Why Experience Data Models

Experiences matter more than ever. In a world of ever-increasing consumer choice, providing great experiences becomes the only lasting differentiator.

At the same time, experiences become increasingly digital. Through technology trends like mobile computing, IoT, and cheap internet connectivity, more and more formerly analog parts of our lives become digitalized.

Creating Good Experiences is Hard

The fact that experiences are important, digital, and ubiquitous does not make them any easier to create, manage, or measure. In fact, creating compelling experiences is becoming harder and harder. This is driven by a couple of factors:

  • Disconnected systems
  • Rapid innovation: Hard to keep pace
  • Too many standards to pick from
  • Implementation over mental models
  • Lack of a common language

Disconnected Systems

Experience technology evolved from channel-specific systems that tried to perform all experience disciplines like creation, management, measurement, and optimization in one system, for one channel. This lead to disconnected systems and practices that require integration effort. In addition, because of the separate evolution of each of these systems, concepts often don’t translate well, meaning that consolidated data often has greater inconsistencies than disconnected data.

In order to offer ground-breaking digital experiences, you have to overcome the trade off between connectivity and quality and achieve both at the same time.

Rapid Innovation: Hard to Keep Pace

Experience technology is an area where innovation never sleeps. Just in the last decade, following new channels have become not just viable, but in many cases required experience channels:

  • Social Networks
  • Social Media
  • Image Sharing
  • Social Messaging
  • Native Mobile Apps
  • Push Notifications
  • Progressive Web Apps
  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • Podcasts
  • Online Video
  • Connected Home
  • Connected Car
  • Digital Out of Home

Each experience channel is bringing new ways to think about how to represent content, how to measure engagement and success, and how to optimize experiences. As new experience channels are becoming relevant faster than enterprise technology is able to integrate them, experiences become increasingly fragmented.

Offering ground-breaking digital experiences means adopting and integrating new experience channels in real-time.

Too many Standards to Pick from

It's not that there is a lack of options when it comes to describing and modeling digital experiences. The challenge for customers and vendors alike is that existing standards are often contradictory, incomplete, and insular. 

To enable true interoperability of digital experiences, standards need to be combined and get aligned.

Implementation over Mental Models

Existing efforts to model digital experiences started from the implementation of digital marketing or experience technology. Experience professionals and marketers had to adjust their mental models to the specifics of the chosen product, instead of  having products that follow their mental models.

This limits not just the ability to exchange content and data between applications, it also makes it harder for professionals to move between applications, as each comes with an incompatible implementation, and a different conceptual model.

A comprehensive model of digital experiences needs to start at the single source of truth: the mental model of customers and users, not the implementation constraints of vendors.

Lack of a Common Language

The practice of creating, managing, measuring, and optimizing digital experiences is hamstrung by the fragmentation of tools, channels, vendors, and standards.

With rising customer expectations, a common language for digital experiences is needed, to make experiences truly cross-channel, truly integrated, truly data-driven, truly optimizable, all the while reducing time to market and keeping cost in check.

A New Standard is Needed

To address the challenges above, Adobe has set out to create the Experience Data Models (XDM), a new standard:

  • for content and data
  • connected and sound
  • that is modern and relevant
  • backwards compatible
  • yet future proof and extensible

Content & Data

Content and data are the heart and soul of digital experiences. Without content, experiences would be empty and meaningless. But only though the tracking of data, can experiences be measured, analyzed, and optimized. Without data, experiences are irrelevant and wasteful.

XDM starts with a foundation of content and data, connecting the threads of digital experiences through campaigns, channels, and context.

Connected & Sound

XDM is a cloud-native standard that relies on state of the art standards like JSON Schema, JSON LD, schema.org, and Microsoft's Common Data Model.

It's made to be used and implemented in mobile applications, serverless web applications, streaming data processing applications, and AI-enabled data products. With XDM, experience products can be built API-first.

Modern & Relevant

To maximize interoperability, and minimize new learning, XDM relies on existing standards like schema.org, XMP, and CDM as much as possible.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, XDM incorporates existing standards, aligns them and integrates them in a common framework.

At the same time, XDM adopts a strict policy of backwards-compatibility. New versions of XDM will only extend, but never break compatibility with once introduced concepts.

Backwards Compatible

Just like digital experiences are constantly evolving, XDM is open to schema evolution, and extensible by users, customers, and partners.

This extensibility and constant evolution ensures XDM can stay relevant for new digital experience channels and practices.

Future Proof & Extensible

The goal of XDM is to create a comprehensive and common language for digital experiences. This means that concepts are interconnected and allow the expression of complex experiences, spanning multiple channels, products and vendors.

Where concepts are applicable across multiple channels, or multiple classes of products, they are generalized and connected, so that they can be re-used.

XDM: The Language of the Experience Business

XDM is a comprehensive standard that is capable of describing all digital experiences in detail. With more than 100 models, it might seem as complex as necessary to describe a field as broad as digital experiences, but it is based on seven core concepts that are easy to grasp.

XDM Core Concepts

Content

Content is the core of every digital experience. Ranging from highly structured (like the record of a product SKU in an e-commerce system) to the creatively unstructured (like the welcome screen in a mobile application), content is what consumers are seeking, and the currency they trade their attention in.

Assets

Digital assets are an important sub-group of content. Videos, images, audio clips, and digital documents all form digital assets. But only through the combination of binary files with structured metadata can assets become productive in the experience business.

Data

Collecting, analyzing, and acting on data enables the creation of engaging and effective experiences. The ability to measure is given through a description of data in terms of metrics, taxonomies and meta-data.

Channels

Digital marketing channels like web, mobile, or voice dictate the ground rules of digital experiences. Every channel comes with a novel way of publishing content and gathering data.

Through the channels category, XDM can model diverse experiences, across varying experience technology foundations.

Audiences

Audiences describe consumers of digital experiences in aggregate. They are used to target and personalize experiences by associating specific content with specific audiences. Audiences are found through the analysis of data and can be expressed through explicit lists of audience members, through rule systems, or through algorithms.

Campaigns

Campaigns capture the intent of a digital experience. Whether the goal is to educate, to entertain, to engage, or to persuade, all campaigns answer the question: what (content) should be shown to whom (audiences), where (channels), and why (metrics).

As such, the campaign category contains some of the most interconnected models of XDM.

Context

Experience is deeply personal and contextual. Through the context category of concepts, XDM models this individual perception.

Context includes individual identity, behavior, history, and expectations. Context can be aggregated audiences, it can be observed and turned into data, and it can be evaluated to enable campaigns, personalization and targeting.