The Cloud Transcends the Mobile World: An Interview with Matt Asay

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For many of us, keeping up with the ever-changing world of mobile devices and apps isn’t easy.  But for Matt Asay, vice president of Mobile for Adobe’s Digital Marketing Business, forging a clear path through the shifting mobile sands is all in a day’s work.  We recently chatted with Matt to get his take on Adobe’s place in the mobile landscape of 2015…

How would you characterize the state of mobile in 2015?

Well, both at Adobe and more broadly in the market, we all went through a realization a few years ago that mobile was going to be big.  Some brands went out and built loads of apps; it was the phase of “we’ve got to have an app” and so companies went out and built a lot of them.  Unfortunately, the majority of those early apps weren’t very good.

The second phase was “we’ve got apps, but we actually need to get people using them.”  We called it the app-user-acquisition phase, whereby the market used various means to get people to download their apps.  The third phase was “okay, now we’ve got users, let’s take a look at what they’re actually doing in our app.”

Now we’re in the fourth phase and we know what they’re doing in the apps. However, we often find that only a portion of the full potential of the app is being used, so the question becomes how do we change that?  For Adobe, I think the answer is that mobile needs to be thought of as just one part of an end-to-end, holistic ecosystem of applications that enables users to continue their work, shop or play on any device through the cloud.

In the past, mobile simply meant smartphones.  But with so many different kinds of devices out there, how would you define mobile now?

I think of mobile more in terms of the experience than the form.  I think it’s in the immediacy of the experience.  It’s about a consumer getting what they want in the moment they want it.  This could be information, or the ability to easily make a purchase, or get navigation directions.  In that respect, mobile definitely includes everything from wearables to a tablet.  Personally, if I need something right now, and I’m walking out my door, it’s still going to be my smartphone that makes the difference for me.

What are some of the challenges that Adobe customers are facing with regard to mobile?

There is an essential disconnect between what consumers expect and what brands feel they can deliver. On the consumer side, mobile has become a digital Swiss Army knife – the trusty tool they turn to throughout the day for solutions to problems, entertainment, research, shopping, communication, and work.  If they can’t quickly find what they are looking for with a brand and when they want it – they move on to a different brand that can fulfill their needs.

On the brand side, there’s no longer a question that enterprises must embrace mobile – it’s a matter of how. It’s easy for marketers to feel overwhelmed in delivering mobile with personalized experiences across multiple channels, designing for various screen sizes, using location-based data  and setting up analytics and return on investment attribution. All while keeping up with consumer expectations that their mobile devices should deliver everything their desktops can, and more.

Compounding this problem is the fact that mobile remains so fragmented. One major retailer told me that they currently cobble together over a dozen different mobile SDKs into their app to deliver essential services like push messaging, active geofencing, and more. It’s not surprising that would-be mobile marketers are confused as to how to get productive with mobile.

What are some of the ways that Adobe is trying to help with those issues?

Brands need to learn to think of their mobile strategies in an iterative way. The key is to start relatively small, delivering functionality that makes a consumer love the app for what it is. Then build from there.

Adobe makes this easier by offering a platform that makes it easy to develop and manage an app, acquire new users (and correctly attribute how they gained them), analyze user behavior within the app to gauge what’s working and what isn’t, and engage consumers through a variety of messaging channels, whether push, in-app, email, SMS, and more. Among other benefits, this gives the brand a single SDK that streamlines a plethora of services, rather than forcing them to hunt through a gaggle of niche providers.

All Adobe services are designed to maximize a brand’s ability to productively iterate. Want to run A/B tests on the push messages you’re sending? We have that. Need to personalize the content a user sees when he or she is in a brand’s app? We’ve got that handled, too. And if a brand wants a different layout in its existing native app, without pushing an update through an app store? We manage that, too.

In these and other ways, we help brands better leverage their apps to drive a holistic, multi-channel customer experience.

What are your thoughts on the Internet of Things?

We talk a lot about the Internet of Things (IoT) and wearables, including Apple Watch.  But I think the reality is that, apart from some interesting use cases, something like Apple Watch is not going to really move the needle for most businesses besides Apple in the coming year.  There’s tremendous promise in the Internet of Things, which includes wearables and smart devices of all kinds, but our experience with customers’ actual needs and interests suggests that a wider adoption of those things is still something for the future. As IoT technology eventually becomes more integrated, it should actually become irrelevant as the experience becomes more cohesive and hyper-personalized—creating our desired state of the “Internet of Me.” My devices should know me, be aware of each other, and share data to make every experience simpler, more valuable, and more informed than the last.

Do you see the website experience and the mobile app experience converging over time?

Well, the first way to answer that would be to say that, at least in the longer term, the web wins.  Gartner is saying that in the next few years it will be 90% web for enterprise apps because enterprises don’t want to have to deal with cross-platform issues.  It’s just cheaper to update and maintain a single, universal web application than it is to update your Android and iOS apps.  So even for consumer apps, as web technology improves, I think we’ll see more and more shifting directly to the mobile-optimized web.

The second way of answering is to say there’s something that transcends both websites and mobile apps, and that’s the cloud and the data that resides in it.  That data doesn’t really care if it’s going to a mobile website, desktop website, a mobile app, or a native app.  So no matter what the form factor and consumption factor might be for that data, the data itself is really what matters in the end.

The cloud isn’t mobile, it isn’t desktop, and it isn’t anything you can pin down to a specific device or format.  It’s just the cloud.  And you have to be able to handle that cloud data well if you want to compete in mobile or really, going forward, if you want to compete at all.

There’s no question, mobile and smart devices are surging and, in the process, are changing how we work, learn, connect and play. In this three-part series we’ll examine the mobile vision for our three key cloud services: Document Cloud, Creative Cloud, and Adobe Marketing Cloud. Stay tuned next week for the next edition of the series on the mobile strategy for Creative Cloud.