Salesforce.com has been spending big on cloud marketing technology over the past few years. It spent $2.5 billion to acquire ExactTarget in June, after purchasing social marketing companies Radian6 and Buddy Media in 2011.
As analysts noted in 2012, after Salesforce introduced a solution called the Marketing Cloud, built on the technologies of Radian6 and Buddy Media, Salesforce was making a big bet on social marketing.
The bet may be paying off, based on a new report from the Bluewolf cloud consulting firm, a Salesforce platinum partner. Sixty percent of respondents ranked customer engagement as their top priority, and a whopping 84 percent said they believed customer engagement would overtake productivity as their company's primary driver of growth.
That is a big change from last year's report, said Bluewolf CEO and co-founder Eric Berridge.
"Everybody was talking about social last year, but this year it's all about customer experience and trying to determine how to create those customer moments that actually result in increased profits," he said. "Organizations are grappling with the concept of customer engagement. Because a mediocre customer experience is the norm, those organizations that are able to provide extraordinary customer experiences are winning against their competitors."
The report also saw a large increase in companies that plan to increase their spending on Salesforce solutions, with 69 percent of respondents indicating they planned to increase their Salesforce spend, vs. 29 percent that planned increases last year.
Berridge said Bluewolf believes its clients "have the potential to double their revenue if they can double their engagement with existing customers."
The report highlights successes of some Bluewolf clients, including pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, which hired Bluewolf to build a native iPad application for its sales representatives that integrates with Saleforce. Berridge said Bluewolf went on sales calls with the reps and filmed them, later examining the sales process to help them create the mobile app. In addition to allowing reps to view customer data, plan routes and place orders in the field, the app also lets them show video clips and other interactive materials to their physician clients. Reps using the app have benefited from increased doctor-to-patient recommendations.
A customer emphasis could also be seen in the most popular apps in the Salesforce AppExchange, which has experienced a rapid uptick in adoption. According to the report, 91 percent of respondents have at least one AppExchange application installed and 29 percent have at least five AppExchange apps. Marketing apps, customer-oriented dashboards and data cleansing apps were especially hot, Berridge said.
The report also shows growing acceptance of Salesforce as a development platform. Salesforce introduced its Force.com platform-as-a-service offering in 2007. The Wikipedia entry for Force.com cites a 2009 Gartner report that mentioned that Force.com had more than 1,000 customer accounts, "in addition to tens of thousands that used Force.com in conjunction with Salesforce.com." Yet it's hard to get a sense of how Force.com is doing. Earlier this year a GigaOm writer expressed frustration at the lack of transparency around adoption of Force.com and other Salesforce solutions.
While just 27 percent of survey respondents allocate budget to Force.com, that number is growing. Companies are "starting to get a taste for it," said Berridge. According to the report, 60 percent of respondents are increasing their budgets for custom application development on the Salesforce platform.