Salesforce Data Cloud: The ultimate guide to the customer data platform

Salesforce Data Cloud: The ultimate guide to the customer data platform

“Your data is only as good as the strategy behind it.”

Salesforce Data Cloud, unarguably is one of the most popular and significant products built and released by Salesforce (one of the few Salesforce products that is not acquired). Ever since Salesforce announced full access of Salesforce Data Cloud to Enterprise and Ultimate Sales Cloud customers at no any extra cost, there has been a buzz in the community. Said to be the Holy Grail of CRM, Salesforce Data Cloud is said to revolutionize the problem of data synchronization, identity resolution, and holistic customer view across all internal and external systems, one that has been existing since Salesforce’s infancy. 

Salesforce Data Cloud’s role becomes even more imperative after Salesforce released a research stating that an average company has about 928 systems (with enterprises leveraging more systems and smaller companies lesser than the average), presenting a significant hurdle for cross-departmental efforts to accurately map all customer identities back to their source.

While the popularity of Salesforce Data Cloud has grown prominently, leaders can only make most of the platform once they have complete insights into the platform. 

Here we demystify Data Cloud, its role in today’s CX management economy, its top use cases, how different industries can leverage the platform, benefits, and a lot more. 

What is Salesforce Data Cloud?

Salesforce Data Cloud is a product of Salesforce that brings together all enterprise data on Salesforce’s Einstein 1 Platform, providing cross-teams with a unified view of a customer across all channels and systems. This empowers marketing, sales, and service teams to personalize engagement, trigger workflows and actions, and improve experiences. Data Cloud brings together all disconnected and diverse data (CRM, case, billing, telemetry, web engagement, and feedback data) across internal systems or external data lakes and warehouses to a single, trusted model, accessible to all, while leveraging the power of trusted AI across all Salesforce apps. 

No matter where your data is from—whether it's from inside your company's apps, systems, or emails, or from outside sources like data lakes—Data Cloud can gather it all. It then builds a complete picture of each customer, which helps your team understand their current needs and predict what they might need in the future. This makes it easier for everyone in your company to use all the data available, which improves productivity and lets you provide more value to your customers.

Overall, leveraging Salesforce Data Cloud results in consistent, personalized experiences, boosting satisfaction, engagement, loyalty, and business growth. With Data Cloud, enterprise leaders ensure that all their teams have the right information about a customer, and in turn deliver the right experience to the right customer at the right time and across the right channel, in real-time.

What is Salesforce Data Cloud?

The history of Salesforce Data Cloud

The journey of Salesforce Data Cloud is packed with several iterations since it was first introduced as Customer 360 at Salesforce Connections in June 2019. Then, in the same year, at Dreamforce 2019, Salesforce renamed it as Salesforce 360 Audiences, renamed to Salesforce CDP in May 2021. Let’s walk through it:

  • Customer 360: Salesforce’s initial CDP offering, launched in 2019
  • Customer 360 Audiences: The product renamed at Dreamforce 2019
  • Salesforce CDP: The term, CDP (customer data platform) added to the product,  in May 2021, to align with the widespread boom of the CDP market 
  • Marketing Cloud Customer Data Platform: Salesforce CDP renamed to Marketing Cloud CDP to align with Salesforce’s convention of naming its marketing products. 
  • Salesforce Genie: At Dreamforce 2022, Salesforce Genie was born. Rather than a product renaming, Genie broadened the use cases of data-driven CX management to sales, service, and more. 
  • Salesforce Data Cloud: In 2023, Genie was dropped from the product name, finally landing on the product name, Salesforce Data Cloud. This also forwards Salesfore’s vision of building a trusted CRM+ Data + Trust + AI ecosystem. 

Salesforce worked on its CDP offering for over five years and now it is available in the market - free for Enterprise and Ultimate Sales Cloud customers and as a paid tool for others.  

Is Salesforce Data Cloud a CDP?

Although it is true that Salesforce Data Cloud was once known as Salesforce CDP, it is not the same technology as the latter. Sharing Salesforce CDP’s purpose and benefits, it takes its capabilities and expands it across the Salesforce Customer 360 platform; beyond marketing to sales, service, and more. 

Since Salesforce CDP, there has been an evolutionary and revolutionary change in the product’s capabilities, building upon CDP’s initial data ingestion, unification, identity resolution, and activation capabilities. 

Data harmonization before and after Salesforce Data Cloud

To understand the competitive advantage of Data Cloud, let’s walk through how CDP’s achieved data harmonization in the past. 

When setting up a CDP, the following actions had to be performed. 

  • Get a cloud data warehouse
  • Create a 'star schema,' which is a way to organize data in a database with multiple dimensions
  • Link the schema to all the objects in the data models of the systems you want to connect (like Salesforce)
  • Use an enterprise service bus (ESB)
  • Develop ETL (extract, transform, load) jobs to take out data, change it, and put it in place

Salesforce Data Cloud simplifies this entire process, reducing the efforts to a fraction of what was initially required.  With Data Cloud, you can easily link data between Salesforce and other systems just by clicking – whether it's syncing data with Google Cloud, SAP, or a payment system. Even though you can still connect Salesforce to other data lakes, Data Cloud is simpler to set up, needing less effort to get started. As Data Cloud comes pre-wired to Salesforce objects (like product object, order object, etc), enterprise leaders can leverage the groundwork while only spending time to map the systems and improving/maintaining data quality. 

Here is the technical capability map of Salesforce Data Cloud.

Data harmonization before and after Salesforce Data Cloud

How does Salesforce Data Cloud work 

Salesforce Data Cloud is a part of the Einstein 1 Platform and helps teams gain a 360-degree view of a customer’s profile and deep understanding of their behavior, interests and preferences. Data Cloud achieves this with the following capabilities:

  1. By connecting all data sources: An enterprise’s data is stored in different places like spreadsheets, databases, or even cloud services like Amazon Web Services (AWS) or Google Big Query. Data Cloud unifies data on Salesforce and across external sources to create a holistic and trusted view of a customer. It leverages pre-built connectors and seamless integrations to pull data from across the enterprise’s internal and external systems.
  2. By harmonizing data: Now that you have all the data in one place, it's important to make sure it works well together. As Data Cloud is purpose-built on Salesforce’s metadata model, enterprises can access and utilize all of this data across Salesforce apps like Commerce Cloud, Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud. A key aspect to note here is that Data Cloud makes it easy to harmonize disparate data into a singular model via point-and-click mapping and pre-configured bundles that automatically map the data for you. 
  3. By activating the data: Once all the data is unified and harmonized, Data Cloud now assists enterprises in putting it to use. This data accessible to all Salesforce apps and external systems can be used to automate tasks, trigger workflows, or create new processes that improve operational efficiency. 

The benefits of Salesforce Data Cloud for marketing leaders

Salesforce Data Cloud empowers marketing leaders to create more personalized, efficient, and effective marketing strategies that drive better customer experiences and business outcomes.

Let’s learn how. 

#1: A single view of a customer

As Salesforce Data Cloud brings together all disparate data sources across internal and external systems, marketers gain a holistic view of all customer/prospect activities. This means, they do not have to switch between platforms to view information about a customer. Even if an enterprise leverages thousands of platforms, Salesforce Data Cloud maps activities of a single customer to its original source, providing a unified customer profile ready to be activated across all Salesforce apps.  

#2: Gain a deeper understanding of your customer’s preferences 

A holistic customer view means a deeper understanding of a customer’s behavior and interactions, which in turn can be leveraged by marketing, sales, service, and other cross-department teams to deliver personalized solutions. Salesforce Data Cloud makes it easy to track and review a customer’s engagement with an enterprise across all marketing channels and even with other departments to engage in tailored solutions. 

For example, a customer has recently purchased a product and has been browsing through FAQs related to shipping and delivery. After a few days, the customer connects with support. A service rep can review this information to answer questions proactively and assure them that delivery will be made within the stipulated time. Overall, with Salesforce Data Cloud all teams across the organization can view information about a customer regardless of whether it is pertaining to their department or not, and personalize engagement based on the data-driven insights. 

#3: Improve marketing communication

A large-scale benefit of Salesforce Data Cloud is for the marketing team, especially when it comes to delivering tailored experiences. Complete visibility into a customer’s profile assists marketers in identifying their preferences, interests, purchase patterns, buying behavior, content/offer they most engage with, channel they prefer, etc. All these insights assist marketers in optimizing their marketing spend and efforts and instead redirect actions across the right channel. Marketers can easily activate this data across marketing.

For example, marketers can trigger, pause, or improve marketing campaigns via the Engagement Studio program in Account Engagement or a journey in Journey Builder in Marketing Cloud, all based on the data stored in Salesforce Data Cloud. 

#4: Deliver hyper-personalized experiences

In today’s competitive experience-driven landscape, delivering hyper-personalized solutions in what makes or breaks a brand. In fact, a study by McKinsey stated that personalization reduces customer acquisition costs by 50%, boosts revenue by 5-15%, and increases marketing ROI by 10-30%. 

Data Cloud focuses towards this one critical aspect, supercharging marketing efforts by providing 

  • Comprehensive customer profiles that combine data from all touchpoints
  • Real-time insights to tailor marketing campaigns and interactions
  • Advanced analytics to predict customer behavior and preferences
  • Seamless integration with various data sources to ensure a unified view
  • Tools for personalized messaging and offers that resonate with individual customers

Instead of hitting in the dark, marketers can leverage Data Cloud to decipher true customer needs and interests, tailor marketing campaigns and messaging to deliver meaningful interactions, engage in one-of-a-kind experiences, provide exclusive offers, and fuel sustained growth. 

#5:Trigger automated workflows

When prospects, leads and customers visit and take action on the website, marketers don’t just want to know, they must use this information for future marketing communications and campaigns and deliver experiences in real-time where it makes sense. 

This could involve triggering automated workflows where a web page view or email engagement prompts further engagement or sales outreach. 

For example, if a potential customer views a product page on your website, Data Cloud can trigger an automated workflow that sends a personalized follow-up email with additional information about the product. If the customer engages with the email by clicking on a link, the system can then prompt a sales representative to reach out with a tailored offer or schedule a demo. If an existing customer logs a complaint, marketers can trigger a workflow that routes the case to customer service teams who, in turn, prioritizes the issue, ensuring the customer receives immediate attention and support, removing any friction from their experience.

This seamless flow of actions ensures that every interaction is timely and relevant, enhancing the customer experience in real-time and increasing the likelihood of conversion. 

#6: Promoting cross-team collaboration

 Often times, cross-department teams work in siloed environments, which results in:

  • Inefficient communication and collaboration
  • Duplicate efforts and data inconsistencies
  • Delays in responding to customer needs and issues
  • A fragmented view of the customer experience
  • Missed opportunities for unified strategies and solutions

Therefore, aligning teams to ensure that everyone has the same unified up-to-date view of a customer is imperative. When implemented properly, Salesforce Data Cloud helps break down cross-department silos, aligns business teams, and ensures the delivery of consistent, relevant, and timely communications across the right channel. 

Salesforce Data Cloud use cases

The following are some use cases for Salesforce Data Cloud.

#1: Enhanced customer segmentation

By using Salesforce Data Cloud, businesses can group customers into different categories based on things like age, what they've bought before, how they've behaved in the past, and what they like. This helps businesses send them messages and offers that are more likely to catch their interest. For example, if someone often buys shoes, a shoe store might send them a special offer on their favorite brand.

#2: Personalized marketing campaigns

With Salesforce Data Cloud, businesses can make their marketing messages feel more personal. They can use what they know about each customer to send them messages that are just right for them. For instance, if someone often buys coffee from a certain brand, the company might send them a discount on their next purchase.

#3: AI & predictive analytics

Salesforce Data Cloud helps businesses look at past data to guess what might happen in the future. By doing this, they can figure out what customers might want next and be ready to give it to them. For example, if a store sees that a lot of people are buying winter coats, they might guess that people will soon start buying gloves and hats too, so they stock up on those items ahead of time.

#4: Improved customer service optimization

Salesforce Data Cloud provides customer service teams with comprehensive profiles that encompass a customer's purchase history, interaction records, and preferences. This holistic view enables service representatives to deliver highly personalized and efficient support. For instance, if a customer contacts support regarding an issue with a recent purchase, the service team can quickly access the customer's entire history, anticipate potential issues, and provide solutions that are tailored to their specific needs.

#5: Cross-sell and upsell opportunities

By leveraging the extensive data within Salesforce Data Cloud, businesses can identify and act on cross-sell and upsell opportunities more effectively. Analyzing customer purchase patterns and preferences enables companies to recommend relevant products or services that complement previous purchases. For example, if a customer buys a smartphone, the system might suggest accessories like cases or headphones that align with the customer's preferences.

#6: Real-time customer engagement

Salesforce Data Cloud allows businesses to engage with customers in real-time by utilizing data-driven insights. This capability ensures that marketing campaigns, customer service interactions, and sales outreach are not only timely but also relevant. For instance, if a customer browses specific products on a website, Data Cloud can trigger real-time personalized offers or messages, enhancing the likelihood of conversion and improving the overall customer experience.

#7:  Comprehensive reporting and analytics

The advanced analytics and reporting capabilities of Salesforce Data Cloud provide businesses with deep insights into customer behavior and market trends. By generating comprehensive reports and visualizations, businesses can monitor key performance indicators (KPIs), track the effectiveness of marketing campaigns, and make informed decisions based on data-driven insights. For example, a retail company can analyze sales data to identify peak shopping periods and optimize inventory management accordingly. 

Leverage Salesforce Data Cloud to deliver insightful experiences with Ranosys

Undoubtedly, Salesforce Data Cloud is the ‘Holy Grail of CRM’, solving the problem with disparate data across sources. However, Data Cloud is only a great investment if your enterprise can make the most of the investment. As a leading Salesforce Data Cloud implementation partner, we can help decipher the right use cases and timelines to achieve your goal, unify customer profiles, and deliver personalized experiences. For implementation, support, and ongoing management, Ranosys is here to help. Talk to our Salesforce certified Data Cloud consultants today

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