How Salesforce is compelling Israeli retailers to go online

“We’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, and the world is changing very rapidly.”

The Salesforce logo is pictured on a building in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 12, 2016.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
The Salesforce logo is pictured on a building in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 12, 2016.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Enterprise software. It doesn’t sound sexy.
Yet Salesforce – a US cloud-computing company– is helping Israeli retailers transition to the digital age and get their e-commerce operations up to an American level of customer support.
“Buying enterprise software should be as simple as buying a book off of Amazon,” said Simon Short, Salesforce’s executive vice president for its customer success group in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Meeting in Salesforce Israel’s Tel Aviv office on a top floor of a high-rise near the Azrieli complex, Short sounded passionate about how the shopping experience for Israeli consumers would be much easier now that brick-and-mortar shops must integrate inventory with their online presence.
“We’re in the middle of the fourth industrial revolution, and the world is changing very rapidly,” Short said. “We’re seeing the whole impact of mobile, cloud, artificial intelligence, robots and 4-D printing.”
4-D printing is the manufacturing of an object that has artificial intelligence and can transform over time; or robots who perform a task after printing the chip. There is no need for manual human input.
Amid transformations in production and media, consumers wield more power than ever to harm the reputation of a company, by complaining about degrading treatment at a store on social media.
Israeli retailers are known historically to sound brusque and uninterested when providing diplomatic customer services. In response, Facebook and Twitter complaints can ricochet, changing the balance of power and forcing stores to personalize care and advertising.
“I think the consumers in Israel are starting to be sophisticated,” said Hila Levy-Loya, Salesforce regional vice president for customer success in Israel. “We are open to global commerce, we are starting to see the old standards of service change as we see these high customer expectations. If a company does not meet these high expectations, they won’t be in business.”
The ability for a customer to tank a store’s business is leading to executives rethinking business priorities. That’s where Salesforce steps in, helping to synchronize warehouse inventory with the call center and website, so customers don’t have to repeat the same personal information on the phone, over and over again.
“It’s quite often in an organization that tech is seen as an infrastructure that keeps the business side running,” Levy-Loya added. “And the business side is seen to deal with the customers and drive the top line. Their job is strategy and top-line growth, and technology is changing the business model.”
Short, who served for 15 years in the British Navy, says he has much in common with Israeli colleagues, who embody a similar military ethos.
“Israel is innovative, exciting. It has incredible talent. A lot of the R&D is what we’ve acquired in Israel,” he said.
Salesforce previously bought Israeli data-entry automation start-up Implisit Insights in a deal reported to be worth tens of millions of dollars in 2016.
And the company is continuing to invest in other local start-ups in its Salesforce Ventures branch. Short sees the technology potential behind Israel’s “Silicon Wadi” to be nearly as promising as Silicon Valley.
Salesforce already retains many Israeli clients, from Cellcom to Bank Leumi to Gett taxi service, along with government ministries.
Salesforce employees in the country also volunteer thousands of hours toward education, taking part in the Gesher L’Noar organization which connects them with children to advise on how to best reach their professional goals – similar to the American Big Brothers/Big Sisters group.
Founded in 1999, Salesforce offers a customer relationship management platform. It also has revolutionized how clients buy enterprise software in that it’s akin to buying a continuous service, not software that can be managed by itself.
Salesforce was one of the first tech firms to unbundle its products, helping the company become the fastest growing enterprise software company ever to reach $10 billion of revenue, according to Short.
Based in San Francisco, the firm has a market capitalization of $77.6b.