President and chief marketing officer Ariel Kelman showed Salesforce's new features at Connections 2024's main keynote, highlighting the software company's generative AI-powered copilots.

Salesforce announced new artificial intelligence (AI), Data Cloud and Commerce Cloud features at its Connections 2024 conference at McCormick Place in Chicago, running May 22 and 23.

There are “islands of trapped data,” Salesforce president and chief marketing officer Ariel Kelman said at the main keynote on May 22. And when it comes to using data for AI processes, everything starts with getting it all in one place.

“All of us are struggling with islands of trapped data across the enterprise,” Kelman said. “A lot of us have our core customer data in Salesforce, but a lot of us also have tons of customer data in different places. … If we’re going to have the ability to ground the AI in trusted data, we need to be able to have access to all of it.”

Salesforce announced new artificial intelligence (AI), Data Cloud and Commerce Cloud features at its Connections 2024 conference at McCormick Place in Chicago, running May 22 and 23.

Salesforce president and chief marketing officer Ariel Kelman breaks down the steps that come with using artificial intelligence at an enterprise level at Connections 2024 in Chicago. Image credit: Digital Commerce 360

Salesforce Connections 2024 focuses on data integration

Kelman said this is why Salesforce created Einstein 1. Einstein refers to Salesforce’s platform that allows users to connect their data, customer relationship management and more using artificial intelligence. It takes all of Salesforce’s applications and AI capabilities and brings them together with Data Cloud. It also reaches out to data outside of Salesforce, he said.

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“If you’ve done the work to organize your data in a data warehouse like Snowflake or Redshift, great, we can reach out to that data, and it can reside in those systems, but you can use it in Salesforce just like it was a standard object,” Kelman said.

The new AI and Data Cloud features include:

  • Einstein Copilot for Merchants
  • Einstein Copilot for Marketers
  • Einstein Personalization
  • Data Cloud

Meanwhile, Commerce Cloud updates include new features for:

  • Salesforce Checkout
  • Headless commerce capabilities for B2B
  • Composable commerce enhancements for B2C
  • Digital Engagement enhancements

Salesforce said its shoppable copilot will be generally available to customers starting in June. It will make its marketing copilot generally available in July and its merchant copilot in October, it said.

In North America, 76 of the top 2000 online retailers use Salesforce as their ecommerce platform, according to Digital Commerce 360 data. In 2022, those 76 online retailers combined for more than $116.97 billion in web sales.

Einstein trust layer

The Einstein trust layer is “a single platform that sits underneath every copilot experience you’re going to have,” said Michael Affronti, senior vice president and general manager of Commerce Cloud, at the main keynote on May 22.

Its main goal is to protect customer data, he said. Once a user enters a prompt, he said, Salesforce data masking and security “ensure that none of your raw customer information is ever passed outside your organizational boundary.”

The trust layer also includes a zero-retention policy, Affronti said. That means that once Salesforce software generates a response using a third-party large language model (LLM) such as ChatGPT, “they discard everything that was sent to them. So they never retain or train their models on your obfuscated customer data.”

New Salesforce AI and Data Cloud features

Among the features is a conversational AI tool that Salesforce referred to as a personal shopping assistant.

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Salesforce displayed an example of its personal shopping assistant at Connections 2024 as one of the new features in its generative AI suite. Image credit: Salesforce

The tool, which appears on the front end of an ecommerce site, is a chatbot that can take shoppers directly to product detail pages (PDPs) and help them check out.

Salesforce says its Einstein Copilot for Merchants features an AI assistant that helps:

  • Optimizes sales
  • Guide storefront setup
  • Generate personalized promotions
  • Build web pages by using natural language prompts

A technology demo Digital Commerce 360 attended showed that the copilot provides insights based on all the data Einstein gathers across Salesforce assets to show merchants which products are selling well, which aren’t, and what actions the merchants can take to address these differences in sales. Those actions include both front-end and back-end changes to merchants’ websites.

The Einstein Copilot for Marketers allows users to include brand guidelines and produce AI-generated content for campaigns. Also on the marketing spectrum, Einstein Personalization uses real-time customer profiles — tied to Data Cloud — to identify consumers’ preferences and recommend digital marketing experiences that drive conversion.

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Digital marketing via WhatsApp

Among the digital marketing experiences Salesforce displayed at Connections 2024 is an abandoned cart alert via WhatsApp. A merchant can trigger notifications to consumers via WhatsApp, offering a product that a consumer has viewed on a Salesforce-powered ecommerce platform. The Salesforce marketing software will then send a product recommendation with accompanying text, asking if the consumer would like to buy the product.

An example Salesforce displayed at a May 22 keynote was of a Solo Stove bonfire product. In the example, Solo Stove sends an AI-generated message with a picture of an outdoor bonfire. The consumer can then interact with the generative AI chatbot on WhatsApp. She can send a picture of her patio and ask if the bonfire will fit. The generative AI chatbot can then send an augmented reality (AR) image back to the consumer that displays the bonfire on the patio. From there, the chatbot asks if the consumer would like to buy the product, and she can make a purchase directly from WhatsApp using store credit card information via Salesforce Checkout.

Commerce Cloud updates for B2B and B2C

Among Salesforce’s updates to its Commerce Cloud is an update to Salesforce Checkout. With it, consumers can check out in one click, as Salesforce connects customers’ data using its Einstein 1 Platform. It gives the example that a consumer can purchase an air conditioner from a company’s website. Then, while someone from the company is installing the air conditioner, the customer can pay for the installation using the same checkout experience, with a stored payment method.

Salesforce also announced updates to its composable commerce offering for business-to-consumer (B2C) users. Composable commerce is an approach to ecommerce that allows businesses to combine software from different vendors into a unified website.

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“Developers can combine or create templated, composable, and customizable headless approaches to B2C ecommerce site development” using Salesforce APIs (application programming interfaces).

This includes implementing:

  • Personalization features on product listing pages (PLPs)
  • Sitemap generation
  • Store locators
  • Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS)

Developers can pick from these offerings, adding to their ecommerce websites as they see fit.

On the B2B side, developers can implement headless commerce using APIs in Commerce Cloud.

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Headless commerce is a type of ecommerce website structure that effectually separates the front end of a website (the user experience) from the back end of a website (the content management system where administrators typically make changes). In doing so, it allows brands to work on the front ends of their websites without going through web developers and IT teams, which often requires filing a service ticket.

“B2B commerce companies can also integrate with hundreds of apps developed by the Salesforce partner ecosystem on AppExchange, to build and scale headless commerce projects in record time with less complexity,” Salesforce says.

Salesforce says it will make the new checkout, composable commerce and headless B2B commerce capabilities available this summer.

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