Disclosure: I work for a company that is a Premier partner of Adobe and have partnerships with other vendors mentioned in this article. I do not have access to technical or product roadmaps or have any insights into M&A for any of them. The following is purely my thoughts and opinions and do not represent my employer’s opinion.
Last week Adobe announced that they were purchasing Magento, an eCommerce platform for $1.67Bn. The company has been bought and sold twice previously. eBay bought Magento for $180M, then sold it as part of their enterprise commerce platform to private equity firm Primera. We’ve had a week to digest what this acquisition means for Adobe and their overall Experience Cloud Solutions and what it means for Magento customers, who are primarily not enterprise. Let’s dig in.
The Need for Owning a Commerce Solution
It’s no secret that Adobe needed to do something around a commerce solution. While they have been filling out the other parts of their Experience Cloud with solutions such as voice with Sayspring, video advertising with TubeMogul and user-generated content with LiveFyre, commerce was a place they have flirted with in the past, but never got over the finish line. With a focus on the enterprise market, Adobe over the last decade only had a few options to really pursue — DemandWare, and Hybris. I can only assume Adobe did explore those options but as we know, Salesforce nabbed DemandWare two years ago and Hybris went to SAP five years ago. With those two companies off the market, a big hole was left in the marketplace from an M&A perspective.
Since then, Adobe seemed to focus on the remaining commerce platforms with what appeared to be more integration partnerships while they figured out their next steps. ElasticPath had a run at it, but have now appeared to be strategically aligned to BloomReach. If you look at the Adobe Exchange for their Experience Cloud, you will see there are plenty of commerce vendors that integrate with Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) such as Digital River, Elastic Path, IBM WebSphere Commerce, SAP Hybris, CloudCraze, Agility Multichannel (a PIM system), commercetools, and yes, Magento. So to say that creating commerce experiences within the Adobe Experience Cloud couldn’t be done before is clearly not the case. In fact, companies had options one way or another.
With all of those solutions out there already integrating with the Experience Cloud, why did they need to purchase one? I think there are a few reasons.
- It is always better to be in the driver’s seat of any major component of an ecosystem you are either building out or supporting. Many of Adobe’s customers have a commerce component to their Marketing Technology stacks and integration at times only goes so far.
- Products and commerce complement each other but are indeed different. While many companies can put product information into AEM and use taxonomies and other metadata to manage the assets, it’s not really built for commerce. It’s meant for content. But when you have product pages and search results, AEM shines. So like peanut butter and jelly, they need to go together.
- Their customers were asking for it. There are plenty of Adobe customers who own the entire Experience Cloud, but when it came to this part of their needs, customers had to go elsewhere. While that isn’t always the case and not everyone needs commerce, at the enterprise level which is where they play the most, many do.
- More revenue. At the end of the day, it is a missing piece of revenue from a subscription model for their software. So grab that last piece of the pie.
Looking at these tools above who are already integrating into the Experience Cloud, really only one tool could have been viable for an acquisition, and that was Magento. The acquisition does still raise a few eyebrows for a few reasons, but none that haven’t already been overcome by Adobe in the past.
PHP or Java or Cloud or What?
When we first heard about the acquisition in our office some of the first reactions were, “well isn’t Magento PHP based?” And it is. Even Forrester analyst Ted Schadler raised the question on Twitter.
Adobe finally found a commerce platform to buy. I like that it’s plugging a hole, particularly for manufacturers just starting out in commerce. But tell me how PHP/cloud Magento and Java/to-the-datacenter-born AEM are going to integrate? – @TedSchadler
So the short answer that I think all of us are responding with is clearly it will be API based….for now. There is a precedence at Adobe to purchase non-Java based solutions and spend the time and energy to rebuild them in Java and the most recent and still dual code-based solution is Adobe Campaign. When Adobe bought Neolane years ago it was a .NET solution and a fat client even. What is now Adobe Campaign “Classic” is still this .NET solution. The new Adobe Campaign Standard is the rebuilt Java/cloud-based solution that is working towards seamless integration with the rest of the Experience Cloud. (Also, again one of those situations where Adobe didn’t have a lot of choices after other email campaign tools such as ExactTarget and SilverPop were picked up by other companies). Whether Adobe decides to rebuild Magento into a Java/Cloud solution is yet to be seen. It could if it wanted to.
Headless is the New Black
Notice I didn’t say eCommerce above, but just commerce. That’s because as we look at the future of experiences, it’s not always going to be about the traditional “e” solutions. In fact, we are hearing more and more about the headless experience. That actually is more of where Adobe is now headed when you think of AEM anyway, as a headless content management system. So to purchase a commerce solution that can power any experience from web to mobile to in-store to voice to AR and VR, it’s not going to be about just one channel. So be on the lookout for where this goes. I expect to hear more about “commerce” as the integration discussion, not eCommerce.
Taking Advantage of Sensei
AI be damned that it isn’t the biggest buzzword and probably misunderstood in the industry right now. That being said, Adobe sure has a gem on their hands with Sensei. Content, commerce, and data are the three biggest assets in building out smart AI and Machine Learning to build personalized experiences. It won’t just be about upselling/cross-selling. This is about delivering personalization at scale down to the individual. The “segment of one.” Sensei is already doing a lot in the Cloud for Adobe. Adding commerce data (products, pricing, attributes, etc) will just empower marketers and merchandisers to do more.
So…Good Buy or Best of the Rest?
Missing out on the larger, enterprise platforms like DemandWare and Hybris were stingers, for sure. However, those were big, hairy platforms and integrating enterprise to enterprise is no walk in the park. Going for something smaller, in a different market segment like mid-market might not be all that bad. There are only so many enterprise clients out there and three major experience platforms all vying for their attention. So maybe mid-market won’t be a bad move.
Adobe also has a history of purchasing solutions that have deep open source roots. Day Software, what is now AEM, was built on open source standards like JCR and OSGi. There is still a very deep developer community around AEM and having a deep community supporting Magento could be very good.
I think time will tell, but as we’ve seen with Adobe, there are very few instances where an acquisition doesn’t end up paying off for them. It will take some time to get the Magento platform integrated deeper into the Experience Cloud. It will take time to grow into enterprise clients more holistically. It will take time for the strategy to really come to fruition. In any case, Adobe needed to do something, and Magento is as good of a purchase as any other.
NOTE: A version of this was originally published on LinkedIn.