Vendors often like to employ great lofty narratives to sell their vision. And fair enough as there are often great and lofty rewards in play. Users, however, often have more prosaic concerns. That reality was brought home again at this week’s Salesforce Connections 2018 conference in Chicago.

What the heck do vendors mean by the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) anyway? Is it yet another American buzzword that we should roll our eyes at, or is it something that really will make a difference? If we look back over the last few hundred years we can see three clear industrial revolutions. The 1st was ushered in with the puffing of the steam train. The second with the flick of the light bulb. The third industrial revolution blinked into life with the advent of the Internet.

According to Salesforce, now we are now on the precipice of the fourth industrial revolution with the manifestation of technologies like IoT, BlockChain and specifically A.I. The question of course is whether this forth industrial revolution will be as transformative to the world as the previous three have, or will it be just another term that ad-tech vendors put on their sales decks in order to increase brand confidence?

So where do the lofty possibilities of this fourth age, collide with the daily practicalities of marketers? It is a question we ask in the context of this week’s Salesforce Connections conference in Chicago. The Salesforce Marketing Cloud (powered by Einstein, the company’s AI solution) consumes an unfathomable amount of 1st party customer data and computes over 2 billion predictions, each day! This plethora of predictions can help drive growth for big brands as well as creating a better experience for consumers.

Premium brands like Ticketmaster, Adidas, General Insurance Australia & Lacoste are just some of the early adopter brands that have already jumped onboard with the Salesforce marketing stack.

Interestingly, each deployment of Salesforce is different and one independent expert who works for a small firm deploying Salesforce told Which-50 this: “Brands set unrealistic timeframes for rolling out Salesforce technology. It can take months to deploy the technology.” She explained that the difficulty in rolling out the technology is mapping the underlying data layer.

“To gain a singular view of the consumer there will almost certainly be different and disparate datasets that need to be knitted together.” However, to be fair this is probably true of all Martech solutions, not just Salesforce.

We are already seeing the introduction of the technologies that typically get rolled into the 4IR conversations into our everyday lives. Take for example the rapid deployment of advanced chat-bots, an early AI use case in marketing. This week Salesforce demonstrated some of the use cases that chat-bot technology can enhance. The live demo was performed in front of thousands of onlookers as the presenter interacted with the bot. It was actually pretty impressive to see somebody (a) make an order via the chatbot then (b) after the order was complete ask the chatbot to update the shipping address and (c) make a second order for the same product again using thumbprint recognition (via ApplePay) to complete the checkout process, all via the chat-bot.

This type of advanced customer interaction is where we will start seeing 4IR rollout first. However, if this will revolutionize our way of life, is still yet to be seen.

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