Cloud Content Unleashed: Exploring Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) as a Cloud Service
Excellent customer experience (CX) is the holy grail of marketing. It’s critical to enable brands to reach their customers across every touchpoint. Brands are offering more immersive and engaging, physically and digitally enabled CX across all channels, and for good reason – a recent stuudy from Gartner says that a whopping 89% of companies expect to compete against its competitors mostly on the basis of customer experience in the next 3-5 years1.
The events of 2020 have forced more customers to complete their purchases online. ‘As more people work remotely and interact digitally, there are all sorts of digital customers that weren’t there before this year,’ says Justin Stayrook, Principal, Customer Experience at BORN Group. ‘You might be selling cars, you might be selling widgets, you might be selling movies…it doesn’t matter, the customer experience is what is going to differentiate you, much more so than price or availability of the product.’
At BORN Group, Customer Experience is at the heart of everything we do: we’re all about creative content that drives online commerce to engage customers across borders in a connected world. We’ve tried to simplify what customer experience really means in what we call our ‘CX equation’, where CX = Brand Experience + Behavioral Experience + a Book of Record Experience. Our Stella framework sees each of these aspects layered to ultimately make up the customer experience. Simply put, your brand expression is delivered through different channels and behavior is recorded to further improve the brand experience.
As we deliver technology evaluations or look at building stacks – solutions and infrastructure – to take care of our clients’ needs, we know how integral content management is to all of these aspects. In the image below, you’ll find where these pieces come together – think of experience management as a result of delivering commerce, content, and creative.
The Consumption of Content is Only Accelerating
The content management world has seen a lot of ebbs and flows over the last two decades. Developments with AEM as a cloud service are not just intriguing but important to consider as you scale your business.
Key disruption in the content management world revolves around the consumption of content and the acceleration of that consumption. Billions of pieces of content are being produced and consumed every day. To compete in such a saturated world, brand messaging must be highly effective to be able to target individuals with that content. Where content management systems (CMS) such as AEM have come in hand is to be able to create and manage content and amplify it through various channels. There have been a few notable hurdles, however. ‘As technology evolves, it’s important to be able to stay on top of that but also have best-in-class systems that can grow at a low cost,’ says Stayrook. ‘To make it a place where you can feed your customers out of a central repository through this exponential curve of technology performance that grows each and every day, [is absolutely critical].’
What is the Real Impact of Experience-Driven Content?
If you talk to anybody in the business of content be it a creative producer right up to the CMO, business is booming. It’s not hard to see why;
- Incredibly cost-effective: Compared to traditional marketing, content marketing costs 62% less and generates three times as many leads2.
- Offers amazing ROI: On average, conversion rates are six times higher for companies and brands using content marketing (2.9%) than those that aren’t (0.5%)3.
- CMOs are investing in content: In 2014, roughly 740 million euros were being spent in Europe on content marketing. That figure is predicted to increase to 2.12 billion euros in 20204.
The ability to target customers has improved exponentially in recent years but the weak link is getting that content to market. It’s important to identify individual groups of customers based on their behaviors to understand how they interact with your brand, so you can follow up with them with pertinent emails or offers. However, if you don’t have content to maintain this communication, those messages will fall on deaf ears. Worse, that messaging will fall into the quagmire of content that people are inundated with every day.
True Personalization Requires Integrated Services and Tech Across Multiple Platforms
Personalization allows you to communicate with customers more effectively through content. For true personalization, you need to have tech and services integrated across a variety of functional areas. These range from customer data platforms that are used to differentiate audiences, segments, and track behaviors to traditional content such as websites and eCommerce sites. Personalization or optimization allows you to converse with individuals based on their preferences or interests.
Every brand is working in these functional areas to varying degrees depending on how they want to progress your maturity model in those areas. CMS systems like AEM can help you build your technology stacks in these areas because it touches all of these areas. Please see below for an example of how AEM sits at the center of your digital stack.
Our goal at BORN is to deliver what we call personalization factories or data-driven customer engagement that is fully personalized to your brand. We create strategic flywheels with the following aspects;
- Customer experience vision: A clear vision and strategy of the role experience play in customer value.
- Data & decisions: Real-time data and the ability to optimize experience through insights.
- Technology: Integrated technology stack that delivers content and creative across all channels.
- Content & creative: Content and creative factory with the ability to scale and deliver variations to new audiences.
If you go back 10-15 years, personalization was a creative and content strategy based on primary research of what you thought your customers would want, what they wanted to hear. Quite often, because it was a creative exercise it missed the mark when it went to market. We would see companies that would implement an eCommerce site, and they would have a dip in conversion. Or, in other circumstances, they would have a new brand, and they would see a dip in engagement. This was because we didn’t have data and insights or the technology and the ability to adapt in real-time. A CMS is vital for those personalization factories as they serve as the container or repository for your global content. They also end up producing content – lots of websites still produce pages that are directly pulled from CMS systems.
However, there are a few challenges of getting content to market quickly to support personalization.
Why AEM for Content Management?
Adobe does a tremendous job of focusing on all these digital channels when it comes to content. Not only have they been around for a long time, they rate highly in almost every category when it comes to digital experience and campaign management. If you look at how they’ve progressed customer roadmaps, they’ve exceled by acquiring many technologies over the years such as AEM, Magento for eCommerce and Marketo among others. The integration of these platforms were not simple – one had to hire expensive solutions and cross-platform architects.
Any time you want to produce content for various channels, the experience manager is going to play a role in that.
The Experience Manager has so far been the outlier in the Experience cloud because there have been so many ‘on-prem’ – previously called cloud – installations. There was a real limitation on how you could integrate all these platforms to deliver real-time personalized content.
Total Cost of Ownership: Industry Average vs. AEM as a Cloud Service
The above model is useful for organizations who have AEM installed or those who are looking to move to a more modern platform like AEM away from an existing platform. On the left is the typical cost of ownership profile for a CMS system. In year 1, you have a large implementation cost. The costs go down in year 2, but in year 3, you get a surprise because there was a product upgrade. In year 5, you get another surprise. AEM as a cloud service really flattens that TCO curve. Of all the reasons for moving to AEM as a Cloud Service, flattening TCO curves are one of the most important ones. The implementation costs do not change much but everything you do to improve the functionality of your site through customizations, optimizations, or adding new functionalities, among other things, does not increase cost and does save revenue.
Anybody that’s gone through CMS upgrades or different types of hosting arrangements over the years knows that this can be difficult as you cannot stop marketing or take your website offline during those transitions. AEM as a Cloud takes away that pain. You can put your dollars towards improvement and less so on maintenance and upgrades.
Having AEM in the cloud reduces those aforementioned costs. One is able to do continuous integration and delivery, automatic and scheduled deployments, all through the Adobe Cloud infrastructure. Anyone who has spent time optimizing from a traditional AEM standpoint knows how cost-effective and efficient this is to offload it into the Adobe Cloud which provides user controls and test results as needed.
Shorten Test Cycles and Ensure the Highest Code Quality Through Continuous Testing in Cloud Manager
Some core rules in ensuring the highest code quality include:
- Code implementation based on engineering best practices.
- 100+ rules combining generic Java rules and AEM-specific rules built into test automation processes.
- Non-production pipelines available to conduct additional code testing.
One can perform automated testing that can be managed through cloud environments – reliance on third party experts is not necessary. Once this is set up, you can have ongoing performance improvement by being able to get this into the market and pre-production. There are a lot of clients who use the old methods of development and operations on AEM and it becomes a day-to-day conversation on how to be able to manage them. To be able to do so effectively is a tremendous savings to your total cost of ownership.
Scalable and Global
From a global standpoint, brands want content in one place and for that content to be easily accessible. Historically, that has always been a challenge. However, AEM as a Cloud Service can help scale up content quickly in a centralized way.
- Auto scaling: Automatically detects the need for increased capacity and scales dramatically.
- Vertical scaling: Adds additional memory or processing to current systems.
- Horizontal scaling: Adds compute capacity or nodes as needed during high performance.
Cloud Service: Asset Processing Through Microscaling Architected on a Global Scale
Content Delivery Networks (CDN) has always been a topic of discussion and scaling it through microservices is an effective and popular way to run a global operation for content services.
Using a built-in CDN allows you to manage content, while also allowing you to use it globally without having redundant DevOps systems and the varying deployment costs that go with them. All of the headaches of scaling content contributors globally and deliberating on partners for DevOps tend to go away when you migrate to AEM as a Cloud Service.
Backup and Recovery Strategy
Any book of record system requires frequent backups, fast recovery and encrypted storage. This can be very costly and difficult to manage at a global level. AEM offers:
- Highly frequent data backups: Daily snapshots stored up to 7 days.
- Fast and in time recovery: System restored to any point in the last 24 hours.
- Encrypted storage: Data in transit and at rest encrypted.
As you dig into the total cost of ownership spreadsheets that we have developed at BORN in conjunction with Adobe, we focus on these individual levers such as the savings from being able to decrease the amount of your backups and restores.
Many of our clients work in multi-vendor environments where one works with several agencies in the same instance of AEM. Such a scenario is difficult to manage and AEM developments will help all clients as they migrate to the cloud servers
Implementation times on a typical AEM as a Cloud implementation do not change significantly from a design, development and build standpoint. You have to look at the total cost of implementation over five years. AEM implementations can span anywhere from 6 weeks to 18 months depending on how creative you want to be with the user experience, how well integrated you want your channels to be, how you want your site to evolve over time, and how global your branding is.
Key Takeaways of AEM as a Cloud Service
All in all, AEM is a powerful resource in delivering the most cutting-edge cloud services, with four main pillars to sum up its strengths:
- Always current: New capabilities are seamlessly validated and live instantly so that teams can focus on innovating instead of planning for version upgrades. You never have to worry about costly upgrades and releases, which usually gets consumed in your first year so you can enjoy the benefits in years 3-5.
- Modular, scalable and global: Optimal performance for customers and employees based on autoscaling and microservices architecture. Lots of the scaling issues that used to be in play if you operate different countries have gone away.
- Performance resiliency: Redundancy and monitoring to provide mission-critical service level availability.
- Secure by default: All environments are pre-configured to Adobe-backed security rules based on enterprise-tested best practices and security frameworks such as ISO 27001 and SOC-2.
When considering how to distribute and manage your content moving forward, consider AEM for its excellence in content management, security, and delivery and reach out to Mackenzie Johnson, [email protected] for more information around our Adobe practice.
For more information on Adobe AEM, please refer to The Importance of Migration to AEM as a Cloud Service, the inspiration for this piece.
1 Gartner Research, Create Powerful Customer Experiences, 30 May 2019. https://www.gartner.com/en/marketing/insights/customer-experience
2 Content Marketing Infographic, Demand Metric. https://www.demandmetric.com/content/content-marketing-infographic
3 Crossing the Chaos: Managing Content Marketing Transformation, Aberdeen Research. August 2013.
4 Content Marketing Expenditure in Europe 2014-2020, Statista. https://www.statista.com/statistics/628774/content-marketing-spend-europe/