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Using Salesforce Experience, Marketing, and Commerce Clouds to Increase Constituent Engagement

Cloud for Good 2023 blog Using Salesforce Experience, Marketing, and Commerce Clouds to Increase Constituent Engagement

As with most industries and organizations, the way higher education professionals engage with constituents has become almost entirely digital over the years.

I remember rummaging through filing cabinets in high school looking for study material, and texting about college with friends on my (now historic) Nokia phone.  Ten years after I graduated, I worked as an admissions counselor dropping off college material and asking students to fill out paper cards while they were sending emojis and gifs on their iPhone 4.

Then, over the next 10 years, I worked for an institution that rebranded and restructured our website three times, created social media groups for engagement, and incorporated a brand-new CRM.  Technology moves in one direction: forward.

Embracing a New Vision for Education

Conversations amongst higher education professionals have transitioned from what kind of engagements are needed in a quickly evolving digital society to being centered around who, how, and where individuals are engaging with content that allows institutions to attract, retain, and engage with constituents.

CRMs, like Salesforce, are often an integral tool used to support, manage, and organize constituent data to facilitate meaningful relationships.  But the CRM alone doesn’t solve the number of engagements a constituent has with one’s institution when considering an institution’s website, course browsers, email, advertisements, social media, and even print material.

There are several options within the Salesforce ecosystem supporting constituent engagement and I often find myself asking what’s most appropriate for the various use cases I mentioned earlier.  Some have commonalities in their capabilities and others are unique where the use case has an obvious solution.  Then there are questions about how all these solutions work together and their inherent value to support institutional goals to engage constituents meaningfully.

Experience Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Commerce Cloud are the three primary Salesforce solutions suited to create digital engagement today.  These three Clouds all have specialized purposes, values, and use cases, with overlapping and collaborative capabilities.  Let’s do a quick intro into each of these as it pertains to higher education.

Experience Cloud

Experience Cloud, properly named, is intended for creating digital engagement and personalized experiences for constituents, such as students, alumni, donors, and institutional partners.  This Cloud is most commonly utilized for customized portals (where someone logs in) that provide seamless interaction between staff and the data being leveraged within the Salesforce CRM.  Experience Cloud is optimal when constituents are engaging with personalized content, like admissions applications, giving history, and when connecting to other constituents or to staff (like students and advisors).

Marketing Cloud

Marketing Cloud is a suite of solutions with an intentional focus on digital engagement and analytics.  From email and mobile engagements to automating the aggregation of marketing data and personalizing website experiences, Marketing Cloud presents itself as a suite of tools that support conversion, personalization, and strategy development.  Marketing Cloud is optimal when considering outreach and interacting with a constituent’s engagement behaviors.

Commerce Cloud

Commerce Cloud provides the ability to create fully featured online stores and shopping experiences, which we commonly see in higher education through online bookstores, apparel, and ticket sales.  Commerce Cloud provides a shopping experience while also providing a meaningful level of engagement as a constituent searches, selects, and learns about potential options, allowing for opportunities with life-long learning, giving, and fee-based programming (like summer camps).  Commerce Cloud is optimal when it comes to selling goods and services with minimal steps to complete a transaction.

With this type of understanding and some context for use cases, we can summarize the core foundation of these solutions as follows:

  • Experience Cloud is intended for authenticated digital engagements
  • Marketing Cloud is used for outbound and behavior-based experiences
  • Commerce Cloud is utilized when there are financial transactions at play

While these can all serve their purpose independently, utilizing them together to leverage each of their strengths is where we start to see true impact.

Connecting the Clouds

Starting with Experience Cloud, as someone is joining an online authenticated portal, we would expect a welcome email. This is something that’s triggered as part of the standard functionality.

Zooming out for a moment, if you think about a social media site you’ve signed up for, you get the welcome email, but that’s followed the next day by recommendations on people to follow, activities you may be interested in, and tips on how to best utilize the platform. Using this same line of thinking, Experience Cloud can be an engine for engagement and then institutions can leverage Marketing Cloud to establish an onboarding journey that highlights, guides, and takes advantage of the value associated with the digital experience.

Recruitment and Admissions is a common use case, working to drive the student back to the portal to register for an event, chat live with a staff member or ChatBot, or complete an application.  For an alumni portal, it may articulate the value of their engagement (find a mentor) as well as tips and tricks on managing their profile or navigating the site overall.  Marketing Cloud provides the ability to position the value of the Experience Cloud site.

The term “Amazon-like” experience is often used when institutions want to create an engaging experience where constituents are drawn back, whether they make a transaction or not, particularly with e-commerce (Commerce Cloud).  Marketers are familiar with the term “Abandoned Cart,” where someone adds something to a shopping cart but doesn’t checkout.  This is a prime audience, as you know what they are interested in and can build a strategy around those interests. Marketing Cloud empowers the Abandoned Cart Journey when coupled with Commerce Cloud.

Leveraging Connection

Landing pages can help support engagement while also guiding individuals to an authenticated community.  Once someone is engaged on an Experience site or through Commerce Cloud, the more they engage with the institution, the deeper the relationship becomes.  As an institution creates engagement in an online shopping experience, what’s next once they’ve completed the transaction?

Marketing Cloud Personalization can create unique website experiences by understanding individual behavior on your website.  The idea is that someone who is regularly searching for Engineering, for example, is being presented with content about Engineering and related subjects.  We don’t know this mystery person, but we know their behaviors on our website, which tells a story about who they are and their interests.  Marketing Cloud allows us to leverage that information to create a personalized digital experience, even without the individual telling us anything.

This is just a snapshot of common use cases to create an engaging digital experience in an educational environment.  I think it’s important to ask meaningful questions to determine the right tool(s) to accomplish your goals. Some questions to consider:

  • How do your audiences engage with you today and are they taking the actions you’re anticipating?
  • What are your audiences’ (known and unknown) expectations when engaging with your institution/organization?
  • Who is the intended audience, and what are the key performance indicators to determine impact?

Being able to talk through these types of questions supports your technology strategy as much as your engagement strategy.  These tools should be used interdependently as Higher Education constituents demand a modern-day experience in which we know who they are without them telling us who they are.

When used in a connective, interdependent fashion, these Salesforce Clouds can provide higher education institutions, and their constituents, with a modern-day experience capable of increasing engagement and strengthening effectiveness campuswide.

To learn more about how Salesforce technology can drive impact at your institution, contact Cloud for Good today.

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