Simplifying the Stack: Isobar
Isobar still describes itself as an agency, but it’s one with a global footprint, and a deep reserve of technological resources. Vikalp Tandon, SVP and global head of data and technology, has been with the company for about a year; he was previously head of strategy at Sapient Razorfish, an agency which, he said, had worked with Adobe “from the very beginning.” That gives him a deep understanding of Adobe’s Experience Cloud offerings, although the enterprises Isobar typically serves often come with a multi-faceted legacy of software: Adobe, Oracle, IBM — “It take a lot of conversation to simplify the stack,” he said.
The task, Tandon said, is often to “manage the eco-system challenges of multiple Adobe products, and third party products.” What’s more, this needs to be done in service of multiple marketing channels (up to and include mixed reality, where Isobar has developed a strong proffer). “We are global strategic partner with Adobe,” he explained. “We have multiple specializations in Adobe, some of them exclusive to us.” But what Tandon repeatedly emphasized was Isobar’s ability to fill in the gaps.
“Adobe is not end-to-end right now. They don’t have a commerce system as such, they don’t have a CRM, and on top of that, they don’t have a CDP. The way we are approaching this topic is to try to standardize [for clients] as much as possible If you have an Adobe stack, we can tell you how you should solve for the gaps. We bring Lytics as CDP; we bring Microsoft Dynamics or Salesforce as CRM; we bring SAP Hybris or Magento as commerce solutions, and complete the story.”
In particular, he explained, Adobe was never designed to be “transactional.” Tandon was drawing a contrast between a CMS, which cashes content ready for fast deployment, and retail, say, or insurance or healthcare, where transaction details can’t be cached in advance, but the consumer still expects a fast, seamless experience. “We enable Adobe products to deliver on those transactional needs,” he said. He cites work with Dulux Paints in Asia, where “a very immersive, engaging platform is combined with Hybris to manage the commerce aspect.”
Data, of course, is central to Isobar’s approach. “One objective,” Tandon said, “is to make sure that every touchpoint — whether it’s commerce, mobile push, or paid media — is very consistent.” Isobar is part of the Dentsu Aegis Network along with Merkle, and thus has access to Merkle’s DataSource, containing records on around 300 million customers, with as many as 7,000 attributes for any given consumer. “That asset powers media, marketing and commerce now for us. We are driving a lot of outcomes from the media side, for example, and connecting that to the transactional and brand marketing eco-system.”
Externally sourced data blends with client data, of course. “It always has to be a mix. The client’s first party data can have significant gaps. [Merkle] can bring data-points to describe the customer better. We overlay the first-party data” –transactions and loyalty, for example — “with demographics and psychographics.”
Should we pity the CMO? Not only does she need a marketing hub and data partners; she might need a separate Commerce layer too; and now she needs an Isobar to stitch it all together. Tandon demurred: he sees Isobar as the connecting thread. “That’s where we come in. We want to be that person to do it all for them. That’s better than five people that don’t talk to each other.”