Adobe Marketing Cloud

Adobe announces marketer co-op for data sharing

It's cross-brand and cross-device, but will it cross a line for consumers?

Adobe is the latest tech giant to announce a co-op that pools together consumer data collected by multiple brands. But while other keep such pools inside their walled gardens, Adobe has something broader in mind.

The enterprise software company announced its new venture, Adobe Co-op, at its annual Adobe Summit conference in Las Vegas on March 22. The co-op, set to launch in Canada and the U.S. in the second half of 2016, was created to help marketers identify their customers as they move from device to device.

At the time of the announcement, Adobe did not say which brands have signed on to participate.

Asa Whillock, the principal product manager for Adobe Marketing Cloud, said in a press call last week the co-op will allow marketers to treat consumers as individuals rather than devices.

A consumer may, for example, visit a travel site on their mobile device, then later book a flight on their computer. But if the site hasn’t linked the two devices through a log-in on each device, it may re-target them on their phone with an ad for a flight they’ve already purchased.

With the co-op, Adobe says brands will be able to link devices using log-ins from all partners, drastically increasing the chance of a match.

“The retailer in this case can treat both of the devices as belonging to a single person, measure them that way, and offer relevant offers and ads so they’re speaking to a person rather than separate devices,” Whillock said.

Both Google and Facebook allow marketers to draw from pooled data in a similar way, but limit the use of the findings outside of their own platforms – the so-called “walled garden.” Adobe’s positioning with its co-op is that marketers will be able to use the shared device data for any of their marketing activities.

“For a marketer today, the existing alternatives to be able to address these problems have some flaws,” Whillock said. “[Marketers] are limited in the channels they can use to reach consumers to those provided by the walled gardens, which are largely organized around driving media sales.”

Data sharing is already prevalent amongst marketers, with 38% of marketers in the U.S. sharing some form of data with their business partners, according to a 2015 study by Forrester. The practice of data sharing, however, raises privacy issues; marketers polled for the study listed privacy concerns and security as the two primary challenges of participating in data co-ops.

The collection of data at large is also a significant issue for consumers, with 64% of Canadians reporting concern about what businesses do with their personal data, according to a recent study from SAS.

To address those anxieties, Adobe worked with the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group Future of Privacy Forum on the creation of Adobe Co-op. All of the data shared by the co-op will be anonymous and not include details such as consumer names, emails or phone numbers. Site visit data will not be included, either.

In an effort to remain transparent, Adobe will publicly list all of the brands participating in the co-op and give consumers the chance to opt-out and stop their data from being shared.

Ahmed Elemam, a senior digital strategist at WestJet, told Marketing the company plans to look into the co-op once more details are released, but said because WestJet has earned a reputation as a “pro-privacy” brand, it is hesitant to participate in anything that might raise privacy concerns among consumers – even if it is legal and widely used across the marketing industry.

For example, though many marketers upload email lists to Facebook in order to match them with the site’s users, Elemam said WestJet abstains from the practice because some consumers may have a negative response to realizing they’re being re-targeted on Facebook after visiting WestJet’s site, potentially eroding trust in the brand.

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