They’ll blend data from IBM’s Watson and Salesforce’s Einstein artificial intelligence technology for use in e-commerce, CRM and marketing.

IBM Corp. and Inc. are teaming up to help businesses better understand their customers and more effectively interact with them based on their needs.

The two technology giants yesterday announced a “global strategic partnership” through which they’ll blend their respective artificial intelligence technologies to provide more effective applications for engaging consumers through e-commerce, marketing, sales staffs and customer service teams. The agreement will use analytics from IBM’s Watson and Salesforce’s Einstein AI platforms to produce data on consumer preferences and other related matters—such as the status of a customer’s contract or weather patterns likely to affect a buyer’s response to a marketing campaign and make a purchase. Watson and Einstein were designed as analytics tools that learn from buyers’ behavior to generate recommended marketing, sales and service efforts likely to meet the particular needs of customers.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff and IBM CEO Ginny Rometty

“Within a few years, every major decision—personal or business—will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies,” says Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM. “This year we expect Watson will touch one billion people—through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars. Now, with today’s announcement, the power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers.”

Adds Salesforce chairman and CEO Marc Benioff: “The combination of Einstein and Watson will make businesses smarter and our customers more successful.”


Analysts say the coordination of Watson and Einstein appears likely to benefit both IBM and Salesforce as they each try to capitalize on the growing use of AI technology. “It’s a good partnership,” says Andy Hoar, a vice president and the chief B2B e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research Inc. “Salesforce Einstein needed more AI horsepower and Watson gives it to them. For IBM, it’s all about bolstering an emerging ‘Watson everywhere’ story.”

The companies expect to release later this month the IBM Application Integration Suite for Salesforce, which they say will enable companies to blend data from their own customer records in on-premise enterprise software systems with information from cloud-based applications to devise highly targeted marketing campaigns. IBM gave as example an investment advisor who would be able to combine her own client data, including investment risk levels, with broad financial trends data to design a customized customer engagement within the Salesforce CRM platform.

IBM and Salesforce say the full integration of the Watson and Einstein AI systems is expected to be completed by the second half of this year. Also in the second half, they expect to make available the IBM Weather Lightning Component on the Salesforce AppExchange, which is being designed to let businesses pull local forecast data from The Weather Co., an IBM business, into Salesforce CRM software to tailor information for customers whose businesses can be severely impacted by weather patterns.

Bluewolf, an IBM consulting company, has formed a new practice specifically around Salesforce applications; it expects to begin offering industry-specific Salesforce applications in the second half.


In a related matter, Salesforce announced today Einstein Commerce Insights for the company’s Commerce Cloud suite of e-commerce software. For example, Commerce Insights is designed to uncover such information as how often a customer purchases particular products together in the same order.

The “data extracted from this dashboard gives merchandisers the insight they need to create the best outfits and deals” for buyers, Salesforce says. It gives as an example retailer Icebreaker, which found customers clicked product recommendations from Commerce Insights 40% more often than other recommendations, resulting in a 28% increase in revenue form recommended products and an 11% increase in its average order value.

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