Here are the trends and takeaways from Salesforce's annual sales conference.
5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Dreamforce is an annual Salesforce conference with keynotes on the latest trends and developments in marketing, communications, technology, and — of course— customer relationship management (CRM).
The latest conference saw over 171,000 attendees from 120+ countries. Keynote talks included topics from AI and 5G to the value of improv skills in the workplace. As an annual attendee, I think there’s a lot that happened this year worth noting.
If you’re an enterprise marketer — or even if you just want to learn more about successful marketing and customer relationship management in competitive industries, here are a few of the biggest takeaways.
(And it’s okay if you missed Dreamforce this year—you can actually watch up to 100 keynote speeches from this year’s conference for free.)
1. We’re accelerating towards mobile-first CRMs
We all know that the mobile-first era is already here — that much has been clear for some time now. Catering to mobile customers through streamlined and personalized experiences is not only recommended — it’s essential.
But did you know that nearly half of all online shopping is done via mobile? In fact, during Cyber Monday 2018 (which generated $7.9 billion in online revenue), 54% of visitors shopped and purchased from mobile devices.
While most enterprise marketers are aware of this (to a degree), the extent to which you can adapt to a mobile-first mentality depends a lot on what industry you’re in and who your customers are.
Some customer-facing verticals, like Retail, are getting very good at figuring out where their customers spend the most time online, and have reacted accordingly.
Others, like Consumer Goods, are still playing catch-up. As an example, nearly 95% of the annual $1 trillion in U.S. consumer goods sales still come from traditional retail, not online.
In my experience, one of the biggest reasons so many businesses and industries are slow to catch up to customer’s mobile-first expectations is due to legacy CRM systems.
2. Soft skills are more sought-after, not just tech proficiency
Another interesting and little-talked about trend happening in nearly all industries, one that touches on everything from marketing and branding to CRMs and customer support, is a gradual shift back towards hiring for traditional ‘soft’ skills typically found in Humanities majors.
While digital literacy is vital to success in our tech-dependent world, the importance of possessing successful people skills (also referred to as behavioral skills) has become increasingly valued over the past few years.
In fact, IBM’s latest research found that behavioral skills were the top 4 core competencies sought by global executives — surpassing the previously dominant technical core capabilities for STEM, as well as for analytics skills and business acumen.
Ironically, fewer students are choosing the humanities (more are choosing STEM fields), but more STEM employers are hiring for humanities grads than ever before.
Why the sudden shift away from tech grads? Probably because robots are starting to do everything better than humans. When it comes to data analysis, big number crunching, and automating mundane tasks, AI and machine learning are hard to beat.
By comparison, learning effective behavioral skills—like negotiating with a lead, closing new business, managing customer expectations, or even coming up with effective marketing and customer engagement campaigns—is much harder for AI. We still need humans for that.
3. Diversity, equality, and inclusivity matter more than ever
The concept of diversity poses a unique challenge to modern brands. In a time when user data is used as currency in exchange for improved user experiences, marketers have a huge opportunity to identify a unified, single view of the customer.
But while artificial intelligence can help marketers make sense of the wealth of user data at their fingertips, the ethics of AI are actually under scrutiny.
Did you know that artificial intelligence is not immune to unconscious human bias? Because the process of ‘training’ an AI isn’t neutral (humans pick and choose what to show it), an AI can actually ‘learn’ biases as well as patterns that perpetuate prejudice and harmful stereotypes.
Some recent examples of this “programmed prejudice” include voice recognition software that had difficulty understanding women and an online ad platform that was more likely to show high-paying executive jobs to men than women.
These instances of prejudice in AI (which is inevitably subject to human bias) underscore the need to apply diversity and inclusivity to programming.
With great tech comes great responsibility
It’s an exciting time to be an enterprise marketer. I’ve been doing this for over 10 years now, both brand-side and consulting-side, and I feel like I’m constantly learning something new each week.
Related: The Sales Superpowers of Introverts
But with so many new opportunities each year, it becomes harder to stay ahead of the curve. Even if you’re doing just fine in terms of revenue, if you aren’t innovating and keeping up with current trends in your industry? You’re probably getting left behind by a competitor.
So how are you keeping up with customer expectations? Do you know what the current trends are in your industry? And have you been following what your biggest competitors are doing quarterly?
If not, what are you waiting for?