It’s not an easy time to be a retailer. Consumers expect digital experiences, and they don’t care that retailers are hamstrung with outdated systems that can’t connect to each other or move fast. Especially when digital-native newcomers are setting the pace in presenting a unified retail experience without the same legacy holding them back.
The flipside of this tough challenge for retailers is a lucrative opportunity for technology vendors, among them Salesforce. As Commerce Cloud CEO Jeff Barnett took to the stage at Dreamforce 2017 on Wednesday for his product keynote, he spelt out the challenge his customers — or ‘trailblazers’ as Salesforce is now calling them — are facing:
We’re in the very early stages of this disruption and make no mistake about it. This will transform everything about our industry, in retail, in commerce, how we connect to our customers, how we inspire them, how we grow our businesses.
Salesforce seems to be doing something right, as its Commerce Cloud will process $21 billion worth of e-commerce sales this calendar year, up 35% from last year. More than half a billion shoppers will engage with it over the coming Black Friday holiday season — that’s more than twice the number that will shop at Amazon, says Barnett.
Commerce Cloud integration
It’s now more than a year since Salesforce acquired Barnett’s company, Demandware, where he was COO. Most of the announcements this week highlighted features that stem from the integration of the rebranded Commerce Cloud into the Salesforce platform.
These include the use of Einstein artificial intelligence capabilities to power more personalized search recommendations in online catalogs. Footwear brand Ugg has been an early access customer and has seen average customer revenue increase 6% as a result. Barnett pointed out that this was achieved just by switching on a capability already built into the underlying platform:
There was no big marketing campaign, no big systems implementation. It was merely turning on the innate capabilities of Einstein Commerce Cloud to provide a more personalized experience.
Another demonstration showed the results of connecting the adtech of Marketing Cloud’s Data Management Platform (DMP) into Commerce Cloud, to help automate the creation of targeted mailings and personalized recommendations.
Unified retail experience
These integrations are delivering on the rationale that drove last year’s acquisition, says Barnett.
Salesforce had a hole in its portfolio. You think about being CRM, in terms of Sales Cloud, we had the marketing, all that, but what we didn’t have was the ability to take e-commerce transactions. [Salesforce CEO] Mark [Benioff] saw that and knew he needed that to really support the entire journey.
Also there’s the richness of data that comes from e-commerce. It’s one thing for somebody to have an interaction on a customer service call center, or maybe you click open on an email, that’s interesting. But what you actually ultimately open up your wallet and spend money on, that is much more rich, much more valuable data.
The Commerce Cloud proposition today, as Barnett sets out in his keynote, now has four key themes — to be mobile, to use intelligence, to provide a unified experience and do that across multiple channels of engagement. The Salesforce platform is an important part of enabling that, he says.
We remain committed to helping to bridge the digital and physical divide in helping the consumers’ journeys to move back and forth between the physical store and the online world to develop a tighter relationship.
When we stood up in front of you last year, newly minted as part of Salesforce, we talked about the opportunity to connect to the broader Salesforce CRM. We can no longer just do unified commerce, but we can unify the entire customer experience. From customer acquisition and inspiration, to marketing and advertising, through the commerce transaction, post-sale service, and on, developing a relationship with your customer.
High-end brand values
For customers, all this technology must still work in sync with their existing brand values. Most of them have a lot more history at stake than Salesforce does, as Vincent Quéru, CIO at luxury leather brand Berluti, pointed out during a keynote appearance:
We were founded back in the end of the nineteenth century, so over a century ago before Salesforce. So we’re dealing with old brands, with tradition and so on, but at the same time we have to offer new experiences to our customers. The challenge for us is always to have that mix between tradition and customer service.
We’re not doing technology for the sake of technology, it’s always integrated in our overall customer experience. So it’s very important for us to be always consistent. We even talk about the ceremony, the sales ceremony. We do work very closely with the training teams and so on to make sure that all the solutions are well integrated into this process and those lifecycles.
One of the downsides of focusing on aspirational luxury brands during the keynote demonstrations is that it gives the impression that Commerce Cloud is not only a high-end solution but also an expensive one that’s not cost-effective in more low-margin sectors. But while the old Demandware may have skewed towards more high-margin fashion brands, its appeal as part of Salesforce is becoming more universal, says Barnett. He cites French supermarket chain Système U, American Red Cross and Pier 1 Imports as examples, along with a global automotive supplier that will soon be selling cars online on Commerce Cloud.
At the end of the day, it is digital-first, this world we live in. That’s the touchstone for the epicenter of the brand. Not the store as it used to be not that long ago. Connecting commerce, the ability to service the customer there, is vital now no matter what industry you’re in.
It’s hard to find an industry now that’s not selling online, at scale, emerging in any category of the industry now, B2B and B2C. Early in the e-commerce revolution, we thought it was footwear, fashion, beauty, a couple of hand-picked categories. But now it’s hitting everything.
Salesforce is a relative newcomer to the retail industry compared to rivals such as IBM, Oracle and Infor, but it is building a significant presence. It is now starting to see the payoff from integrating the Demandware platform as Commerce Cloud, enabling end-to-end customer service that is very much at the leading edge of the digital retail experience. That could lead to some interesting customer stories at next year’s Dreamforce, reflecting a significant broadening of reach beyond the original Demandware customer base.
Image credit - Screenshot from Salesforce video
Disclosure - Salesforce, Oracle and Infor are diginomica premier partners at time of writing.