• Salesforce’s commerce and marketing business unit was its fastest growing last quarter.
  • The firm expects online shopping tools to be a “big engine of growth” in 2021 too.
  • Exec Lidiane Jones said it plans to tailor its ecommerce tools to new industries.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the pandemic boosted the need for software that powers ecommerce platforms, Salesforce’s marketing and commerce unit was its fastest-growing business last year in terms of revenue. Commerce in particular is going to be “a big growth engine for Salesforce” in 2021 too, Salesforce exec Lidane Jones predicts.

The firm’s Commerce Cloud unit sells tools to help companies set up ecommerce sites and manage back-end inventory.

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While traditional retail companies have been its main customers so far – it counts PetSmart, The Body Shop, Build-a-Bear, and Adidas among its clients – Salesforce plans to expand into categories like grocery and automotive, Jones told Insider earlier this month.

“They are earlier in their digital transformation across commerce and marketing, so we think there’s such a massive amount of growth for us in these spaces,” she said. “Digital commerce is a necessity for every industry.”

Insider spoke to Jones about how Salesforce is growing its ecommerce tools and why Commerce Cloud will be a big driver of Salesforce’s growth this year.

Commerce Cloud has evolved since 2016

Salesforce built Commerce Cloud through a combination of acquisitions and in-house development.

It began by acquiring ecommerce startup Demandware in 2016 for $2.8 billion and then building additional features into the tech. Demandware’s customers were mainly consumer-facing firms, but Salesforce wanted to target companies that sold to other businesses, too. So in 2018 it bought a company called Cloudcraze to help it build tools for B2B firms.

Salesforce has also recently added order-management tools built in-house and payment capabilities via a partnership with payment processing company Stripe.

In response to the pandemic it also launched four “quick-start” solutions last spring, including a product aimed at food services and restaurants, a tool for companies selling essential goods and services, and two general tools for business-to-business selling as well as online ordering and curbside pickup for retail stores.

What’s ahead for Salesforce in commerce

As the end of the pandemic nears, the aim now is to help companies create more seamless connections between online and physical shopping experiences, Jones said. Salesforce also wants to create more specialized tools for certain industries.

“Our goal is to continue to make sure that these products are very well-integrated,” Jones said. “Customers have a spectrum of needs that doesn’t just fit one box.”

Salesforce’s advantage with Commerce Cloud so far has been its ability to create easy-to-use templates for businesses, said Valoir analyst Rebecca Wettemann. Creating a traditional ecommerce site is a labor intensive process, she said, and many companies still have custom code for their online shopping experiences that is “expensive to support, not good at supporting peaks in traffic, and not good at moving quickly to address new channels or new customer needs.”

She’s closely watching Salesforce’s progress in connecting the online and physical shopping experiences, such as video chatting with an sales agent or retail employee while buying something online.

Salesforce has been experimenting with different ways to do that, including something called live shopping. For example, on Cyber Monday , cosmetics firm The Body Shop held an online event where its retail employees featured new products to potential customers.

To Jones it’s an indication of how Commerce Cloud can be used to retain customers and give companies the technology needed to create a modern customer experience.

“Our real goal is lowering the barrier to entry and also be very connected to what the consumer needs are,” Jones said. “We’re a CRM company, so having a customer-centric commerce – where it’s personalized at scale – really helps brands transform their business.”

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