By Heather Clancy
August 13, 2015

Salesforce (CRM) is the latest high-profile software company to embrace the “buy” button.

Its idea: embed e-commerce features right into customer support sites, feedback forums or other online resources that someone might use to research a product or a project already. Why send someone somewhere else, the argument suggests, if he or she can be convinced to complete a transaction right away?

Need a certain part to fix a faulty appliance? Now, you can buy it immediately after you figure out which one is right to solve the problem. Want to commission an outside expert to help complete a renovation project? You may be able to “order” someone’s services on the spot, after reviewing his or her commentary on a home improvement retailer’s “do it yourself” site.

Social media giants Twitter (TWTR), Facebook (FB) and Pinterest have all added in-context e-commerce capabilities over the past year. Twitter’s experiment was recently expanded to more than 100,000 merchants that run on the Shopify platform. What Salesforce is doing extends the concept beyond retailers, enabling other sorts of companies to enable transactions in the moment.

 

“This makes things more frictionless,” said Mike Stone, senior vice president of marketing for the Salesforce Community Cloud. “Most businesses have separate community and commerce sites. Normally, combining the two would require a significant engineering effort.”

Salesforce Community Cloud is used by organizations to manage outreach and communications with partners, customers and employees. The new capability is part of the forthcoming winter 2016 update. It is made possible through “Lightning Components” that allow new features to be added to their existing communities quickly, without requiring a software developer.

Initially, the release will enable e-commerce services from three Salesforce partners: Bigcommerce, CloudCraze, and Demandware. That means a company needs to use—and pay for—one of these three services to take advantage of it.

The three companies were chosen based on marketshare with existing Salesforce Community Cloud customers, Stone said. Salesforce doesn’t disclose customer counts for any of its individual “Cloud” offerings, but he put the number in the “thousands worldwide.”

Three Salesforce Community Cloud customers already experimenting with embedded e-commerce are PonoMusic, the site founded by musician Neil Young; software company Avid Technology, which is creating marketplaces to support sales between musicians and media professionals; and Deloitte, which has created a “Digital Hub” used by a global consumer goods company to manage orders from hundreds of local retailers.

 

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