Salesforce flexes its muscles with Community Cloud
Launched in 2013, Salesforce’s online communities offering, Salesforce Community Cloud, provides a platform for engaging with customers and partners – as well as enabling internal employee collaboration. The product builds upon and extends Salesforce’s CRM, service desk and marketing applications and leverages the social features of Chatter. Despite being a relatively new entrant to this space, Community Cloud has been very successful for Salesforce. With 7,800 communities now deployed, it’s made the company a dominant player in a relatively small marketplace.
Communities as an extension of the Customer Success Platform
Though Salesforce has offered portal technology for customer and partner engagement for several years, the company formally launched its external communities offering in June 2013 with the release of Salesforce Communities – now called Salesforce Community Cloud. Leveraging the social collaboration features of Salesforce’s high-profile Chatter technology, Salesforce Community Cloud allows organisations to create branded online environments where they can engage with customers and partners. It also provides a more comprehensive and better-defined platform for enterprise-wide employee collaboration than Chatter allows. Key partner community scenarios supported by the product include partner relationship management, channel sales support, agent and broker engagement and franchise management; while customer community scenarios include e-commerce, brand engagement and self-service – the latter being a key sweet spot for Salesforce.
Positioned at its launch as “ending the era of legacy portal software”, Salesforce Community Cloud replaced the self-service Salesforce Customer Portal product, bringing a more interactive approach to customer self-service support, and one that integrates tightly with the organisation’s CRM and other business applications. This is one of the key areas of differentiation of the Salesforce Community Cloud offering; rather than simply providing a standalone community platform, it augments and connects neatly with Sales Cloud, Service Cloud and Marketing Cloud to enable clients to track, target, support and engage with their own customers and partners, enabling community investments to contribute to existing commercial KPIs in a joined-up and integrated way.
In just three years, Salesforce has established an impressive and fast-growing customer base for Salesforce Community Cloud. There are 7,800 communities hosted on the platform globally, accounting collectively for more than 60 million community members – figures that increased 86% and 216% respectively over the last year. Around 35% of these deployments are for customer communities, with a further 35% providing partner communities, and the remainder focused on internal, employee collaboration. More than a fifth of Community Cloud customers have two or more communities deployed, and the majority of customers purchase Community Cloud in conjunction with another Salesforce product. Salesforce’s largest community has more than one million members.
It’s worth noting, though, that not all Salesforce’s Community Cloud customers leverage the social interaction aspects of the product; many have deployed it primarily as a customer or partner portal with a focus on knowledge sharing, perhaps with an eye on enabling social features at some point in future. In addition, having discontinued the Salesforce Customer Portal product, Salesforce provides a free upgrade path to existing portal customers, and there are still some who haven’t yet made the transition to Community Cloud.
Salesforce Community Cloud product overview
Delivered as a SaaS-based service on the Force.com platform, Salesforce Community Cloud provides a well-rounded community environment that incorporates the social interaction and engagement capabilities of Salesforce Chatter with a flexible and configurable, portal-style UI that integrates tightly with other major products in the Salesforce portfolio.
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