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Marc Benioff: We can't leave anyone behind during the 'fourth industrial revolution'

Nicole Sinclair
Markets Correspondent (CRM) CEO Marc Benioff sees a new era of growth in the tech industry.

“This is what we call the fourth industrial revolution,” Benioff told Yahoo Finance at the annual Dreamforce conference. “There’s all these amazing new technologies, things like autonomous vehicles and artificial intelligence and nanotechnology and mobile computing and all these things are really hitting at once. And companies are really transforming themselves and bringing all these new technologies in really to connect with their customers in new ways.”

Salesforce estimates that the broader “Salesforce ecosystem” industry will create 3.3 million jobs and $859 billion in GDP worldwide by 2022.

But this growth comes at a time of significant dislocation in the labor market, where the skills gap leaves many searching for jobs just as companies search to fill openings.

Benioff said training is key, as he spoke of Salesforce’s Trailhead learning platform to help people who come from a variety of backgrounds and industries to gain skills in the new era of tech.

“Everyone wants to join the fourth industrial revolution,” he said. “We can’t leave anybody behind.”

Companies need to commit to growing the top and bottom lines

In their efforts to compete, companies often sacrifice profitability for the sake of growth. But Benioff argued that there has to be balance here to be successful.

“You have to be committed to growing the top and bottom line in this industry. It’s extremely important,” he said. “But our industry is built on growth. Everybody knows a company that is successful in the tech industry is a company that is growing. Shareholders also demand strong cash flow and strong profitability.”

Salesforce’s Marc Benioff sits down with Yahoo Finance’s Nicole Sinclair at Dreamforce 2017

Benioff pointed to Adidas and Marriott, both clients of Salesforce, and how they embraced technological change while maintaining profitability.

The rapid evolution of retail has been a win for consumers, but has come at the cost of retailers. Amid this change Adidas has significantly outperformed its peers.

“[Adidas is] growing leaps and bounds and dominating their industry because they went through this transformation and realized that they can use all these technologies of this huge revolution that’s happening to grow even faster,” Benioff said. “I don’t think retail is dead. I think it’s going through a huge transformation…Some retailers have ignored that opportunity and they’ve paid a terrible price.”

Meanwhile, Benioff noted that loyalty programs, which had been huge for the hotel business, are dying. Marriott shifted its focus toward building personalized experiences while embracing the technological change.

“Some of the companies…rely on technologies that are so old and so dated… they should have been moving aggressively to these new technologies like cloud computing, mobility, social networks and even artificial intelligence.”

Nicole Sinclair is markets correspondent at Yahoo Finance

For more on the interview Marc Benioff:
Benioff: Companies like Facebook and Twitter must take ‘full responsibility’ for what they’ve created

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