• Shelley Bransten, SVP for Salesforce’s retail industry solutions, joined AListDaily to detail how data and AI will disrupt retail marketing.
  • Bransten: "[Retailers] are struggling to deliver a seamless experience throughout the shopping journey that shoppers have come to expect.

Salesforce is continuing its company quest to deepen its roots in data and artificial intelligence by unveiling a new data center that provides marketers real-time insights into shoppers’ buying behavior and preferences during the busy holiday shopping season.

From trending online sales to consumer shopping preferences, trending social conversations and more, the San Francisco-based cloud computing company is looking to leverage its data hub and provide retailers with key insights to potentially increase revenues during the shopping season.

“We’re seeing shoppers today interact with retailers across multiple channels, including mobile, online, in-store and voice,” Shelley Bransten, senior vice president for Salesforce’s retail industry solutions, joined AListDaily. “With so many different touchpoints, retail marketers find it difficult to reach shoppers with the right content at the right time.”

According to a connected shopper report conducted by Salesforce in September, the most-used channels for research include website (74 percent), email (43 percent), social media (38 percent) and mobile apps (36 percent).

By using relevant martech, retail marketers have visibility into the entire shopper’s journey, including the web, mobile, social and store, allowing them to tailor their communication based on these interactions, Bransten said.

“Retailers can transform how they connect with their customers at every step along their buyer journey—from discovery, engagement and transaction to advertising, analytics, community and service,” she said.

Bransten went on to describe to AListDaily the different ways data and AI will disrupt the retail industry.

Shelley Bransten, SVP for Salesforce’s retail industry solutions

How will data transform business solutions and save the future of brick and mortar?

Consumers are more knowledgeable than ever before. Armed with the ability to research products online and through social channels, shoppers can often appear more informed than the store associate. Additionally, associates aren’t aware of the shoppers’ product knowledge when they enter the store or their purchase history. As a result, brand loyalists are often treated like first-time customers each time they walk through the door. Millennials are 1.8 times more likely to say that store associates need the ability to use mobile devices to reference automated product recommendations based on a shopper’s profile information. With the power of data and AI, store associates can use near-field communications technologies to identify when a shopper is near the store. From there, the associate can access the customer’s profile and see that she had added two specific blouses to her shopping cart earlier in the week, for example. Thanks to this background information gathered from web data, the store associate could then pull the blouses in the customer’s size and—using AI capabilities—even recommend a complementary necklace or pair of heels based on what other shoppers who bought the same dress purchased to go with the outfit. This type of VIP treatment merges both the in-store and online experience and creates brand and store loyalists.

What are the foremost challenges retailers are facing today?

As shoppers turn to multiple devices and numerous channels throughout their shopping journey, they’re creating trillions of customer interactions. Our connect shopper report says that 63 percent of people feel like retailers don’t truly know who they are. Retailers are struggling to keep pace with these various touchpoints. For them, it has become a real challenge to meet shoppers’ rising expectations that all their interactions with a brand will be coordinated into a single, unified experience. The underlying root of this challenge stems from a retailer’s disparate and duplicative systems, which causes customer data to be scattered across many systems and creates siloed customer touchpoints. Retailers are also having to deal with complex backend integrations, which are brittle because of how many systems are involved. Because retailers must sift through so many different sources of truth, they’re struggling to deliver a seamless experience throughout the shopping journey that shoppers have come to expect.

How are marketers leveraging data to withstand Amazon’s grip on retail?

Retail marketers are using data to fuel personalized experiences across channels for consumers, helping retail marketers create hyper-local targeting, personalized product recommendations and engagement opportunities at scale. For example, Room & Board, a modern furniture company, is using data to personalize its product recommendations through Salesforce Einstein, allowing the brand to engage with customers individually and create a curated one-to-one relationship with each shopper. Since implementing it, data-powered product recommendations have helped Room & Board boost sales and achieve a 150 percent higher conversation rate.

What is the one big shake-up retail marketing needs today?

Many retailer marketers understand the importance of AI in automating processes and driving predictive engagement with consumers. Our fourth annual state of marketing report (Editor’s note: A more recent report from Salesforce, available here, reflects the current landscape as of November 2022) found that 57 percent of marketers that use AI say ‘it’s absolutely or very essential in helping their company create one-to-one marketing across every touchpoint.’ While AI adoption is happening among retail marketers, it’s slow overall and many question the investment. However, as consumers continue to demand a personalized, seamless and delightful shopping experience across all channels and devices, AI will become more and more important in predicting messages and content and delivering relevant experiences.

Why is AI a transformative technology and necessary for retail marketers to stay ahead of the curve in retail’s new paradigm?

It’s already changing how retailers are uncovering information and engaging with consumers. For example, consumers are now posting photos of their favorite products across countless social media channels, but many retail marketers have yet to crack the code on how to use this information to their advantage. With AI, retailers can automatically analyze images that shoppers post on social media channels like Twitter to better understand their preferences and tailor marketing campaigns based on this data. 

Why should marketers be increasingly leveraging data to capitalize on a shoppers’ buying behavior and preferences?

Shoppers are turning to more channels than ever to inform their purchases. For retailers, it’s never been more important to leverage data to hone in on what shoppers are interested in and inform personalized, targeted marketing campaigns to drive engagement. By putting the right data into action, retail marketers can understand what their customer data means and learn from it by incorporating curated messages into their marketing strategies to create a seamless shopper experience.