As a cross-cloud Salesforce partner, we at DEG have sponsored and attended our share of Salesforce events: Dreamforce, World Tours, Connections (R.I.P.), etc. XChange 2017 felt a lot like Connections. The conference was run exceptionally well and it truly was an event designed for marketers with incredible thought leadership and networking opportunities.

It was great to see so many of our clients in attendance and to hear their excitement about the future. There was so much to take in over the course of the two days — predictive intelligence to drive sales with personalized promotions and offers, organizational transformation, empowering store associates, and so much more. A common theme throughout the conference was the benefit of being truly “cross-cloud,” meaning: Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Service Cloud, and Sales Cloud. And with the power of Salesforce Einstein, artificial intelligence, being at the forefront of everything, retailers have an opportunity to engage with their customers in a whole new, predictive way.

While we can’t share or remember everything from the conference — after all, what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas — some of our DEGeniuses provided their key takeaways from XChange17. Enjoy!

Related: Learn more about DEG’s Commerce Cloud capabilities.

Ben Robie, Ecommerce Architect

Salesforce took a broad ecosystem approach with its messaging at XChange 2017. In past years, XChange has been focused mainly on digital commerce (what is now Commerce Cloud), but just as the ecosystem around ecommerce has changed, so has Salesforce’s vision and approach. The theme of unified commerce was central, and the promise of Einstein’s intelligence was at the forefront of all the keynotes.

Commerce Cloud is focusing on a mobile-first architecture, with changes to UX best practices.

The technical talking points for Commerce Cloud fell primarily into two camps: trust, and mobile-first architecture. With the introduction of HTTPS everywhere and two-factor authentication, Salesforce is investing in its architecture to ensure the safety of its customers’ data. Although some might be disappointed that a large amount of development hours was put toward security, rather than features, the Salesforce community at large realizes that security and infrastructure changes have a direct and positive correlation to the bottom line over time.

Along with the infrastructure changes come an introduction to Commerce Cloud’s mobile-first architecture. This change in architecture is a fundamental shift in UX and development methodologies and best practices. With these best practices come:

  • Greater Upgradability
  • Easier Customizations
  • Focus on Accessibility
  • Testability through Automation

The new architecture does not yet have an upgrade path from current sites; whether you are using the pipeline or JavaScript controller approach. This is a common challenge when rolling out an entirely new architecture.

Brendan Smith, Senior Software Engineer

Regarding the new SiteGenesis architecture Ben referred to, a major benefit will be the ability to implement a continuous integration development process. The pure JavaScript nature of the architecture will allow for fully automated unit, integration, and functionality testing through the use of open-source tools.

Andy Warren, Ecommerce Strategist

Whether discussing artificial intelligence, mobile, or cross-cloud collaboration, one thing was clear: the content at XChange focused on the customer experience. That being said, I’ll dive a little deeper into my six biggest takeaways from the conference.

Einstein and artificial intelligence were everywhere and demanded attention in most XChange sessions.

The Data-Driven Foundation

Einstein and artificial intelligence were everywhere and demanded attention in most sessions. From product recommendations and predictive sorting to finding customers with the newly acquired Krux, Salesforce is using data in ways and at a level that we have not seen in the past.

In addition to Einstein, Commerce Cloud is leveraging the data from its cloud-based ecommerce system to drive insights into consumer behavior, and then layering these observations into the design of the system. SiteGenesis (the reference application for Commerce Cloud), for instance, leveraged more than 500 billion page views to determine behaviors and struggles that consumers were having in order to inform the design of its newly unveiled mobile-first design.

The Promise of Cross-Cloud Collaboration

Although the true promise of cross-cloud functionality is a way off, Commerce Cloud revealed its roadmap demonstrating how it will get there by the end of 2018. The first, and for DEG maybe the most important piece, of that roadmap is the Q3 release of the cartridge that will link Commerce Cloud to Marketing Cloud. With this release, the systems will be able to send data back and forth, allowing for better segmentation and understanding of the customer in Marketing Cloud. It will also allow Commerce Cloud to send transactional emails (of the merchant’s choosing) in Marketing Cloud, providing better tracking and customer follow-up based on activities taken on the triggers.

The Mobile Revolution (Continued)

Using data acquired from an analysis of its cloud-based platform, the Commerce Cloud team has determined that the tide has officially turned toward mobile. In Q2 of 2016, approximately 50% of traffic to Commerce Cloud sites came from mobile devices, with desktop and tablet representing the other 50%. Commerce Cloud anticipates the mobile traffic share to be near 70% by the end of 2018. Based on this, the Commerce Cloud team completely reworked the UI framework for SiteGenesis with a mobile-first focus, making it totally mobile responsive to optimize the user experience across all screens. In order to simplify the UI development on the platform, it decided to switch to the Bootstrap framework, which should add a layer of standardization to the UI.

Single view of the customer and cross cloud were probably the two most-used buzzwords at XChange.

The Elusive Single View of The Customer

Single view of the customer and cross cloud were probably the two most-used buzzwords at the conference, and I feel like the two of them go together hand in hand. Cross-cloud is definitely the direction Salesforce is moving, as mentioned above regarding Commerce Cloud’s new roadmap.

The Emergence (and Struggles) Of D2C

Almost all the retailers that I spoke with at the conference were large, existing brands that were working on going direct-to-consumer. And almost all of them were experiencing the exact same problems we have seen with others, especially CPG brands, that are starting to dabble in D2C: channel conflict, pricing concerns, value add propositions, competing vs working with Amazon, shipping, and more. Ultimately, as with all brands, it comes down to helping consumers fulfill their goals or solve their problems, and D2Cs are struggling to figure out how to provide these values at MSRP outside of the traditional retail channels.

The Importance of Training

Trailhead, Salesforce’s training platform, is beginning to play a more important role in the growth and evolution of the Salesforce ecosystem. As the platform continues to grow (this year the Salesforce top-line revenue is expected to increase 27%), Salesforce needs more and more people with certifications and more and more partners with specializations. Although the Commerce Cloud resources on Trailhead are limited at the current time, there is a definite focus on this as the path to success, so expect them to continue adding resources in the near future.

Laura Madden, Senior Email Marketing Strategist

The focus is becoming how customers experience the brand, not how marketers decide they need to experience it.

All of the points my fellow DEGers have made lead up to the overarching idea of focusing on the shopper and that single view of the customer that Andy mentioned. Salesforce has been touting “The Age of the Customer” and focusing on “The Connected Shopper” for the past few years, but I noticed more changes in terminology at this conference that speaks to that at a more tactical level. For example, saying “conversational service” instead of just “customer service,” and “unified commerce” vs. cross-channel, or thinking of ecommerce and brick and mortar in silos. It’s all starting to morph together to focus on how the customer experiences the brand, not how marketers have decided they need to experience it.

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