Dreamforce 2019: What We Learned at one of Tech’s Biggest Events

In retrospect, my first time at Dreamforce —  a summit for innovation and cutting-edge technology —  was much how I imagined it would be: a three-day techy delight party. Within an hour of landing, I noticed the groundswell badge-carrying, intentional session trekkers and got to key-note crashing. 

Salesforce knows how to set a conference vibe with the ukulele opening performance, with horn shell blowing duos wishing attendees “a wonderful and blessed Dreamforce event.” 

Salesforce Product Previews 

Amid the sensory overload of DJspinning, Obama-stanning, and expo hall cacophony were some of the most exciting Salesforce product previews I’ve seen to date. Starting with enhanced capabilities to Einstein, a service cloud, the A.I. algorithm is now powering customer call centers with natural language processing to understand the context of the conversation, and surface the most relevant knowledge-article for the associate. 

The pain this solves is reducing the hold time and consumer policy referencing, which enables Einstein to close customer cases 31% times faster. This cuts out 10 minutes in operation, making for workflow efficiency and overall better and faster work. 

I was left most curious about the future of Salesforce’s new, custom-built, multi-channel CMS, as it highlights agility for digital teams to organize and sustain every aspect of their asset creation. This allows them to hone in on their viable potential to tailor connector integrations to bolster their capabilities. 

Also exciting was the news rollout from Salesforce B2C Commerce LINK Marketplace,  confirming that LINKpartners like Contentsquare would be transitioning to the AppExchange, an online marketplace for Salesforce apps, components and services that connects customers with a business’s solutions. 

This will enable a deeper, more seamless deployment for customers, including ours. It is well in line with the Customer 360 mission, and underscores the substantial partner ecosystem investment they’ve made this year. 

3 Tips for Future Dreamforce Attendees

Interested in attending Dreamforce? Here are the three  tips I would give to Dreamforce novices moving forward to maximize time and energy onsite:

  1. Map your business and product objectives to the right internal Salesforce teams, stakeholders and sessions. There’s an app for that, which was fairly effortless to navigate and use to schedule meetups 4-6 weeks prior to attending. San Francisco has phenomenal eateries and coffee shops; take advantage of the opportunity to treat stakeholders for 30-minute syncs away from the pandemonium.
  2. (Dual) partner up: connect with mutual partner customer success teams to align on scaling integrations and for the best ways to measure and amplify results with joint-compelling narratives.
  3. Double down: Salesforce soldiers and their respective trailblazers are in full-effect at Dreamforce. Therefore,  the best way to gain face time and address challenges live and direct is during the event where they are projecting motivation and building new-year momentum. 

All in all, I left Dreamforce too blessed to be stressed, and easily more informed on how Contentsquare can extend the value of Salesforce solutions than when I arrived.

 

What Contentsquare Learned at Shoptalk 2019

Contentsquare promised to show you the money at Shoptalk 2019 and we did. We held an interactive booth that put Shoptalk attendees to work on our wall, in search of hidden insights. Our guests went sleuthing for the code to our secret room, while our robot hung out with some of the visitors. Our team of UX-perts were on hand to demo our fabulous suite of digital experience analytics. And we also reaped a lot of knowledge regarding the intersection of retail and digital. Here are a few things we learned at Shoptalk 2019.

Influencer Marketing is Ramping Up

Influencer marketing, the practice of using influential people for brand awareness, is huge right now, and many brands are capitalizing on this magic formula of endorsement and audience rolled into one. What’s more is that it has the potential to not only raise brand awareness but to up revenues as well. Andrea Fasulo, the head of Consumer Products Marketing at Nickelodeon, divulged that Nick’s partnership with JoJo Siwa, a 15-year-old YouTuber, has increased their revenues as JoJo’s star rose. (The kid’s network added JoJo to their shows, apparel and toy lines). She now is worth about $1 billion and has a YouTube viewership of millions.

The success of this influencer partnership comes from her alignment with Nick’s brand. To infuse the influencer partnership with a feeling of validity, brands are pairing up with public figures who are passionate, or at least interested in their niche and products. In other words, with the right influencers, a business’s brand messaging looks less like an ad and more like genuine interest/usage of their offering.

But brands don’t necessarily need to reach out to big-name influencers; influencers with a relatively moderate to even a small following can go a long way for e-retailers. Cathey Curtis, the VP of Global Marketing for the surf and snowboard gear company Billabong, has revealed that the company’s Instagram posts that feature micro-influencers get 3 times more engagement than those that feature regular models.

Big Data Has Spawned the Rise of Artificial Intelligence

Data proliferation is no longer unusual, with most businesses pumping out onslaughts of data by the minute. The reliance of data is only increasing and when there’s an excess of data, it loses its digestibility — at least to human eyes and minds. That’s where artificial intelligence and machine learning come in. AI is at the fore of both data processing and how data is delivered to us.

Russell Scherwin, the CMO of Watson Commerce at IBM, spoke about AI at one of the sessions. “If you aren’t addressing AI, you’re behind,” he said. AI technology can help you discover the goings on of your website, without having to scout through a tiresome load of data. With AI technology at hand, brands can easily parse through their data and analytics to optimize their UX, personalize the customer journey and understand the most pressing issues regarding their sites.

Personalization is a Winning Strategy

E-commerce consumers are becoming more and more in want of a shopping experience tailored just towards them, or one built closely around their needs. With the constant bombardment of advertisements and brand messaging, usually with personal elements, consumers are looking to get the same kind of experience while perusing websites that are selling to them.

Personalization comes as a specialized strategy for UX optimization, as it will be different based on the different types of customers in the market. While many retailers have relied on creating emails that tap into their customers’ unique shopping tastes and experiences (ie, abandoned carts, product recommendations), there are far many other routes to take on the front of personalizing the customer journey.

Some of these methods include digital shelves, custom products, endless aisles, geo-targeting, personalized upsells, style finders and more.

Bouqs Co., an e-commerce flower seller based out of California has added special features to its site to increase the personalization factor.

These new features include giving customers the option of watching mini documentaries on the site. The documentaries exhibit the details of the farms which produce the bouquets before shoppers buy one. “We’re adding value beyond just the purchase and I think that’s a big part of the future of e-commerce,” said Bouqs founder John Tavis.

Implementing New Service Delivery Models to Meet Your Customers’ Needs

As part of a strategy to continue product subscriptions as well as to gain customers for single purchase goods, retailers are creating new delivery models. The revamping of delivery methods is part and parcel of the CX, or customer experience.

In this way, CX is an amalgamation of digital with physical experiences. The receipt of a delivery occurs in the physical world, while ordering it comes from digital.

Although customers may spend long periods of time scouring e-commerce sites, they may not always convert, not least where a delivery is involved.

Executives from Madison Reed, a hair care company, and Brandless, a food, beauty and personal care supplier, held a discussion on the fusion of digital and physical experiences. A major area of concern for this merger is the implementation of new service delivery models.

These new models include white label options, subscription boxes and various delivery methods to give brands the edge in a competitive retail market.

Shoptalk 2019

Signing off, we want to say that one of the best shows at the junction of e-commerce and retail certainly lived up to its name. Shoptalk 2019 was an outstanding and enlightening experience for us at Contentsquare and the visitors alike. We’ll definitely be back and we look forward to what the future of digital holds.

NRF 2017, the Three Musketeers of Technology

NRF 2017 has come and gone and it’s a good opportunity to take a moment and reflect on the extraordinary technological capabilities that will soon become a part of our everyday lives, the challenges that we face and what the future holds for technology within the retail industry.

Upon entering the Jacob Javits Center in New York last Sunday one might be a little overwhelmed.  With 33,000 attendees, upwards of 500 exhibitors and over 300 speakers, there was a whole lot to take in. But one thing was obvious, that “Technology, People and Process” are the Three Musketeers of the future and all must work hand in hand to generate success.

The Technology and The Challenge

There are periods in history where certain technological breakthroughs have changed the world and we are certainly on the cusp of another such time in history.  The invention of the automobile, airplanes, the internet and smartphones all changed our lives and our culture.  Automation will soon do the same.

At NRF, I could see so many ways that automation will affect our lives. Merging digital with traditional commerce is the challenge that many companies are facing.  And of course, there will be repercussions to automation and the main casualty will be the workforce.

For example, there is a company which is in the process of transforming how we use dressing rooms at clothing stores. They have created an automated system where you can go in a dressing room and scan the item you want to try on, and while in the dressing room you can (with the touch of your finger) change the color, the size and even purchase the item right then and there.

Of course, that will all but ensure that some folks will likely need to find a new position soon. And therein lies the challenge of this technology, there are always casualties.  But in every instance in our history, we have adapted and progressed because of these technological breakthroughs and automation will be no different.  It’s a technology that we will all embrace soon enough and one that will make all our lives so much easier in the long run.

A few years back, CVS (the drugstore conglomerate) and other retailers started to place self-service check out registers at their stores.  I remember there was a backlash and so many were against it.  But recent studies have shown that today people would rather use the self-check out than go to a regular register manned by a human being.

I heard a story on the news a few weeks ago, that AMC Theatres conducted a study that showed millennials would rather wait in line to use the self-service kiosk at the movies than to not stand in line at all and buy their ticket from the attendant. My how times have changed, right?

So, this is where “People and Process” enter the equation. We must let people and the process dictate how technology advances and how we as a culture must adapt. After all, without the people there will be no process in the technology.

At the NRF a new initiative was announced where the NRF Foundation and retailers are working together to help educate the workforce of the future, to give them the necessary tools and skill sets they need to find new opportunities, so that they can adjust to the ever-changing landscape of the retail industry and technology.  Because as people adjust to the technological breakthroughs that are upon us, there must be adjustments made by all.

Time to Rise Up

“Innovation in retail is really everybody’s opportunity.”-Mark Parker, Chairman, President and CEO Nike, Inc.

Mark is 100% right!  Whenever there is innovation there is opportunity and automation and the other technological breakthroughs upon us are no different.  For every position that is lost because of innovation a new one or two may be created.  The key is to make sure that the workforce of the future has the skills and tools necessary to be able to adapt and adjust innovations in all facets of our everyday lives.

“Today’s jobs require new skills.”-Bill Brand, HSN.

Considering Bill’s insight, the NRF Foundation, in cooperation with retailers all around the world, has introduced an initiative called “Rise Up.”  Rise Up is a training and credentialing program that will help people acquire the skills and training they need to secure the jobs of the future in retail and give them the skills they need to advance in the retail sector.

The future of the retail industry is very closely knit to advancements in technology and the future is now upon us.  And the Three Musketeers (Technology, People and Process) must make sure they all work together as this is truly a time in history when it’s “All for One and One for All.”