Salesforce bets communities will win over consumers, customers

Salesforce launched a community cloud so its customers can engage consumers and ultimately grow sales. Are communities really the next battleground?
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor on

Salesforce on Wednesday launched the Salesforce1 Community Cloud in a bid to be the platform for branded community sites designed to drive engagement.

The launch formalizes a focus for Salesforce, which is betting that customers will flock to launch new communities that drive sales. To date, communities have been parts of other suites for functions such as customer service and collaboration.

Salesforce will throw its technology---reputation engines, personalization tools, discussion forums and design templates---behind the Community Cloud, which will be available in October. Pricing will start at $500 a month with higher tiers based on usage.

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"We believe communities will be the next battleground," said Lisa Hammitt vice president of marketing for Salesforce Communities. Deloitte is apparently buying in and dedicating 4,000 practitioners to the community cloud.

The communities push ties in with the broader themes from Salesforce. The argument for the previous launch of Salesforce1 is that the Internet of things is really about the customer touch points. "Communities are a chance to become closer to the customer," said Hammitt.

What's unclear is how many end customers will use communities that revolve around products. Sure a community is the glue between Philips connected toothbrushes, a consumer and a dentist but how many of us are going to really engage?

Salesforce will target its customers with communities that can be added quickly via easy-to-use templates. The community features will then be tied to business processes---and revenue generating opportunities---on the back end. Naturally, all of these customer touch points will be on Salesforce's platform.

On the front end, a customer would see something like this:

personalization SFDC communities2
personalization SFDC communities3

On the back end, a template would look like this:

personalization SFDC communities4
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