M&E Daily

Salesforce Exec: Company Continues to Make Progress on AI, But It’s Still ‘Early Days’

Salesforce continues to make strides with its Einstein artificial intelligence (AI) platform, but the industry is still experimenting with AI technology to determine how to best take advantage of its capabilities, according to Bret Taylor, its president and chief product officer.

“We’re still in the early days” of AI, he told an Oppenheimer & Co.-hosted investor meeting in San Francisco March 13. “It’s such a transformative technology that we’re still in a period of rapid experimentation by the industry” to determine what “next-generation experiences will be,” he said.

He pointed to the “evolution of mobility” for the sake of comparison, noting that early mobile apps tended to be “very literal uses of the technologies” in the cellphones, and “it took five or 10 years” before applications really started taking advantage of each platform’s capabilities.

What Salesforce is “really committed to is actually driving intelligence at scale,” he said, pointing to the company’s recent announcement that Salesforce Einstein is now delivering more than 1 billion AI-powered predictions a day.

“As we’re having this dialogue with our customers about how they want to use automation to transform their customer relationships and transform their business processes, we’re actually learning about it in practice with real customers and real data,” he said. So, Salesforce is not in an “ivory tower,” but actually “in the field with these technologies,” he told attendees.

As just one example, he noted that when it comes to service, AI can potentially save Salesforce customers time and money, although “if you’ve ever chatted with a bot, we have a little ways to go – it’s still not there yet,” he conceded.

Salesforce, meanwhile, is making another acquisition. Cloud-based e-commerce solutions provider CloudCraze announced March 12 that it signed a definitive agreement to be acquired by Salesforce. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. The companies already had a strong relationship. CloudCraze’s platform was built natively on Salesforce’s cloud platform.

CloudCraze also received $20 million in funding last year from Salesforce Ventures and Insight Venture Partners, Ray Grady, CloudCraze president and chief customer officer, said in a statement about the planned acquisition at the CloudCraze web site.

Salesforce also announced March 13 that it released new sales and service software designed especially for small businesses. Salesforce Essentials are simple-to-use, intelligent apps for small business teams and were built on its customer relationship management platform, the company said. The initial Essentials apps, available now, are Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials. The new apps will help “every small business to grow and innovate faster with the power of Salesforce,” it said in a news release.

With Essentials, small businesses can “get started fast and learn easily” with Trailhead, Salesforce’s interactive, online learning environment, and also “work smarter” because Einstein is built in, it said. Einstein Activity Capture automates manual data entry to make sales and service representatives more productive, Salesforce said.