Adobe On Launching A CDP: ‘We Could Hear The Drum Beating For This Technology’

Suresh Vittal, VP of platform and product for Adobe Experience Cloud

This is the 11th in AdExchanger’s “Meet the CDPs” series. Read previous interviews with mParticle, Acquia-owned AgilOne, Amperity, Segment, ActionIQ, Lytics, Bluecore, Microsoft, Tealium and Optimove.

Most brands suffer from the same cascade of data-related challenges.

Data coming in from different sources leads to inconsistent customer experiences and a throbbing privacy and compliance headache. These challenges are being accelerated by COVID-19 and third-party cookie loss.

“And so we’re finding that our customers have to rely even more on first-party data,” said Suresh Vittal, VP of platform and product for Adobe Experience Cloud, which includes Adobe’s real-time CDP offering.

At the heart of Adobe’s CDP, which hit the market late last year, is its identity graph and Experience Cloud ID. The latter serves as a persistent, universal identifier to pinpoint customers across the solutions housed within the Experience Cloud.

“Our goal is to create a platform that stitches data together across the enterprise, from transactional data and behavioral data, to the high-velocity, high-volume data from across digital platforms,” Vittal said. “We recognized early on that giving customers the ability to harness all of that data is what they need to drive personalization and real-time interactions at scale.”

Vittal spoke with AdExchanger.

AdExchanger: A year and a half ago, Adobe didn’t have a CDP. Why now?

SURESH VITTAL: We’re in the CDP business because our customers have taken us there. Customers suffer from three big challenges: data fragmentation, delivering smart, contextual experiences and data governance.

We could hear the drum beating for this technology to collect, manage and orchestrate first-party data, and we’re responding.

How interoperable is your CDP? Marketing cloud products don’t have a reputation for being agnostic.

We’ve always been in the business of helping customers solve problems through deploying applications. But we had to step away from the applications mindset and begin to think more like a platform.

Adobe product data is available in the CDP and we have simple SDKs and connectors so they can bring in data from any system, whether that’s Google and DoubleClick, or pushing data into Facebook and Twitter. Customers can push data out of their homegrown loyalty systems or data from their Salesforce CRM instance into our CDP.

It’s been fundamental to our thinking that we don’t want customers to feel boxed into an Adobe-only CDP. For example, we’ve agreed to put our common data experience model into the public domain so that any developer or partner can go to GitHub, pull a request, add to it, extend it and use it as the source of a definitional truth for customer experiences and customer data.

How many of your existing customers are also using your CDP?

We have more than 40 customers using the CDP since it was GA about a year and a half ago. But we have several thousand customers using different parts of the CDP. The CDP is made up of many different components, from the sources, connectors and the endpoints that we push data into, to the data stack where all of the transformation happens.

For instance, our client-side data collection service, which helps bring data into the platform, is being leveraged by over 2,000 customers. Our profile service is used by multiple hundreds of customers. Our identity graph is used across our entire install base of 6,000-plus customers.

Is the CDP a sweetener to attract new customers?

I’m not sure I’d describe it as a sweetener or an entry product, but I would say that if customers have data management problems, we have a meaningful solution for them. And if they only ever choose to use one component of our CDP, we would be perfectly happy with that.

Who do you consider your competitors in the CDP space?

This is a hot space right now and there are a lot of startups emerging for that reason who make the case that they’re fixing the problems that others have created. They can say that because they don’t have a legacy. We appear on a lot of RFPs and we run into multiple of those smaller companies. We also run into the “marketing clouds,” which I’ll put in air quotes, and the largest technology shops.

But I’d say that by far the biggest “competition,” which I’ll also put in air quotes, because I don’t really view them as competitive, is marketers that have built their own data management environments.

What is one way that Adobe’s CDP differentiates itself from the “competition?”

We’re probably the only CDP in the market that allows brands to swap our ID graph for their own. It’s like identity-as-a-service.

For example, our customers can use our CDP to train their models against our data. Most CDPs will express a couple of scoring methodologies, but we open it up to the customer. If they want to bring in a data robot or data from Azure computing services or anything, we’ll support that at scale on the edge.

Why did Adobe decide to build its CDP rather than acquire something, and will you buy anything to bolster your offering down the line?

Build vs. buy vs. partner is an ongoing dialogue. We’re always looking for speed to market. We don’t have build-it-here syndrome. We also know that we need to support a broad ecosystem of partners.

With that in mind, you’ll see us build the things we feel are instrumental to the success of the CDP, and you’ll see us strike many partnerships. And, in the right moment, there are always other options on the table.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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