June 27, 2014, 9:58 AM

Salesforce introduces mobile sales software for store employees

An employee will be able to see a customer’s browsing and purchasing history on a tablet, and make relevant product recommendations with the information.

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Salesforce.com Inc., which built a $4 billion business by providing software that puts customer data at the fingertips of sales personnel, is now doing the same for employees in stores. The company this week introduced “Salesforce1 for Retail” software that would allow, for example, an associate with an iPad to call up a consumer’s online browsing and purchasing history and make relevant product recommendations. She could also view a shopper’s profile on social networks and offer discounts for products that shopper has tweeted about or pinned on Pinterest.

“Now, a sales associate will know if a shopper in the store recently tweeted about a camping trip and will be able to instantly offer a recommendation for outdoor equipment,” the vendor says. That associate using an iPad in the store also can use it to check inventory levels instead of stepping away to a terminal.

Retailers can use the software to create consumer profiles that include birthdays and anniversaries, and use such information to send personalized offers to shoppers. “For instance, a jeweler will receive a reminder when a client has an upcoming wedding anniversary, so he can invite him into the store and recommend the perfect necklace or pair of earrings,” Salesforce says.

The launch of the product comes amid significant growth for Salesforce, which reported a 33% year-over-year net revenue increase in 2013, to $4.07 billion. Salesforce.com added to its marketing portfolio last year with its acquisition of ExactTarget for $2.5 billion. 54 Top 500 retailers in the 2014 guide say they use either Salesforce.com or ExactTarget as their e-mail marketing vendor, up from 36 a year earlier..

Adam Silverman, a Forrester Research Inc. analyst who focuses on online businesses, says the new product means Salesforce is “going head to head with e-commerce and point-of-sale vendors, as well as point solutions such as Starmount,” which sells in-store mobile technology.

“I viewed their retail video on YouTube, and what is implied is that there are numerous integrations into other systems” like e-commerce and customer relationship management software, he says. “Many commerce and POS applications are already creating this linkage, either through partnerships or acquisition, in order to create a unified view of the customer in the store and to create a compelling experience for a broad set of customers. In this regard, Salesforce is a late entry.”

The mobile part of the new product, which Salesforce calls “mobile clienteling,” will appeal “to luxury and high-end retailers who wish to have a direct relationship with customers, where an associate is assigned directly to a customer as a personal shopper,” Silverman says. “This fits well within the Salesforce model, and the easy-to-use interface and extensibility of Salesforce will appeal to these luxury brands.”

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