benefit from a truly open ecosystem and a massive pool of devices enabling them to turn yesterday’s device-based marketing into people-based marketing.”
According to Nielsen, the average American owned four digital devices in 2014; today, that number has risen to seven. The latest Adobe Digital Index report indicates every consumer uses an average of three devices on a daily basis, said Amit Ahuja, head of Adobe’s Audience and Planning businesses, in a blog post on the Co-op.
“In the eyes of the average consumer, few things are worse than beginning a customizable experience on a mobile device, only to have to start all over once the transition has been made to a larger screen via the nearest desktop,” Ahuja said. “And if you do not think this will be an issue for your brand, think again: According to Adobe’s Get Personal study, nearly 8 in 10 consumers (79 percent) and 90 percent of millennials report switching devices some of the time when engaged in an activity; two-thirds (66 percent) of device owners find it frustrating when content is not synchronized across devices.”
Indeed, Ahuja contends, “Today’s consumers expect personalized experiences in which tasks initiated on one device can be seamlessly completed on another. Brands can start working toward delivering seamless experiences across digital devices by focusing on consistently identifying people as they move from one digital experience to the next.”
So how does the Co-op work? In her post, Rasmussen offered an example of searching for flights on an airline website by starting on her smartphone and then moving to her laptop.
“If I have three devices, but I have only logged in to the airline site on two of those three devices (say my phone and my laptop), the airline won’t recognize me on my third device (my tablet),” she wrote in her post. “This is where the Co-op comes into play. If I have logged in to other Co-op member sites from my tablet, Adobe will associate all three of my devices with the same individual (but we still won’t know it’s me personally). We call this association a ‘device cluster.’ We will make the association between the devices and then pass that device cluster only to companies participating in the Co-op who have seen my device.”
Adobe’s Cross-Device Co-op Takes Personalization to a New Level
In short, Co-op members will give Adobe access to cryptographically hashed login IDs and HTTP header data, which fully hides a consumer’s identity, Adobe said in its marketing material. Adobe processes this data to create groups of devices—or “device clusters” as Rasmussen said—used by an unknown person or household. Adobe then will surface these groups of devices through its digital marketing solutions, so Co-op members can measure and advertise directly to individuals across all of their devices, the company said.
Adobe receives no personal information about the consumers visiting Co-op members’ websites, she said. All Adobe learns is which devices are associated with the same unknown person or household.
Despite privacy concerns, many observers said they like the potential of the Co-op and what it brings to both consumers and businesses.
“I think the one of the most innovative new features Adobe announced today is the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op that will link devices across a shared network of large brands,” said Chris Chodnicki, co-founder and executive director of Strategic Partnerships at r2integrated (r2i), a Baltimore-based full-service, independent marketing agency and Adobe Business Solution Partner focused on integrating marketing cloud technology into its offerings to clients.
Chodnicki, who spoke with eWEEK at the show, was on hand as his firm was named the 2015 Marketing Cloud Mid-Market Partner of the Year-Americas. “The ability to leverage real-time data passed through the network and along with information about the consumer’s personal device is well beyond the levels of personalization being provided with many of today’s technologies,” he said.
That is key to the Adobe strategy, both Rencher and Asa Whillock, known as the Identity czar at Adobe, said.
With the Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op, “You can treat your consumer as a person, not as a device,” Whillock said. “It extends what you know about your consumer, not a device. With the Device Cooperative in place, we can see how people use our apps and use their devices. You measure people instead of devices.”
Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst with Forrester Research, said the new Adobe Co-op is actually in line with the direction Forrester is giving clients.
“So the idea of cross-device connected apps and sites and data-driven decision-making mirror the advice we are giving our customers in building and measuring cross-device journeys,” Hammond said in an interview. “It’s hard to go fast if you don’t know what works.”
Hammond said he also liked the onstage demonstration by Rencher and David Nuescheler, Adobe fellow and vice president of Enterprise Technology, involving a Tesla automobile and a futuristic auto infotainment system, in which they simulated ordering Dunkin’ Donuts at a drive-in shop.
“But I found myself thinking if I were in the Tesla, I wouldn’t necessarily want to tap a big screen to order, I’d like to just talk to my Tesla and say, ‘Please order a box of joe and a box of Munchkins,’ and then see the results on the screen. Or, if I walked up to the kiosk, why can’t it recognize my face instead of me having to tap my phone via computer vision? Net of these examples: Adobe is very focused on delivering cross-channel content, but the interaction models it’s supporting are pretty much dependent on touch- or click-based interactions, which are the traditional I/O mechanisms, but not necessarily the ones we will use in our multidevice future. There reason it struck me so is that I expect to hear about more about these new UI mechanisms from Microsoft like Hololens and Cortana and Kinect, etc., next week at Microsoft’s Build conference.”
Adobe’s Cross-Device Co-op Takes Personalization to a New Level
Hammond further noted the ways consumers interact with content are changing in the same way the devices they use are changing.
“AI and machine learning are important to delivering a more personalized experience, but so are new interaction methods like voice input and computer vision,” he said. “The companies that do the best job of integrating all of these new technologies and make them easily consumable by developers will be the ones who prosper in the next decade.”
Meanwhile, Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, a Gartner analyst, said, “The Device Co-op is an ambitious effort that, if successful, could enable brands to be the stewards of their customers’ data. This may empower the creation of experiences that drive mutual customer-brand value without marketers being beholden to some of the ad-driven platforms who aggregate data today.”
Jennifer Polk, another Gartner analyst in attendance at the summit, noted the Co-op “is still very new and there are only a small number of companies participating in the Co-op, yet it shows promise as a way for marketers to reconcile their audiences across a growing number of devices, get to more meaningful measures of marketing performance—i.e., people versus devices— and better align marketing to audience behavior.”
A key goal of the Co-op is to enhance personalization for marketers to be able to treat consumers as individuals that brands “know,” because, as Adobe says, “Devices don’t buy products, people do.”
A granular understanding of customer identity is becoming the defining feature of digital marketing and advertising, said Scott Denne, a research analyst at 451 Research, in a statement. “Without first knowing the links among devices, marketers will come up short in their attempts to understand their customers and measure the reach and impact of campaigns. The Adobe Marketing Cloud Device Co-op will help marketers identify their consumers across digital touch points so they can deliver more personalized experiences across devices.”
Yet, the privacy issue rears its head.
“While the benefits of our new solution to marketers were obvious, we were also very aware that cross-device marketing done badly has long been associated with being ‘creepy’ from a privacy perspective,” Rasmussen said.
However, Rasmussen lists how Adobe addresses these concerns in a series of steps:
–All Co-op members must state in their privacy policies that they are participating in the Co-op and include a link to the Co-op privacy tool.
–The Co-op privacy tool displays the names and logos of all members so consumers can see who is participating in the Co-op.
–No personal or site visit data is shared among Co-op members.–Adobe will only share a device cluster for unknown people or households with Co-op members who have previously seen one of the devices in the cluster.
–The Co-op privacy tool will show all the devices that are linked with the device a consumer is currently using.
–Consumers may disconnect one or more (or all) of the devices listed from participating in the Co-op.
–If a consumer chooses to opt out by disconnecting all devices, Adobe will no longer associate the consumer’s devices together, and Co-op members will no longer learn from Adobe (because it won’t know) which devices are associated with a consumer.
“One of the key cross-device challenges regulators, privacy advocates and technology companies have been grappling with is the ability to provide consumers with transparency and meaningful choice in an ecosystem that is increasingly complex,” Jules Polonetsky, CEO of the Future of Privacy Forum, said in a statement. “By ensuring that a consumer’s choice will be respected across devices and displaying information in a way the typical consumer can easily understand, Adobe is serving publishers and marketers while respecting consumer privacy.”