The advancement of technology has enabled companies to become better connected with the global marketplace. However, it also places them in the unenviable position of trying to keep up with the latest trends to reassure the public that they’re not falling behind in the times. In doing so, one key relationship is arguably being mismanaged: that with the customer.

Amid the social networks, mobile apps, cloud computing technologies, and now devices as part of the “Internet of Things” phenomenon, businesses are looking at tactical solutions rather than remembering that the target of each implementation are the people buying the service or product. Salesforce is hoping to capitalize on this belief with the launch of its latest platform to help its customer companies regain their focus and build better relationships.

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Called Salesforce1, it consolidates all of these Internet-based technologies into one service that companies can use to build out their offering so that more time is spent on the customer. In what will be formally unveiled at Salesforce’s Dreamforce conference on Tuesday, the platform provides improved API capabilities, new mobile apps — one for customers and two for administrators, more access for AppExchange partners and independent software vendors (ISVs), and more.

Meet Salesforce1

Salesforce bills its newest platform as a customer relationship management (CRM) platform geared towards developers, ISVs, admins, and customers. It rests on top of the company’s other platform offerings, including Force.com, Heroku, and ExactTarget (which was acquired in June). Developers and businesses can use Salesforce1 to build new services that will help them better market and sell their products to their customers with more capabilities.

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An interesting tidbit about Salesforce1 is that it focuses on customers, not consumers. When asked to explain the difference, Saleforce’s Vice President of Platform Marketing Scott Holden said that customers are those that have made a conscious decision to purchase a product, while a consumer is still investigating their options. It’s not that Salesforce is saying companies need to stop acquiring new customers, but rather that once new customers have been signed, it’s important to make sure they feel valued as well.

One-stop toolkit to build mobile marketing and sales tools

There are four key parts to Salesforce’s newest platform that will affect all parties, no matter whether they’re developers, administrators, or the company’s customers. It’s certainly focused on mobile — recent studies show that 5 billion people will use mobile phones by 2017, so it would make sense to have a product that will appeal to all. Let’s take a look Salesforce1’s offering:

More API functionality for developers to create better apps

In order to offer the ability to better market, sell, and service, Salesforce needed to create a platform that enabled developers to bring it easily into their own apps and tools. That’s why Salesforce1 was built around the company’s numerous API feeds — 10 times more than before. This includes the addition of new streaming and REST APIs along with more than 230 calls and methods being provided.

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Moreover, Salesforce has enhanced its Visualforce product and made it a part of this new platform. Launched in 2007, Visualforce is a tool to help developers build custom user interfaces on any app screen integrated with the Salesforce CRM. Today the company is releasing Visualforce1 that does all the same things, but now will help build mobile apps.

An improved AppExchange

The Salesforce1 platform is launching with 17 partners already signed up, including Box, LinkedIn, Docusign, Evernote, Dropbox, HP, FinancialForce.com, and Concur. Salesforce says that these businesses are using the platform to help build mobile-ready apps and leveraging its AppExchange marketplace to help sell them.

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The new AppExchange is built using Salesforce1’s Customer Platform and handles the delivery and marketing part of the app production process. Other capabilities include a revenue sharing model between Salesforce and developers, “technical enablement” and go-to-market strategy creation assistance, and distribution into Private AppExchanges, which were recently introduced.

Empowering admins

For the first time, Salesforce is releasing two mobile apps that enable administrators to manage their own instance from anywhere. These apps will provide real-time updates and allow admins to remotely reset user passwords if needed. It will also manage who has access to the Salesforce CRM and can review the maintenance and upgrade schedules at any time.

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The two new mobile apps are called SalesforceA and Salesforce#. The former manages user permissions while the latter serves as a means of two-factor authentication. Both are available for iOS and Android devices.

➤ Salesforce admin app for iOS | Android

New mobile app for Salesforce users

Salesforce is also unveiling a new mobile app for users of its cloud computing software. Available for iOS and Android devices, the app enables company customer users to have direct access to their AppExchange apps, their instance of Salesforce, and other previous “investments”.

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Using the Salesforce1 app, it’s built with a feed-first user interface, contains a notification platform, and offers publisher actions, which will let you create custom actions like updating inventory, escalating a case, and more. Holden says that it will bring the “best of capabilities in Salesforce” into one single app.

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➤ Salesforce1 Mobile for iOS | Android

Highlighting the “Digital Business Era”

Principal analyst and founder of Constellation Research R “Ray” Wang tells us that Salesforce’s newest addition helps accelerate its way into something he calls the “digital business era”. He believes that Salesforce1 will enable the company to grow its addressable market while allowing company customers to improve outreach to customers across the various parts of the digital spectrum. These include the people most comfortable with the Internet (the “natives”) to those who want nothing to do with it (the “disengaged”).

However, while Salesforce1 is all well and good, Wang says that a big gap exists: the lack of analytics. As he explains it:

“There’s a big data opportunity here to enhance customer experiences, bench mark, and broker data, and to build new business models around big data and analytics.”

Salesforce hasn’t said anything about analytics being available with Salesforce1. However, it wouldn’t be that hard to say that developers could simply tap into the Marketing Cloud product to derive useful analytics.

Another point Wang raises is that we could begin seeing a shift in organizational behavior — one from engagement to personalization at scale. It’s also less about business to business or to consumer, but rather a peer-to-peer world. The marketplace needs to put more than a number and value on their customer — Salesforce1 hopes to be that solution to simplify the process so companies can go back to spending more of their effort servicing the person, not the tactics.

Free for all paying Salesforce customers

Salesforce1 is free to use for anyone using Salesforce and existing users will automatically be upgraded.

Photo credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

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