How Brands Like New Balance And Petsmart Plan To Embrace Smarter Search With Salesforce

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is adding Predictive Sorting to promote smarter search results via its Einstein artificial intelligence platform.

Salesforce kicked off day one of its retail-focused XChange conference event with an overview of how artificial intelligence and technologies like virtual reality are opening up new avenues — and new challenges, naturally — when it comes to connecting with consumers one-to-one.

Among the new tools that will be available to Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud retail clients between now and the coming months include Predictive Sorting of branded sites’ search results that are customized for the shopper as well as Google Android Pay integration designed to create more seamless online/offline purchasing.

The conference was also an opportunity for Salesforce to showcase the way its Einstein AI engine has evolved since its initial release last fall in addition to its Trailhead “gamified” retail sales and marketing training program.

The Salesforce Economy as told by Commerce Cloud CEO Jeff Barnett at the company’s XChange event at the Aria Las Vegas

Salesforce’s Commerce Cloud Retail Prediction

The current product map Commerce Cloud is revealing at XChange reflect the demands and needs Salesforce retail partners face as they build out and customize their e-commerce implementations, said Gordon Evans, VP of Marketing at Salesforce, in an interview before the event.

“We also have partner ecosystem for store locator apps, fraud prevention, address autofill and from that, we’re focused on a new capability: Einstein Predictive Sort,” Evans said. “This will personalize product assortment for every individual shopper. If you search on a site, this will personalize recommendations in the search results and search category pages.”

Petsmart IT President Beth McCormick and Barnett

It’s about guiding shoppers to the right products on the web, Evans said. But it should also enhance retailers’ mobile shopping portals, and through that, the in-store shopping experience as well.

“Given the limited screen you have on mobile, it will serve the most relevant products at the top as opposed to having to endlessly scroll,” Evans said. “For the merchant, it will also simplify the product sorting rules. They can ask whether they want to group products from most expensive to least expensive, most popular to least popular. Furthermore, Predictive Sort will automate the best results for each individual shopper.”

For example, someone whose browser history shows a predisposition toward green dresses, they’ll see a resorted product catalog that reflects that preference when they search on one of Salesforce’s retail partners’ sites.

Commerce Cloud’s Barnett with Ashley Strewart CEO James Rhee

Commerce Cloud Einstein already powers more than 2,000 commerce sites in 53 countries that sold more than $16 billion in merchandise in 2016 alone, noted Jeff Barnett, the CEO of Commerce Cloud, which grew out of Salesforce’s $2.8 billion acquisition of Demandware last summer. Salesforce Commerce Cloud is charged with running programs that personalize interactions and transactions between brands and customers across web, mobile, social and in-store.

“The connected consumer is rapidly disrupting retail, creating a new imperative for brands to deliver smarter, more personal shopping experiences everywhere,” Barnett told the XChange audience. “Commerce Cloud Einstein accelerates this transformation by lowering the barriers of AI for every retailer, empowering them to build consumer loyalty with every interaction and increase conversion across every channel.”

Barnett and New Balance’s Chris Ladd demonstrate the use of VR to enhance and personalize the shopping experience

Capturing Moments That Matter

Among the retailers that shared their respective Salesforce success stories and hopes for its new product rollout included appearances by James Rhee, executive chairman and CEO at Ashley Stewart, a clothing store with a special focus on plus-sizes for  African-American women, along with Petsmart IT President Beth McCormick, and New Balance Customer Experience head Chris Ladd.

The ability to integrate virtual reality features that both entertain and allow consumers to customize their purchases by connecting with the brand’s store sales floors and even American factories was particularly appealing to New Balance, Ladd said in a conversation with Barnett. (Ladd also demonstrated the one-to-one marketing capabilities of VR during the presentation).

“If you look at how people are spending their time today, if you look at the fragmentation in the media marketplace, you have to try harder than ever to break through,” New Balance’s Ladd said. “The way we as retailers try to do it is by emphasizing ‘moments that matter.’”

New Balance has worked with Salesforce for nine years. The discussion that executives have when it comes to the brand’s marketing often comes down to finding ways to make shopping more flexible across platforms in ways that heighten the New Balance identity versus its rivals.

New Balance’s Chris Ladd

“Domestic manufacturing and performance customization are ways that we can differentiate ourselves from the competition and capture the consumer’s attention,” Ladd said. “Rethinking the retail experience has been and continues to be paramount for us and will remain so over the next couple of years.”



IoT Everywhere

The concept of the Internet of Things and the way connected fitness, versus other more general retailers, has helped promote advanced thinking about technology and data in ways that would be difficult for other store brands.

“Two years ago, we launched a group called Digital Sport, which started with Android Wear smartwatch in partnership with Intel,” Ladd said. “We believe in the notion that athletes want to perform better and better. The idea of using technology to enable and support those efforts is part of the future.

“As the sensors improve and battery life gets better, the technology gets more sophisticated, you’re going to see sensors covering multiple parts of the body,” Ladd added. “We have other products going through the pipeline today, whether its apparel or footwear that allows us to collect new types of data and enhance athletes’ performance.”

For Petsmart, the ability to use predictive analytics and IoT is helpful in very different ways from New Balance. The presentation by Petsmart’s McCormick demonstrated how understanding the activity, patterns, and preferences of animals, as opposed to their owners, can help drive more engagement for booking appointments at a store or pet daycare programs, as well as for regular product sales.

The bottom line for Petsmart is not that it has cool tech — it’s hard to impress animals in things they can’t chew on — but on what makes sense for its customers changing shopping and discovery experiences.

“You can’t predict what technology is going to be big, but you can keep up with where your consumers are,” McCormick said. “From an IT standpoint, we’re always looking for things we can build that will enable cross-channel and work with partners who can help.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.