Salesforce claims customer experience trumps product and price when buyers make decisions. 

With the latest update to its Community Cloud, the Software-as-a-Service pioneer not only makes it easier for community managers to personalize customer experiences, but it also ties systems of record (transactions) to systems of engagement and leverages analytics to bring new ease and simplicity to interactions that many of us find frustrating and annoying.

In other words when you go to look for information, the product/service providers know who you are, where you’ve been, what you’re doing, and  a whole lot more. 

With that intelligence they are able to put the content that they think will be the most useful to you directly in front of you. This release also makes it easy for community managers to create aesthetically appealing, content enriched sites through drag and drop functionalities via its "Lightning Themes" tools.

"We're taking a big step forward by enabling embedded intelligence to create even better, personalized customer experiences and to make things easier for community managers," Mike Micucci, GM and SVP, Salesforce Community Cloud told CMSWire. Salesforce has also brought in new e-commerce capabilities from its partner ecosystem as well. 

Lightning Customer Communities

Branded as Lightning Customer Communities, this third iteration of the Community Cloud includes features such as:

  • Rich Media Feeds: A Quora-like experience that makes it easier to find answers and more interesting to engage
  • Intelligent Lightning Themes: This new capability makes it easy and quick to create visually-rich and highly personalized user experiences on any device
  • Search Optimization: This helps companies more effectively surface community content in web search results and direct queries to relevant community discussions
  • Recommended Articles and Answers: Leverages intelligent scoring to instantly deliver the most relevant articles and answers based on the search query
  • Smart Moderation: Leverages analytics and problems can be routed to Salesforce's Service Cloud as well
  • Lightning Reports and Dashboards: With more than 250 new Lightning Reports and Dashboards in this update, community managers who use Salesforce will have access to real-time insights into customer trends such as purchasing patterns, top content, escalations and community traffic to make sure they are delivering a personalized and rich customer experience

Buy Without Leaving the Site

If you have to leave a site to make a purchase, the purchase may not happen. Salesforce is making it even easier and faster for its customers to keep their customers from leaving by providing  drag-and-drop new e-commerce functionality into community pages.

To accomplish that, it has added new capabilities via three new partner-built Lightning Components:

  1. CloudCraze CartPlus: Enables B2B companies to offer recommended products via catalogs and product showcases, and control over how and where products are displayed within a community.
  2. OSF UnifyCOMMERCE Demandware: Integrates Demandware's B2C e-commerce services into any community, allowing companies to provide single sign-on capability, a persistent shopping cart that is always present wherever the customer is, and embed the Demandware Customer Service Suite allowing customer service agents to place orders on behalf of customers.
  3. OSF UnifyCOMMERCE Magento: Connects Magento's e-commerce services into any community, allowing companies to synchronize customer records, orders and reviews from Magento directly in Salesforce. Additionally, companies have access to built-in reporting that provides insight into customers’ shopping activity such as order value, number of orders and product reviews.

What's the Advantage?

The hard thing for any company looking to add Community to their customer experience solutions is the crowd of vendors to choose from. Constellation Research analyst Alan Lepofsky could name seven, community products — Salesforce, Oracle, SAP, IBM, Adobe, Lithium and  Jive — off of the top of his head.

One advantage that Salesforce Community Cloud has over the others is its ability to integrate with the rest of Salesforce's portfolio, including Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud. They also have the advantage of the vast Salesforce partner ecosystem and AppExchange as evidenced by today's accompanying CloudCraze, Demandware and Magento announcements.

But what excites Lepofsky about today's announcement the most is how Salesforce is beginning to apply artificial intelligence to Community Cloud to help deliver personalized and context specific content.

"When a community member is logged on, Salesforce is able to deliver a tailored experience where the content displayed is based on the member's history and preferences. Artificial intelligence can also be used to reduce the information displayed, leaving only the most relevant content," he said.

Title image by Scott Webb