Salesforce Finally Delivers On Einstein And Commerce Cloud

Salesforce shined a spotlight Thursday on the two hottest products at Dreamforce 2016—the Commerce Cloud and the Einstein artificial intelligence platform.

Those technologies empower Salesforce's channel to enhance current customer deployments and enter new practice areas, partners told CRN. Integrations between Einstein and Commerce Cloud enable partners to deploy e-commerce sites that automatically learn about shoppers and make predictive recommendations.

While Einstein has been teased a number of times throughout the conference—including in CEO Marc Benioff's keynote—Thursday's session featured the leaders of that project who demonstrated some of the unique capabilities of the broad artificial intelligence technology.

[Related: Benioff's Dreamforce Keynote Is A Sprawling Socially Conscious Affair]

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Salesforce is shipping 17 capabilities powered by Einstein across all its cloud apps in the coming winter release of its cloud-based software, said John Ball, senior vice president of Einstein.

"We're actually at the beginning of a revolution in AI," Ball told Dreamforce attendees. "This AI is not only going to transform the consumer world, it's going to transform the work world. It's going to transform how all of us work."

The AI revolution builds on the underlying technologies of cloud, social, mobile and Internet of Things, he said.

The data science technologies that breathe life into Einstein have been around for a while. But for most companies, applying machine learning, deep learning, natural language processing and other capabilities into the business process was always too complex and hopelessly out of reach.

That's why Salesforce assembled a team of hundreds of data scientists to work with its CRM developers, and closed a number of acquisitions to bring startups with cutting-edge technologies under its roof.

Einstein, which adds those technologies into the core of every Salesforce product, brings artificial intelligence into the context of the business user, Ball said.

It taps a number of data sources beyond the CRM—email and calendars, social data, web clicks on commerce sites. Then Einstein applies machine and deep learning to discover trends, predict outcomes, and recommend solutions.

Einstein also can be accessed by more-advanced users through APIs, enabling them to build into their solutions capabilities like image and sentiment classification.

"They can do that without being deep learning experts. That's how you democratize AI," Ball said.

Shubha Nabar, Salesforce's data science chief, said the CRM leader has combined data sources, machine-learning models and business contexts to usher in an AI revolution.

The production-ready portfolio can be described as data science-as-a-service, Nabar said. And users can leverage those advanced capabilities without having to worry about underlying infrastructure, scaling and security.

Salesforce's foray into artificial intelligence runs deep.

The company has launched a new research group that is working on open problems in the field, and will be publishing its work in peer-reviewed journals, said Richard Socher, chief scientist at Salesforce, and founder of MetaMind, one of the AI companies Salesforce acquired.

Salesforce Research will remain focused on the future of artificial intelligence, working to solve—and eventually productize—challenging problems like advanced reasoning and perfect machine translation.

Socher, who other Salesforce execs described as the company's own Einstein, introduced a predictive vision solution that can classify images, solving problems like prioritizing evaluation of brain scans by medical professionals.

"We built this meta problem," Socher said of Einstein. "We don’t just solve a single problem for a single customer. We solve in a very generalized way."

Einstein will challenge some of Salesforce's ISV partners who have built apps in the area of artificial intelligence, said Andi Giri, managing director of the Salesforce practice at SoftSquare, a partner based in Silver Spring, Md.

"As far as Softsquare is concerned, we can leverage Einstein to identify patient health patterns for a health care client, predict customer sentiments and satisfy their needs predictively, and improve on app subscription renewals," Giri said. "Einstein is really exciting."

Gireesh Sonnad, CEO of Silverline, a partner based in New York City, said the AI technologies unveiled at Dreamforce "offer a whole new world of innovation possibilities."

"Now, baked into all aspects of the Salesforce platform, Einstein enables customers to build new sales apps with tools that can predict and grow their pipelines, new marketing tools that can supercharge their campaign performance and generate demand, and new service tools that help delight clients by anticipating and resolving issues even before they arise."

In an earlier session, Jeff Barnett, CEO of Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and previously COO at Demandware before its $2.8 billion acquisition at the start of the summer, introduced the new e-commerce platform.

Salesforce took the platform to "places we couldn't possibly have conceived of," Barnett told attendees.

The comprehensive Salesforce platform is capitalizing on the major trends in commerce—especially mobile devices, which constitutes more than half of all digital commerce, he said.

Barnett introduced a larger product division—Salesforce for Commerce—that integrates the Commerce Cloud into the larger Salesforce ecosystem.

That offering takes customers from discovering products to engaging brands and through the transaction and servicing phases, finally "turning them into a raving brand addict," Barnett said.

Commerce Cloud also has a brick-and-mortar component so as to deliver a unified experience to customers across all channels: web, mobile, social and the physical store, said Rohit Goyal, senior vice president of product and engineering.

A feature called Commerce Cloud Store enables a mobile solution at the point-of-sale, powering store operations with predictive abilities, and connecting the physical and digital worlds.

The technology is easy to customize with solutions from technology partners, Goyal said.

"You build your site once and it works across all form factors, from the desktop all the way down to mobile devices," said Goyal.

Commerce Cloud can also pull data from social networks.

"All social platforms are experimenting with commerce, and we want you to be right there with them," Goyal told Salesforce partners.

Where Commerce Cloud gets really interesting, however, is in its overlap with Einstein—enabling predictive commerce, said Rama Ramakrishnan, a senior vice president of data science.

Commerce Cloud discovers shopping patterns and predicts customer behavior "to a level of sophistication that's frankly unprecedented" through deep-learning algorithms, Ramakrishnan said.

Retailers can personalize and sort their products to make the shopping experience more relevant.

Silverline's Sonnad said the combination of Commerce Cloud and Einstein will allow his clients to connect with their customers on social, mobile, physical and digital forums.

Sonnad's most interested, he said, in how personalized search and sort features, based on individual behavior, maximize relevance for each individual shopper.

"Salesforce is changing the way shoppers interact with retailers by providing a single view of the customer, and a single view of inventory, to take their customer on 1-to-1 personalized buying journey," he told CRN.