Implementing Adobe Analytics with the AEP Web SDK – Part 1: The Basics

Adobe is making some fundamental changes to the way various parts of its Experience Cloud suite of tools are implemented, mashing everything up in their new Adobe Experience Platform (AEP). In this blog we’re going to look at how to get Adobe Analytics up and running in this new world.

A lot of this is very new and not available by default, but if you’re already an Analytics customer and you’re using the Launch TMS, you should be able to request access to the parts we’re covering below from your Adobe account manager or client care.

Step 1: Set up your XDM schema

The first step in working on any AEP implementation is to define your XDM schema. We’re just going to be covering the very basics of this step, in order to get Analytics working. However it should be noted that if you were doing this for real, you would spend a lot more time on this. The XDM schema forms the basis of everything you’re going to put into AEP, so you should put a lot of thought into it and get it right.

Instead, we’re going to play around with it and see what happens!

So, assuming you’ve got access sorted, head over to Experience Platform and navigate to Schemas. If this is your first time here, you’ll want to hit ‘Create Schema’ in the top right and create a new one. Now, XDM schemas would cover any sort of data that you want to put into AEP, but for now we’ll stick to what we know and create a schema for some web data.

Once in here you’ll get to the page where we define our schema.

AEP Schema UI
XDM Schemas
AEP Schema UI
XDM Schemas

Here’s where things start to get a little complicated. You start with the really basic schema above and you can add to it in two ways:

  1. Add pre-configured Mixins. These are basically collections of commonly used sets of fields. Adobe has provided a bunch of these, which is helpful, but they also come with a few complications that we’ll get into later.
  2. Create your own Mixins and define your own fields.

For now, let’s add a few basic Mixins and create a couple of fields of our own. I’ll add Web Details, Environment Details and Implementation Details. Because they sound useful.

Once that is done, you can see that these Mixins come with a lot of pre-configured fields:

AEP Schema UI
Creating an XDM Schema

As far as I can tell these Mixins have some useful benefits: Firstly, they come with a lot of standardised fields already set up for us in a consistent naming scheme. Secondly, as we’ll come to shortly, some of these fields are automatically populated by the Launch AEP extension (‘URL’ for example). Although at this point there’s no way to know which fields are populated automatically and which are not.

The main negative I think is that they will likely contain a lot of fields that your particular implementation may never need or use. This mainly seems to add clutter, but I have also found that if you make the schema too big by adding lots of Mixins, the UI does begin to slow down and struggle.

I’ll also add a couple of custom fields by creating my own Mixin, and adding fields to the ‘webPageDetails’:

XDM Schema custom fields
Adding custom fields to the Schema

There we go! Obviously, your schema would be much larger and better planned in a real scenario but that’ll do for now.

(One thing worth noting is that there is a Mixin called “Adobe Analytics ExperienceEvent Template”, which contains a ton of stuff that looks very relevant to Analytics. It even contains fields for evars and props, which you might think is what you should use to get your data into evars and props. However, if you try it, you’ll find that these variables aren’t automatically mapped to evars and props in Analytics. My understanding is that the point of the XDM schema is to send tool-agnostic data to the Edge so I wouldn’t recommend using this Mixin. At least not for what we’re doing here, perhaps there is a different intended use-case for it.)

Finally, there’s one last step we need to do in Experience Platform, and that is to create a Dataset from our new Schema. Navigate to Datasets, create a new one and select ‘Create dataset from schema’.

Creating a new schema
Creating a Dataset

In AEP this will be the dataset for our website data. We will have other datasets in AEP in the future, but for now this is all we need for Analytics.

Step 2: Configure Adobe Launch

Next you need to do three things in Launch:

  1. Set up Edge Configuration options.
  2. Configure the new AEP Web SDK extension.
  3. Set up your data elements and rules.

If you’ve used Launch before then the first two things will be new. Data elements and rules will be familiar but there are a few differences with AEP.

Edge Configuration

You can find the Edge Configuration in a new drop-down in the top left of Launch.
Once in here, you should create a new configuration and then you’ll see a set of development, staging and production environments:

Adobe Launch Edge Configurations
Edge Configurations

Clicking into one of these you’ll see switches for various Adobe products. I won’t go into how Adobe’s new edge network functions, plenty is written on that elsewhere, but the short version is that you no longer send data separately to different Adobe products. Instead, you send your XDM data in a single call to the edge server, and from there you configure the server to forward it on to Analytics, Target, and so on. This is what we’re doing here.

For now, we’ll turn on Analytics. All you have to do is flick the switch and enter the right report suites for each environment:

Adobe Launch Edge Configuration

AEP Web SDK Extension

Next, we need to install and configure the AEP Web SDK extension. This is done as usual back in the Client Side part of Launch:

Note that the Core and AEP Web SDK extensions are the only ones we now need. With this implementation method, we no longer need the Adobe Analytics extension.

In the AEP Web Extension most of the settings can be left as default for now, all we need to do is select the Edge Configuration that we just set up:

AEP Web SDK Extension
AEP Web SDK Extension

Data Elements and Rules

Next, we need to actually configure Launch to send off the data to the Edge server. This is done with the same data elements and rules that you’re likely familiar with, plus one new XDM Data Element. In my sandbox I’ve already created some regular data elements that correspond to some values in my data layer. The next step is to create a new type of data element that puts our regular data elements into the new XDM schema that we created earlier.

The XDM Data Element
XDM Data Element

Create a new data element and pick the ‘XDM Object’ type provided by the AEP Web SDK extension. This should pull through the schemas that you’ve created in AEP, so pick the one we set up earlier:

Next, we can start populating some of the values in our XDM Schema, with other data elements. Data elements within data elements… So, I have a data element that returns Page Title from my data layer, and I put that in ‘pageTitle’ in my XDM Schema:

The XDM Data Element
XDM Data Element

I can now just repeat that with my other data elements and fill up my schema! A few things to note at this point:

  1. The items with a * next to them are automatically populated by the AEP Web SDK extension, ‘webPageDetails.URL’ for example. This is helpful, but this step is the only place where you find that out. Seems to me like this information would also be useful at the point when you’re designing your Schema. I ended up doing a lot of back and forth, adding random Mixins to the Schema to check to see if they were auto populated in Launch, before removing them again.
  2. Be very careful with your data types at this point. If your schema expects a different data type from the one you pass it here, then the whole import will fail when it comes to sending the data to AEP.
  3. Product and commerce tracking is a bit more complicated and probably requires its own blog.

Finally, we create a rule to send our XDM data element off to the Edge! As we’ve done our data-to-schema mapping already in our XDM data element, this is simple as all we do is create a rule to send our XDM data element off to the Edge. No mapping data elements to props/evars just yet. Here’s my AEP Web SDK rule that sends off the XDM Data Element off on page load:

AEP Web SDK - Send Event
Send Event rule

Step 3: Testing and Debugging

Great, but does it work? Helpfully the AEP Web SDK extension provides some console logging that we can use to verify our data is being sent:

Debugging console logs
Debugging console logs

And of course, we can also inspect the network logs and see the call being sent to the Edge:

Debugging network calls
Debugging network calls

Step 4: Adobe Analytics Processing Rules

So our web data is now being sent to the Edge, and some default things like Page, Referrer, etc will be populated automatically in Analytics (see here for a list). But for anything custom, Analytics still works on props, evars and events, and we need to map our XDM data to them.

Unfortunately, this is done using Processing Rules, which means going into the Adobe Analytics Report Suite Admin interface and being transported back a decade. Apparently, there are updates coming to the Processing Rules interface and this can’t come soon enough.

For now, we need to map the XDM context data variables to our evars and props this way:

Adobe Analytics Processing Rules
Processing Rules

And voila! Our data appears in Workspace. Happy days.

Adobe Workspace Reports
Adobe Workspace reports

Final Thoughts

So there we are, that’s the basics of getting Analytics up and running with the AEP Web SDK! The process works but it definitely feels like the early days for AEP and there’s room for some quality-of-life improvements.

  • It’d be really useful to have a pre-built Mixin that just contains all the things that are auto populated by the Launch AEP Web SDK extensions.
  • The pre-configured Mixins are good but they contain more things than are likely to be relevant for any one implementation. It’d be nice if we were able to make copies of these and to trim them down to just the fields we need, rather than either having to keep those unneeded fields or create whole new Mixins from scratch.
  • The new XDM data element in Launch is a bit cumbersome. I need to do some more experimentation to work out the best way of handling it: Seems like only ever having one of these that contains everything is the way to go, but there may well be scenarios where you want different XDM data elements for different rules.
  • If we have to use Processing Rules in this new world, then that interface needs an update!

Plus, there are a lot of more advanced Analytics features that are less well documented, if at all, as far as I can tell. Things like event serialisation, product tracking, merchandised evars and so on. Definitely some topics for future blogs, and that’s before we get on to AEP itself!

March Fun Fact

International Women’s Day 2021

International Women’s Day 2021 leads with the cause #choosetochallenge

We support any female in the world who feels they need to challenge anything.

We at Station10 choose to share inspiration and wisdom from females in our team. A Tech team, which we’re very pleased to say is made up of 50/50 female/male.

Gender in our team is irrelevant – it’s the person, their skills and contribution that we value.

Sign up for our next Round Table (virtual) Event – Activation and Optimisation in the new First-Party-Data World.

Topic: Activation and Optimisation in the new First-Party-Data World.

Format: Virtual Round Table

Date: Thursday 22nd April 2021 – 12.30pm – 2pm.

Hosts: David Ellis and Nick Willis

The move to Cookieless and a First-Party Data Strategy are critical trends for 2021.  So it’s vital that organisations start moving towards their strategy for this, if they haven’t started already.

However, one thing that has been discussed less often so far is how to activate and optimise customer journeys in this new environment.  What does this mean for matching against Customer IDs?  Is a Data Clean Room the answer?  What is FLoC?  Do organisations need to move to a server-side optimisation methods?

That’s what we will be covering in our next event. Sign up below.

Please register your interest below to receive the joining details.

February’s Fun Fact…

How are you finding working from home? Enough is enough or loving it?…

Written By Cristina Campos and Rachel Lally

Almost two months into our third lockdown and we’re still yet to return to the office. Let’s rewind and see how we got here.

It’s March 2020. You are at home, the chair is uncomfortable, the neighbour’s kids are driving you crazy. There is no coffee machine, you have been wearing same pyjamas for the last 4 days, your desk is a tiny kitchen table. There’s no one to talk to, no one to ask a question, but also no one to distract you from work… maybe this isn’t so bad after all?

The outbreak of COVID-19 lead to many finding themselves working from home. Whether we found this good or bad, new or old, it was a reality that we all had to face and as the saying goes, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”. So I decided to adapt. Introducing new IKEA (not sponsored) office chair – £30, desk – £40, and comfort that came with it – priceless.

Now I’m not saying that this adjustment was a painless process, of course there were some challenges and obstacles that had to be dealt with, calls replacing face to face meetings took some getting used to for one. The fading comfort of knowing that there is always someone more knowledgeable and experienced just a tap on the shoulder away was hard to let go of.

However I refused to let these circumstances get the better of me. Survive, adapt, overcome.

This was not to be a downfall, but an opportunity. Our chance to show some confidence, take our responsibilities up a notch, make that decision. It’s all well and good talking about stepping out of our comfort zones, but it’s actually doing it that will make the difference.

I would not blame you if the pandemic made you think that an office environment was the second best thing since sliced bread, and that working from home has brought nothing but struggles and complications to our lives.

However, that’s not how I feel (despite the challenges it’s bought!).

  • 2 hours of travel time saved.
  • 10 hours a week returned.
  • 40 hours a month gained. That’s an additional week gifted to me.

Add a little bit of commitment and discipline, and 40 hours have turned into two online courses with respective upskilling certificates, which in turn translate into high performance, better output and an increased level of professionalism that benefits everyone across the board.

We have managed to deliver during what can only be described as one of the most challenging times in the last decade. By no means is it a one size fits all approach, there is much more to be talked about and considered as everyone’s circumstances will different. Yet we are able to acknowledge that despite all of the difficulties and complications, not being in the office does not have to hinder our productivity and performance.

Now lets hear the flip side.

Having read Cristina’s take on the past year, I admire her. The majority of my 2020 consisted of very different views on the (yup here it comes) “new normal” (one of us had to say it).

Now I know that I’m very fortunate to be able to do my job from home. Not only that but I work in the digital technology sector, an industry which has benefited from COVID-19 unlike the many that have suffered. Yet I still struggled with the new adjustments.

I live in a flat with a friend who also works in the digital sector. With limited living space our small dining table now had to house 4 screens and 2 keyboards, feng shui was required every day. Constant evaluations of who’s call was more important and required use of our new workstation, and who was therefore relegated to their bedroom when there was a clash in calls.

I personally missed the commutes. I’m lucky that I can walk to the office, albeit that takes me an hour, but that was two hours of walking, clearing my head, switching off from work, listening to a podcast, gone. Without a garden, instead I had to rely on doing laps of the same park over and over in our 1-hour daily allowance. Not only was there less outdoor movement, but the physical movement between meetings was gone, instead I found myself sat in the same seat for 7 hours most days.

Of course like most, I tried to put a positive spin on things. The lack of both commute and office distractions meant more productive hours in the day – woo! Initially I did struggle with the sheer volume of phone calls I was having (Zoom fatigue is very real), but as this plateaued to a manageable level, I was able to throw myself into work. Which boy did I do… to the extent where I wasn’t taking proper lunch breaks or exercising enough, I was letting my to do list get the better of me (I’m my own worst enemy in that I love a list) and worked later into the evenings. Well, what else was I going to do? Darker evenings, cancelled plans, lockdowns and social restrictions lead to work becoming my primary focus.

By the end of 2020 I acknowledged that I’d let the balance slip. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy my job, but I recognised that 2021 was a chance to start fresh, despite the new lockdown. Say hello to a new desk in a different room to that of my flat mate, a coffee machine (why did I not purchase one sooner), time blocked out for daily walks, a new exercise routine, a journal, and a reignition of my love for cooking new recipes! As a result, I can so far say I’m finding this lockdown more pleasant than previous, however unpopular that view may be.

While we all have various approaches to working from home, with different methods of dealing with the challenges and opportunities it brings, one thing that is clear is that office life is unlikely to return to what it was in 2019.

Some prefer working from home, enjoying the benefits it brings such as commuting time becoming family time, less office distractions. Others miss the social interaction with colleagues, seeing people you work with face to face, having organic conversations over a coffee. It’s important as a company we recognise these differences and acknowledge that whatever decision is made about returning / not returning to the office will affect people’s mental health in different ways.

Station10 are currently canvassing all staff to gain their views on the preferences of home versa office and how the compromise is best met for the people and business needs.

Look who has just turned 10 years old?

Here at Station10, we’ve always believed that understanding data means understanding people. For the last ten years, we’ve been taking this data and translating it into usable insights for businesses.

And just like that those ten years have passed. We officially turned ten earlier this month and we were delighted to be joined by the entire Station10 team (virtually) and a few old faces!, as we raised a late Friday afternoon drink to mark our 10th birthday.

We hope in the later part of the year we will be able to hold a belated birthday party, in person, and all get together for a proper celebration. In the meantime we share with you a little look back at our journey and where we’ve come in just 10 short years!

2021 holds lots of new developments for us. Soon we’ll be launching our new brand and website for you all to see and we hope you will join us on our journey to transformational change with data at its centre.

Happy 10th Birthday Station10 – here’s to many more.

Station10 and Emarsys ‘Focus on First’ mini vlog series

Join David Ellis and Ross Williams, from Emarsys, in their ‘Focus on First’ mini video series.

Part 1: Data Types 101 and Your Opportunities – as they outline the definition of zero, first, second and third party data – click here to view.

Part 2: Why third party cookies are being phased out, and what it means to you- discussing why ‘good’ data collection has benefits beyond legislative compliance – Click here to view.

Part 3: How to assess your data strategy, and what you should be doing now. Demonstrating how the collection of first-party data is founded in the ‘value exchange’ – Click here to view.

To discuss further with David and the team please click here.

The count down to cookie-less…

To discuss your preparation and planning for the cookie revolution further please click here to engage with David Ellis, Managing Director, Station10.

A fun Friday fact for you all…

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