E-Commerce Times

Salesfusion Launches Spiffy New Marketing Automation Tool

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Salesfusion on Tuesday launched version 12 of its marketing automation solution.

Salesfusion Launches Spiffy New Marketing Automation Tool

The company rebuilt Salesfusion 12 from the ground up to provide an architecture robust enough to support "the easiest-to-use, most modern campaign creation tools available to marketers today," said Greg Vilines, Salesfusion's VP of product and engineering.

It provides enterprise-grade power and features without the typical price tag, he told CRM Buyer.

Dated architecture was one of the challenges the company faced, said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"Rearchitecting enables Salesfusion to modernize their solution," she told CRM Buyer.

The new Olympus modular automation framework, a key part of Salesfusion 12, processes campaigns and adds horsepower to handle increased workloads from traffic spikes.

Salesfusion 12 "was purpose-built for data-driven marketers who wish to build sophisticated marketing programs in a fraction of the time it previously took," Vilines said.

Customers can try out Salesfusion 12 for two weeks for free, he noted.

Olympus' Capabilities

Olympus leverages a scalable platform that dynamically adapts to shifts in workload volume, leveraging Amazon Web Services' natural virtualization capabilities, Vilines said.

Other Olympus components:

  • new data processing and indexing tools for inbound activity tracking, leveraging Amazon Kinesis Data Firehose and Elasticsearch; and
  • high-speed Redshift data warehouses to power advanced analytics and core dashboards and reporting.

"With the increased collaboration between marketers and sales teams, the complexity of multiple campaigns running concurrently and the associated data collection increases," noted Constellation's Zhou. "This new automation framework should help customers with performance speed and processing."

Salesfusion's New Features

Salesfusion 12 has three new features:

  • Page Builder – which has drag-and-drop builders that let marketers create landing pages and emails rapidly without needing specialized coding skills or third-party tools;
  • Advanced Analytics, which offers custom dashboards as well as reports that allow data drilling, visualization and data storytelling; and
  • Deeper CRM integration with Salesforce, Sugar, Sage, NetSuite, Microsoft Dynamics, Infor and Bullhorn.

PageBuilder has a WYSIWYG interface that lets users add images, videos and buttons. Users can build completely mobile-responsive pages that work across all devices.

PageBuilder leverages Salesfusion's Form Builder and automated actions to streamline interactions with prospects and customers.

Salesfusion 12 includes the Advanced Analytics platform, a new business intelligence module that lets users leverage marketing data to monitor campaign performance and connect marketing activities to revenue.

Salesfusion analytics dashboard
Click Image to Enlarge

Advanced Analytics was released in August as an add-on module for a fee, but is now included in Salesfusion 12, Vilines said. Further, it has new features – opportunity, ROI and funnel reporting.

For CRM integration, Salesfusion 12 includes integration with custom objects in both Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Salesforce. It has deepened connectivity with Bullhorn, and it integrates with campaigns in Salesforce, Infor and Microsoft Dynamics.

"Additional integrations with CRM will be important in making Salesfusion attractive," said Rebecca Wettemann, VP of research at Nucleus Research, "particularly with CRM vendors like Microsoft that don't have marketing automation capabilities in their core product."

Salesfusion has always rated high on usability," she told CRM Buyer. "These advancements will likely make it more attractive, particularly for organizations where marketers wear several hats — in SMBs — or aren't everyday users of the application."

Salesfusion has customers in various industries, including technology, healthcare, finance and recruiting, Vilines said.

Future Plans for Salesfusion 12

Salesfusion will release new features continually over the next few months as part of the Salesfusion 12 launch, including the following:

  • Account View — reshaping ABM efforts to facilitate better insights and account actions;
  • Response Prospector, which will leverage machine learning and AI to find new leads and keep databases up to date; and
  • An updated REST API, which will craft new ways to integrate directly to Salesfusion's platform.

"Many of the marketing automation leaders are building AI capabilities into their solution," Zhou noted.

In this respect, Salesfusion may have to work hard to catch up — companies such as Boomtrain, Abert and Blueshift already offer AI-powered marketing automation products.

Still, Salesfusion continuously improves its core infrastructure, Vilines emphasized, "to meet the ever-changing needs of marketers."


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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E-Commerce Times

Facebook’s Move to Dial Back News Ratchets Up Drama

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Facebook once again has found itself at the center of a media storm, following Mark Zuckerberg's recent announcement of plans to shift its focus away from promoting news and business content and more toward emphasizing interactions from friends and family.

The shift follows more than a year of heavy criticism directed against Facebook. It has been blamed for failing to combat fake news on its website during the 2016 presidential election. In addition, concerns have been growing over mental health issues linked to spending too much time on social media, especially for children and young adults.

Further, publishers have complained that Facebook and Google have been hijacking their content and advertising dollars to the point that many digital media site valuations have nearly evaporated.

However, the change Facebook just announced represents a further blow to publishers, according to Rick Edmonds, media business analyst at Poynter.

The network will lose some short term users, but fall short of addressing some of the core concerns, he maintained.

"My own view is that the move is more of a copout than a solution on hate speech and truly fake news," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Facebook couldn't find a way to differentiate that from quality journalism and tossed the baby out with the bath water."

Facebook represents a huge market for content companies, with 1.37 billion daily active users as of September 2017, and 2.07 billion monthly active users.

About 67 percent of U.S. adults who participated in a Pew Research Study at the time said they got at least some of their news from Facebook.

For the first time ever, more than half of adults 50 and older reported getting most of their news from social media, the study found. That represented an increase of 10 percent over 2016 figures, when 45 percent of adults in that age group got their news from social media.

Zuckerberg announced the new direction for Facebook last week, in a post that touched on recent concerns that Facebook might cause addictive behavior and result in isolation, particularly among younger people.

"We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren't just fun to use, but also good for people's well being," Zuckerberg wrote.

Like Minds

Among the concerns voiced by critics — including former President Barack Obama — is that many social media users have tended to gravitate toward a single political viewpoint, boxing out those who don't share the same ideas.

In the future, posts that are more likely to spark conversations with friends and family will be emphasized, said Adam Mosseri, Facebook's head of news feed.

As a result, reach, watch time and referral traffic may decrease, he noted.

The changes will make it more difficult for content brands and businesses to break through to Facebook users, said Tania Yuki, CEO of
Shareablee.

"Brands and media content companies are still welcome in this more intimate space, provided that their content enhances the time spent on Facebook and adds value to the experience of the average user," she told the E-Commerce Times.

"The onus is now on creators to think with that lens, rather than with the lens of purely driving business value for themselves," Yuki added.

Think Outside the Box

The impact of Facebook's latest move could be positive in the long term, suggested Jamie Spencer, senior vice president of
Magid, "if it convinces publishers to reallocate resources currently creating and posting Facebook content towards initiatives that deliver high-quality, monetizable content."

The amount of money invested in Facebook content now brings a questionable return, he told the E-Commerce Times, whereas if resources were reallocated toward premium video content for over-the-top or other distribution channels, consumers would get better content and publishers would see a stronger return.

Facebook's shift comes about six weeks after Snap announced plans to separate news content from personal posts by friends and family.

Snap late last year said it would create side-by-side feeds with Stories featuring original news and creative content on the right and Stories from friends on the left.

David Jones is a freelance writer based in Essex County, New Jersey. He has written for Reuters, Bloomberg, Crain's New York Business and The New York Times.

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E-Commerce Times

Infrastructure as an Anchor

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Oracle's race to the cloud has offered multiple successes to its investors and some disappointment as well. No transition of this magnitude can be expected to run like clockwork, but the difference between revenues for Oracle's Software as a Service apps for last quarter, US$1.1 billion, and those for its Infrastructure as a Service apps, at $396 million, should at least get you thinking.

There's a good explanation for this, and it's surprising that the company hasn't done more to provide guidance to its financial analysts — but then again, the purpose of reporting your finances is just that. There's no room for anything that can look like an excuse. That's too bad, because it can lead people to wrong conclusions.

I spent a day at Oracle last week receiving a briefing on the company's road map for the year ahead. While some of the information was presented under nondisclosure, I can say that the briefing ran the gamut and went into areas that I am not expert at, such as serverless apps, bare metal servers and the new autonomous database — but I am coming up to speed as fast as I can.

Information Utility

The company's cloud architecture and IaaS offering gave me one surprise: Oracle intends to roll out 13 distinct regions for IaaS connected by a very high-speed backbone. Each region is highly modularized with triple redundancy and easily can scale as demand increases. All of this is very important, I believe, because this is not simply about cloud computing but about another disruptive innovation we all will face in the next few years.

The disruption is the formation of an information utility, and it's all but certain that no single corporate entity will own all of it. As big as Oracle's plans are, Salesforce has similar ideas, and so do Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Amazon, and hosting services too numerous to mention. Yes, there will be consolidation, and those too-numerous vendors likely will be scooped up first.

But back to Oracle — $396 million is a lot of money but small change compared to its SaaS number and small compared with the company's aspirations. The logical conclusion that many finance people have drawn from that number is that Oracle has a "problem," or that it's not executing well in PaaS and IaaS, but really? Not exactly.

Only three of the 13 regions have been deployed so far, according to Oracle President of Product Development Thomas Kurian, who led off the analyst briefing. More will hit their markets this year — but the rollout takes time, and we'll still be talking about it next year.

Not having the regions up and running means that in some strategic places, the company doesn't have IaaS to sell. So the $396 million is a look into a still very much expanding world.

Just for fun, you could say that three of 13 is just under a quarter of the deployment. If the other regions were running as well as the three in place, the IaaS and PaaS numbers easily might be four times the reported revenue number. It's unclear if that's good or not since we don't know a lot, such as capacity and utilization of the existing regions, but still…

So for now, the revenue picture remains lumpy, but now we have more explanation and color for the results. Hopefully this also gives financial analysts something to consider as they try to figure out what the numbers mean to investors. The rest of the market seems to expect a bright future for Oracle as its stock continues to do well despite the lumpy earnings.

More Co-opetition Ahead

There's also discussion about renewed competition in the database market circulating after
a story in The Information suggested that companies like Amazon and Salesforce were building competitive database products and would depart Oracle in the near future.

I don't agree. If for nothing else, building a database is a big effort and one that detracts mightily from a company's primary business interests. It is dilutive of effort and cannibalistic of resources. For these reasons, it should be taken on only as a last resort. That's the way any business should look at any effort to self-source rather than go to the marketplace for needed resources.

On top of that, I recently spoke with Parker Harris, CTO and cofounder of Salesforce, and when asked about the story he said, "We have a good relationship with Oracle and we use a ton of it. We are not getting rid of the Oracle database. We are working on technologies that add capabilities around the edges, like sandboxes. We will have SQL Server and Oracle for a long time."

No surprises there. It's been true for a long time that in these big markets, sometimes we compete and sometimes we cooperate. In the era of the information utility, I expect a lot more co-opetition.


Denis Pombriant is a well-known CRM industry researcher, strategist, writer and speaker. His new book, You Can't Buy Customer Loyalty, But You Can Earn It, is now available on Amazon. His 2015 book, Solve for the Customer, is also available there. He can be reached at
denis.pombriant@beagleresearch.com.

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E-Commerce Times

New Google Service Makes Machine Learning More Accessible

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Google on Wednesday released its Cloud AutoML Vision service in Alpha. It is the first in a planned series of Cloud AutoML services designed to help people with limited machine learning expertise build their own custom models using advanced techniques such as learning2learn and transfer learning.

Learning2learn is a process for automating machine learning, while transfer learning "takes a fully trained model for a set of categories and retrains it from the existing weights for new classes," a Google Cloud spokesperson told the E-Commerce Times in a statement provided by company rep Danny McCrone.

Image Recognition

Cloud AutoML Vision makes it faster and easier to create custom ML models for image recognition.

Its drag-and-drop interface lets users upload images, train and manage models, then deploy those trained models directly on Google Cloud.

Cloud AutoML Vision is based on image recognition processes — including transfer learning and neural architecture search technologies — that result in more accurate models, even for users with limited ML expertise.

Cloud AutoML lets users create a simple model to pilot artificial intelligence-enabled applications in minutes — or build out a full, production-ready model in as little as a day.

The Cloud AutoML device has a simple graphical user interface that lets users specify data and then turns it into a custom model.

AutoML Vision is the result of close collaboration with Google Brain and other Google AI teams. Other Cloud AutoML products are in development.

Making ML Available to the Masses

Cloud AutoML goes beyond offering pretrained machine learning models via APIs that perform specific tasks, which Google already offers on Cloud AI.

It "takes ML beyond the data scientist — the eggheads, if you will," remarked Holger Mueller, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"This is the first step towards the nontechnical end user," he told the E-Commerce Times.

There's "a massive shortage of resources needed to turn machine learning into a market," noted Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

"Easy-to-use entry tools like this can help create resources to fill those holes, speeding advancement significantly," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"Pictures are not the prize," Constellation's Mueller said. "It's about getting the know-how out of the heads of people into software, and seeing if software can make better decisions."

Google "wants to get the compute load from [AutoML] services for the Google Cloud Platform, and then to solidify TensorFlow," he added. TensorFlow "has pretty much won the race for neural networks in the data scientist community; now it's all about keeping anybody else from getting to the end user."

Other Business Software

Vendors of CRM, marketing automation and sales force automation software that incorporates AI and ML technology need not fear Google Cloud AutoML, said Cindy Zhou, principal analyst at Constellation Research.

"Google just announced a renewed partnership with Salesforce for CRM and marketing with Google Analytics 360 integration," she told the E-Commerce Times.

"I see Google focusing on continuing to develop their ML models and not going into mature markets such as CRM or marketing automation," Zhou said.

Cloud AutoML Vision could be used by real estate companies, healthcare companies and retailers, according to Google.

Any company needing resources to build ML solutions would find Cloud AutoML services useful, as machine learning "isn't industry-specific," Enderle pointed out.

However, people "have to both know about and want to use the tools," he said. "The path to revenue remains uncertain despite the skill shortages."


Richard Adhikari has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2008. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile technologies, CRM, databases, software development, mainframe and mid-range computing, and application development. He has written and edited for numerous publications, including Information Week and Computerworld. He is the author of two books on client/server technology.
Email Richard.

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E-Commerce Times

Google to Ding Sluggish Sites in Mobile Search Rankings

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Google on Wednesday announced that page speed will be a ranking
factor for mobile searches, starting in July. Speed already has been a factor in
desktop search rankings. Soon, as part of Google's new "Speed
Update," page loading time will be factored in when ranking
mobile search results as well.

The change will affect only pages that deliver the slowest experience to users, according to Google, and thus should affect only a small percentage of searches. Sites that are
very slow will be down-ranked accordingly, but it is not clear whether
extremely fast sites will earn a rankings boost.

The same standards will be applied to all pages, regardless
of the technology that underlies them. Further,
a slow page still could rank higher than faster pages if
the slower page provides content considered more relevant to the specific
search.

Google called upon the development community to consider how a
site's performance can impact the user's experience, and it
highlighted a number of user experience metrics for making assessments.

Evaluation Resources

There is no one tool that can predict whether a page will be affected by the change, but there are
some resources that developers can use to test speed, Google noted, including the following:

  • The Chrome User Experience Report, a public dataset of key user
    experience metrics;
  • Lighthouse, an automated tool and part of the
    Chrome Developer tools; and
  • PageSpeed Insights, a tool that indicates
    how well a page performs on the Chrome UX Report and offers
    performance optimizations.

"This a logical conclusion for the Accelerated Mobile Page (AMP)
Project that Google launched in 2016," said Charles King, principal
analyst at Pund-IT.

"The point of that effort was to speed Web browsing processes, and
download results for mobile device users with a mechanism Google
created for predicting what sites a user would visit, and then
preloading site data into cache," he told the E-Commerce Times.

"The thing is that it only works on sites that have adopted AMP, so it
isn't what you'd call a universal panacea for mobile browsing or poor
browsing performance," King added.

Need for Speed

Ranking mobile sites by speed may be a bit overdue, considering that mobile
searches already have surpassed desktop searches.

"Google has used page speed as a desktop search ranking factor, and it
was long anticipated that it would be a mobile factor," said Greg
Sterling, vice president of the Local Search Association.

"Google is trying to maintain and grow engagement with mobile search,
where its revenue growth is happening," he told the E-Commerce
Times.

Mobile Search Acceleration

Google likely views this adjustment as a way to ensure that it remains the
leader in mobile search, an area it already dominates.

Google accounted for more than 94.4 percent of the mobile search market in the
United States as of last October, according to a recent Statista study.

For businesses, especially those that rely on mobile search, it may
mean that it is time to review the Chrome User Experience Report, and
ensure that everything is being done to lighten the load on sites.

Still, page loading speed shouldn't come at the expense of content, cautioned Pund-IT's King.

"Google says that browsing speed will be just one factor in its search
rankings, and that sites with great information will still rank highly
in mobile searches regardless of their use of AMP technologies," he pointed out.

"The company also noted that desktop browsing will not be affected by
the new ranking strategy," King added.

"That said, if companies want to maximize their exposure
to opportunities among mobile device users, they would do well to
investigate and consider adopting AMP, if they haven't already done
so," he suggested.

The takeaway is that a well-designed, content rich site that loads quickly is going to rank higher.

"Presenting websites that load quickly and create a better overall
user experience will help reinforce mobile search usage," said LSA's Sterling. "It will benefit the consumer and Google both."

Peter Suciu has been an ECT News Network reporter since 2012. His areas of focus include cybersecurity, mobile phones, displays, streaming media, pay TV and autonomous vehicles. He has written and edited for numerous publications and websites, including Newsweek, Wired and FoxNews.com.
Email Peter.

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