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Ten months after his promotion to Salesforce co-CEO, alongside famed founder Marc Benioff, Bret Taylor is preparing to take the stage at the annual Dreamforce conference for the first time with his new title.
A career technologist with a masters degree in computer science from Stanford, Taylor acknowledged on CNBC that the great Salesforce product unveiled at this year’s event is “blatantly geeky.” It’s called Genie, and it’s designed to upgrade Salesforce’s dominant sales database software with modern technology that gives salespeople real-time information at their fingertips.
“We are really adding a new technological capability to our platform,” Taylor said in an interview. Taylor and Benioff will hold their keynote on Tuesday, starting at 10am Pacific Time in San Francisco.
To some extent, Salesforce is acknowledging that its existing systems have become somewhat dated. The 23-year-old company’s original data archiving software works with an Oracle transactional database, where Benioff spent 13 years before starting Salesforce. The world has become much more complex in the decades since, and companies are pouring into databases that can process data from many more sources and enable faster decisions.
Salesforce’s move to Genie began in 2019, when the company introduced a customer data platform, or CDP, that marketers can use to collect customer data before sending them advertisements. With Genie, marketers will have the latest information available through Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud.
Taylor said that, over time, Genie will be integrated into Salesforce’s other key products: its clouds for sales, services and commerce. Businesses can pay to add Genie features to their existing Salesforce installations, a spokesperson said.
Taylor, a co-creator of Google Maps who also led the Facebook tech group before joining Salesforce in 2016 through the acquisition of his startup Quip, is under pressure from Wall Street as rising rates interest and the threat of recession drive investors out of growth stocks. Salesforce shares have plunged 40% this year, more than double the decline in the S&P 500, and are trading near the low since April 2020.
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In its earnings report last month, Salesforce reduced its full-year expectations in terms of profits and revenues. It now expects sales growth for the year of around 17%, down from 25% last fiscal year, which would mark by far the slowest pace of expansion since the company went public in 2004.
Taylor also has a lot to do outside of Salesforce. He is the president of Twitter, embroiled in a heated and very public legal battle with Elon Musk that will determine the future of the social media company. Twitter is suing Musk to try to enforce the Tesla CEO acquisition deal that he later attempted to rescind.
Taylor declined to talk about the ordeal itself and said it “doesn’t come out much” when meeting Salesforce customers. And that’s how she spends most of her time.
With the addition of Genie, Salesforce will strengthen the capabilities of Einstein, the company’s AI engine that runs in the Sales Cloud and other applications. Einstein can advise which business opportunities are most likely to convert to sales, and Genie will pull the most recent information, so suggestions are pulled from the data in seconds and soon, in milliseconds.
Genie will also work in Tableau, the data analysis tool Salesforce acquired in 2019, making the charts as up-to-date as possible.
Salesforce’s rivals in marketing software, including Adobe and Oracle, have touted the importance of real-time content data platforms that can tap into a variety of data and respond to the latest impulses from current and potential customers. Salesforce is looking to bring these capabilities to other departments, such as customer service.
Sheryl Kingstone, vice president of customer experience and commerce at S&P Global 451 Research’s technology research unit, said she is not surprised that Salesforce has worked to bring real-time data across its range. .
“I was more shocked that it took so long,” she said.
Since at least 2017, Salesforce executives have been promoting a concept called Customer 360, which is to provide a mosaic of information about each customer to provide better treatment. The problem was that the event data was not being piped into the system while they were happening. Taylor is familiar with this criticism.
“I’ve heard that feedback before,” he said. Taylor added that with Genie’s “technological breakthrough”, this shouldn’t be a problem in the future.
First Horizon Bank of Memphis, Tennessee rolled out Salesforce’s CDP platform earlier this year. The software helps the bank target new customers and launch them on mortgages, and is more responsive to behavior than the manual, batch-based system that First Horizon relied on in the past, said Erin Pryor, the bank’s marketing manager. Unlike online ads which can make some people feel like they’re being followed a little too closely, Pryor said this level of product targeting is welcomed by consumers.
“I don’t think there will ever be a complaint that your institution knows you and is really able to give you content and advice on things that are important to you,” Pryor said.
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