Salesforce Marketing Cloud now sports predictive analytics tools

Upgrades to the Marketing Cloud enable marketers to score customer behavior and adjust marketing campaigns to re-engage, or boost interest among, customers.

This week, CRM provider Salesforce launched enhancements to its Marketing Cloud and Journey Builder product. The...

Marketing Cloud is a suite of products that enables marketers to create and manage customer relationships and campaigns.

Calling on machine learning, the new predictive analytics tools enable marketers to score customer behavior based on metrics native to the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and adjust marketing campaigns based on customers' levels of engagement with a company. Companies' definitions of customer engagement and lack thereof will vary, of course: A lack of engagement may be signaled by not opening or clicking on content in an email message, unsubscribing from an email list, or requesting a return shipping label.  

Meghann York, director of product management for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, likened the introduction of predictive analytics capabilities to a shift from using paper maps to using GPS systems. While maps provide a route to a destination, they offer no real-time data on factors that might hinder a traveler along the way -- such as traffic, road closures and accidents. GPS mapping provides multiple routes, as well as real-time data about the optimal route.

As customers engage in communications channels -- such as Web, mobile, email, chat windows or social media -- at different times of day, their behavior and even preferences change; marketing campaigns and sales have often been tone-deaf to these real-time factors.

"It was really, really tough for marketers to keep up with the multitude of customer data, but also how quickly it's changing," York said. And that's where predictive journeys come in. Like GPS, you put in your destination, and the system will tell you the fastest, most efficient route, given all these conditions. The system can change or adapt based on new conditions. It is creating the optimal journey.

It was really, really tough for marketers to keep up with how quickly [customer data] is changing.
Meghann Yorkdirector of product marketing, Salesforce Marketing Cloud

Salesforce has announced three new components to the Marketing Cloud:

Predictive scores. These scores enable markets to understand customers' likelihood to engage based on a variety of metrics that indicate engagement. The data is native to the Marketing Cloud, which enables marketers to get behavior scores without having to configure those scores. Unlike traditional lead scoring, where marketers have to manually configure scores by assigning values to individual behaviors, there is no manual effort here. "Because this is done through data science, this is all done automatically," York said. "The customer signs an agreement that gives the intelligence engine access to the data in Marketing Cloud, and models determine what is most important in surfacing those scores."

Predictive audiences. This feature enables marketers to draw on their models and analyze audiences based on their engagement scores. "You can pull down certain audiences based on their predictive score," York said. For example, you can identify a segment that is likely to unsubscribe from an email list or make a purchase.

Predictive journeys. Marketers can use these audience segments to follow through on a marketing campaign or adjust a customer journey map -- a visual representation of how a customer may behave and how he will interact with a company -- based on new insight from scoring. This feature enlists Journey Builder to identify the best path for that segment of customers.

"It's to the point where it's not enough to know what customers want today," said Brent Leary, partner at CRM Essentials. Companies now have to "leverage the mountain of data available to better understand what will be important to them tomorrow to meet their constantly growing expectations."

Flash-sale retailer Rue La La is a beta customer of Salesforce's new offering. It uses the predictive analytics feature to identify customers who are likely to unsubscribe from its email list or unlikely to make more than one purchase, and adjust their customer journeys through its win-back customer campaign. It encouraged potentially lapsed customers to download its mobile app, which included a $10 discount and provided other journeys for those likely to unsubscribe and so forth.

"It routes people along this win-back campaign based on what their engagement is at any point and time," York said.

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