What cool new things did Adobe share at Adobe Summit?
Last week, I attended my seventeenth Adobe Summit! Like last year, it was all online, but that didn’t stop Adobe from sharing a ton of information about their products. While, as usual, the amount of content was overwhelming, the online format allowed attendees to see sessions on-demand right away instead of past “live” summits where you would have to wait a while to view session recordings. So I did my best to watch as many analytics-related sessions as possible before my eyes and brain hurt! Below are some of my initial reactions to what I saw at Summit.
Adobe Analytics = Customer Journey Analytics
If you work with the Adobe Analytics product, you had likely heard of Customer Journey Analytics before Adobe Summit. Customer Journey Analytics (or CJA) is the next evolution of Adobe Analytics. While I think the name “Customer Journey Analytics” vastly undersells what CJA delivers (I would prefer the name Omnichannel Analytics), it became abundantly clear that Adobe is heavily invested in it. CJA is built upon the new Adobe Experience Platform and greatly expands what can be done with digital analytics data. It allows you to add any type of data, including non-digital data (for example, call center data), so that you can see the bigger picture for your customers. CJA allows you to stitch visitors so that you can see their behavior across multiple channels/devices (more on that below). This enables you to have more accurate customer journeys and attribution.
Being part of the Adobe Experience Platform allows CJA to do some super-cool things. For example, Trevor Paulsen showed an Adobe sneak called Dimension Builder, which helps you fix Adobe Analytics data values on the fly and have those fixes applied retroactively. This feature is like the love-child of processing rules and SAINT Classifications! It is made possible by the new architecture that underlies the Adobe Experience Platform. While nothing beats making sure your Adobe Analytics data is correct from the start, this feature allows you to clean up data mistakes much more quickly than has been possible in the past. Hopefully, this will make it into the product soon!
Another cool feature of CJA is data mapping. CJA allows you to map different data elements into XDM elements (more on this below). For example, if you have multiple report suites configured differently (i.e. Search Term is in three different eVars in three different report suites), you can map all of them to the same new XDM element. This will allow you to combine your data into one master dataset without changing the underlying implementations. We used to have to do this via VISTA Rules, but it can now be done on the fly in the CJA interface.
Overall, it was clear that Adobe intends to put most of its effort into CJA. I heard some Adobe customers complaining in session chats that Adobe isn’t investing as much in the legacy Adobe Analytics product. Still, I think that most Adobe Analytics customers will end up choosing to migrate to CJA voluntarily due to how much better it is over the current version of Adobe Analytics. I am old enough to remember the people who complained about being forced to move from Reports & Analytics to Analysis Workspace many years ago. I think those initial complainers would agree that Analysis Workspace was a game-changer, and they are glad they didn’t continue to cling to the old way of doing things. My advice is to do what smart Adobe Analytics product managers like Trevor Paulsen, Ben Gaines, and Jen Lasser tell me to do! They haven’t let us down in the last ten years!
Experience Data Model (XDM)
A lot of the cool stuff shown at Adobe Summit relies on your data being in the new Experience Data Model (XDM) format. XDM is Adobe’s new, unified data collection schema. XDM delivers on the vision that Adobe put out there long ago of having all of its products speak the same language and be able to talk to each other. It is the Rosetta Stone of Adobe’s world! This means that you will have to start using XDM and move away from the Success Events, eVars, and sProps of the past one way or another. This is why our team has been working furiously on the Apollo product that helps you translate your existing Adobe Analytics implementation to XDM in minutes! I highly encourage you to learn more about XDM in the next few months. And if you want to see a more comprehensive demonstration of our new Apollo product, please click here.
Identity, Identity, Identity!
Another key theme of Adobe Summit was visitor identity. Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that we are moving to a world without third-party cookies. This makes it much more difficult to know if the same person is visiting your digital properties over time. This means that it is important to focus on first-party visitor identification. That means getting people to log in or authenticate directly. For consumers, this will mean that password keepers will be important, but for corporations, it means that they need to provide value and a reason for people to create a first-party account.
If your organization does have a way to authenticate its users, then Adobe Analytics/CJA/AEP can capture those IDs and stitch users together across multiple devices. For example, let’s say that I visit a bank site and look at some products but don’t log in. Then next week, I log in and check my balance. Then the next month, I visit the bank’s mobile app and log in. Today, seeing that I am the same person would only be possible in the last two interactions. However, with visitor stitching, Adobe can retroactively see that the person who visited the site anonymously was the same person once they log in by tying the anonymous cookie ID to the user ID. Of course, there are limitations in that the activity has to be within a short timeframe to be stitched due to new cookie deletion browser policies.
Overall, I think Adobe is taking a decent approach to this. They made it clear that they want to respect people’s privacy while also giving marketers a way to see how their marketing efforts work across channels and devices. I am a bit skeptical that all organizations will be able to get users to authenticate, and I also believe that this will be an evolving game of cat and mouse between browsers and analytics companies.
ReportBuilder for Mac
Adobe will be making an update to the Excel ReportBuilder that works on the Mac. There were some other things that Trevor mentioned, but I don’t remember hearing anything after the phrase “ReportBuilder for Mac…”
Events & Dimensions
Over the years, Adobe Analytics has made subtle changes to the way Events and Dimensions (Success Events and eVars) worked. In the old days, if you wanted different attribution models (like first touch or last touch or different attribution window timeframes) you would have to create multiple eVars. This approach went away when Attribution IQ allowed you to assign different attribution models to Success Events for eVar values (I wrote about this back in 2018). That change shifted a lot of the focus away from eVars to Success Events.
But now, the pendulum seems to be swinging back to dimensions! In this great Adobe Summit session, Trevor Paulsen shows how, in CJA, you can make metrics on the fly using dimensions and conditional rules. This is similar to the idea of “Derived Calculated Metrics” but is even better since these new metrics don’t have some of the limitations of Calculated Metrics. Unlike Calculated Metrics, they can have attribution models applied to them, be used in segments, and be used in all types of visualizations.
This means that you can now use specific metric values to create new metrics, which is extremely powerful. Let’s look at an example. I am currently working with a company that sets about 25 custom success events around user clicks. If a user clicks on Link A, they set event 91; but if they click on Link B, they set event 92 and so on. This burns up a LOT of success events, but more importantly, it greatly increases the workload on developers and the risk of data issues when changes are made to the site. But in CJA, you could simply have a developer set the different links clicked in a dimension and then create rules that will assign metrics for each different dimension value! This simplifies the entire process and can be changed/updated as new values are added.
I am not sure if this means that Success Events will eventually go away, but you could see a world in which that happens. And since sProps are slowly losing their value, it could mean a future in which the only data passed to Adobe Analytics are dimension values! I will be curious to see how this evolves.
Overall, I get the feeling that we are in a massive transitionary period when it comes to Adobe Analytics. Adobe is building some really cool stuff and giving its customers time to see how it helps and why they should transition to it. As always, there will be some early adopters and those who are resistant to change. I encourage you to have an open mind and see the big picture. While it has taken longer than many of us would have liked, I think Adobe has landed on a solid vision for their analytics suite and has opened the door to some really cool stuff in the future. I look forward to sharing more as I get deeper into the new technology over the next year.