Consumers have more choices than ever when it comes to where and how they buy things. Whether they are at home shopping on the internet, using mobile devices to enter mail orders or making old-fashioned in-store purchases, they have a lot of shopping options. But for vendors, it can be tricky to figure out what's selling where, when and most effectively.
Salesforce.com saw an opportunity to address that problem with its $2.8 billion purchase of Demandware in June. The move also made Salesforce, which was founded as a business-to-business software company, more of a player in the business-to-consumer space.
Commerce Cloud, which is scheduled to be available starting Sept. 27, represents the fruit of the Salesforce acquisition, an integrated cloud platform that offers "predictive intelligence" on what customers are likely to buy and provides product recommendations to potential customers. The predictive intelligence feature, called Commerce Cloud Einstein, leverages Salesforce's recent introduction of artificial intelligence features called Salesforce Einstein.
Salesforce notes that current Demandware customers including Cole Haan, Puma and Suitsupply already are using Commerce Cloud to connect more closely with their sales channels and customers.
Shelly Bransten, senior vice president of retail at Salesforce, said ecommerce has changed dramatically the past few years with the vast majority growth being driven by mobile devices. "And 20 percent of consumers are using multiple devices. They are connected virtually every waking hour," Branstein told eWEEK.
At the same time, it's difficult for companies to keep track of where sales are coming from and gain meaningful insights from the data they collect. "There are duplicative systems and customer data is scattered everywhere, making it hard to figure out who your best customers are," she said. "The integration on the back end and making that system of record useful is incredibly complex."
Bransten said Commerce Cloud is designed to make it easy for vendors to scale their operations and keep track of sales regardless of where they are coming from, including brick-and-mortar retail locations. For the consumer, Commerce Cloud also puts a "Buy" button on whatever device or system they use.
"Commerce Cloud lets you automate the one-to-one shopping experience without needing data scientists," said Bransten.
One of the most popular features for retailers is the ability to easily customize the online checkout page. "Retailers are demanding it," she said.
For example, some retailers have found having the checkout process all happen on one page, including the completion of credit card details, helps to ensure a sale is completed. Online retailers have for years wrestled with ways to fend off "shopping cart abandonment"—the point at which a consumer seemingly is ready to buy but abandons the purchase at the final buy screen.
Salesforce also announced that Commerce Cloud supports the Apple Pay so-called "one-touch checkout" for iPhone, iPad and Macintosh for secure, private payments. Salesforce says a "simple configuration" is required for Commerce Cloud merchants interested in adding Apple Pay.
"The seamless integration eliminates the extra steps in the checkout process, particularly in mobile, that has kept mobile conversion lower than conversion rates seen on desktop and laptop devices," Salesforce said in a statement.
One customer, Suitsupply, an online clothing retailer that also has brick-and-mortar retail outlets in the United States and Europe, has been using Demandware and the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and Service Cloud to create a more personalized shopping experience.
Among other features, the system enables consumers to select a suit and discuss it with a service agent online. Someone looking for a suit for a wedding might get suggestions via Marketing Cloud, which can factor in knowledge of the customer's sales history in recommending and also suggest nearby retail outlets if the consumer prefers to purchase that way.
"You can pick the fabric and fit and design your own suit," said Alan Bunce, vice president of product marketing at Demandware (which retains its name as a Salesforce company).
Since it has only been only since June that Salesforce completed the Demandware purchase, the speed with which it's ready to relaunch as part of Salesforce is impressive. Bunce said Demandware has already shown it can help companies migrate faster than other ecommerce alternatives.
"A typical transition to a new commerce system can take as long as six months," he said. "We've shown that Commerce Cloud can get you there on average three-and-a-half months faster."
Ray Wang, founder and principal analyst at Constellation Research, says Commerce Cloud expands CRM into new areas for Salesforce. “Commerce Cloud customers gain an end-to-end commerce play with Salesforce," Wang said in a statement. "Conversely, Commerce Cloud provides Salesforce customers with a rich and compelling story to deliver from campaign to commerce."