The most critical brand differentiator today isn't price or even product but customer experience. Indeed, researcher firm Gartner has called customer experience the "new competitive battlefield." With that in mind, Salesforce.com has updated its Community Cloud offering with Lightning Customer Communities'.""
Lightning Customer Communities builds on the Community Cloud Salesforce introduced in 2013 to enable companies to create online spaces where customers can ask questions, find answers and engage with a like-minded community.
Salesforce makes it possible for a company to add a tab or a link to its Website that leads to a page which feels like part of the site, but actually is hosted by Salesforce.
"Customers always want to go faster. They always want a richer, more engaging experience. So we wanted to lower the technical barrier for them," Michael Stone, Salesforce senior vice president 'of marketing for its Community Cloud, told eWEEK.
Lightning Customer Communities features several major changes to the Community Cloud. For one, customers can customize their pages without writing any code—the new pages include a slew of tools and drag-and-drop features that are somewhat similar to designing a Squarespace page. (Squarespace is a content manager integrated with a Website builder and hosting service.) In a matter of minutes, multiple Components including photos, videos and various other kinds of content can come together to create, for example, a question-and-answer environment.
One Component puts a shopping cart beside a discussion of particular items. If the community were talking about ways to fix a carburetor or to prepare a recipe, for example, tools mentioned in the discussion—or relevant to it—would be highlighted in the Component and made to purchase as easy as anything on Amazon.
A company also can curate the experience to each customer.
Stone demonstrated the look of a Q&A section for a coffee roaster being visited by an anonymous user. When the user signed in, not only was she greeted and treated with a reward, but the content shifted to articles and other content the site knew was most relevant to her.
"Our customers want their customers to find the information they need with the least amount of work," said Stone. "So we're using data science to identify the best information."
Salesforce also has put serious focus on search engine optimization (SEO), so when a customer turns to the Internet for an answer, she's much more likely to be presented with a relevant Lighting Customer Community page.
In a world of companies determined to push their links to the top of Google's lists, Salesforce has followed every best practice, "from how URLs are structured to how information is laid out on the page," said Mike Micucci, senior vice president of product management at Salesforce. "So when you search in Google, it understands this is a good place to go."
It also understands where in the world your browser is opening and 37 languages, and can translate the full site.
Since we first introduced [Community Cloud], said Micucci, "we've seen our customers not only embrace it but deploy multiple experiences. For example, they might deploy one version for the partners and another for their customers."
The new version, added Stone, is the best of numerous worlds.
"It takes what was a great branded experience on a mobile-enabled Website and combines it with the business information from old-school portals. And then the best information from social feeds. And then also user-generated content that really helps to build a genuine relationship with the customer," said Stone. "We combine all three of those things to create a system of record that's also a system of engagement."