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Salesforce Einstein still on its way to personalization perfection

The artificial intelligence platform Einstein can help organizations mine data for leads and direct targeted marketing at customers. But there are some things it can't do yet.

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Salesforce executives have been touting the personalization capabilities of the company's new platform, Einstein, since it was announced in August. But while Salesforce Einstein has been perceived as pure gold for marketers, some of its personalization efforts have yet to be honed to perfection, say some users and experts.

Salesforce showcased Fanatics Inc., based in San Mateo, Calif., at the Einstein keynote during the recent Dreamforce 2016 conference. Fanatics sells sports apparel online to fans for some 300 different teams and uses Commerce Cloud and Einstein. Chris Orton, chief marketing and revenue officer at Fanatics, said the business relies on intelligent data to determine inventory.

"We are totally dependent on what happens on the field. If we could all predict the outcome of the game, we could go to Vegas and I could stop selling T-shirts," Orton said. "Without the ability to predict that, we wouldn't know what to buy.

"Can we figure out how to take the connections to the next level, to build predictive models and push it to the buying side of our business?" Orton asked. He explained that if, for example, Fanatics could use predictive analytics to determine how much product would be needed if a particular team won the Super Bowl, "that would be transformational for us."

What the platform can do

[Einstein] can turn images and noise on the social web into market value.
Allison Witherspoonsenior product marketing manager, Salesforce

Salesforce Einstein offers promise for mining data on the best sales leads and marketing prospects so that sales can focus on the most profitable potential customers and marketers can aim targeted information at prospects. Einstein can crunch data on online shoppers browsing an e-commerce site and serve up content in real time based on their activity -- even for users who aren't logged in.

In addition, Salesforce Einstein can gather data from selfies that a consumer posts on Instagram, and then target ads based on those attributes.

"Einstein can recognize physical attributes of the customer. It can realize Tim is a short blond, or I'm a long-haired brunette," noted Allison Witherspoon, senior product marketing manager at Salesforce. "It can turn images and noise on the social web into market value, and serve up the next, best product recommendation."

As marketers have noted in other contexts, though, using intelligent data to personalize messages and marketing can easily go wayward, bringing sales and marketing tactics to new, more intrusive levels. And as experts have noted about current personalization efforts, there is still a long way to go.

"I don't think we have developed a way to take data and make that pinpoint offer that isn't tone-deaf," said Mike Rowland, director of the customer experience practice at West Monroe Partners, an IT consultancy.

For more, check out all our Dreamforce 2016 conference coverage.

Next Steps

How will the Salesforce Einstein artificial inteeligence platform fare?

Will Salesforce Einstein lead to intelligence for everyone?

Can predictive intelligence help boost sales?

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This was last published in October 2016

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