How Adobe is leveraging generative AI in customer experience upgrades

Smarter AIs help companies tap into the deeper needs and desires of their customers, thereby identifying new opportunities and driving sales.
Written by David Gewirtz, Senior Contributing Editor

Adobe's new Sensei GenAI at work.


If you think ChatGPT and the other generative AI tools are transformative to communication and understanding, wait until you see what happens when generative AI joins forces with marketing and sales teams.

We're looking at an enormous increase in the ability of businesses to meet the unique needs of individual customers, as well as an enormous increase in the capability for businesses to target those customers with psychological and demographic precision. The application of AI to marketing and sales gives a whole new meaning to the phrase "buyer beware."

Rather than general-purpose AI tools that can respond to text prompts or generate images on demand, we're starting to see more special-purpose tools that use the same large language model (LLM) approach we've been exploring in ChatGPT.

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We'll explore what Adobe's doing with generative AI-driven marketing -- and it's big.

Customer experience management and the buyer's brain

Adobe is best known for its portfolio of tools for creative professionals. Product names like Adobe Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and Acrobat are familiar to nearly everyone. But Adobe is also a market leader in another business that might not be as familiar to everyone: customer experience management.

Customer experience (or CX) is one of the biggest buzzwords in the world of marketing-speak. But just because it's one of those phrases only an AI could love doesn't make it any less important. In fact, managing customer experience is critical to any business that wants to succeed in today's marketplace.

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Put simply, "customer experience" is how your customers perceive their interactions with your company. "Perceive" is the key word. The better the perception of a customer experience, the more your company and brand create favorable associations in your customer's psyche. The worse the perception of that experience, the more negative those associations, and the less willing those customers will be to engage with your company again.

When customers interact with your company, a lot goes on inside their heads. They start to build a map of your brand's benefit to their lives. This mapping isn't just taking place as they buy your stuff. There's a pre-engagement psychological game going on as well: how much value they anticipate they'll derive from your offerings. There's experienced benefit, which is how much actual value or utility a customer gets. And then there's the big one: retrospective benefit, which is the customer's overall memory -- positive or negative -- of the experience.

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Companies that maximize the perceived pre-benefit bring in more fresh opportunities. Companies that maximize the actual value benefit reduce support costs and create potential repeat customers. And companies that maximize the post-game engagement create champions, generate word of mouth, and turn customers into fans and enthusiasts.

That end-to-end experience -- pre, purchase, and post -- constitutes the customer experience. And, all of that brings us back to Adobe's set of announcements.

Tapping the collective zeitgeist with the customer data platform

So, how do brands turn customers into fans and enthusiasts in a predictable, repeatable, goal-directed manner? With data. Gobs and gobs and gobs of data. Petabytes of data.

"In an unpredictable economic climate, where consumers now re-evaluate the products and services they buy each day, a brand's key growth driver is the ability to show people you accurately understand their current needs," says Anjul Bhambhri, senior vice president of Adobe Experience Cloud platform engineering.

Think about all the potential touchpoints with customers. There are social media in all its forms, from Twitter and Pinterest to Facebook pages, groups, and everyone's main feed. There's email and chat, phone support, offline in-store visits, and offline event interactions. Then there are mixed online/offline interactions, such as those that occur at trade shows. And there's every action on your website or in your app, every purchase, and every viewing of an ad, influencer video, or piece of editorial that mentions your offerings.

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All of the information from those touchpoints can and should be captured. The role of a customer data platform is to capture and then manage the flow of all the data, so it's not siloed. That's a very, very big job.

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If there's a surge in returns in the spring from products built in a cold factory during winter months, you need to be able to notice that behavior and make the intuitive leap to understanding what's wrong, and then fixing the problem. If a much-anticipated movie sequel is about to be released, perhaps you'll want to stock up certain stores with goods that reflect the movie's style or notify customers that your analytics show you are fans of the movie's genre.

This brings us to Adobe's Real-Time Customer Data Platform (Real-Time CDP), which Adobe reports now delivers over 600 billion predictive insights annually based on real-time customer profiles.

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Adobe focuses on three generative AI capabilities in its Real-Time CDP:

Rich segmentation: Adobe is using its new Adobe Sensei Generative AI Services capability to identify and define precision audience segments, allowing for personalized campaigns to be delivered at scale.

Adobe Journey Optimizer: This games out customer experiences in real time, providing insights as they happen and providing "next-best offers and touch points for customers." If you and your friend didn't see the same offer from the same company at the same time, this may be why.

Generative Playbooks: Customer journey guides have been around since product managers discovered they could get free coffee in the office. But what Adobe is offering is dynamically created customer journeys, the capability to identify new use cases from raw data, and the ability to simulate customer behavior --  all with the AI quality we've been seeing from GPT-style LLMs. If you want to identify new opportunities and identify new markets, this tool will get you a far way along.

"Adobe Experience Cloud applications, from Adobe Real-Time CDP to Adobe Journey Optimizer and Customer Journey Analytics, work together to help brands drive the next phase of their digital transformation, which will be anchored in wide-scale personalization," says Adobe's Bhambhri.

Adobe is also pushing its game forward in healthcare, financial services, B2B, and retail. It has initiatives in these four areas:

Managing consumer data responsibly: Adobe's Real-Time CDP prioritizes privacy and offers new Privacy & Security Shield and Healthcare Shield products for regulated industries and healthcare brands.

Enhancing B2B account-based marketing: Think of this initiative as the customer journey, but on a company-to-company and team level.

Leveraging e-commerce for richer personalization: Adobe's Real-Time CDP and Commerce integrations enhance e-commerce for brands by analyzing online behavior, targeting content, and personalizing offers.

Prospecting, enriching, and activating with partners: Adobe improves Real-Time CDP with partner enrichments, Amazon Ads, TikTok, and LiveRamp integrations to solve cookieless prospecting challenges for brands.

This collection of initiatives is how the customer experience and the customer data come together. Customer interactions generate more data. Real-time analytics changes the customer experience dynamically. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

Adobe's image and text generative AI services

Adobe is banging the AI drum really, really hard. At the core of its approach are its Sensei GenAI Services. Given the current sensitive climate to cultural appropriation, it's not entirely clear that "sensei" was Adobe's best choice for branding its AI engine, but the capabilities available on offer seem impressive.

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One such tool is Firefly, trained on Adobe Stock images, along with public domain and copyright-free images. The product, much like DALL-E 2 and Midjourney, can generate custom images. Interestingly, the company specifically says those images will be "safe for commercial use." As with other generative tools -- and the very capable Adobe Express -- Firefly is designed to make it easier for marketers to create content without regard to artistic skill level.

On the text side of the generative AI equation (have you noticed the new "GenAI" buzzword?), Adobe's introducing four new services based on LLMs, including:

Marketing copy generation: A tool for creating message variations, modifying tone of voice, and incorporating keywords in the copy generated. As a guy who's spent a large part of his life getting paid to write marketing copy, I'm not exactly sure what I think about this tool. It could help remove the drudgery, or it could reduce billings.

Conversational experiences: This service is a super-charged version of the chatbots used to power customer support widgets during off-hours. Given my tech support experiences with ChatGPT, this service could well reduce customer frustration and benefit the overall customer experience.

Caption generation: This service is an enhancement to the company's analytics offering (Customer Journey Analytics). The analytics tools help uncover opportunities or identify roadblocks. Where this tool comes into play is that it gives those opportunities and roadblocks relevant names to help marketers and managers visualize the overall impact of the data.

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"Adobe has a long history of unlocking Al as a co-pilot for marketers, and we have a vision for generative Al that covers the full lifecycle of customer experience management, with the enterprise-grade security and data governance that our customers expect," said Amit Ahuja, senior vice president, Digital Experience Business, Adobe. "Business growth is driven by customer experiences, and generative Al is a transformative, foundational technology that will impact every aspect of how brands connect with their customers."

So, there you go -- Adobe's got a lot going on in its customer experience and AI offerings. What do you think? Will these initiatives improve actual customer experiences? Will they help your business manage growth and opportunities? Let us know in the comments below.

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