Learnings from Salesforce Connections 2018

Sören Stamer, CEO

Sören Stamer

Salesforce Connections 2018 ended yesterday. Here are my thoughts and observations as a Salesforce partner and speaker:

Salesforce is winning — or they are really good at creating the collective experience of winning

For three days the halls were full of happy faces. Around 8.000 customers and partner plus 2.000 Salesforce employees shared many smiles. They might have been inspired by the huge banners featuring smiling client executives from Adidas, Ticketmaster and others everywhere. Anyway, the place was very much alive and full of a winning attitude.

Selfie Sören Stamer Trailblazer

Selfie Sören Stamer Trailblazer

I wondered what contributed to this spirit. A big factor has certainly been the wave of new features, capabilities and solutions plus all those beautifully told success stories. But there was more. Something that was painfully missing at Facebook’s F8 a few weeks ago. More about that a little later.

Salesforce managed to acquire and integrate a broad set of capabilities and it pays

It is hard to believe, but until Salesforce acquired Demandware in 2016 they lacked even the most basic eCommerce functionality. Demandware, rebranded as Salesforce Commerce Cloud, quickly became an important part of Salesforce’s overall offering for B2C brands. Now, two years later, Salesforce closed another gap in their offering: the B2B commerce part. CloudCraze turned into Salesforce Commerce Cloud B2B and looks already like a winner.

But the latest and most expensive move was the acquisition of MuleSoft, now branded as Salesforce Integration Cloud.

MuleSoft aka Salesforce Integration Cloud looks like game changer

Commonly, one of the fundamental weaknesses of big platforms is their lack of flexibility, openness and agility. While it is a beautiful dream to have a single platform that does it all, that dream never survives contact with reality.

The reality of IT is messy and complex. It is distributed and ever changing. And that fundamental reality will never go away.

Now, Salesforce found a powerful way to address this challenge for themselves and for all of their customers in an effective and scalable way: Mulesoft. MuleSoft is the plumbing for all those distributed cloud services, legacy software applications and micro-services companies need to integrate these days to stay ahead. While MuleSoft feels as flexible as duck tape it fosters clean and systematic ways to connect autonomous pieces of software. As a result, customers report much faster pace of their integrations with higher quality and better reusability.

The MuleSoft acquisition has the potential to be a game changer for Salesforce’s strategy to integrate more deeply into the back office and competing platforms.

Content is one Salesforce’s big weaknesses

Given Salesforce’s strong focus on customer experience, it is somewhat surprising how little support they offer to effectively manage all the content that is needed for these experiences. Every single Salesforce customer and partner I’ve talked to the last three days confirmed: Content is a big problem. Many are looking for solutions. The underlying reason is that Salesforce doesn’t offer any sophisticated content management that is sufficient for iconic brands.

Screenshot Studio

Screenshot Studio

I have to admit that as the CEO of CoreMedia I am pretty happy about the current state of affairs because this is exactly the gap that CoreMedia fills with CoreMedia CMS.

When we showed global brand executives what we can do out of the box with their Salesforce Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud, they were consistently amazed. So we went home happy with a long list of exciting leads.

If you are a Salesforce customers with similar content issues, please connect with me. We are happy to help.

Bigger is not always better

I noticed a tendency of big platform vendors to merge various customer events into one big show. While I see the benefits in efficiency, I also couldn’t help but notice some drawbacks. The bigger a platforms get, the less focus these events provide. And focus is also a very good thing. I heard multiple customers and partners complain about the lack of it at Salesforce Connections 2018.

Another noticeable weakness was a lack of European participants. I met a few European brands, but certainly not many. This was a mainly a North American event with some participation from Asia and Europe. It certainly did not feel like a truly global audience.

It might be worth looking at a set of events around the world instead of one big one.

You have to love Salesforce’s Ohana

Photo Genterneutral Restroom

Photo Genterneutral Restroom

I’ve been to many software events by various vendors. Never have I’ve seen such a strong commitment to core values at this scale like I experienced here. Values like equality and trust didn’t come across as a fig leaf or side show. They were center stage. The opening and closing keynotes were both about women’s equality.

I am convinced that this commitment to doing the right thing and really taking it seriously contributed to the positive spirit I mentioned at the beginning.

Like other Silicon Valley power players, Salesforce has reached an impressive scale and ships countless new features every month. But unlike many, they do it with heart and soul.

That might be the difference that makes the difference.

Stage 1: Fragmented: Multiple Channels

You’re a digital dinosaur!

You have a beautiful website, but with fragmented digital experiences, you run the risk of extinction.

It’s time to evolve.

Your audiences want a seamless experience, no matter what's happening behind the scenes. When your experience is different or difficult, it’s important to start with the basics, such as cultivating a holistic approach to online digital experiences. Realign your teams, platforms, processes, goals, and metrics around a comprehensive view of the online experience. Focus on the end-to-end customer journey cutting across channels, desktop and mobile.

separate channels animation circle t-rex dinosaur square
Stage 2: Integrated: Multiple channels

You’re a fish!

Signs of exciting life are starting to form. Your DX is responsive and adaptive but it’s not quite personalized yet.

Keep swimming!

The integration of your brand content across every touchpoint (website, online store, social media, emails, apps, point of sale) creates immersive experiences. These flagship sites combine content-rich brand experiences with immediate conversion capabilities. Business teams and marketing are closely aligned. However, while the digital experience is responsive and adaptive, it’s not yet personalized.

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Stage 3: Instant: Global expansion

You’re a crocodile!

You’re taking it global. Speed and scalability are key and just like a crocodile, you’re fast…but you’re clumsy.

Oh snap!

In this stage, the online digital experience becomes completely dynamic. You need content that is global, yet relevant, with plenty of local insights: Who is the user? Are they using a mobile phone? Is it raining where they are? Is it snowing? If it is, maybe they need warm, waterproof boots. All of this contextualized information creates a better user experience. With one global orchestration, you’re able to adapt everything, in whatever country or language you choose – while keeping turnaround times low. So keep evolving.

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Stage 4: Dynamic: Real time personalization

You’re a lion!

You’re reaching more customers in more countries and languages than ever before, and now you’re finally hunting and collecting info with precision.

But you can do more to keep your brand roaring!

As you graduate to the Instant level, you’re able to rapidly update everything - not just in one language and for one country, but in 20 languages and for 100 countries. Speed and scalability are key, driven by the need to roll out global campaigns in all languages and all touchpoints and make updates in minutes or hours, not weeks. But there’s still more to do to reach nirvana.

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Stage 5: Immersive: Elevated experiences

You’re Captain Content!

You’ve done it! You have opposable thumbs AND you’re saving the world with your seamless, elevated customer experiences.

You're a superhero in the digital space.

Your digital world and your physical world are blending together in the most complementary way possible. When shoppers visit your store, they’ll be greeted with their pre-selected products. Language changes dynamically depending on country of origin – it's like the whole store was set up just for your one specific customer.

In this final stage, your customer experience is truly immersive and superior, and your flagship store merges your physical and digital world into one, with a truly personalized individual experience.

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