Salesforce came to life 23 years ago in a San Francisco apartment by Founder and current Co-CEO Marc Benioff. Dreamforce, its annual event created to bring together the global Salesforce community for learning, community building, fun, and philanthropy, found its conception 20 years ago. And this year, I was able to experience Dreamforce for my very first time – ultimately discovering just how impactful both Salesforce and Dreamforce are to their partners and brands alike.
With so much to absorb during these fast-paced, information-rich three days, below are 10 of my favorite moments.
1. The Opening Keynote Presented by Co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor
Walking into Dreamforce was unlike any other event I have ever attended, with the energy of Dreamforce encompassing every step I took. Seats filled rapidly and hours early for the opening keynote session of Co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor. Enthusiasm of news to be revealed about Salesforce enhanced features filled the room and – quite literally – the city days before this actual session. I was excited to hear firsthand what all the chit chat was about, and I was not disappointed. As an avid believer that integrated, intelligent technology is essential in supporting business operations, Benioff and Taylor finally let us in on one of their best kept secrets yet. And that was that real-time data platform, known as Genie, has been introduced to the already robust and sophisticated Salesforce platform. For retailers in particular, this sparked my excitement knowing that gaining clarity from a 360-degree angle in real-time on all touchpoints of their business is critical for optimized retail success. In the days that followed, I was thrilled to learn even more about Genie and the benefits it offers retailers, which you can also explore here.
2. Data-Driven Decisions are Essential for Business Growth
As one of over 1,000 sessions at Dreamforce, I was grateful to listen to Salesforce consulting partner, Slalom’s, Managing Director Jim Clarke and DECIEM’s Senior E-Commerce Director Heather Stables discuss the importance of data for business growth. Stables revealed that while their team doesn’t have an official marketing department, they lean on data retrieved from their many technology-based sources to make strategic and profit-oriented decisions that help standardize and streamline their operational efforts. Speaking specifically about their skincare company, The Ordinary, Stables shared that having transparency was the most important part of their business growth. Leveraging Slalom, this transparency became a reality for The Ordinary while also giving them data they could proactively react to for more profitable business growth. For all retailers, this can be mimicked if using the right technology. Fortunately, with tailored technology such as Slalom and Salesforce, this can be achieved.
3. The Store of Tomorrow May Not Be What You Expect It To Be
Together with Robin Smith and Irina Yurevich of EPAM Systems, a Salesforce consulting partner, and Michelle Grant of Salesforce, I was thrilled to share in a dynamic panel discussion about the “Store of Tomorrow: The Next Generation of Technology, Inclusion, and Responsibility in a Retail Environment.” We discussed how technology and trends alike are impacting physical and digital retail as well as what customers expect from purchasing experiences. Metaverse was a part of our discussion, though it isn’t expected to be a homerun retail experience by all panelists in attendance. It is, however, expected to be an important part of the path to purchase for many consumers. Likewise, making sure you keep visibility and connectivity between the multiple places a consumer may engage on their unique path to purchase was an important highlight of this conversation.
4. Influencers and User Generated Content Continues to Sway Consumer Decisions
Customers like knowing what other customers think and in our modern world of commerce, this continues to be among the leading influencers in customer decisions. Keeping this in mind, retailer Ashley Stewart had a Q&A with Slalom and shared that the majority of their marketing is mostly focused on influencer and user generated content. They also lean heavily on buy now, pay later messaging that is made possible by companies such as Klarna, Afterpay and other quad installment payment companies. And thanks to Salesforce partner Slalom, they are also able to bring a stronger human element to their messaging, aligning with their desire to personalize messaging and marketing to their customers.
5. The End of a Customer Journey is as Important as The Beginning of the Journey
I’ve been a long-time fan of the customer journey being a top priority for retailers, and hearing from Shoprunner, a FedEx subsidiary – and Salesforce partner – at Dreamforce reinforced just how important it is to listen to what customers want. Stressing that their goal is to “simplify the e-commerce experience,” Shoprunner aims to give a holistic and honest view to their customers thanks to a solution that stems from customer loyalty and integrates with Salesforce Commerce Cloud Order Management System. With these simple yet essential core values, Shoprunner is helping to redefine what customer shipping looks like in a world that often thinks fast is best. But what about fast with transparency, easy returns, and customers in control? The end of the journey is as important as the beginning of the journey, and this reminder is a good one to apply to your own unique business.
6. The Evolution of Loyalty in Retail Leans Heavily on Customer Experience
On Day 2 of Dreamforce, I was fortunate to join a panel discussion that included Salesforce’s Michelle Grant and Slalom’s Shivanni Majewski and Bethany Platter. As consumers ourselves, we all agreed that the experience of shopping – both the positive and the negative – influences our future purchase decisions. As retail professionals, we also agreed that the details leading to a transaction matter. This dynamic discussion is one not to be overlooked whether you are a small, mid-size or large business, as customer loyalty doesn’t play favorites to size but rather to experience. How brands and merchants stay in touch with their customers is a big factor in loyalty, as well. Using intelligence generated from past purchases, retailers can be more strategic with when and why they get in touch with customers for future shopping opportunities. But it should not be ignored with how this happens either. Email marketing remains a strong communication avenue, but SMS alerts and even social media influence a loyal customer’s path to purchase. I challenge you to think about why you are loyal to the places you are as a consumer yourself, and then think about if your business mimics some of your favorite customer loyalty experiences. The details truly do matter here, as we each discussed in this panel at Dreamforce.
7. Store Optimization Should Include Employee Optimization
While it’s impossible to choose a favorite moment of my week at Dreamforce, I’d be lying if I didn’t say the retail keynote was one of my top three. As a self-described retail geek, I was giddy with excitement to hear from Salesforce’s Rob Garf and Michelle Grant with special guests from Gucci and Casey’s. As Garf shared in this engaging keynote, “more and more retailers are turning to automation and AI” to help with store and employee optimization. The real takeaway for me, however, was simply that one can’t be successful without the other. Store leaders need to empower their employees to truly enhance their store. Service, in particular, is elevated when employees are given the chance to be elevated themselves. With increased responsibility and opportunity, they can truly understand their inventory and customers on a deeper level. Genie made an appearance here, as well, reinforcing that customer magic can be delivered with happy shopping experiences when both the store and their employees are positioned to deliver the best customer care.
8. The Partner Ecosystem at Salesforce Felt Like Family
One of the many fascinating discoveries I had while at Dreamforce was the first-hand experience of seeing just how valuable Salesforce views their partners. From my eyes, they felt more like family than just partners with excited colleagues happy to see each other, work together and collaborate to make retailers more accomplished. It was an impressive experience to view so many companies working together, ultimately wanting to deliver heightened experiences for merchants with as much ease, agility and transparency as possible. It didn’t hurt that these same partners enjoyed some laughs and genuine fun along the way. Looking back, I especially enjoyed my time at the “Women in Retail, Consumer Goods & Commerce Networking Event” from Dentsu where I met so many fantastic women leaders. By the end of the event, I knew I had met women I would be staying in touch with in the years to follow.
9. Trust and Transparency is the True Measure of Success
On Day 3 of Dreamforce, I began to think about what trust meant in a business partnership. Without hesitation, I immediately thought of transparency. After all, how can you have trust if you can’t understand all the details of something? When we look at retail in particular, there are so many moving pieces at any single time that trust is essential in making sure things will work out successfully. This was reinforced when I heard from Salesforce partner OSF Digital in a session at Dreamforce where they discussed connected customer experiences built around united partners working together. Through a diverse ecosystem of partners, OSF Digital is able to help retailers deliver personalized customer experiences that nurture customer loyalty and strengthen revenue, as well. But let’s face it. This cannot happen without a clear understanding of what is taking place. Transparency gives retailers the ability to have this understanding, yet retailers cannot gain this without the right technology. Knowing there is technology like Genie that integrates with other technologies from the many Salesforce partners I got to know while at Dreamforce proves trust and transparency go hand-in-hand. Together, they lead to successful experiences whether it comes to customers, inventory, transactions or more.
10. Retail is Not Retail Without Dreamforce
As Bret Taylor said on Day One of Dreamforce, “San Francisco is not San Francisco without Dreamforce.” And I agree. But I also think retail isn’t retail without Dreamforce.
Experiencing Dreamforce as a first-time attendee and self-described retail geek was – no pun intended – a dream come true. I left there inspired, motivated and admittedly, a bit tired. It was a non-stop, education-rich experience that also offered entertainment and networking that I value from both a personal and professional perspective. I’m grateful for the experience, but I am more grateful for the retailers that get to benefit from the Salesforce partner ecosystem that is making retailers more profitable and more enjoyable one Dreamforce at a time.
For every “wow” there’s a partner app + expert to power the “how.”
Discover what’s right for you on salesforce.com/partners.
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