As Salesforce’s Connections conference kicks off today, the firm has announced expansions and additions to both its Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud offerings, with WhatsApp integration particularly catching the eye… and possibly raising some questions.
As per the official announcement, Marketing Cloud enhancements include:
- Integration of two technologies to the Salesforce Customer Data Platform (CDP), specifically Interaction Studio - which analyzes cross-channel brand interactions and uses Einstein AI to determine and send a message, product offer or content recommendation - and Loyalty Management - which provides real-time audience segments of users best customers.
- Datorama reports for Marketing Cloud, providing direct access to new email, mobile and journey reports to analyze and optimize performance from within the Marketing Cloud interface.
- Snapchat Audience Match, to allow marketers to use their first-party data stored in Salesforce to create targeted, personalized advertising audiences for Snapchat.
- WhatsApp integration to allow communication with customers via the social platform.
Commerce Cloud announcements include:
- Salesforce CDP for Commerce, to deliver Commerce Cloud data integrated into Salesforce CDP out-of-the-box.
- B2B2C Commerce app to enable B2B companies quickly to launch a connected, Direct-to-Consumer (D2C) e-commerce storefront without coding.
- Salesforce Order Management, including Omni-channel Inventory, Distributed Order Management and Order Management for B2B.
- Headless Progressive Web Application (PWA) Kit and Managed Runtime to enable developer teams to decouple front-end and back-end technologies to create highly customized consumer-facing experiences - aka headless commerce.
Explaining the drivers behind the upgrade and additions, Lidiane Jones, EVP & GM, Commerce Cloud, Salesforce, says:
We have all become digital-first customers now. We're constantly switching from our phones, our desktops, our iPads, and we use everything from email through to social media. What that means is that digital customers are expecting a very connected experience, a seamless journey. You get a marketing ad targeting a product for you; you purchase on a social channel; you're getting an email confirmation; and you then deciding to pick up at the curb or at the store; the support call that you do after that - everything is super-connected.
Data is everything, so we're really focused on creating an integrated commerce experience with our Salesforce CDP, out of the box, a single click and customers can connect that data. We really are going to empower commerce leaders to be able to see shopping trends, purchases of products in different regions, promotions success rate, all of the things that are critical for commerce leaders, alongside data from marketing and sales and service that really gives them the power to see the full view of their customer across their business
Michael Kostow, EVP & GM, Marketing Cloud, also picks up on the ‘data is everything’ idea when he says:
Marketers are now data scientists, which is a pretty dramatic change from where we were just a year or two ago. We've got a statistic that says 75% of consumers are going to either maintain or increase their spend over the course of this year. This represents an absolutely incredible opportunity for companies to really think about their data strategy, to think about how they can bring all their data together and unify it across all their touchpoints, to deliver an incredible experience and take advantage of all that increased edge that is coming into the market.
At the center of [the next generation of Marketing Cloud] is the single source of truth. It is incredibly important in this new data-first world that you know and you understand your customer. It's also important that you are able to humanize all those interactions that you're having with your customer, and you're able to do it at scale, leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence. And last, but not least, [you need] the ability to optimize your impact and get a view across all of your marketing with unified analytics.
What’s up with WhatsApp?
As for that WhatsApp integration, the rationale here needs no explanation, according to Kostow:
WhatsApp is one of the most pervasive chat platforms anywhere in the world. And for Marketing Cloud, we're going to be able to allow our customers to be able to connect with their customers in WhatsApp, whether it's transactional messages, keyword search. It's really exciting for our customers to be able to reach their customers on this fast growing platform…WhatsApp has been near the top of the [feature wish] list for some time. We know it is really important to our customer base. WhatsApp has become just such a pervasive channel for individuals all over the world. It is a unique opportunity for marketers to be able to reach those users on WhatsApp, with relevant messages, transactional messages, having two-way conversations.
He cites the example of Align Technology. manufacturer of the Invisalign orthodontic clear aligner system, as a case in point:
Align is an interesting company in that they are marketing to both B2B and B2C. They're marketing to doctors and to orthodontists, but they're also marketing directly to consumers, like my family which uses the product. And so you think about where the use cases for WhatsApp [are], using Align as an example, it's really more focused on B2C, where you have someone who is interested in their dental platform. They're asking a set of questions or having an interactive dialogue. Align is able to send marketing messages via WhatsApp.
All of which sounds very positive, but while social media platforms are capable of being used for practical, customer experience enhancing uses, they are also surely ripe for abuse by the more unscrupulous marketers? Many commentators of late have raised concerns about the power and reach of social platforms, not least Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, who’s famously made extremely unfavorable comparisons between the unregulated cigarette industry of former decades and the current status of the likes of Facebook, owner of WhatsApp.
Given some of the recent controversies about the, let’s call it, lack of clarity of intent around privacy matters that's been on show from WhatsApp, I wondered how Salesforce, which boasts its own Office of Ethical and Humane Use of technology, might guide customers not to misuse the power of social platforms, given the emphasis placed on the WhatsApp and Snapchat integrations on show here?
For her part, Jones told me:
A lot of customers that I've had the opportunity to work with, social platforms give them an opportunity to create awareness about their brand, to understand and just expand their reach. I think many customers are seeing the urgency to have that customer-centric view of their user. And so, in many cases, customers want to bring back their customer to their own experience so they can really own that relationship with the customer.
I think that's one of the big reasons why we're excited about our Salesforce CDP across all of our channels, because it isn't just marketing or just commerce; it's a very connected journey for the consumer and so being able to integrate social platforms, but also bring them back in a way that feels great to the consumer, but also gives our customers insight, is really going to give our customers the power to decide how they want to own that relationship with social platforms.
To be frank, I’m not entirely sure that completely answers my question, although I would agree that it is indeed down to users to own their own relationships with technology. That said, I do think encouraging and enabling the ethical use of social platforms in commerce and marketing is an ongoing topic of discussion worth returning to. But the focus on WhatsApp is completely understandable given its popularity and reach and this integration will undoubtedly provide valuable new capabilities to both B2B and B2C users.
Doubtless we’ll hear more across the week as Connections unfolds and diginomica will be bringing the best of the sessions over the coming days. Between them, Marketing Cloud and Commerce Cloud currently contribute the lowest percentage of revenue across the Salesforce product portfolio - $0.9 billion for the recently ended Q1 22 compared to, for example, $1.5 billion for Service Cloud or $1.4 billion for Sales Cloud. But the year-on-year growth rate of 25%, compared to 20% for Service Cloud and 11% for Sales Cloud, is indicative of Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud's increasing upward trajectory.