Salesforce chief Marc Benioff and his musician friend Neil Young could have actually dreamt this one up — creating a customizable and almost foolproof way for companies to embed a “buy” button into their online community sites.

Not only do groups who gather on the web share experiences, opinions and ideas, but they also tend to recommend merchandise and services to each other.

Until now it’s been difficult to learn more about or buy products of interest without leaving the conversation. But beginning today Salesforce Community Cloud users will be able to offer their members a new way to discover, research, discuss and buy products in a single location.

My My, Hey Hey

Take Young’s PonoMusic site, which started as a Kickstarter project, for example.

The audio purists who gather in a community there might talk about the merits of listening to music in its native resolution. But they may also discuss which headphones provide the best experience.

Historically, getting the low down on specific headphones might have been cumbersome. Users would have to leave their community of choice to venture out to Amazon or BestBuy to make a purchase.

But no more: Salesforce’s new Community Cloud solution enables companies to put a buy button right where their customers are already gathered and engaged. (If you want to see it in action, it’s already live on PonoMusic.)

Finally, Contextual Commerce

Benioff and Neil Young

Whether Benioff and Young have ever spoken about this, it’s a good idea.

Mike Stone, SVP of Marketing for Salesforce Community Cloud, calls it “contextual commerce.”

Sure, mega e-gathering places like Facebook and Pinterest already have built-in “click to buy” capabilities. But other sites have struggled to find an easy, trusted option to add transactions to their online communities.

Now, Salesforce Community Cloud customers can seamlessly add e-commerce capabilities with the help of Lightening Components from vendors like CloudCraze, Demandware and Bigcommerce.

A Store Within a Community Site

Mike Micucci, SVP of Product Management for Salesforce Community Cloud, and his team spent more than a year to make sure this new option was as easy as possible.

The goal was to help everyday users choose between layouts and colors as easily as they could on sites like WordPress or SquareSpace.

“We want everyone or anyone to be able to open up shop quickly,” said Micucci.

It’s Just the Beginning

PonoMusic isn’t the only Salesforce Community site with e-commerce capabilities.

Avid Technology and Deloitte Digital Hub were beta customers as well. But as with all things Salesforce, this e-commerce capability for communities is where things begin, not end.

Stone said the next (Winter 2016) release of Community Builder will enable users to easily drop components onto a page.

Salesforce is clearly targeting its business customers with these new capabilities. But it could prove experientially meaningful for consumers as well because the merchandise presented on Salesforce Community e-commerce sites could actually prove relevant — which is arguably not yet the case on Facebook or Pinterest.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  Title image by Aske Holst.