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Adobe Summit: Importance of the Digital Economy Is Growing

By Kim Davis | 4.7.20

“While many organizations have taken steps towards becoming a digital business, the environment we face in 2020 is only accelerating the need and urgency.”

Timely words from Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen at a time when, throughout the United States and many other parts of the world, people are figuring out how to lead their entire lives online.

Software companies, of course, are not unaffected. Narayen’s words come from his introductory remarks at Adobe Summit, the first big digital experience conference of the year, staged for the first time as an online, on-demand experience.

In 2019, more than 16,000 people packed the Sands Expo in Las Vegas for Summit. This year, the online experience is very different, with users watching videos to locate the key announcements.

The first big announcement — the Adobe Digital Economy Index — was in line with Narayen’s opening remarks. “Our mission to change the world through digital experiences seems particularly significant now,” he said. The one constant in the digital economy is that it is constantly changing. “Remarkably, there has been no single way to measure consumer trends in the digital world.”

Tracking global retail behavior

Adobe’s Digital Economy Index will be an ongoing project to analyze global digital retail trends — including pricing and purchasing behavior — and their economic consequences.

Initial findings reflect the dramatic impact of COVID-19. The purchase of products related to protection from the virus, such as hand sanitizers, surged over 800 percent in the March 11–25 period, while sales of over-the-counter drugs (and toilet paper) more than doubled. Perhaps reflecting the new digital reality, desktop and laptop computer sales rose by 40 percent.


Overall, U.S. e-commerce is up by 25 percent, with BOPIS sales significantly up, too — over 60 percent between February 24 and March 21.

Adobe has a deep well of data to draw on, seeing 14 trillion segment activations and 15 billion web page visits per day.

Enhancements to the Experience Cloud

This was the first Summit for Anil Chakravarthy, Adobe’s new EVP and GM, digital experience. Chakravarthy, who has a background in enterprise cloud data management with Informatica, outlined new updates to the Adobe Experience Cloud.

Adobe continues to offer the same range of cloud applications on the platform (Marketing, Analytics, Advertising, and Commerce), but has already made changes at the data level, and is now elaborating what was formerly just the Sensei (AI) layer between the platform and the apps.


In November last year, Adobe announced the general availability of its Real-time Customer Data Platform, supporting personalized customer experiences within the platform. 

At Summit, Chakravarthy explained: “At the heart of the platform is the real-time customer profile, a market-first combination of comprehensive customer insights, contextual awareness, and the ability to take real-time actions.” Chakravarthy claimed millisecond response times, and performance at cloud scale, with more than 10 billion customer profiles.

The scale of the data, Chakravarthy pointed out, provides an optimal environment for training and running AI models to amplify customer insights. “All of this…,” he said, “helps you provide truly personalized experiences in real time, unique across the industry.”

In his introductory remarks, Narayen repeated the claim that Adobe created the digital marketing category 10 years ago. It may today be leading the pack, its nose ahead of Oracle, Salesforce, and SAP in developing actionable customer profiles, unified across the entire platform.

The Real-time Customer Data Platform takes its place in the Experience Cloud’s architecture as one of three Application Services in the layer supporting the top-line applications. The other services are Customer Journey Analytics and Journey Orchestration. The first of these offers omnichannel insights by bringing the interactive self-service query experience of the Adobe Analysis Workspace to bear on customer data within the Experience Cloud. The second, as its name suggests, automates the creation of the customer journey based on touchpoints across all channels.

Finally — for now — Adobe is adding a new class of Sensei (AI)-based Intelligent Services to the same layer. Two services, Customer AI and Attribution AI are now available. 

Customer AI automatically identifies specific customer segments and targets them with appropriate campaigns. Attribution AI uncovers the impact of earned, owned, and paid media, and supports resourcing divisions.

More Intelligent Services – Journey AI, Content and Commerce AI, and Leads AI, remain on the roadmap.

Adobe helps build CX strategies

Adobe regards itself as a company that has undergone a major digital transformation, from its origins in the creative software market to its current cloud-based customer experience proffer.

In another announcement highlighted at Summit, Adobe will be helping clients develop their own, personalized customer experience management strategies by building a custom CXM playbook.

“The Playbook gives you a template, and a customized plan, to become an experience business,” said Chakravarthy.

Adobe Summit content is now available on demand


About the Author

Kim Davis is a thought leader in the marketing technology space, appearing on conference stages, in podcasts, and on camera, to discuss this fast-moving field.


Born in London, but a New Yorker for over two decades, Kim started covering enterprise software 10 years ago. Prior to working in tech journalism, Kim was associate editor at a New York Times hyper-local news site, The Local: East Village. In addition to curating website and social content for DMN, Kim has recorded well over 100 podcasts with leading industry figures, from Salesforce’s CMO to the Global CEO of Encyclopedia Britannica, as well as other industry thought leaders like Scott Brinker and Sangram Vajre.

Find him on LinkedIn and @KimDavis_