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Salesforce Connections ‘22: The Trail Goes On

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Last week I attended Salesforce’s Connections event in Chicago. Whereas many other companies have elected to use the pandemic as a period to do some reinventing, nothing could be further from the case for Salesforce. Even though I hadn’t attended one of their events since Dreamforce 2019, it felt like zero time had passed. This is a company that knows what its culture is, what its vision for the future is, and is laser-like focused on getting that message across. It was something to see.

From main stage content to breakout sessions to personalized one-on-one meetings with its clients (a feature any analyst will tell you makes an event – any event – worth attending), the message was consistent: retailers are going to have a hell of a time marketing in the coming years, particularly as new privacy regulations tighten around what can and can’t be shared about online shoppers in a “cookie-less future.” Sarah Franklin, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer, kicked of her opening keynote with the following: “Thirty percent of revenue is at risk in the cookie-less future. We rely on those tools to learn details about consumers – what are we going to do without them?”

And so it began. A two-day deep dive into how brands can differentiate themselves to offer an “Amazon-like experience” while making sense of the data they do have, reaching customers in meaningful ways, and ultimately – on being able to deliver on those offers once a customer elects to click the buy button. The term they liked to use is “creating wow moments”. In a time when the whole world seems a bit topsy turvy from the compounding effects of the likes of inflation, growing income inequality, supply chain weirdnesses,  political division, and what would appear to be impending global recession, I was most interested in hearing about the ways Salesforce’s clients are orchestrating the order management part of their houses.

Within my time in Chicago I got lots to chew on in that department.

There were presentations about the company’s new NFT Cloud (complete with a demo of a customized fragrance for an Axe Bodyspray shopper), an entire section of the show floor dedicated to understanding shopping trends in China (did you know that 51% of all internet users in China have already purchased goods directly through social media? Not a link from Instagram or WeChat to the brand’s site, but actually within the social media platform, itself? I admit I did not). But it was the conversations with customers like Christy’s Sports, What Goes Around Comes Around, Claire’s (the mall-based retailer best known for ear piercing), Fisher & Paykel (a New-Zealand based retailer with an interesting reimagination of the process of shopping for home appliances online), and believe it or not: Palermo’s frozen pizza. Let me start with the last one first.

Jasper Falluca’s grandfather started a pizza shop on the east side of Milwaukee 58 years ago. His pies were in high enough demand that they are now available, flying under such brands as Screamin Sicilian and Urban Pie) at virtually every grocery store from Whole Foods to Walmart nationwide. But Jasper (now the Director of Business Development), has been tasked with finding ways to sell the company’s products online. How, exactly, would one go about that? In his own words, “when people need a frozen pizza, they can walk into almost any store in their neighborhood to get one.” A month ago, the company become a Salesforce client, and what they are doing is already impressive.

Palermo’s is offering “curated pizza packs” on its website, and running promotions in the days leading up to major holidays to encourage people who are about to spend a whole lot of time cooking big family meals to pop a frozen pizza in the oven the night before. They’ve also struck up a deal with Netflix, incorporating their new “Surfer Boy Pizza” right into the actual storyline of the new season of Stranger Things. It’s creative stuff.

And creative stuff from brands you likely wouldn’t spend a lot of time thinking about was exactly what this show was about. The aforementioned Claire’s (2,300 stores) has started an email campaign reminding parents to clean their little ones’ ears in the week after they’ve had their ears pierced. At the three week mark, they then start getting promotions that say, “It’s time to buy real earrings now. Here’s what we have.” This engenders loyalty, and it’s clever.

Christy Sports is a place I’ve personally rented skis and snowboards from during trips to Colorado and Utah (they also have presence in Arizona, Wyoming, etc). Their Chief Digital Officer, Harvey Bierman, used to work at Demandware (the acquisition that gave Salesforce the roots of its current CommerceCloud) so when his company needed an upgraded way to handle their order management issues, he was a tough customer. Ski rentals are an emotional experience: people are likely on vacation, are excited, and have been researching and planning for weeks if not months. Up until late last year, when these customers would arrive at a Christy location, a person with a piece of paper on a clipboard stood between them having a great vacation with the proper equipment and a ruined vacation with either no gear or the wrong gear.

Bierman signed with Salesforce in September of 2021, and was live with the company’s order management solution by December 14th.  The retailer went from a non-digital to a fully digital business as an out-of-the-box Commerce Cloud and Order Management Solution customer in less than 3 months. “Having order management in the hands of our customer service people has been enormously powerful for us. Someone might buy a $1300 snowboard, but it might arrive with a minor scuff because it shipped from one of our stores. They still want the product, but they want to be recognized that this is not exactly what they were expecting and want to feel value. OMS enables us to do that.”

On my way home from Chicago I had enough time in a few different airports to see some really, really upset customers whose flights had been delayed or downright cancelled. My own flights delayed but thankfully, both of them, so I still made my connection and got home within the calendar day. But that said, after hearing stories like the ones I heard at Salesforce Connections, I couldn’t help but wonder: wouldn’t the world be a little better place if every brand – even a few airlines to remain nameless here – had the kind of tools that could empower their customer service reps to help people who didn’t get exactly what they were expecting to feel a bit more value?

I’m already looking forward to Dreamforce 2022 to hear what Salesforce has in store for us further down their trail.   

Newsletter Articles June 15, 2022