Adobe’s Vittal: AI ‘bigger than the web’, and in use at Swisscom

Adobe and one of its customers used the DMEXCO digital marketing conference and exhibition in Cologne to talk about artificial intelligence efforts and spell out what each sees as their value

Artificial intelligence (AI) will be bigger than the web or the smartphone, Suresh Vittal, vice-president of Adobe Experience Cloud, told attendees at this week’s DMEXCO digital marketing conference in Cologne.

At the same conference, Nicolas Mériel, senior digital strategist at Adobe customer Swisscom – the biggest telco in Switzerland – advocated a technology approach of maximising automation on websites to genuinely personalise each web user’s experience.

In an interview at the show with Computer Weekly, Adobe’s Vittal said IT leaders did not need to buy into the idea that experiences are more important that products or services, which is common wisdom in digital marketing circles.

“But if they see customer intelligence as important, they should pay attention to this stuff,” he said. This “stuff” being machine learning and deep learning applied to understanding a company’s customers better across all channels and territories.

Adobe Experience Cloud bundles together the company’s Creative Cloud, Analytics Cloud, Advertising Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Document Cloud for enterprises. It was trumpeted, at the Adobe Summit in Las Vegas earlier this year, as a means of effecting “digital transformation”, focused on how customers experience products and services.

Vittal directs the strategy for Adobe Experience Cloud. “I don’t need CIOs to be convinced that experiences are more important than, or equally as important as products and services. I just need them to see that behavioural data about their customer is super-important, both to [their organisation’s] brand and to their stakeholders, whether heads of BI [business intelligence] or their CEO,” he said.

“Organisations have been using BI tools to look at time-series, web behaviour data forever. You can’t solve that problem with that technology. If customer intelligence matters, then pay attention.”

Adobe brands its artificial intelligence platform “Sensei”. Vittal said the supplier was focused on infusing AI into its product and service “domains of creativity, content and experiences”.

“Our AI efforts are in voice, augmented reality and creative. We are not trying to solve every single AI problem, or personify it. The approach is to build a model, get the algorithm, run it against massive datasets, and then apply it to specific disciplines,” he said.

Swisscom uses AI to personalise website consumption

Swisscom is one company applying the AI technology it gets from Adobe to tailor its web presence to individual visitors.

Nicolas Mériel presented in a session alongside the CEO of Swisscom’s marketing analytics consultancy partner Webalyse, Klaus Völk.

The Swiss telecommunications company, which is dominant in the Swiss market and is majority owned by the cantons of Switzerland, provides mobile phones, landlines, broadband, television and editorial content through its BlueWin website

It has been using web analytics software from Omniture, now part of Adobe, since 2010, and began doing A/B testing in 2013. Its use of what was, before the AI hype cycle, called “self-optimisation” website software is well established, said Völk.

He said a big benefit to the use of such software, which automatically tunes the website experience to each individual visitor, is that it harmonises relations among different teams at the web publisher who would all, naturally, want their products and services to have the higher visibility slots on a website. “It puts an end to all such politics,” he said, and credited Adobe’s Sensei with that at Swisscom.

In the conference session, Mériel illustrated one benefit of AI, as instanced at his company, by asking audience members what languages they spoke. “AI does not have to make a language decision,” he said. It can get a website to speak to each user in their own language. “It is the opposite of one size fits all.”

Mériel said that what the company is doing has taken it beyond the limitations of A/B testing, claiming you don’t have to wait for the results of a test – instead the website adjusts on the fly.

“I would recommend,” he said, “that you start simple with A/B testing, then you will reach a point where you want to scale.”

He said Swisscom has around 10 data scientists doing “analyse and optimise” work. “[They] probably do 400 tests a year. Some of these are quite simple. If you come with an iPhone, why should I show you a new app download from the GooglePlayStore?”

He said it was easy to set up different web experiences for testing using Adobe’s Target product. “If the content is there, it’s scarily easy. I myself set up a 24 experiences tests in two hours.”

Digital voice assistants do marketing

In an interview with Computer Weekly, Jamie Brighton, products and industry marketing head at Adobe Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), drew attention to some new work the supplier is doing with voice assistants.

There is demand, he said, in sectors such as travel and hospitality, and even in manufacturing, to better understand customer behaviour by analysing and optimising the content delivered from voice assistant devices.

“Through Adobe Experience Manager [a web content management platform] we can control what gets returned by the digital voice assistant. For example, hotels which are using Alexa in their guest rooms can control [through Experience Manager] the text Alexa uses, just as they would update content on a website,” said Brighton.

“And we have an example where a manufacturer uses voice assistants in its high-end kitchen and bathroom showrooms, tying that in with what customers see on digital channels. But we are just scratching the surface of how virtual assistants fit with the overall strategies that brands have.”

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