"Reality vs Ambition"Today is all about customer experience and how greatly personalised the customer journey needs to be. AI and machine learning capabilities are booming in the digital marketing space to support this highly ambitious idea that every experience should be unique for each and every individual.
Now the reality is that even though we're able to automate certain parts of the workflow, we're still highly relying on human based tasks and are struggling to implement that 1:1 personalisation due to labour intense tasks, non optimised communication channels and finally the lack of integration between platforms across the workflow.
Putting together some tools addressing only part of the workflow means different platforms will need to be integrated and processes will have to be put in place to make it efficient, which doesn't always happen.
It can result sometimes into a very clunky process where for example, big creative files are exchanged through email and dropbox, where traceability and auditability of the approval process is inexistant and where the overall campaign release can take several weeks or worse.
Now, some company like Adobe are trying to connect the dots, meaning the different workflows. Some would say it should be easy and obvious for Adobe as they own the creative space but enterprises' creative workflows are widely different from one industry to the other and can also vary based on how they leverage external creative agencies. Some niche companies like Woodwing are doing a great job specialising on certain industries and some very specific workflow like for print/editorial. However they are more focused again on part of the workflow like the production and not on the entire workflow down to the delivery, optimisation and monetization of content.
So let me walk you through some areas where, as part of the Adobe solution consulting team, we happen to observe the biggest opportunity for optimisation.
Now, I don't want the following chapter to sound like an ad for Adobe but the reality is that most Entreprises are using Adobe Creative Cloud (CC) and +90% of assets are effectively created using Adobe CC...So I'll have to touch on some of the challenges we see on the front line and how we try to address them evoking the Adobe platform and some key functionalities, free for most of them and that people are unaware of.
Creative software vendors, including Adobe, have been for long focused on optimising the productivity of creatives at the "individual" level, making it faster to perform certain tasks leveraging powerful tools and algorithms, basically, improving productivity of creatives... in front of their computer.
With people being more and more "on the go" and connected, there was an obvious need to allow creative people to create wherever they are and not only in front of their computer. This is the kind of capabilities where again Adobe has invested massively, seeing the opportunity to free their consumers from those constraints.
Now, some will argue that the final product will always be made on a computer and they'll be right. However, the creative process, the ideation, both can happen anywhere, while they're commuting to work, watching TV or in bed. Creative thinking doesn't stop and the best ideas might not pop up during working hours, and when that happens, you need to be able to draft and persist them.
Certainly this productivity gain is difficult to measure but it doesn't mean it's not real.
Most mobile apps are part of the creative cloud offering so there'll be value for your employees to be able to install those on their work or personal mobile devices.
Improving individual productivity workflows also means providing the right resources at creatives' fingertips to speed up the asset production. Creative teams are heavy consumers of stock images. Unless strict processes are put in place, people tend to license again and again the same assets not being aware that the person sitting next to them already licensed it for a campaign 2 months ago leading to stock credits being wasted and content not reused.
Productivity is also impacted by tideous manual processes that oblige people to replace manually the watermarked assets in each WIP asset by the high-res licensed ones once approval is given.
For those interested to solve these challenges, Adobe Stock is fully integrated with the Adobe CC tools and address those challenges beautifully as described here.
Now, if we look beyond "individual" productivity, this is where we see the biggest opportunity.
When you look at your creative team today, how do they collaborate around files? (email, dropbox, filesystem, usb keys?) can they access them from anywhere? How do you know which version is the right one? When you need to update the corporate logo, colour palette or font, do you have to modify all files? I could continue for few more paragraphs but my point is that this connecting tissue between creatives is already available as part of the creative cloud (CC Folders & CC libraries) and though it's still being continuously improved, it already solves most of those questions above with fantastic customer success stories who fully rebranded their digital channels in few days leveraging centralised and shared CC libraries for example.
The next part will be about the rest of the ecosystem, the marketers, and the people in charge of the content distribution across Web, mobile, App, email, paid channels, etc.
How do we connect this crowd to the creative folks and allow them to access WIP assets, review and validate the final ones. Some mature organisation will have already some element of Digital Asset Management (DAM) capabilities in place potentially as part of their Marketing Resource Management (MRM) platform or siloed.
Ideally, you would be looking at integrating your creative workflow and tools (through some plugins development potentially) with your DAM and have some element of workflow engine on top of it, to handle the review/approval process for traceability and versioning.
Now the final assets are approved, they are stored in a Digital Asset Management platform of some kind and...someone has to export them and upload them manually in the various delivery platform handling the various channels and touch points so most likely in your CMS, your mobile App platform, your email platform, etc. And guess what happens if the master is modified? well, you do that again and again.
Certainly, not everyone is in this extreme case fortunately but it's more frequent than the opposite where all channels would be connected to a centralised DAM. Integration will have a cost but having up to date content flowing through your delivery platforms will be like fresh blood bringing oxygen to your legs to pedal faster.
DAM platforms coming natively with content as a service (CaaS) capabilities should help drastically with integration efforts.
That part is probably where AI's prowesses are the most promising and tangible when it comes to 1:1 personalisation. Indeed the ability to continuously test against your conversion criteria and deliver the best performing content to each individual is appealing and is a reality today.
But the optimisation process is an iterative and empirical one that needs to be constantly fed with new creative designs (until AI handles the creative someday in the future). And this can only happen if you have connected the dots and that you can streamline your content effectively between your creatives and the channels.
Now, I may sound like integration is the key, and it actually is... from a technology and people/process standpoint as well.
Last thought will be about weighting the pros and cons of doing custom integration between systems that are potentially not meant to be integrated originally versus leveraging an integrated platform. The latter will let you focus on what's important, running effectively your business as opposed to getting swamped into an integration project.