Salesforce.com has added e-commerce functionality to its Salesforce Community Cloud, which enables companies that host online customer forums to integrate new features, such as a Buy button or Add to Cart button to a community page.
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According to Salesforce, bringing e-commerce to online communities enables companies to turn these forums of engagement and interaction into places of action as well.
"It's a natural evolution of e-commerce that we would add a [shopping] cart right where discussion is happening," said Mike Stone, SVP of marketing for the community cloud.
Highlights of the Community Cloud enhancements include the following:
- Enabling companies to add a shopping cart or Buy button directly into community pages.
- The ability to connect the Buy button to other e-commerce systems, such as inventory and order management, CRM systems and so forth, to ensure a timely, accurate order.
- The ability to insert a Buy button or shopping cart, using the capabilities of Salesforce's developer platform, Project Lightning, with no coding or development expertise required.
- The ability to connect buying in the Community Cloud with customer service functionality in the Salesforce Service cloud. For example, if a customer asks questions in an online forum about a product he wants to purchase, the discussion can initiate a case in the Service Cloud. This reflects an extension of the work Salesforce has done over the past year or so to create better data connections in its service offerings, including the Sales, Marketing and Service clouds.
- Text-based contextual linking of a conversation in the community to a recommendation engine, which can automatically recommend products based on the conversation taking place in a forum. Using metadata and the recommendation engine, an outdoor apparel company, for example, could provide someone looking for an extreme weather backpack with automatic recommendations of appropriate products based on the person's text searches.
Salesforce executives don’t view the Buy button as jeopardizing the conversational, organic nature of community forums. “We want to make sure that the tenor of the community isn’t turned into a store,” Stone said. The Buy button can be configured to one side so it’s less invasive, he said.
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