Salesforce.com Releases Predictive Journeys for Its Marketing Cloud

To kick off its World Tour event in New York today, Salesforce.com bolstered its Marketing Cloud with Predictive Journeys, a set of functions aimed to help marketers assess the health of their customer accounts and ultimately leverage that information to stimulate engagement.

According to Meghann York, director of product marketing at Salesforce Marketing Cloud, Predictive Journeys gives marketers a map for being more proactive in their campaign strategies. Comprised of two capabilities—Predictive Scores and Predictive Audiences—the solution applies data science to CRM and contextual data, including Web and email activity, to anticipate a customer’s course of action.

Predictive Scores analyzes customer behavior and assigns a score to each account according to the customer's likelihood of carrying out a specific action. The calculation can help companies determine if a combination of behaviors will lead to a specific result. For instance, if a customer’s score indicates she might unsubscribe from an email list, marketers will recognize they need to present content that can rekindle her interest in the company.

Predictive Audiences uses customer data to segment customers according to their attributes and aims to help users automate communications at scale. Customers who show poor purchase histories and have also made service complaints, for instance, are likely to be placed on a more service-oriented track, while someone with a rich purchasing history may get targeted with discount offers. The segments can be placed directly into Salesforce’s Journey Builder application. The segments are also continually updated; if a customer's score changes at any point, he'll be moved into a segment that best suits him.

While Salesforce has offered predictive tools that allow marketers to engage more meaningfully with customers, "this is the first time we've been able, at the individual level, to understand what the customer is likely to do next," York says.  According to York, previous offerings on the Marketing Cloud didn't account for all the in-the-moment activity marketers must have to make the best decisions.

"We've built models in the cloud that surface these insights to our customers," York says. Rather than guessing at the relationship between actions and outcomes, "machine learning and data science is looking at the customer across millions of customers and [finding the] patterns."

And York says that marketers can no longer rely on their own opinions or hypotheses to assess their best options during marketing campaigns. "Their customers are interacting with them at such a rapid speed, and their preferences are ever-changing,” York says. “It’s very hard for marketers to continue living in [a] reactive role if they want to make sure that every interaction is personalized. That’s where we see predictive journeys coming in.”

Salesforce.com cites Forrester Research principal analyst Rusty Warner, who said in a statement that "customers, empowered with new technology and inbound channels, now outpace many businesses' ability to respond." To address this, Warner added, marketers need systems that make communications more effective across all channels. "Advanced analytics methods predict and optimize customer behavior and enable marketers to proactively engage with customers," Wartner wrote.

In the future, "the Marketing Cloud is really going to be centered on data science, and how we can start using data science to make everything we do smarter," York says.

Predictive Scoring and Audiences are currently in beta and will be included in Salesforce's Marketing Enterprise edition. They will also be available as add-ons to the Pro and Corporate editions.

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