This week, I attended Salesforce’s annual Connections event in Chicago. The central theme of the conference focused on Salesforce’s announcement of its Customer Data Platform (CDP) with its next generation of Customer 360 (C360) service. Slated for pilot this fall, the new platform promises to help businesses pull together data from different applications, and use this consolidated view to more effectively personalize customer engagement.
As I tweeted at the event:
Salesforce’s New Spin on An Old Concept
So, what is this latest spin? And what distinguishes it from past CRM promises to deliver a 360-degree view of the customer?
The big difference is that Salesforce intends to consolidate customer data not only from its unified CRM platform and applications but from other data sources as well. By enriching customer profiles with additional data from external systems and databases companies can create more granular customer profiles and create more personalized content, offers, and services for customers.
In fact, the Salesforce Connected Customer report finds that 78 percent of customers expect consistent interactions with a company regardless of the department they’re dealing with, yet only 50 percent of companies tailor their engagement based on a customer’s past interactions.
Connecting the Dots
Salesforce’s Customer 360 promise is to help companies connect Salesforce app, and create a unified customer ID to build a single view of the customer. Using MuleSoft, companies will also be able to connect other applications and data sources, whether in the cloud or on-premises. With all customer data in one place, companies can surface up more detailed customer insights and execute campaigns across multiple channels in a coordinated, consistent way.
More specifically, C360 will help customers to:
- Unify customer data to create more detailed, permission-based customer profiles. Using Salesforce’s consent management framework to gain customer consent, customers can choose which information to share with a brand. Once permission is granted, companies will be able to pull in information from cookies, customer first-party IDs and other sources.
- Fine-tune segmentation to engage in more targeted, real-time marketing. Companies will be able to pull in information from collected from Web browsing across different sites, email marketing, previous purchases, and other interactions.
- Use Einstein artificial intelligence capabilities to better analyze customer data to optimize how and when to engage with customers. C360 will continually update profiles based on new customer information, such as when a customer clicks on an ad or abandons a shopping cart, helping marketers deliver more content and offers. Companies will be able to apply these insights across marketing, commerce and service channels to provide customers with a more holistic experience throughout their engagement with the brand.
A common refrain in the tech sector is that “data is the new oil.” Clearly, companies that can most effectively use the unrelenting torrent of data that is being created will be much more likely to win in the digital economy than those that can’t.
But just like you need to get gas in the tank to fuel your car, you need to get all of this data into an engine to fuel your business. Salesforce wants C360 to be that engine.
Integration, of course, lies at the root of achieving this goal. MuleSoft gives Salesforce the integration expertise needed to make significant headway in this area. However, integration is a moving target—one that will always be in progress as new data sources and applications come into play.
Making sense of all of this data once its integrated is also key to making this work. Salesforce’s recent acquisition of Tableau—and its capabilities to help customers easily visualize data—should add value over and above Salesforce’s organic capabilities in this area.
Trust—being a good steward of customer data is—is the other essential piece needed to complete this puzzle. But its also a wild card. Salesforce’s consent management framework should help address some of the potential issues in this area. However, companies using C360 will be storing vastly more data about customers than they do today. This not only makes them very attractive targets for hackers but leads to questions about unintended consequences. What and who will determine how long companies keep data? What if companies make poor decisions as to how they use or share the data? And what about privacy regulations in Europe, where GDPR is already law, and in other countries where new privacy regulations are in the works?
Maybe it’s a good thing that Salesforce has pre-announced C360 well in advance of its scheduled pilot and eventual general availability. While C360 has the potential to provide brands with the tools to deliver more relevant content and customer experience, companies that avail themselves of these capabilities will need to carefully think through privacy, security and some of the unexpected consequences that are bound to result from their increasing appetite for customer data.
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