Salesforce to Acquire Demandware: What Does This Mean for the Commerce World?

salesforceSalesforce recently announced that they will be acquiring industry-leading enterprise cloud commerce provider, Demandware. Pretty big news and a pretty big buzz in the commerce world, especially if you’re a Demandware customer, provider, or currently in the process of evaluating leading eCommerce platforms.

I’m pretty excited about the prospects of what this means for commerce overall. I see three key areas where things could get really interesting:

  • Leverage Similar Models
  • Channel Integration: Traditional sales channel with digital channels
  • Advantages in Analytics and Data

Similar Models

Both companies are offer a cloud-based solution that is scalable and available. Both offer marketplaces containing plug-ins or cartridges that extend and enhance the core product. Both are involved in the process of advancing the sale and improving conversion rates.

There are huge advantages for them here. There’s enough overlap in subject matter for them to speak the same language almost immediately. And there’s enough of a gap that needs filling to provide tremendous value that is currently hard to come by in the market.

Channel Integration

In the traditional sense, the sales channel consisted of bag-carrying sales people who were singlehandedly were a wealth of product information, excellent communicators, good relationship managers, and strong closers.  Salesforce is highly leveraged in organizations that still have a field sales force and those folks are often poorly integrated with anything on the digital engagement side of things.

Being able to integrate more completely across the physical / digital divide will pay huge dividends once an organization finds a solution that is effective.  This area is one in which Salesforce and Demandware should excel, especially in certain areas of digital commerce, such as B2B.

…the easy growth is behind us…

A few years ago, Optaros implemented a B2B commerce solution for an animal pharma company that enabled their field sales force to have up-to-date information on their client current and historical purchases, promotions for which they qualified, as well as enabling a sales person to place and manage orders for their clients. This availability of this functionality, wrapped up in a native iPad application that interfaced directly with the eCommerce back-end, created such value in the person-to-person sales experience that the company experienced a 500% increase in average order volume when orders were made from the field. In anyone’s book, that is an incredible success. And now, Salesforce is in a position to do that and much more.

Certainly there’s work to be done to make it effective and to adapt the process to fit an organization’s process, but the fact that they’ll own two key systems on the sales spectrum – state-of-the-art systems, at that – should be enormously valuable to any organization that faces the issues present when coordinating a field sales force and an online commerce experience.

Advantages in Analytics and Data

In Mary Meeker’s latest Internet Trends report, she pointed out that overall growth is slowing. Driven by slowing birthrates, longer lifespans, and higher consumer expectations, the report mentions that “the easy growth” is behind us.  In other words, successful commerce organizations will have to repeated review and refine the sales process, regardless of the channel involved.

With online retail currently at 10% of the overall retail volume and expect to continue to grow, technology, advertising, sales, distribution and fulfillment need to be more intertwined.  This acquisition may make this much easier, at least for the first three items.

Imagine having a solution at hand that would allow a customer service representative or a salesperson to have a glimpse of what the person across the table or on the phone has been searching for on the site?  What did they add to their cart? Did they begin to customize and order, look into a promotion, or review content around a product line? Imagine having that information to review ahead of a phone call or meeting within the context of a CRM solution that you already use. Pretty powerful.

Conversely, an online experience could be further enhanced by utilizing data captured by person-to-person interactions that were made in Salesforce and propagated to Demandware. The customer spoke to a salesperson yesterday to information on a widget? Promote the widget online.  The customer called and had a question about product warranty and success with other customers? Display info on warranty and product testimonials or reviews in the sidebar.

This is not something that has been easily done in the past, and if they pull this off, it could redefine that manner in which both the online channel and the person-to-person channel are represented.  I’ve been research and writing about a move from personalization toward individualization and this could be a key factor in making this happen for Salesforce customers.

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