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Data-driven marketing is trend for next 12 months, says Vala Afshar

Bringing intelligence to marketing systems is the theme for the next year, says Vala Afshar of Salesforce.

Vala Afshar, chief digital evangelist at Salesforce, sat down with SearchSalesforce to discuss some of the key trends in marketing, including how marketers are combining CRM and marketing automation software with cognitive computing and machine learning to augment the intelligence of all these systems.

The result? Data-driven marketing strategies, Afshar said, which enable a greater degree of automation of formerly time-consuming processes. But, in addition, intelligent systems are enabling marketing, sales and service to work more in lockstep and to have far more granular information about customers. Marketing departments will have to travel a careful line to balance insight with ethical use of customer data.

How do features in Marketing Cloud benefit from intelligent systems and trends like cognitive computing?

Vala Afshar: When you add a layer of intelligence to features like Journey Builder and Marketing Cloud, it takes us from descriptive use of information ... to prescriptive by leveraging technologies like Wave [Salesforce's analytics platform]. It could be marketing-related or service-related.

You're going to see journeys that are automatically built with self-learning algorithms along the way. Just three parameters -- identity, location and time of day -- could open up doors for marketers to deliver value in real time. It will take one-to-one journeys to whole new levels.

How are technologies like the internet of things helping shape data-driven marketing?

Afshar: In stadiums, a lot of the sporting organizations [are] in high-transit environments, so identity, location and time allow you to deliver value-added offerings. At [a] Celtics game, I always have clam chowder before the game starts. I would love to go to TD Garden, and when I check in, receive a message on my phone that says, 'Vala, do you want chowder delivered to your seat?'

All applications are going to become more intelligent.
Vala Afsharchief digital evangelist at Salesforce

Imagine the incremental revenue from in-stadium-only experiences. To be able to leverage apps to bring experiences that are unique, that is the advantage of a platform. And building an app on this platform is as easy as building a PowerPoint slide.

How is application development from the business side changing marketing?

Afshar: In my company, when I felt I couldn't deliver, I just built it myself. It is a SaaS [software as a service] offering. We weren't able to get full potential because we were missing some integration points. But on an 80/20 rule, it was great -- just having an event calendar. You'll see a rise of citizen developers. My business analyst can create an app. It is literally drag and drop. With 2 million active developers, we have a strong community. Companies that can democratize intelligence will win.

What do the next 12 months look like for marketing trends?

Afshar: All applications are going to become more intelligent. Harvard Business Review did a survey of more than 300 marketing leaders, and three out of four said that they can't hand off a marketing lead to sales seamlessly. These are smart leaders of sophisticated companies.

Intelligence is going to be key. And integration is going to be key. And process to smooth that handoff.

For more, check out part one of this interview with Vala Afshar, where we discuss the importance of integration between sales, marketing and service.

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