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Dreamforce 2022: A Genie To Make CRM Wishes Come True

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Salesforce held its monster Dreamforce user conference in San Francisco last week, and as the world has become accustomed, it was as well-produced as a television program and as overwhelming as a post-World Cup victory celebration. This was the case even though there were only about one-fourth as many attendees as in 2019, just before the pandemic hit.

San Francisco itself was excited, since the City-By-The-Bay is still picking up the pieces of its pre-COVID reality. According to city hall estimates, there’s a 24% vacancy rate in the business district, and one-third of the worker population is now working remotely (Salesforce itself has adopted a hybrid workplace model, and the company’s acquisition of collaboration platform Slack looks more timely every day).

One business sector that really hoped to win with Dreamforce was San Francisco’s struggling restaurant business. According to Axios, table reservations were down 34% just prior to Dreamforce compared to the same time in 2019. So although attendance was “only” 40,000 (compared to 160K in 2019), SF eateries were ready and willing.

So there was a lot riding on the success of the event. And as hoped, Salesforce delivered. The conference was expected to generate $40-million dollars for the city, with conference attendees spending much needed money at local restaurants and hotels.

How Genie Got Started

At the conference itself, the main tent events prominently featured announcements and demos highlighting Salesforce Genie. Genie offers a user a “360° view” of customer data in real time – meaning that the platform can pull data from other systems to present one unified view of all of a customer’s data that is up-to-the-moment. Genie obscures all the complexity that goes on underneath the surface, but there’s a significant amount of “plumbing” provided by Mulesoft. Salesforce acquired Mulesoft in 2018, and the timing was perfect, since the Mulesoft solution set made management of API’s in a cloud-based environment practical at a time when companies were starting to flock to cloud-based solutions. Platforms such as Amazon AWS, Blue Yonder, and Microsoft Azure all use Mulesoft in some way.  

In 2019, RSR noted that Salesforce had gone a long way towards making the connections between the Commerce Cloud, the Customer Cloud (the CRM system), and Service Cloud real, using Mulesoft both to connect those services together and to also enable retailers to front-end their legacy portfolios. At the Connections conference in 2019, Salesforce CMO Stephanie Buscemi highlighted the rationale for the company’s efforts; the company had conducted a consumer survey that revealed that 78% of consumers expect a continuous and seamless experience through marketing, sales, and service (in other words, throughout the entire path-to-purchase).

And this is where Genie started to come into focus. At the 2019 conference, SVP for Customer 360 Product Management Patrick Stokes told a group of industry analysts that Salesforce would enable a single customer ID across all of its clouds, which creates the ability to execute federated queries and arrive at a single view of the customer. At the same time, Salesforce announced its CDP (“customer data platform”) initiative. It was that initiative that resulted in Genie.

At the time, RSR offered this explanation of how Salesforce would achieve “Customer 360”:

There’s been a lot of effort across the retail and technology industries to realize the vision of a complete view of the entire customer experience. Some companies are pushing the idea of a central customer data repository (“CDP: Customer Data Platform “), while others have pushed for a federated query that pulls all relevant customer data from available operational databases in order to present one “virtual ” customer profile to the consuming service. Salesforce has come to the conclusion that both of those methods are needed.

Fast Forward To Dreamforce 2022

Genie is a “rebranding+” of the Salesforce customer data platform with significant added capabilities made possible by the aforementioned Mulesoft and the Salesforce Einstein AI engine. Co-CEO and Founder Marc Benioff stated in his keynote that Genie is the “biggest innovation in 20 years.”

Industry watcher Daniel Newman described it this way in a recent Forbes article:

“The goal, like every other CRM on the market today, is to create a real-time single source of truth for businesses so that they can create hyper-personalized content and, in turn, create tighter relationships with customers… Salesforce Genie in effect is a data integration model that works with Salesforce’s existing CRM platform. It aims to move data where it is needed at the right time. This will turn the CRM into a real-time data, insight, and action machine which, until now, has only been an aspiration and not a reality… Salesforce Genie could be a huge asset. It could help businesses match the right audiences with the right products on the right channels at precisely the right time. A silver bullet for marketing and customer experience… Genie has the potential to be the force that finally allows all of Salesforce’s disparate tools to work together in the way customers have always hoped they would. “

So, what’s the value to retailers? The focus is clearly on the digital side of the customer journey, and the possibilities are big.

For example, News Corp. of Australia, showcased its plan to enable advertisers to sell direct to consumers with “shoppable” content (video, clickable text and images) on its digital platforms. Consumers who click on that content are taken straight to checkout when they put an item in their cart. This kind of capability could be a foundational tool in retailers’ and advertisers’ efforts to enable “social commerce”, i.e., to make selling directly available to consumers who are watching livestreamed content.

Another, more practical application, is needed right now; Genie would make it possible for sellers to personalize digital journeys in real time, instead of based on a “score” generated periodically by typical CRM systems.

Genie will be available with other improvements to the Salesforce Commerce platform, including what it calls its “composable Storefront” (available now), the Commerce Partner Marketplace (scheduled general availability in a winter release) and the Salesforce Store Associate app (scheduled general availability in a winter release).

Dreamforce Redefines The Expo Model

As the working world slowly starts to congregate in physical spaces again, there will be an urge to attend mega-conferences. But Salesforce has redefined what a successful conference experience is like. The production value of the presentations at Dreamforce 2022 was broadcast-quality – and not coincidentally, broadcast media stars like Soledad O’Brien MC’ed the Dreamforce livestream, which itself garnered approximately 15,000 viewers. It may be that the days of the giant technology expos that were all offshoots of the Comdex show are fading away – time will tell. Salesforce has redefined the conference model – it will be for other expo companies to keep up.

Newsletter Articles September 27, 2022