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Adobe to Unveil Software Platform, Taking on Salesforce

Nico Grant

(Bloomberg) -- Adobe Inc. is broadening its strategy to win more corporate customers, taking inspiration from one of its chief rivals: Salesforce.com Inc.

The software maker, best-known for Photoshop and Acrobat, has been adding to its suite of marketing, analytics and e-commerce tools over the past decade, competing with Salesforce, SAP SE and Oracle Corp. Now, Adobe is developing a software system called Experience Platform, which will unify business applications it added in different acquisitions, and connect them with new apps from third-party developers and customers’ other programs. Adobe announced the new platform Tuesday ahead of its Summit conference in Las Vegas.

Adobe’s compatibility push highlights the company’s desire to emulate a business model that Salesforce has used to build one of the biggest ecosystems for cloud-based apps. Despite small efforts to entice developers to create new services that work with its applications, Adobe has historically focused on sales of apps it makes itself. Now, Adobe is boosting efforts to nurture its own ecosystem, aiming to put itself at the heart of corporate clients’ use of technology and take business from Salesforce. The strategy could add a new revenue stream and help Adobe retain customers by offering a huge array of products that complement its existing software.

The company’s plan is to help brands keep shoppers coming back by pooling all of their customer data, and improving their artificial-intelligence software for targeting that could send real-time ads and promotions based on a customer’s recent purchases or interests. The new offering could help a mobile carrier, for example, detect when a consumer is likely to jump to a rival service, and give that customer special attention or discounts to stay.

“Everyone was driving for this vision of a complete view of their customer,’’ said Jim Rivera, head of product at Adobe Experience Platform. “The notion of what a customer is doing in the moment -- what they’re looking at, what they’re searching for, is about learning about their propensities, their desires.’’

For the past year, Home Depot Inc. and other Adobe customers have been testing a version of the platform.

Adobe’s shares gained 1.3 percent to $265.75 at 10:27 a.m. in New York. The stock jumped 16 percent this year through Monday’s close.

Large companies have long built software extensions or new applications that tailor corporate programs to specific needs. While Adobe already has close to 13,000 partners that have developed new features, plug-ins or apps for Adobe programs -- including 2,000 from its recent acquisitions of Magento and Marketo -- the software maker will try to bring more developers into the process. One goal is to add new tools to the Adobe Exchange application store, such as apps that could personalize Adobe’s capabilities for specific industries like airline and retail. Companies could give consumers more information about concerts and other ticketed events, such as where to park their cars, and others could create apps that Adobe hasn’t even imagined, executives said -- similar to Salesforce’s AppExchange, which has helped that company grow since it was launched in 2006.

To encourage more companies to build apps for the new platform, Adobe will help clients share data about their shoppers with other software makers’ systems, so they have access to the same information while planning a new ad campaign on an Adobe app or providing customer service with a different company’s app. Rivera said that other software vendors are eager for this kind of data exchange because it will make their programs more useful for clients. While data-sharing systems of this kind have raised concerns about the security of personal information, Adobe says it builds its programs with customer privacy in mind.

Adobe’s Experience Cloud already helps consumer brands bolster their digital experiences for patrons, for example by using a smartphone app in a retail store to find out more about a product or request customer assistance -- similar to how Salesforce helps clients including Adidas AG and Marriott International Inc. personalize app experiences for consumers.

A year ago, Salesforce paid $6.5 billion for software maker MuleSoft Inc., which helps businesses connect their various systems with application programming interfaces, or APIs, to link their new cloud tools with legacy data centers or stitch together a complete view of their customers with data. Adobe has built this capability into Experience Platform, but Rivera, whom Adobe hired from Salesforce, said that Adobe’s system is better than his former employer’s because Adobe has more access to behavioral data about consumers and can help clients make real-time adjustments to a customer targeting or retention strategy based on all of that incoming information.

(Updates with share price in the seventh paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Nico Grant in San Francisco at ngrant20@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jillian Ward at jward56@bloomberg.net, Andrew Pollack

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