"We've seen a lot of exciting waves of technology in our industry — the cloud, social, mobile — but this AI wave is going be the biggest that anyone has ever seen," Benioff said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above) at Salesforce's "AI Day" in New York City this week. "I think that the success of OpenAI is the point of evidence that this is going be one of the fastest growing moves, not just in the consumer market but in the enterprise market."
Salesforce is wasting no time diving deeper into generative AI as it looks to keep its business ahead of rivals.
The company introduced "AI Cloud" at the crowded event. Salesforce says its AI Cloud product will allow marketers to auto-generate personalized content for customers and developers to auto-generate code, among other use cases.
Another key component of the new product is preventing large language models from retaining sensitive customer data. That element is meant to address growing concerns inside of businesses of generative AI going too far with leveraging customer data.
New research out of Salesforce showed that 73% of employees believe generative AI introduces new security risks. About 60% of those who plan to use the technology don't know how to keep data secure.
Salesforce employees also showed off coming AI functions in the workplace collaboration platform Slack. Most of Salesforce's new AI suite will begin rolling out in the coming months.
"The amount of data that we already see being entered into the systems of our data cloud is at record levels," Benioff said. "So I think it's an indication of how well these generative AI systems will do."
Benioff quickly dispelled any notion Salesforce will have difficulty monetizing its new AI, which has been a concern in some circles of Wall Street.
"We introduced all kinds of new monetization models around generative AI, including our AI cloud, which is our starter package to help customers move forward," Benioff added, hinting at a solid deal pipeline. "It's $360,000. It gives you all the licenses and capabilities and services to get going."
Wall Street is hopeful that next-generation AI will unlock new growth for Salesforce as its stock hovers around a 61% year-to-date gain, despite a sluggish economy.
"We walk away from Salesforce’s AI day with a positive view on the messaging of a unified data/infra data stack as well as the privacy/trust angle," Citi analyst Tyler Radke wrote in a research note. "At the same time, we believe the monetization of GenAI is early, and may be more distant than other large-cap peers, with pricing still evolving."
But even with the promise of new AI products, investors remain focused on the near-term outlook for Salesforce amid cautious spending among customers.
Several weeks ago Salesforce reiterated its full-year sales outlook, calling out longer time periods to get deals done.
Shares of Salesforce are down slightly since that muted outlook on May 31. The S&P 500 is up 2.4% during that same timeframe.
The outlook comes after a more enthusiastic quarter from Salesforce a few months ago as the company fended off an activist investor attack, cut costs to improve margins, and promoted new AI initiatives.
"Better than expected, but challenging signs of future," Guggenheim analyst John DiFucci wrote in a research note at the time.