Adam Blitzer, EVP and GM of Salesforce Digital, shares what’s in store for the next 10 years.
The English playwright John Heywood famously said, “Rome wasn’t built in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour.” And although Salesforce took 21 years to become what it is today, for those of us old enough to remember the late 90’s dot-com bust, it feels like just yesterday that this up-and-coming movement to “end software” was led by a rebel from Oracle.
Today, Salesforce has become an iconic force in creating SaaS and CRM. As it enters this new decade, Adam Blitzer, EVP, and GM, Salesforce Digital, shares his thoughts on how the brand and product vision will evolve to meet the growing needs of its customers.
Soon Yu: How has Salesforce’s product vision shaped your approach to building an iconic brand?
Adam Blitzer: The easiest way to sum up our product vision is to think about the “big C” in CRM. It’s all about the customer. We’ve captured touchpoints with the customer across every part of their digital journey.
When we started in sales, our goal was to help organizations create amazing relationships and make the sales process as easy as using Amazon. We then extended into service, and eventually enabled our customers to build any digital app they want on our platform. From there, we started making bold, company-defining acquisitions with ExactTarget and Demandware to form Marketing Cloud and Commerce Cloud. With Customer 360, we provide companies with a single source of truth about their customers so they can build amazing experiences that exceed expectations and build lasting, trusted relationships.
Our product strategy is to find the most strategic parts of the customer journey so we can help our customers have the best possible relationships with their customers.
We’re in a world where we think company’s tech stacks are never going to get simpler, they’re only going to get more complicated with the rise of tech in industries. That’s where an integration solution through MuleSoft becomes incredibly important and is typically at the top of CIO imperatives. Not just for integrating Salesforce products but any product. Another great example of that is Tableau. It’s a very similar idea, a multiplier for all our other products. Think of it this way. If your data is going to be in many different places, many different parts of your stack, some of which are Salesforce, some of which are not Salesforce, how can you visualize everything if it’s living in many different places? We’re rethinking the customer journey to integrate and visualize everything together as one source of truth.
Yu: As the world moves towards digital oligopolies, will you try to expand your service offering or instead stay focused on a few key areas?
Blitzer: When I think about digital in particular, I think about our range of products at Salesforce. We have very CRM-focused products, like sales and service; digital-focused products, like Marketing and Commerce clouds that deliver experiences; platform-focused products, and data/analytics products, like Mulesoft and Tableau. It’s really the connectivity between them that I think is a core part of our strength.
We really think there should be a value multiplier if you’re using more than one Salesforce product. Every time you adopt a Salesforce product, it should make all of your existing Salesforce products more valuable because of that connectivity. And again, because we’re working on many different parts of that customer journey we also have that opportunity to deliver a really compelling single source of truth.
Every CRM company has talked about a 360-degree view of their customer and that’s because it’s the holy grail of CRM – digital and customer relationships. But it’s also really difficult to achieve. It used to be that marketers would build something like a 360, but it was often a project that was owned by IT. IT would create some customer master database, string together all these integrations and manage it. Marketing would then need access and systems just weren’t flexible and fluid enough. Fast-forward to the past couple of years and you see this proliferation of data lakes that are being commoditized in a good way for product vendors. You see cloud vendors building amazing technologies and data lakes, and then product vendors like us, and the enterprise software vendors who can build great marketing apps on top of those.
I think for the first time there’s a really good opportunity to deliver on the idea of a single source of truth for marketing. If you think about Scott Brinker’s famous infographic, the MarTech 5000, which is a bit of a misnomer because there are 8,000 logos on it. When I started in 2007, there were 150 logos on it. So in 13 years, you’ve gone 150 to 8,000. You can’t bet on which channels will become more important or less important over time and which industries will emerge. So you can bet that it’s incredibly important to be at the center of it and for marketing teams to have a single source of truth so all their data flows in an automated fashion to build profiles, do rich segmentation, and activate across channels. It becomes agnostic to all those 8,000 pieces of MarTech out there.
Yu: I have a monthly column that explores the CMO’s new M.O. in times of crisis. How does your new platform address the changing needs of CMO’s today?
Blitzer: We’re trying to eliminate a tremendous amount of that complexity in their world and give them one single source of truth for all of their customer data. Today, many of them have something like this but it’s going to be complex and probably fairly unusable. That’s why CDP is at the tip of the tongue for any CMO that I meet with. I will say there are two different parts of the journey. You have companies that are ready for this and at this stage, and then there are companies that are just now implementing things like direct to consumer for the first time. The pandemic has really accelerated that.
Before, companies felt disintermediated from their end customer because they had a distributor in between them. During the pandemic, suddenly these companies found themselves completely disintermediated from the customer. So if they’re a consumer packaging goods company or manufacturer, they might be standing up an e-commerce site for the very first time and using and collecting customer data for the very first time. For these companies, they might be taking a very different approach and we’ve developed a significant number of quickstarts where it’s much more opinionated. A company may say “I have this new use case to solve for in the next two weeks and Salesforce helped me get it done.” We have our own technology and can also pair with the right partners, whether that’s through AppExchange from thousands of different vendors or systems integrators. It’s all packaged for customers that are taking this on for the first time, which we’re seeing a tremendous number of during the pandemic.
Yu: Making your customers’ lives easier (frictionless) is one of the key benefits of your platform. Can you discuss how Salesforce manages customer friction?
Blitzer: The friction I touched on earlier was friction for businesses adopting new technologies. That’s user side friction, but the end consumer friction is very top of mind for us as well. If you think about the magical experiences you’ve had as a consumer, the first time you’ve used Uber or Lyft and compare that to a taxi, all of a sudden you know when your car is coming and you think it’s amazing. Or maybe the first time you use Apple Pay to checkout and you just put your phone up to pay and it just works.
We’re seeing a new phenomenon. Companies used to only compete against their peers and their industry when it came to customer experience. The problem now is that customers expect the best experience they have with a brand to now be the customer experience they have with any brand. They expect their experiences to be like their Amazon, Uber, Apple experience. If I order a device from Apple and they give me a shipping timeframe and give the option to pay $8 for last-minute delivery you expect to always have that option.
Here’s how we think about friction. If we make our customers successful, we’re going to be successful. Certainly when it comes to commerce and marketing, removing bad friction is the way to do that. So a couple of ways we’ve been tackling that:
1) We launched a solution called Salesforce Order Management. We used to play in the pure commerce and sales base and now Order Management is the glue between those. It’s the idea that customer place is in order, they should have full control over that order after they place it. If it’s coming too slowly, they just want to pick it up in the store, or if they want to re-route it to a different store or do curbside pickup. These are things best-in-class companies did pre-pandemic but weren’t that easy. Now during the pandemic, customers rely on curbside pickup or online purchases and in-store pickup. It’s just becoming an expected part of the customer experience. We launched Order Management just pre-pandemic, sometimes timing works out to a degree but that’s been a very fast, quickly adopted product.
2) We’re also venturing into the world of payments. Payments used to be a means to an end. The customer didn’t think about it, it was just part of the transaction. But all of a sudden payments became part of the customer experience. I mentioned Apple Pay or Square in stores. The first time you use it, you think it’s cool and makes sense. Online and certainly on mobile, you’re also seeing that the payment vendors carve out bigger and bigger pieces of the customer experience, and customers are actually looking for a great payment experience. If you remove that friction it leads to a better outcome, a more likely conversion. So we partnered with Stripe, an incredible company in the payments space doing a ton of innovation, making it very easy for other companies to build on top of and that helps with two parts of the friction. We have a great pre-integration that eliminates the user friction of integrating payments and it eliminates friction on the customer experience side.
Yu: What’s your view on adding good friction to the customer experience to create more loyalty, engagement, assurance, and meaning?
Blitzer: I love the idea and think it really depends on the brand’s position. When I think about how customers use our products to create good friction, I think of loyalty, personalization, and real-time interaction management. When you think about a CDP, one major use case is to enable loyalty. You want to build long-term relationships with your customers to build brand loyalty, not just a one-time action. Well added friction means utilizing more tools to understand a full 360-degree view of your customer from every touchpoint.
Another good example would be product recommendations or next best offers and actions to maximize the value of the cart or moment at checkout, or even if it’s just engaging with a service rep. The idea of using real-time interaction management or personalization to say, “here’s the next best offer” gives the customer time to stop and think about the action. While this adds friction at the moment, it offers more opportunity for the customer.
While we aim to provide a seamless digital experience to our customers’ customers, there’s a lot of work that goes into integrating and managing every single interaction across the entire journey, but the end value to deliver the best digital experience is a future-proof solution that offers customer satisfaction for the long run. We recently launched Salesforce Digital 360, to do just that – help companies get to market fast, to deliver personalized, responsive experiences, and to help them pivot at any point to be ready for what’s next.