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AiThority Interview with Adi Kuruganti, GM, Community Cloud and SVP, Products B2B Commerce at Salesforce

Could you tell us about your journey in technology and how you started at Salesforce?

When I was in business school at the Kellogg School of Management, I discovered that I loved solving real-world problems and I wanted to apply my background in engineering to solving them. Since joining Salesforce 14 years ago, I’ve been taking new products to market across the entire Salesforce platform to help our customers grow their businesses. I worked on Sales Cloud and our launch of partner relationship management (PRM). Then, I went on to launch Chatter and Community Cloud. This year, I’m most proud of the new Salesforce Content Management System (CMS) that we announced in November.

You were at Dreamforce 2019. What were the most mesmerizing insights you learned at the event? Could you tell us about their impact on B2B Marketing and Sales practices?

Every year, Dreamforce gets bigger and better. Although I am always inspired by noteworthy keynote presenters, my favorite insights come from the customers I meet. These conversations, meetings, and questions help us validate that we are building the right capabilities into our products, and also shape our product roadmap for the next three releases.

Here are my top three insights from Dreamforce 2019:

  1. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has crossed the chasm, so to speak. Customers are starting to see more and more ROI from their investment in AI. That ROI is taking the form of increases in productivity, shopping cart size, customer success and conversion rates. Nearly every metric can be driven and improved when aided by Artificial Intelligence.
  2. Companies are in the middle of Digital Transformations and this means digitizing the customer experience, from Marketing to Commerce, Sales, and Service. This Digital Transformation is not tied to a single property – it’s managing a website, updating a portal and launching new mobile apps and storefronts. Companies are also engaging customers on channels that they don’t own, like social media. The most successful companies invest in platforms that are flexible enough to support different channels, and agile enough to evolve with the customer.
  3. Every team can be an experience team. It’s not just the job of the CDO or CMO anymore. Sales, Marketing, Service and even IT teams are asking us how they can reflect their brand through the experiences they provide. For example, 78% of service professionals say their company views agents as customer advocates, and 75% view them as brand ambassadors.

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MarTech CMOs are very excited about Salesforce’s recently launched hybrid CMS. What is the future of CMS?

We are very excited about Salesforce CMS too. When we look at the future of CMS, there are four major elements that Content Management Systems need to address:

  1. Customers expect personalization. Customers expect personalized, relevant content that is helpful or interesting to them. CMS need to use customer data and AI to help inform how content gets created and how, when and where it is delivered across channels.
  2. Omnichannel is a necessity. Your customers engage with your brand across social media, websites, portals, mobile apps, and marketing emails. Content is a conversation you have with your customer and that conversation needs to be seamless across different channels. A hybrid CMS — like Salesforce CMS — supports Omnichannel functionality. That’s because a hybrid CMS lets your teams create content in a central location and syndicate it to any digital touchpoint — whether it’s an experience powered by Salesforce or another system.
  3. Content is constantly evolving. We are all familiar with traditional content types like blogs or news articles. But customers expect all the information they consume to look and feel as engaging and polished as traditional content. With Salesforce CMS, you can take the data that lives in your CRM and display it like content. Imagine having the ability to take a product catalog and translating the rows and columns into rich, visual content, like a banner, tile menu, or engaging promotional CTA.
  4. Content is everyone’s job. Today, people in various roles across organizations need to be able to create and manage content. CMS systems that are difficult to use are on the way out because they are clunky, difficult to use — and expensive. Even more, these complex CMS are too slow to adapt to changing consumer expectations and the rapidly evolving demands of the business. Companies want something that is agile, accessible and can help teams hit the ground running.
Almost every industry is being heavily disrupted by Big Data, AI, Blockchain, and Predictive Intelligence technologies. What kind of future are you building for CMS and Marketing Automation with your AI and ML products?

From the ideation phase, Salesforce CMS was built on top of our CRM and the underlying AI platform Einstein. With Salesforce CMS, you can personalize the content every customer sees based on their user profile and viewing behavior. We call this progressive personalization, and it is only possible because the content is tied to the CRM and user profile data.

Our new Interaction Studio, gives marketers the ability to use AI to personalize with anonymous interactions based on DMP variables and segments. That means you can now capture engagement points from social media and advertising and use those insights to personalize digital experiences on your websites, portals, and forums.

What kind of technology would benefit the Commerce space the most? Do you foresee CMS delivered to mobile apps in the near future? How do you see content personalization impacting the commerce space?

Content is the core of every commerce storefront. But, irrelevant content is useless for customers. Content personalization will continue to play an increasing role in the commerce space. Specifically with AI-powered content and recommendations that give shoppers exactly what they were looking for – when they want it and wherever they are.

For example, on a commerce site, a customer will see content like blogs, look-books, and products based on their past purchase history, shopping cart or their engagement with the brand. This content can be consumed across multiple channels, especially mobile. So, the content you have created for your commerce site can be easily reused and repurposed for your app, email, or any other digital experience you use to connect with your customer. No need to create and recreate for different channels. How do we see AI play out? This most recent Cyber Week, up to 9% of digital orders were a result of AI-powered product recommendations and shoppers that purchased products from AI-powered recommendations bought 12% more units.

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What digital technology start-ups and labs are you keenly following?

I keep tabs on start-ups that are disrupting traditional markets with AI and that are changing business models. For example, Robinhood, the FinTech startup, is disrupting the investing market with commission-free, tech-based investment options. On the B2B side, there’s Snowflake and Rubrik, which are disrupting traditional data platform markets with faster and more flexible technology stacks and business models.

What other emerging technologies within your industry are you interested in?

I see disruption everywhere — payments, supply chain for commerce, rich media, AI-powered digital asset management. For instance, payments are shifting quickly, with many of us adopting more social transaction technologies. Within emerging markets, new approaches to payments are especially exciting because they are empowering people who have traditionally been underserved by the financial industry.

Do you think AI-enabled technologies will become ubiquitous to every Marketing and Sales operation?

I do, I actually believe that we are already there. At Salesforce, we’re seeing Einstein generate 10B predictions a day and we only expect these numbers to accelerate.

What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?

Delegation and coaching. If you invest and empower your teams, they can accomplish incredible things at scale.

Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Ian Kahn, Advisory Partner at PwC.

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Thank you, Adi! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.

Adi is currently GM Community Cloud and Senior Vice President, Products for B2B Commerce at Community Cloud includes Self Service, PRM, Portals and Lightning Community Builder. Adi has been recognized as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) for the Products team – an award given to the best product manager based on recognition by peers and executive management. Adi brings considerable product, deal-support and marketing experience and enjoys working in hard-paced collaborative environments with a focus on bringing innovative products to market.

Prior to, Adi was a Senior Consultant (Team Lead) at Ernst & Young Consulting (now Capgemini). At Ernst & Young, Adi was awarded the Top Performer award (top 5% of consultants).

Adi completed his MBA from the Kellogg School of Management with specialization in Marketing and Strategy.

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