New Salesforce Tool Can Help You Get Personal With 1M People

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Big data presents a big challenge for marketers: How can you personalize your email, mobile and web messages when you're reaching out to a million potential customers — or 10 million?

It's hard to get personal in a crowd like that.

Several marketing technology vendors have tackled that challenge. But it's hard to create a tool with real time customer profile updates that marketers can use without the help from a data scientist or someone from the IT staff.

In the Moment

Salesforce.com unveiled its latest solution today in the form of Predictive Decisions, tool that lets marketers tailor content to each visitor based on data added in real time as they move through their customer journey. The new product will be available in May.

In a briefing with reporters, Scott McCorkle, the CEO of Salesforce Marketing Cloud, said the new product "blends CRM and marketing data with contextual information" in a way that turns customers from browsers into buyers.

According a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, 36 percent of marketers struggle to apply customer data to enhance customer experiences, and 42 percent said they have trouble analyzing data from all customer interactions.

Three things lie at the heart of the new predictive system:

  1. It can stream real time data on what shoppers are doing at any moment directly into their profiles on the system. That gives the marketer an peek into their states of mind and opportunities to send personalized information to the shopper across email, web and mobile.
  2. It runs automated campaigns tailored to individual shoppers using data from all channels. This lets marketers set up predictive campaigns without any development help.
  3. It can predict which type of content will generate the highest conversion rate, whether through an offer, graphics or a product listing. Drag-and-drop content options (below) result in "making each message tailored to the individual and the moment," the company said in a statement.

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Simplifying Algorithms

This requires the system to run algorithms, but marketers can drag-and-drop those, too. They can pick from up to 30 scenarios, like items that are top sellers, or comparing buyers to other buyers. When combined with profile data, Predictive Decisions can tailor a newsletter or other communication to shoppers as they shop.

For example, the newsletter may lead with a photo of a sofa the consumers just looked at on the site, then follow that with complementary pieces of furniture that other buyers bought with that sofa.

"We're placing data science in the hands of marketers to help them drive better results," said McCorkle.

Virtual Sales Associate

Kimberly Ruthenbeck, director of web customer experience for Room & Board put it another way. She compared the system to the personalized service of live sales associates on a showroom floor. "It's the data-driven sales associate on our site," she said.

To be sure, there could be something creepy about being followed around online by a mind-reading machine. But Ruthenbeck said Predictive Decisions had already driven her average online orders up 16 percent.

Corinne Sklar, global CMO for the customer engagement consultant Bluewolf,  a Salesforce partner, said 71 percent of Salesforce customers have indicated they plan to increase their investments in analytics.

"This is more than just investing in dashboards," said Sklar. "It's about ... giving employees the insights needed to drive meaningful customer moments."