Salesforce makes its NFT gambit, citing customer demand for utility and community

Stuart Lauchlan Profile picture for user slauchlan June 8, 2022 Audio mode
Summary:
Customers want to delve into the Web3 world, says Adam Caplan, and Salesforce wants to help them navigate this journey in safety and with trust. A significant roll of the dice starts here.

NFT

Salesforce’s move into the NFT space gets underway officially today as the firm’s Connections conference kicks off in Chicago, with some upgrades to Marketing Cloud and Commerce Cloud.

On the Marketing Cloud front, ‘next generation’ features announced include:

  • Triggered Campaign Messages, bringing together Marketing Cloud Personalization and Engagement for personalized, 1:1 customer engagement based on new product catalog and behavioral triggers.
  • Digital Command Center for Slack, enabling brands to increase productivity by monitoring activity and performance across Marketing and Commerce Cloud from one digital command center.
  • Intelligence E-commerce Marketing Insights App, intended to unify a company’s commerce and marketing data and KPIs on a single platform.
  • Intelligence Connector for B2C Commerce Cloud to combine orders and product data, thus unlocking insights into product, revenue, and sales performance over time.
  • New AppExchange Partners for Marketing and Commerce.

On the Commerce Cloud front, features include:

  • Social Integration for Commerce Cloud, so that brands can now create TikTok ads that redirect to their commerce sites.
  • Commerce Marketplace, to allow brands to create, manage, and scale a marketplace on Commerce Cloud.
  • Commerce for Customer Service, pitched as transforming service departments into revenue drivers by providing agents with a complete view of order history across channels and the ability to issue returns, exchanges, promotions or complete orders, without transferring them to other departments.
  • Seamless Commerce, with an all-in-one commerce, order management, and payments solution supported by partner services.
  • NFT Cloud, to allow brands expand customer experiences to Web3 environments, enabling them to mint, manage, and sell NFTs directly on the Salesforce Customer 360 Platform.

NFT gambit

Of these enhancements, the NFT offering, currently in closed pilot mode, is of particular interest, not least because of reports from Thomson Reuters Foundation News in February that around 400 Salesforce employees wrote to management expressing disquiet about the crypto plan, which had been aired at a company meeting, describing NFTs as "unregulated, highly speculative financial assets.”

But Adam Caplan, Senior Vice President of Emerging Technologies, argues that the NFT development is a logical move based on customer demand:

Our customers have been asking us to navigate Web3. This is all about helping our customers deliver connected and personalized experiences across both the physical and the digital worlds. NFT Cloud is all about helping our customers mint, manage and sell NFTs. Of course, it's all no code, so it’s  super easy on our platform, abstracting all the complicated technology in Web3 world.

If you think about  use cases, what we're seeing from our clients, across fashion, retail, CPG, media even, it's really about driving engagement and communities. We're seeing super-passionate communities in the NFT space, really shifting from 'you are a customer' to 'you are an audience to your community', because you have ownership.

Utility is the keyword here, he adds:

What we mean by utility is, as an NFT holder, I receive certain benefits. It could be something in a digital world, it could be something in the physical world. Examples are, I can vote on a new piece of clothing, what color, what manufacturer.  I could receive, every quarter, a unique piece of clothing that no-one else gets, if you're not an NFT holder. I could have meet-ups or Zooms with the designers. [It's] a range of utility and a roadmap that's been provided to these communities to really get that engagement and that community excited. 

Trust

All that said, Salesforce prides itself on its number one corporate value being trust - and that’s a word that isn’t necessarily the first one that comes to mind around NFTs. As The Street noted recently:

Alongside the massive growth in NFTs, of course, is a growing number of crimes associated with digital collectibles. Last year, $8.6 billion of crypto-related money laundering was logged by Chainalysis. 'Money laundering, and in particular, transfers from sanctioned cryptocurrency businesses, represents a large risk to building trust in NFTs, and should be monitored more closely by marketplaces, regulators, and law enforcement.'

Caplan insists that Salesforce will be approaching the NFT space with its values front-and-center:

This is paramount and of utmost importance. So [there's] innovation, obviously, but trust and sustainability, these are really the cores of how we're approaching this. This is what our customers are asking us to bring as well. So our NFT Cloud pilot is really built with sustainability at its core. What does that mean? It means it's Net Zero built in, so our brands can enter this space with a values-led approach. We're also providing the brands with more sustainable blockchain options, eg: proof-of-stake blockchains. We're also automating carbon emission calculations and letting brands offset the emissions by purchasing carbon credits. And we're also working with sustainable and climate leaders across the globe, and really supporting the crypto Climate Accords.

All of which sounds good. But what about the T-word? Caplan goes on:

Trust is also a core pillar here and also paramount for our brands. How can they enter this space in a safe, trusted fashion, really helping us protect their brands and help protect their end consumers? We have a list of innovation around trust and security, but just to highlight a couple of things. One is we've written Smart Contracts for our clients, so they don't need to code, and we've audited them. That means we can help reduce fraud, and really avoid some of the challenges associated with Smart Contracts and clients having to write their own.

The next thing is around crypto wallets. We're actually working with third-party partners and we're checking each wallet to make sure we can analyse swag and assign risk scores, and stop any wallet from purchasing [from sources] suspected of harmful or illegal activity. We're also providing a secure and authenticated checkout experience...So on the brand's own sites, consumers can go there and they know they're buying authentic and verified entities from the brand directly.

My take

All that is well said, but there will inevitably still be some cynical assessments of this latest move. For his part, Caplan admits:

Obviously, it's early days. Web3 is so new. But our brands are leaning in. They're excited. CMOs are excited. They want to experiment, they want to see what's possible from an engagement and personalization perspective, and they're asking us to lead them into Web3.

The key thing they're also asking for is data. They don't want disconnected experiences with Web3 data separate from Web2 data. It's about Web3 CRM - how can we leverage the rest of our platform or Customer 360, whether it's Service Cloud Support, or whether it's Marketing Cloud, to enable these Web3 worlds, to go on marketing journeys? It's really about the power of the platform at the end of the day, not just about an NFT Cloud.

So we know there are questions about this world and this space and Web3 and NFT's, but we feel it's really important to innovate and bring our values. We really think we can help drive this space in a positive fashion.

And if NFTs turn out to be a passing fad? Caplan concludes: 

It's something we certainly think a lot about. But I will say that we're still seeing a big passion from our customers. They haven't really been approaching this [by] thinking about the value of the NFT's; they've been thinking about it from that utility perspective, from that community perspective, how can we engage our customers deeply? We are seeing in these NFT communities, huge passion and opportunities for personalization.

So when we think about the hype cycle, we're not talking about entities that are driving a lot of value here. And as we think about new technologies, we tend to think that technology isn't inherently good or bad, it's how you apply it. That's where we think we can really also help influence this Web3 world in a positive fashion, with our customers, with our partners, with our ecosystem, aligning with Web3 experts and sustainability experts. We think we can experiment here and really, hopefully, do some fantastic things.

But we're learning as we go, obviously, and it's a long road to see how this all evolves.

More on NFT Cloud in the months to come. Meanwhile more from Connections later this week.

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