Salesforce.com Rumored to Be Acquiring GoInstant

Following the flurry of acquisitions of late, Salesforce.com's rumored $70 million-plus buyout of cobrowsing solution start-up GoInstant would not come as a total shock in the enterprise space.

According to a report issued this morning by the Wall Street Journal, Canadian-based software company GoInstant, founded in 2010, has raised $1.7 million from backers like LinkedIn chairman Reid Hoffman and former Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya, making it an attractive option to its prospective buyer.

Neither Salesforce.com and GoInstant have yet confirmed the deal, but according to AllThingsD.com, the announcement will occur at the close of markets today.

"Oracle, Salesforce.com, and IBM are waging a war for customers via customer experience—this is the battleground area," notes Ray Wang, principal analyst and CEO of Constellation Research. "GoInstant changes the way users interact. This plays a big role in upping the game for customer engagement."

Steering clear of calling itself screen-sharing technology, GoInstant allows two or more people to cobrowse the Web together without one seeing the other's screen. Instead, the GoInstant browser steps in as an intermediary third-party for a cobrowsing experience, without any downloads or plug-ins required. 

"It would greatly help any company that provides support, sales, and e-commerce, so that agents could help customers at the point of need," explains Natalie Petouhoff, a customer experience strategist, consultant, and author. She cites Drugstore.com as an example. Drugstore.com trains its call center agents to be "beauty consultants" or "beauty advisors" to help customers feel good about their purchase decisions, Petouhoff says.

In this use case, using GoInstant, a Drugstore.com rep could feasibly answer questions and browse the Web with the customer on desktop or mobile, which would "cut down on shopping cart abandonment." Petouhoff says a Salesforce.com and GoInstant alliance would be "a great partnership."

Salesforce.com most recently acquired social media marketing company Buddy Media for $689 million, furthering its push into the social enterprise. Its trail of customer service acquisitions include Assistly (now Desk.com), which Salesforce.com acquired last fall. Wang observes "that a number of companies have looked at GoInstant" and that an alliance with Salesforce.com would be the strongest "opportunity and fit."

Update: Jevon MacDonald, cofounder and CEO of GoInstant, released a statement in the GoInstant blog, stating “today, we are announcing that GoInstant has agreed to be acquired by Salesforce.com, the enterprise cloud computing leader. We are beyond excited to join this family...not only will we be able to super charge our ability to deliver a truly amazing way for companies to advance our technology, but with Salesforce.com's support, we will be able to super charge our ability to deliver a truly amazing way for companies to engage and interact with consumers in real time."

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