Salesforce Introduces Community Cloud

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The future of customer engagement for both B2B and B2C operations, Salesforce predicts, is in private, LinkedIn-style networks tying them to clients and partners.

 

Motivated by the fact that it was signing five new corporate clients a day to the Internet community product it introduced a year ago, Salesforce.com today announced the introduction of Salesforce1 Community Cloud. The stated promise is to enable companies to create their own LinkedIn-style communities linking customers, suppliers, or employees in safe and exclusive networks.

“We think communities are the battleground for customer engagement. You have to get your closer to your customers. B2B companies have to act like B2C companies,” says Lisa Hammitt, VP of business operations for Salesforce1 Community Cloud.

“We see unprecedented growth in communities, not just because of their impact on sales volumes but on the benefit of the customer relationship,” adds Michael Stone, SVP marketing of the unit. “IDC has pegged the enterprise collaboration market at $3.5 billion and growing fast, so we went to the cloud with communities to align the product with our other resources.”

Users of the tool, says Salesforce, have wide latitude as to how they can build their communities. They can be as opaque or as transparent as companies want them to be depending on the level of privacy their enterprises demand. They can provide updates on vital topics and people, and content can be personalized to the interests of individual users.

Built on the Salesforce1 platform, Community Cloud is connected directly to Salesforce CRM. Resellers, therefore, can use it to update leads, customer service reps can work cases within it, and customers can review products on it. The user interface is optimized to provide users with common experiences on any mobile device. Indeed, the growth of enterprise communities is directly tied to smartphone proliferation.

“Ninety percent of our communities are mobile-enabled. We designed this from a mobile-first aspect,” Stone says. “It's also native on the Salesforce1 mobile app.”

Organizations that latched on to Salesforce's community product early on included the State of Colorado, GE Capital, Tata Group, and Northern Trail Outfitters (see above). “A 2,000-person practice at Deloitte functions solely around the community cloud,” says Hammitt. “British Sky Broadcasting is using it to allow people to buy and sell tickets to sporting events. It's net new revenue for them.”

Subscriptions to Salesforce1 Community Cloud start at $500 a month.

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