A Rainbow Cloud for a Nuanced Customer Journey

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Jeff Barnett in full flight. President and chief product officer Alex Dayon looks on.
Jeff Barnett in full flight. President and chief product officer Alex Dayon looks on.

"It's a much more nuanced, non-linear journey," said Jeff Barnett, "and it changes how we market, sell and service."

Barnett, CEO of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, was prowling the audience, seated "in-the-round," at the Salesforce XChange retail event, explaining how the new customer journey aligns with what presenter after presenter called the "rainbow cloud" — the current tag of choice for what's more formally known as the Intelligent Customer Success Platform, a cluster of seven clouds (Marketing, Sales, Service, Analytics, Community, App, and of course Commerce; and "Intelligent," of course, is a tip of the hat to Einstein).

Significantly, for more than a decade up until last summer, Barnett had been an executive at Demandware, the eCommerce platform and software services vendor acquired by Salesforce in September 2016. The XChange event had previously been a Demandware event, and many in the audience had previously been Demandware customers. The Salesforce Commerce Cloud, in a sense, just is Demandware.

This week represented a coming-out; getting stamped with the Salesforce brand (Marc Benioff was an unsurprising surprise guest); and most importantly, an opportunity to show how Salesforce could add value to the Demandware offering: As well as how Demandware customers could add value to their business by plugging into a few more rainbow cloud offerings.

Einstein goes shopping

The most compelling development for the Commerce Cloud is the baked-in (but optional: users must activate) presence of Einstein, Salesforce's proprietary AI engine. Two aspects of Einstein's value are being emphasized: value to the shopper, and value to the merchant — right down to the store assistant.

ECommerce Recommendations plays in a space which is becoming crowded by vendors large and small at remarkable speed. In a nutshell, it's machine learning-powered web and/or mobile optimization. In an eCommerce context, that means presenting the digital visitor — known or unknown — with personalized recommendations, offers, discounts, and messages, in real-time, based on whatever behavioral or transactional data is available. And the data pool is significant: the Commerce Cloud served some 350 million shoppers and processed six billion browse events just last month, said Rohit Goyal, SVP product, in his keynote.

This inarguably presents a more relevant and personalized experience for the online shopper; an experience made smoother on mobile by the addition of Android Pay to Apple Pay — a sticky, pre-set check-out button. 

A further tweak, Predictive Sort, which will personalize the order in which products are presented, will be available later this year (anticipated July). Previewing Predictive Sort for me, Gordon Evans (VP of product marketing) emphasized the importance of pushing products most likely to convert to the top of search results, "given the amount of screen real estate available" on mobile. The aim is to surface those products which match the customer's taste and preferences (right down to colors). 

Digital world meet real world

ECommerce Insights is at least as intriguing, using Einstein to extract insights from digital shopping baskets — actual shopping activity — to provide sellers with data about product affinity, suggesting which products should be displayed or offered together. That seems common sense, but generating the data in real-time and using it to optimize the presentation of huge online product catalogs, is an attractive proposition. In addition, Insights breaks down the digital-physical retail barrier, providing data which can inform physical store layout and inventory.

The latter represents the journey towards "unified commerce" — the project of closely aligning digital with real world shopping experiences. "The online-offline world of retail is inextricably mixed," said director of product marketing Nancy Darish, demonstrating Commerce Cloud Store, a Demandware tool now available in Commerce Cloud. This puts POS, store operations, and inventory directly into the hands of managers and store assistants, from the cloud to a mobile interface. 

The purpose is not just to ease the customer's journey to purchase, but enable assistants to help them, for example by locating out-of-stock items at an alternative store, and getting them shipped with a few clicks. "One customer, one product, one inventory; all in a seamless infrastructure.

But what does it mean to the customers in the audience? Salesforce Commerce Cloud customers, many of whom had been Demandware customers for a significant time?

To be continued. 

Salesforce covered DMN's expenses to attend XChange 2017.

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