Adobe is intensifying its effort to reach outside a core audience of design professionals in a bid to shield its long-standing industry dominance against burgeoning competition from upstarts.
The maker of Photoshop has launched Creative Cloud Express, a suite of products aimed at making it easier for users to create graphics, videos and other types of digital content. It’s an expansion of Spark, a product introduced in 2016 with a similar goal, but more limited in capabilities.
“This is a really interesting and important start of a long journey for us,” said David Wadhwani, Adobe’s chief business officer and executive vice president of digital media.
Adobe, now one of the world’s 30 most valuable companies, has long been the leader in the market for creative software. Products such as Photoshop and Illustrator remain foundational tools for graphics design professionals. That dominance has helped fuel a stock rise of more than 500% in the past five years. But Adobe is under new pressure from closely held Sydney-based software maker Canva, which is now valued at US$40-billion.
Driving the growth of Canva is an expanding market for design software outside the historic professional customer base. A wider audience — like social media influencers, small business owners and marketing executives — are looking for tools to more quickly create and share content on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. It’s a market Adobe estimates could reach as high as $41-billion in 2023.
“Kids are three times more likely to say they want to be YouTube stars than astronauts,” Wadhwani said. “There’s a societal shift about engaging in an authentic way with people over digital. And the thing that fuels that engagement is the ability to create content.”
The launch of the new express product, along with Adobe’s recent acquisition of ContentCal, is a response to those changing dynamics and Canva’s growing popularity.
Free and subscription
“I’m surprised that it’s taken them this long to do this,” said Chris Ross, an analyst at Gartner. “Canva has validated this market space in a pretty massive way.”
Adobe will offer a free version of the new product suite with pre-built templates as well as a subscription offering, which will include more tools. Customers who already pay for Creative Cloud, a bundle of products that include Photoshop, will also have free access to it.
Key to Adobe’s revenue growth among this market, however, will be the ability to move free users to the paid version, as well as into more expensive offerings.
“As we put things into products, does it increase engagement? If it does, we’ll double down,” Wadhwani said. “We have this unique opportunity to start to test frictionless flows into Creative Cloud.”
Adobe is already experimenting with that. In October, for example, the company launched a test of a fully Web-based version of Photoshop and Illustrator. — Joe Williams, (c) 2021 Bloomberg LP