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Salesforce customers react as details about Genie emerge

Salesforce grows up by connecting all its clouds to one data platform. The hard part will be demonstrating value behind the investments it will require.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Salesforce Genie is out of the bottle. Customers wish to learn more about this complex data platform, as well as more granular pricing details.

Genie, released yesterday at Dreamforce, rebrands the Salesforce marketing customer data platform (CDP) and generalizes it to the rest of the platform with AI and automation for its various users. Salesforce plans to eventually release Genie tools specific to sales, e-commerce, customer service, Tableau, MuleSoft and vertical industry clouds.

In their keynote, co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor said they sharpened their presentation by previewing it to customers and Trailblazers in several cities prior to unveiling it to 40,000 in-person Dreamforce attendees and another 150,000-plus virtually. One of those who saw the advance was Daniel Peter, Salesforce practice lead for Robots & Pencils, a mobile strategy and app development company.

Peter, who is both a Salesforce customer himself and a consultant, said that few if any Robots & Pencils customers use the CDP, because they are not typically marketers. There's much potential in the automations and use cases shown at Dreamforce, as his customers sometimes tap customer data to perform business intelligence (BI) operations on financial, accounting or manufacturing data.

If Salesforce Genie indeed works in real time, it could be a big leap forward for some customers' data streams, Peter said. BI operations typically happen at the end of the day, accomplished with open source or proprietary tools that run on static data sets. The challenge Genie has to solve to be a real-time tool, as Peter sees it, is data indexing.

"As the data's coming in, I've got no chance to index it -- so then how do you stitch the nonindexed real-time data with the indexed historical data, in a simple way, that you can just do one query and get it all?" Peter said. "There's kind of a lot going on behind the scenes to achieve that."

Running BI processes at the end of the day works great for many of Robots & Pencils' customers, Peter said, because there's time for software to index the data first, and that's timely enough for most of them. That said, he sees emerging customer experience scenarios where the real-time aspect becomes crucial.

Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor, Salesforce co-CEOs, on stage at Dreamforce 2022
At Dreamforce 2022, co-CEOs Marc Benioff and Bret Taylor pitch Salesforce Genie to the faithful.

Genie's e-commerce potential

Another Salesforce customer, News Corp. Australia, plans to enable advertisers to sell direct to consumers with shoppable video, clickable text and image-based ads on its digital content platforms that include newspapers, magazines and streaming video. Consumers who click on shoppable content are taken straight to checkout when they put an item in their cart -- a digital selling trend fueled by social media.

Its tech stack so far includes the Adobe CDP, integrations with Australian clickable content and video startup Vudoo, and other cloud tools. It connects to the e-commerce platforms its advertisers use, including Salesforce Commerce Cloud, Magento and Shopify.

Salesforce Genie could be a huge boon for big advertisers that use Salesforce, such as cosmetics company L'Oréal, said Pippa Leary, News Corp. managing director of client products. It will enable the media company to manage and deliver first-party customer data to its advertisers -- a key advantage it holds over other digital advertising platforms, as Google and other search engine providers plan to kill off third-party tracking cookies.

Simply put, Salesforce Genie automations will enable News Corp. to put its advertisers' products in front of the right audiences and make product recommendations based on viewers' history and preferences. That is, if Salesforce delivers what execs have told News Corp. it eventually will, said Leary's colleague Paul Blackburn, general manager of video at News Corp.

"Our strength is going to be our journalistic curation of content for that particular target market, rather than algorithms spitting something out," Blackburn said. "We're a federated company with a lot of different brands. For us, [Salesforce Genie for e-commerce] is really interesting."

Salesforce Genie targets Microsoft

Genie's data lakehouse built on the Salesforce metadata model -- combined with the AI and Flow automations to go with it -- is complicated software, and it reveals a sophisticated strategy, said Daniel Newman, founding partner and analyst at Futurum Research. Salesforce's releases of new Genie and Einstein AI features, flexible public cloud data deployments and integrations with Hyperforce, and analytics dashboards all point to a race with Microsoft.

[Genie] gets Einstein to actually do what we've been promising it was going to do for the last 10 years.
Liz MillerVice president and analyst, Constellation Research

"Really, what you're seeing is a very deep Salesforce portfolio that's trying to tell a comprehensive story to mirror our friends in Redmond," Newman said. "There's kind of a little pingpong going on here."

Salesforce Genie is a significant enough release that it comes with its own animated character, a rabbit -- which is how Salesforce signals the importance of certain products to its user base.

"I think, for the hardened among us, it's going to be a little cringey," said Liz Miller, vice president and analyst at Constellation Research. "But for these people, for everyone in a golden [Trailblazer] hoodie, they're going to freak out, because what Genie does is it opens up a massive stream of cloud-wide data into Einstein. It gets Einstein to actually do what we've been promising it was going to do for the last 10 years."

Pricing still cloudy

Customers, analysts and partners alike said that Salesforce hasn't been forthcoming with costs for Salesforce Genie yet. That makes it difficult to gauge whether it will be successful in the marketplace or not.

Salesforce Genie has the potential to improve many aspects of front-line Salesforce users' daily work as it automates customer journeys and workflows, said Brent Leary, co-founder of consultancy CRM Essentials. He and Paul Greenberg, managing principal of the 56 Group, said that pricing -- whatever it is -- will determine Genie's adoption among Salesforce users.

"The questions I have -- and I think we still are trying to figure out -- are: Who's this available to? Is it free? Is it something that you buy extra?" Leary said. "They didn't really address that during the keynote, and that's the biggest question."

Don Fluckinger covers enterprise content management, CRM, marketing automation, e-commerce, customer service and enabling technologies for TechTarget.

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