Tag Archives: Salesforce

Salesforce Evolves Communities From Forums To E-Commerce

Today Salesforce launched the ability to embed a Buy Button into sites built upon their Community Cloud platform. Click here for press release. This new feature will bring the power of commerce to the world of social: enabling brands to leverage the activity that takes place in social channels and convert it into financial transactions. The following is Constellation Research’s reaction to the news, co-authored by Principal Analysts Alan Lepofsky and Guy Courtin.

Below you can see an example, in this case labeled Cart, which allows community members to add an item for purchase.

salesforce.com
Shopping Meets Social

From the press release: “The new e-commerce capabilities enable communities of customers to discover, research, discuss and buy products in a single location while introducing a new sales channel for companies.”

Alan’s POV: This is significant because it enables companies to blend together 1) their community forums; where current and future customers can ask questions, post reviews and share feedback with 2) their e-commerce platform for purchasing. Today many companies separate these two functions, relying heavily on popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest for customer engagement, then shifting those customers to another location for purchasing transactions.  The integration of community (social) and commerce (shopping) will allow for a much more seamless, hence more desirable customer experience.

Guy’s POV: Retail and CPG have long been aware of the growing power and influence social channels have on their brands and products. One only had to look as far as Twitter to see how brands such as @BestBuy or @USAir are acutely aware of any possible issue voiced by their customers. This announcement is looking to take advantage of the positive that comes of out social media – converting sales. Retail and CPG are also both acutely aware that their best sales people are existing customers. Enabling transactions to take place in these forums builds on the aspect of community influence.

Commerce Without Coding

From the press release: “With new e-commerce Lightning Components from Salesforce partners like CloudCraze, Demandware and Bigcommerce, companies will be able to seamlessly incorporate e-commerce into their communities. Lightning Components are reusable building blocks that enable companies to quickly add rich new capabilities into their communities without programming.”

Alan’s POV: While the idea of making it easy for “citizen developers” (line of business workers who are not trained coders) to simply drag and drop components into applications sounds appealing, organizations need to be weary, as there is more to application development than just writing lines of code. Successful applications rely on compelling user interfaces (the look) and user experiences (the interactions). Commerce is a complicated process, involving complex workflows between inventory, purchasing and shipping.  These things require professionals with training and experience. That said, there is nothing wrong with Salesforce making it easier for professional developers to add these new e-commerce functions to their applications. The addition of the Buy Button and other components from their business partner eco-system, help make the Salesforce1 a compelling platform.

Complexity Of Supply Chain Meets Ease Of One Click Commerce

From the press release: “Community Cloud customers are already deploying custom e-commerce solutions, demonstrating the power of combining transactions with communities.”

Guy’s POV: The addition of a transaction function to the communities is not as simple as adding some code to a web site. The supply chain aspects of order management, fulfillment and payment are all aspects of the supply chain that have to be in sync for the promise of a “buy” button to come to fruition. This is no simple task; many e-Commerce players have failed at this step. It will be an interesting play for the software giant if it can integrate some of the efforts it is making with Salesforce retail as well as the partnerships it announced to truly take this to then next level. As the examples given for this new offering revolve around digital assets, the challenge of moving physical goods is much more complex.

Summary: From Forums To E-Commerce

The announcement hold much promise when it comes to the integration of retail and communities. The addition of e-commerce provides Salesforce an edge over many rival social community platforms. However there remains much to be seen as to how Salesforce can fulfill some of the promises, especially when it comes to moving physical goods. What will they build themselves, what will customers need to build and what gaps will be filled by business partners and 3rd party vendors? Constellation supports this first step in integrating shopping and social and recommends customers speak with Salesforce to see if it will work with their specific e-commerce systems and suppliers. This is a space to watch, hopefully with more details and examples being presented at Dreamforce.

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Filed under Current Events, Online Community, Retail, Supply Chain

Christmas is around the corner – what Santa Claus can teach us about supply chain

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town
Santa Claus is coming to town

Yup, the big guy dressed in red is getting ready to make his annual appearance. Bringing all the girls and boys, as well as some lucky moms and dads, presents and gifts for their Christmas trees. And all he expects in return is maybe some milk & cookies or even a carrot for his reindeer. But did we ever expect Santa Claus to provide us with some simple lessons that are applicable to our supply chains?

He has the global fulfillment thing down...

He has the global fulfillment thing down…

  • He makes and list and checks it twice. Sage advice about how to handle all the data and information that extended supply chains produce and leverage on a weekly and daily basis. Many of the conversations I have had with supply chain practitioners and service providers comes back to getting a cleaner and more complete view of all the data that their supply chain produces on a weekly and daily basis. Look at what Santa is able to do – put all those wish lists in one aggregate list. He does check it twice to ensure consistency and correct for errors. Also good advice. Since we all know what garbage in gets us…companies like Avaya have worked with solution provider Kinaxis to create a more clear and single view of their distributor network and the data that is the connecting glue. One clean and unified view! Make sure to clear out that garbage before it gets into the system – or on Santa’s list.
  • Gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. Yup Santa also looks at his data to segment his customers. Granted he has two simple categories. Our supply chains’ customers and suppliers are also segmented and they do not fall into simple “naughty” or “nice.” But maybe the simplicity of how Santa does his segmentation should drive our own. The key is identify what key variables matter to our businesses and supply chains. Determine which variables you need to identify and focus on to create the most effective segmentation. Santa might not explicitly state it, but his segmentation like our supply chains leverages a greater number of predictive analytics to drive better clarity. For example service providers such as Infosys work with a large office products manufacturer to better understand customer segments to establish service level engagements. Santa and our supply chains need to lean on tools and service providers that can help identify the variables to effectively and efficiently segment our target audience.
  • He sees you when you’re sleeping …He knows when you’re awake. Maybe Santa has a secret deal with the NSA to eves drop on our calls…okay I joke…I think…but Santa makes sure he is aware of his consumers’ characteristics and where they are in the gift receiving pipeline. If we are awake he wouldn’t deliver our presents! Your supply chain needs to be sensitive to customers and where they are in the buying cycle. Think of how companies such as Steelwedge and Salesforce have worked together to help their customers better with the S&OP process by tying in the data coming from the Salesforce CRM to get a clearer view of where customers are with regards to the transactional pipeline. It is not simply about identifying our sleeping patterns, but understanding where we stand in terms of the buying cycle what our demand is and might be – are we in a position to have our gifts delivered by Santa?
  • Santa’s a busy man he has no time to play…He’s got millions of stockings to fill on Christmas day. Wow, talk about solving the delivery to the home enigma. Santa and his reindeer are able to criss cross the global, in one night, and accurately deliver a vast number of packages, of different shapes and sizes, to millions of locations! Unbelievable. Santa is also ahead of the curve as he has been able to provide home delivery since day 1. Now I am not saying we can all find a Rudolfo with his nose so bright to guide our fulfillment and logistics departments, but there is something to say about how integrated Santa’s workshop is with his distribution center and his logistics. He cannot be expected to demonstrate this level of efficiency is he stocks the wrong goods, doesn’t properly load them to his sleigh and then takes poor routes to his delivery locations. Clearly the value for supply chains to integrate the warehousing and transportation is what Santa’s efficiencies demonstrate.  Vendors like Oracle with their integrated WMS/TMS and now yard management (that is like what Santa does with regards to managing the elves and ensuring their are efficient) or JDA with their TMS integrated with the WMS acquired in the RedPrairie merger, are prime examples of solutions that even Santa would appreciate to ensure seamless optimization between the workshop and the big red sleigh – ensure the inventory that he has to haul around the world on the night of December 24th is properly slotted and routed.

The one aspect Santa does not seem to have worry too much about, is with returns. He does not seem to have a good reverse logistics or after sales service department. But since he has gotten so much of the upfront part right he does have to worry about delivering the wrong items! Alas our supply chains do not have that luxury, and our supply chains do need to take into account reverse logistics, returns, maintenance and other after sales issues. But thanks to Santa Claus we have something to aspire to with regards to our supply chains.

Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays!

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Filed under Current Events, Supply Chain

Salesforce acquires ExactTarget more tools to manage the larger funnel

Sales is responsible for executing on the now, Marketing is responsible for preparing for the tomorrow.

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Anyone who has worked in either sales or marketing knows that there is always an underlying tension between the two organizations. At times this can be amusing and at times it can be down right counter productive. The reality is the two need to work together and the two need to understand that they each have specific and equally important roles to play. Sales needs to close business now…and generate revenue. Marketing needs to get things lined up so that when the tomorrow becomes the now, Sales can be successful.

Today’s announcement by Salesforce.com to acquire ExactTarget for approximately $2.5b is an indication that vendors are realizing the importance of providing an end-to-end tool for marketing and sales. This follows on the heals of Oracle acquiring similar marketing automation firm Eloqua in December of 2012. Both Salesforce and Oracle are looking to integrate these marketing automation companies into their existing CRM offerings and beyond. Really starting to move towards being able to provide a “funnel to funnel” view of the customer acquisition journey. Companies, small and large, need the ability to clearly understand and measure how they target, acquire and convert their leads. Marketing automation tools are a natural extension of what Oracle and Salesforce have developed with their own CRM offerings.

The question becomes, for clients who may have had ExactContact for marketing automation and Oracle or another vendor for CRM, will they be “encouraged” to migrate to a Salesforce offering? Same goes for Eloqua. The other burning question is who targets Marketo? They would appear to be the next domino to fall. Will SAP or Microsoft potentially start sniffing around Marketo?

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Filed under Current Events, Marketing