The Future of Customer Engagement is Here… & It’s Powered by Your Data Strategy | Key Insights from Salesforce Connections 2024

Nick Giardinelli



Attending Salesforce Connections 2024 in Chicago was an experience that reaffirmed the complexity that currently exists within marketing technology, and the role of Salesforce's ecosystem of products and partners. The event brought together industry leaders, innovators, and Salesforce enthusiasts from across the globe, and the overarching theme was clear: the future of customer engagement is herebut it's powered by data and AI. The critical question, though, is how prepared are organizations for this future, and how can they properly gear up for it?

In partnership with Salesforce co-presenters, James Murphy and Ram Machiraju, Bond had the wonderful opportunity to host a Loyalty Lunch as a Consulting Partner during the second day of Connections. The session focused on key trends in customer loyalty over the past year, serving as a preview of The 2024 Bond Loyalty Report. With an emphasis on the technological and operational considerations necessary for evolving these programs, we dove into how best to leverage emerging technology effectively.


The Competition for Share of Wallet

One key trend that we discussed was the increasing competition for share of customer wallet; customers are enrolling in more loyalty programs than ever, but engagement rates are not keeping pace. Organizations must strategically utilize their programs to capture a larger share of customer spend. For loyalty platforms to succeed, they must integrate experiential data without compromising performance, POS, and e-commerce platforms. The question then becomes: are existing loyalty platforms designed to handle all of this data?  Therein lies a significant opportunity for brands to connect data from all areas of an organization using the Salesforce Data Cloud.

The Power of the Cloud

Data Cloud was one of the most talked-about platforms at the event, and its potential is vast. Salesforce has positioned Data Cloud as central to their platform's future success, with innovations in products such as Commerce Cloud and Marketing Cloud, which increasingly focus on AI enhancements. Data Cloud integrates disparate data sources, consolidates profiles with related data, generates insights, segments the data, and activates it to enhance customer experiences. It allows organizations to connect, absorb, and federate their data at scale using out-of-the-box connectors from any source. This capability is invaluable in today's data-driven world and will be crucial for loyalty programs aiming to drive new types of engagement.

A critical insight from our discussion was also the importance of focusing on the entire customer lifecycle and ensuring that every interaction is personalized. Even the most sophisticated organizations have blind spots in their customer journey; it's essential that they understand what data is being captured and be able to develop a plan to address those gaps. This is where continuous testing and learning become crucial. By iteratively refining your approach, you can identify and remedy these blind spots, building a more comprehensive view of the customer experience in the process.

1. Relevancy: The Secret Ingredient

Despite significant marketing tool advancements, many organizations still face barriers to effectively capturing relevant data. Even when engagement data is available, it's often used for product recommendations, ad re-targeting, or driving loyalty earn/burn activities. This limited, and perhaps standard, focus can hinder the full potential of AI and other emerging technologies.
AI's effectiveness hinges on the quality and comprehensiveness of the data that it processes. In other words, organizations must become more customer-centric when addressing their data gaps. Without identifying these gaps, AI models will be trained on limited datasets, only optimizing a narrow range of customer interactions. Brands need a comprehensive data strategy to purposefully implement innovative technologies, ensuring that they can leverage AI effectively.

2. Waterfall Segmentation

Several features of Data Cloud particularly stood out, waterfall segmentation being one of them. Waterfall segmentation is an amazing quality-of-life feature for marketers, aligning perfectly with the need for more personalized customer journeys. This feature allows businesses to group and prioritize segments for fine-grained control of membership, ensuring mutually exclusive membership across the waterfall, and supporting different journeys for each sub-segment. The feature also helps organizations to iteratively evaluate, learn, and refine their strategies, creating a robust data foundation that supports effective AI integration and enhances the overall customer experience. 

3. A Top-Tier Experience

Another notable topic was personalized experiences in loyalty programs. Customers continue to report that they are engaging with tiered programs, but the experience can feel crowded when a multitude of customers earn status, as seen in our 2024 Bond Loyalty Report data. Brands leveraging platforms that can adapt to their needs and create unique tier experiences will reap the rewards. Salesforce has done an excellent job with their Loyalty Management product, enabling flexible tier-building, testing of benefits, and changes through an easy-to-use interface.

4. Better Together

Partnerships are also becoming an expectation among customers as large-scale programs diversify their value propositions with partner-related benefits. Partnerships need not be intimidating. The addition of a simple redemption partner for your program can diversify the value that customers receive and boost engagement. Salesforce had the foresight to see this trend as an opportunity, building easy-to-use features into their Loyalty Management platform.

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Salesforce Connections 2024 was a powerful reminder that customer experience (CX), loyalty, and CRM are changing everydayand with it, so must we. The innovations and insights shared can be leveraged by many brands as a roadmap to enhance their customer engagement strategy. At Bond, we passionately believe that loyalty is not just about the program; it is an outcome. Creating a first-class customer experience, with the loyalty program as the key mechanic, will inherently drive long-term customer loyalty. By focusing on comprehensive data strategies and leveraging tools such as Data Cloud, businesses can unlock unprecedented levels of customer engagement. A robust data strategyone with the ability to deliver personalized experiencescan help maintain your brand's competitive edge.

Bond is a proud market leader in developing human-centric growth strategies. Our offerings range from loyalty consultation to product design and go-to-market strategy—all with a human-centric and loyalty science-based approach.

Reach out if you’re looking to dive deeper into Bond’s methodology for fostering loyalty outcomes—we’d love to chat.