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Each year, the bar for customer experience is raised increasingly higher for both B2B and B2C companies. The balance of power continues to shift further to the customer and organizations are forced to commit more and more resources to keep up—let alone stand out—in a rapidly evolving digital world.

(Image courtesy of Salesforce)

Fortunately, not all hope is lost if you find yourself in this battle. Salesforce Connections is the annual event that tips the scales back in favor of digital-minded organizations by enabling marketing, commerce, and service teams through learning and platform innovation. It’s a chance to learn where trends are headed, better use the tools you currently have, and catch a glimpse of the technology that will put you firmly ahead of the race in the future.

For our team that attended Connections, there were three overarching themes that stood out to us:

  • The next evolution in data—The most seamless, holistic customer view across multiple channels to date
  • Machine learning advancement—increasingly powerful insights and automation built into each product
  • Long-awaited functionality—expanded capabilities and productivity that many marketers have been waiting for

The next evolution in data

Customer 360 is being heralded as the new data solution for companies, tying together firmographic and behavior data collected from multiple sources to one unified ID across Salesforce apps. While Customer360 doesn’t actually store data, it allows for data source configuration with clicks rather than code to create a unified customer view. It was first introduced at Dreamforce 2018 and at Connections it was announced that extended capabilities are being added to the platform, including an enterprise-grade customer data and activation platform. Expect more buzz around Customer360 with Service Cloud and Commerce Cloud later this year.

While Customer360 stole the show during the big keynotes and smaller breakout sessions, there was also an emphasis on the capabilities of Datorama, which was acquired by Salesforce roughly a year ago to provide robust cross-platform marketing intelligence. Datorama’s key differentiator is that it integrates with the entire marketing ecosystem, not just the suite of Salesforce products. It enables immediate insights for marketers from complex assortments of data sources, without the need for IT to build out dashboards.

With both a unified customer view and easily configurable insights, B2C companies have never had more power when it comes to personalization from customer data.

Machine learning advancement

Salesforce Einstein continues to increasingly add value for end users by automating repetitive tasks using existing data and delivering insights that might otherwise remain uncovered. At Connections, there was an extra emphasis on the power of Einstein for marketers in both the B2C and B2B world. Marketing Cloud’s Email Studio may be the best current example of mapping the power of machine learning to commonly encountered marketing use cases.

Einstein’s Content Tagging was touched on in several sessions and was recently made available after June 18th for several Marketing Cloud editions. It uses machine learning to automatically analyze imagery and tag content, making it quicker and easier for marketers to find. The backend technology is powered by Google Vision and the tagging feature automatically fires for all .jpg and .png image files under 10 MB. Also, a prefix is added to each tag to ensure user-added tags are easily distinguishable from those created through Einstein Content Tagging. ​

While Content Tagging is making it easy for the marketer to locate the assets, the product team is taking the functionality a step further by enabling Einstein to actually make the decisions when it comes to determining which content to send to subscribers. Intelligent Content Selection is an Einstein feature coming soon that will analyze content tagged with metadata and select the perfect image asset for every subscriber. This takes personalization to an even more granular level—effectively taking segments from hundreds or thousands of subscribers down to one. Additionally, content is chosen at open time rather than send time, ensuring the optimization takes place in real time.

Finally, the Messaging Insights feature (also coming soon) promises to optimize engagement with minimal effort from the marketer. This tool learns the language of the company domain and selects word/phrase replacements for subject lines or tweets that will drive better overall engagement.  “promotion” with the word “discount” in a subject line, feeding off the knowledge that this simple word swap could lead to a 40% higher open rate.

While there was less of an emphasis spent on the B2B roadmap for Einstein and Pardot, there were still several themes worth noting. Gone are the days of manual configuration of scoring and grading, these are being gradually replaced with Behavior Score and Lead Score, both created through Einstein for Pardot. And while Einstein pulls the data from Pardot, the scores themselves are automatically included on list views in Sales Cloud, putting them right where sales already spends most of their time. Looking forward, the Einstein product team is developing a feature for solving what consistently rises to the top of the B2B marketer’s issue list—accurate multi-touch attribution. Recommended attribution would look at all campaigns related to a record and use machine learning to determine where/how to weight the influence on each.

Overall, the AI-heavy sessions were great at balancing newly released functionality with roadmaps of future product development that should excite any marketer in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Long-awaited functionality

Distributed Marketing is a Marketing Cloud tool that has been around for some time. At Connections, however, marketers were rewarded with the most content surrounding it yet. Distributed Marketing enables branded, best-practice Marketing Cloud email and SMS content to be personalized and sent out by individual users in Sales, Service, and Community Clouds. It’s a balance between highly-personalized content and curated, branded content being only a click away. The demos we saw only focused on Email Studio, but marketers who use SMS as a channel should expect more information on the Mobile Studio functionality in the near future.

Certain industries may be reluctant to embrace such a tool due to the sensitivity of non-marketers sending content to subscribers. Fortunately, the product team clearly outlined several strategies for guidance and governance to keep communications in line with marketing standards. Marketing Cloud users can give context to non-marketing users by titling the editable section(s) and including guidance messages for what type of content to put in.​ Compliant messaging is regulated by creating a “restricted words” list in Marketing Cloud, which prevents sending if a keyword is included. For more complex use cases, Salesforce sharing rules can also be implemented to control content availability.

Another long-awaited feature, Pardot business units will enable admins in B2B organizations to configure their Pardot instance for specific regional teams or sub brands. It includes the ability to set up multiple tracker domains, further ensuring that reporting can be broken down in a way that makes sense for the organization.

On the execution side, several forward-looking announcements were exciting to note as an email marketer. A new Lightning Builder in Pardot will ensure a consistent building experience across Salesforce products. It’s based on the same platform as App Builder, moving email template building from code to drag and drop. A new merge language will ensure variable tags are standardized with core Salesforce products so that Pardot has access to more data and even advanced logic not previously available.

Being heard always feels good and the development of features inspired by popular demand was especially prevalent at this year’s Connections.

In the end, Connections served as a mid-year reminder that while customer expectations continue to rise, the technology and strategies to exceed them are stronger than ever in the Salesforce ecosystem. If you’d like to learn more about how Magnet360 can amplify your customers’ possibilities, get in touch and one of our experts will reach out to you shortly.