The future of CRM – as seen by Salesforce

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The News

On June 13, 2018, during its annual Connections event, Salesforce announced a number of additions to their marketing cloud and their ecommerce and service clouds. The announcement goes into three main directions:

  1. Based on the strategic alliance that Google and Salesforce entered into in November 2017, the Salesforce Marketing Cloud will get a deeper integration with Google Analytics 360. Starting now it will be possible to combine Google Analytics 360 data and Salesforce Marketing Cloud data in a single customer journey dashboard within Marketing Cloud. Conversely, Google Analytics 360 can now leverage Marketing Cloud campaign data to better deliver targeted content to consumers.
    Both integrations enable a deeper understanding of customers and their behaviours. Later, in Q3 this year, Salesforce plans to offer a beta release of an integration that enables marketers to create audiences in Analytics 360 and to activate these audiences for engagement within the Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
  2. Marketing Cloud Einstein gets a segmentation and a split capability. The segmentation ability enables the uncovering of patterns in consumer behaviour and the discovery of new audiences that then can get reached with personalized messages. The split capability enables marketers to create unique personalized journeys for each customer with simple means, getting an optimized path for them, based on the marketing objective.
  3. There are a number of innovations to enable engagement across touch points. First, Salesforce announces their B2B ecommerce ability, second the new interaction studio that enables the creation of contextually relevant engagements and experiences in real time and third, the broadened availability of Service Cloud LiveMessage in 17 more countries. LiveMessage enables companies to communicate with customers through bi-directional mobile messaging.

The Bigger Picture

Today’s customer is far more connected and certainly more digitally savvy than the customer of, say, 15 years ago. With that expectations have risen. Customers want to feel far more valued, which first and foremost, includes getting the information that they want, at the time they want, and via the channel they want to receive it through – without unnecessary friction. In parallel, trust in information that is distributed by businesses is still very low, as evidenced by the Edelman Trust Barometer. Being able to be a trustworthy voice is the main challenge that enterprise software vendors (and consultants) need to help organizations overcome. This can only be achieved by enabling a dialogue with customers using information that is relevant and accurate.

Another interesting point that emerges is that Salesforce and SAP (and Microsoft, and Oracle, to be sure) are sending a similar message – a message about the value of integrated clouds.

The suite is back.

While the venerable and esteemed Esteban Kolsky declares the death of the suite the big five vendors – adding Adobe here that recently acquired Magento – seem to be of a different opinion.

So am I.

While Esteban is right saying that the preferred deployment choice is the platform it is also right that the platform is only a different way of integrating business functions – it is integration of a different layer: data- and process integration via micro services or similar, as opposed to immediate functional integration in one single monolith.

According to the news release, for Salesforce the future of CRM lies in integrated cross-cloud experiences. Coincidently, SAP just announced the same with their recent C/4HANA announcement. Both companies including ecommerce into the CRM stack doesn’t make that addition any more right. Ecommerce is a channel for CRM, an important one, but still a channel, and not an integral part.

My PoV and Analysis

With some of these announcements Salesforce capitalizes on two topics:

First the company is increasing the footprint of its Einstein brand. Einstein gets enhanced in two dimensions. For one there is the functional footprint that quotes the number of 2 billion predictions per day and the staggering number of 2 trillion transactions that went through Salesforce systems in its 2018 fiscal year (without the notion of transactions being defined). Both are a clear jab, if not a straight punch, delivered into SAP’s direction with SAP claiming that more than 70 per cent of all business transactions touch SAP systems. The message that Salesforce sends is clear: We do have more than enough data for serious machine learning.

Second, the recent acquisitions and partnerships. B2B ecommerce resembles the recent acquisition of Cloudcraze and the Interaction Studio is a result of the recently announced strategic partnership with Thunderhead, one of the leading customer journey orchestration companies. The additional integrations between the marketing cloud and the commerce cloud are likely an early result of the Mulesoft acquisition with more integrations to come. While I regard the Mulesoft acquisition as a defensive one it is still an important addition to the Salesforce family, as it enables the access to the commodity that Salesforce needs most: data. The acquisition of CloudCraze was straight forward after Salesforce taking a stake in the company back in the early days of 2017 and then acquiring Demandware, a B2C commerce provider.

The strategic partnership with Thunderhead is the icing on the cake. Thunderhead ONE is strongly able to connect marketing systems with listening- and execution channels and to enable an orchestrated customer journey. This is something that Salesforce lacked so far and that brings them into a credible position against SAP and Microsoft again. I wouldn’t be surprised if this partnership turns out to be more than just a partnership. Looking at it now, Thunderhead is a very good match for Salesforce from a functional point of view.

With the released and announced functionalities, Salesforce gives companies a strong toolset to understand customer behaviours and interests, and to react accordingly by offering customers what they are interested in.

A word of concern and advice, though.

Thunderhead is all about the customer journey from a customer point of view, or in other words, the customer choosing her own individual journey. This is something I have written and talked about before. Companies are offering touch points. Customers are using the offered touch points of their choice, at their pace, in a sequence of their own in order to get the result/value that they are looking for. The narrative that I see in this series of otherwise good announcements suggests that customers are being subjected to journeys. Salesforce’s story could become even stronger when adjusting the narrative to reflect the idea of customer created journeys.

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