Salesforce today announced AI enhancements enabled by the Einstein platform integration with its customer data platform (CDP), just as rivals large and small are making similar investments. Salesforce is also tightening integration between the ecommerce cloud platform and the CDP, as well as making it possible to segment audiences in real time based on factors like membership status, loyalty tier, and points balance.

Announced during Salesforce Connections 2021, these offerings headline a wider series of updates Salesforce is making across its Digital 360 portfolio of applications and services as part of its overarching Customer 360 strategy. Other new offerings range from reports that analyze customer journey by channel to features that make it simpler to engage customers via Snapchat and WhatsApp platforms.

There’s also now a Progressive Web Application (PWA) Kit and Managed Runtime. Enabled by headless services provided by Salesforce, they allow developers to more easily decouple front-end and backend technologies to customize application experiences. This capability should allow organizations to accelerate digital business transformation initiatives and make use of Salesforce application programming interfaces (APIs) to drive faster development of applications while retaining control over the front-end application experience.

Building a ‘single source of truth’

In terms of strategic initiatives, the Salesforce CDP is part of a crucial battle for the company. Rather than housing customer data in a traditional customer relationship management (CRM) application, which can be more challenging to access, organizations have started to employ CDPs to make data more accessible to a range of omnichannel applications that drive multiple digital business transformation initiatives. In effect, the CDP becomes the hub around which customer engagements — whether occurring in real time over email, phone, social media platforms, or mobile applications — are all tracked.

“It’s a powerful single source of truth,” Salesforce exec Lidiane Jones said.

In many cases, the source of truth is now at the core of digital business transformation strategies that require companies to finally unify customer data in a way that makes business insights actionable in near real time, rather than generating yet another business intelligence report after it’s too late to have any meaningful impact.

Taking on disparate rivals

Salesforce’s challenge is that rivals large and small are making similar CDP investments. While a CDP doesn’t replace the need for a CRM application for a sales team, it does play a more strategic role by enabling organizations to engage customers in a much more consistent fashion. Engagements that occur across social media networks and mobile applications can be more easily personalized, monitored, and analyzed. IT vendors, from makers of marketing automation platforms to providers of enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications, are all vying to become providers of the CDP any organization standardizes on.

Salesforce is clearly betting on the fact that much of the data organizations are looking to shift into a CDP already resides in its CRM and marketing applications. In its most recent quarter, the company reported revenue of $5.96 billion, a 23% increase over the same quarter a year ago. Salesforce also revealed it expects revenue for the second quarter to exceed $6.22 billion. Overall, the company is expecting revenue for the full 2022 fiscal year to range between $25.9 billion and $26.0 billion, representing a 22% growth rate.

Competing against rivals in the CRM space is one thing. Battling for market share against everyone from Adobe and Microsoft to Oracle and SAP for dominance of an emerging CDP market may be quite another, especially for a company that reported a slight loss for its most recent quarter. Regardless of the outcome, the contest for CDP dominance will most certainly be nothing less than brutal in the months ahead.

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