Key customer data and experience features in AEP

Digital marketing in the enterprise world is evolving. Ten years ago, businesses focused on building robust websites that acted as a central information hub. Their challenges revolved around website usability, performance, security, integrations, and interaction with mobile apps. Although it’s still a lot of work to build and maintain, having a website is considered a convenience nowadays. Your website is something that has to be functional and aesthetic, but it’s not what sets your business apart from others anymore.

These days, the topic that is being implemented in the market and distinguishing our clients’ digital marketing strategies is user experience and user journeys. This isn’t just about delivering appealing content, but about delivering an experience that meets your users where they are and addresses their needs in the moment.

Adobe Experience Platform (AEP) is a solution to deliver user journeys like these. Using a digital experience platform like AEP helps us centralize customer data and tailor and adapt personalized experiences based on what is relevant to certain audiences. The centerpiece of AEP is a Customer Data Platform (CDP) called Real-Time CDP, allowing you to adapt experiences based on user needs in real-time.

Let’s dig into the main features of AEP, and how the platform helps businesses create outstanding customer experiences.

How do customer profiles work in AEP?

The central hub of AEP is the customer profile. This provides all the information we know about a certain user and how they have interacted with our digital marketing channels in one unified view. Customer profiles in AEP have two main dimensions:

Record Data

Time Series Data

We can shape the data that we collect, defining which events to record in the time series, or properties that shape the record data. We can imagine this as a JSON object, allowing us to define our own properties and sub-objects. More precisely speaking, this structure is implemented with the Experience Data Model (XDM) Schema. Adobe also has pre-defined parts of this customer profile object, and recommends using them as standard.

How is customer data updated in the Adobe Experience Platform?

Customer data is made available in real-time on Adobe’s digital experience platform, meaning that the events and data updates from a user’s current interactions are usually available within seconds. (We’ll get into what ‘usually’ means and where the limitations are, but generally you can consider customer data to be real-time.)

The customer data object is updated via simple POST calls out of the digital channel, similar to data collection in Adobe Analytics.

It’s also possible to ingest larger chunks of data via batch jobs, for example by using an existing integration from Analytics to AEP – though they won’t be in real-time. These types of batch jobs in AEP can be processed within an hour, but depending on the source system, we typically see daily syncs.

Data can also be synchronized to the device using a cookie (also similar to Analytics). This way, we can recognize returning users, and associate information from multiple sessions to a single user profile. Typically, users use multiple devices to interact with a business – and since the cookie is tied to the device (and browser), it’s very likely that there will be multiple customer data objects for one real person.

As soon as we can identify that person (e.g. from the person logging in), these customer data objects can be joined together by ID-stitching. Within the customer data object, we have references to the anonymous ID (called ECID, the cookie mentioned above), and – potentially – a personalized ID, usually the user’s email address. This process works very well in AEP, and Adobe has set up an entire Identity Service to power it.

How to identify the right experience

Creating user experiences in this context revolves around personalization. We want to deliver content that is most relevant to users, which in turn works best in terms of conversion.

Personalization comes in two flavors:


Individual Personalization

AEP supports both types of personalization, in fact using a very similar mechanism. Individual personalization always applies, meaning you can always personalize experiences based on the profile data of the current user. To personalize experiences based on segments, you don’t have to run or expose your segmentation logic on the client, though. This is calculated on the server side for you, and applied to the user profile. This means you can access the current user’s segments just like any other property without knowing where they come from.

These segments are usually updated in real-time. If segments are overly complex to calculate, the updates may be slower. What determines the complexity is access to time series data; the further back in history your segmentation rules look, the more complex the calculations, which can slow down updating the user profile. So if your segment has a rule like ‘has looked at product X today’, the user profile will be updated almost instantaneously. If your rule is instead ‘has shown interest in topic Y in the last year and has looked at product X in the last week’, it will be updated only daily. The impact the complexity has on the evaluation times is explained in more detail in Adobe’s documentation.

Delivering the right experience

Profiles within the real-time CDP are now available to Adobe Target, so we can conduct segment-based personalization using either Target’s own segmentation or personalization logic, or using the segments provided by the CDP. This means that the segments based on real-time data and the event stream can be used to achieve true real-time personalization.

Before, you would use Adobe Campaign to manage individual personalization in direct email communications or on the website (i.e. using a personal salutation, or suggesting similar products to those in a user’s shopping cart). This tool is a complement to Adobe Journey Optimizer (AJO), which is integrated tightly with AEP and interacts smoothly with the customer profile.

Adobe Journey Optimizer provides 2 main functionalities:

Email Marketing

Offer Management

Improved user profiles in AEP

AEP can gather data from user interactions on our digital channels, but also by incorporating data from other offline sources. This works very well in AEP, even when dealing with multiple sources with various ID systems. AEP can synchronize and connect the different data silos continuously and provide a full view of the user. Data can be sent from any source using a simple POST call, making integrations easy on the AEP side.

The Adobe Real-Time CDP stores its data in the Azure cloud, which has data centers in North America, the EU, and Australia. Of course, the data is protected, and any detailed requirements in terms of data protection should be aligned between Adobe and the customer.

Consent is an interesting point, as it is also stored in the user profile, down to individual fields: Which data can be used for personalization? What data is visible within different tools? Which data is considered personally identifying information and requires special protection, like being available for selected activities only?

There is a first party cookie solution that allows us to store ECID cookies in the scope of the customer’s domain, making it persistent even in increasingly restrictive browser security settings. Additionally, data collected within the Adobe Real-Time CDP can be made available to external parties (given proper consent), providing a customer-owned hub for holistic marketing that would otherwise be done with third party cookies.

Further uses

Centralized user management like this may also be helpful in other scenarios. For example, in social media initiatives like Facebook advertisements that can be developed based on holistic user profiles that the client owns, relying on all the information available to us.

Additionally, user information, particularly the event stream, currently represents the interaction of one user. Adobe plans to aggregate this information and build reporting on top of it, effectively replacing Analytics data with accrued user data. There is no clear timeline for this yet, but this change will certainly make the Adobe Experience even more holistic.

Learn more about the Adobe Experience Platform

Interested to learn even more about AEP? Contact us to learn more, and discuss how we can help your business unlock the full benefits of the Adobe Experience Platform.