The inception of database marketing led to brands using digital spreadsheets and simple software that stored customer information on standalone mainframe computers.
According to CMO’s 2018 Highlights & Insights Report, today's customers rate customer service as the most important factor they consider before choosing a brand/product. This reveals the importance and criticality of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for modern businesses.
CRM or Customer Relationship Management is the process of managing interactions with existing and prospective customers. It essentially helps businesses to manage customer data and is a vital tool for uncovering customer insights and supporting sales management. The term is often used to refer to a CRM system or a CRM technology.
CRM technology is simply the tool or a group of tools that allow brands to collect, organize and analyze customer data to optimize customer engagement and communications. While this is the core functionality of a CRM system, it’s actual usage will vary across the different departments in an organization. Here are some examples
While customer relationship management has been done in varying forms, the primary goal remains the same - understand more about a brand's customers to consistently provide experiences that delight them.
The inception of database marketing led to brands using digital spreadsheets and simple software that stored customer information on standalone mainframe computers.
By 2025, CRM software sales is expected cross $80 billion; rendering it the fastest growing software market by a massive margin. The reason for this staggering growth rate can be attributed to several factors but the primary reason is the increased focus on Customer Experience.
CRMs are essentially the connecting node between your business and your customers. And as you might be aware, the entire customer experience/engagement theme is increasingly becoming a pivotal factor in deciding the success of a brand.
Today, smart, cloud-based CRM powered by ML and AI has empowered brands to connect and engage with customers like never before. In an ironic contradiction, despite being powered by 1s and 0s, these CRMs ultimately help brands to exhibit classic human traits like self awareness, empathy and conscientiousness.
CRMs will play a major role in orchestrating and enabling delightful customer experiences and driving highly personalized engagement
CRMs will increasingly leverage ML and AI technologies to help employees make better and more profitable decisions at every customer touchpoint. Blockchain technology is also expected to augment CRMs with enhanced data security and minimize fraudulent transactions.
Social-focussed CRMs will be able to collect and analyze social media behaviour and conversation to create highly accurate sentiment analysis to empower brands to act proactively to customer needs.
Connected CRMs that can consume and analyze massive amounts of data generated by IoT devices will soon become the norm
Smartphone internet usage has been steadily increasing across the globe and CRMs that enable superior mobile engagement will lead the way
Vendors with a one-size-fits-all CRM solution will find less takers as businesses will demand highly customized features and solutions pertaining to their market and product. This trend is already prevalent in the retail segment with several brands opting for retail CRMs over generic ones.
Today, 87% CRMs are hosted on the cloud and this trend is expected to continue for some more time.
Like most things in life, when it comes to CRMs, it's difficult to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Therefore it's important to assess the unique goals, challenges and requirements of your business before taking the plunge. We cover the three most common types of CRMs that are available along with their benefits to make your job easier
An operational CRM offers you a single view of each customer's touchpoints with your company. These are typically sales-focussed CRMs and uses a combination of customer data and marketing automation to boost engagement and sales.
An operational CRM automatically stores and updates your contact list in a central platform. Every time a customer interacts with your brand, it automatically updates their contact information.
An automated lead scoring mechanism helps you prioritize leads based on multiple factors like conversion probability, deal value etc.
An operational CRM can streamline sales process by auto assigning tasks to the team based on customer interaction or lead score
An operational CRM can help you enhance your customer engagement strategy by creating segments based on multiple factors like account size, product preference, organization size, page visits etc.
Employees can quickly track the last interaction with a customer and pick up where someone else left off.
Create highly personalized and relevant campaigns using micro segmentation.
Prevent warm leads from getting ignored by auto assigning them to the sales team
Assign scores to each lead and ensure the high potential ones gets closed faster
Using multi-touch attribution analysis, you can understand which channel contributed to bringing in high value customers
CRM can take on a different context and usage depending on whether a brand is B2B or B2C focussed. While there might be overlapping feature-sets, there are several differences between a B2B CRM and a B2C CRM. This is primarily due to difference in sales and marketing functionalities between a B2B and B2C business.
B2B CRMs tend to be much more complex systems due to the nature of sales cycle and multiple stakeholders involved. These are designed for long term management of an individual lead and supports extensive tracking in various stages of the sales cycle (suspect, prospect, near lead, customer etc) The amount of data is usually is lesser, therefore the focus is more on quality rather than quantity. Since diverse teams need to work closely to seal a B2B deal, the CRM should support seamless integration between accounting, client support, marketing automation, shipping etc to be effective. The long term goal is efficient closure of deals by helping the sales rep with accurate data and automation of the sales process.
A CRM strategy is equally important than the tool or system you ultimately choose. Your CRM strategy should first and foremost put the customer at the center of all business operations. Here are the steps to create an effective CRM strategy for your business.
To stay relevant and ahead of the competition in a competitive market, brands, regardless of the product or industry will need to adopt data-driven decision making. Leading brands are increasingly using advanced analytics to understand user behaviour and engagement rates to create highly personalized experiences to boost loyalty and revenue. In fact, personalization and highly tailored experiences might be the only way to capture user attention in an information saturated world. And data forms the crux of a personalized and highly engaging experience.
Here are the key focus areas around data that you should include in your CRM strategy
Single View of Customer
A Single View of Customer is essential for a successful CRM strategy for two reasons
Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics
As previously stated, the CRMs of yesteryear were primarily involved in collecting, organizing and analysing data. However, a new breed of CRMs powered by AI and ML are capable of automating the analysing aspect by providing business and customer insights that can predict actions customer churn, steps to increase revenue from a specific store, or suggest content to boost conversion rates from a specific segment of customers.
Attribution Modelling for Mapping Purchase Journeys
While data is critical for growth; unstructured and fragmented data doesn't hold much value. The key is to connect data from multiple customer touchpoints like in-store behaviour, social media behaviour, customer support interactions and website browsing patterns to create a complete sequence of events that led to a sale. This attribution modelling based on advanced statistics and Machine Learning will help you to understand the exact ROI of every touchpoint and its contribution to a sale.
The choice of B2C CRM will vary quite significantly based on your business operations, especially your sales and marketing funnel. So it's important to lead in your CRM evaluation from that point of view. Making the wrong choice
Here are 10 questions you will need to ask before making your final choice. For the sake of simplicity, we've split the questions based on business or generic needs and technical or specific needs.
Once you’re done with that, here are the major factors you should consider before choosing your CRM
There are pros and cons to each setup so evaluate based on your business goals. Cloud CRMs solutions does not require a server or technical expertise on your side. So you can simply log into the system and access the data located on the vendor's server. The downside to cloud-based B2C CRMs is that you will not be able to access the data if your internet connection fails.
With an on-premise CRM solution, the business will own both the software and hardware which will be physically hosted at the location. This gives direct access to the servers and data rendering it easy to integrate the CRM with other customer applications. Plus, this negates the monthly subscription fees. The downside to an on-premise CRM solution is the higher upfront costs for the software and hardware along with the need for in-house IT expertise.
When investing in a B2C CRM, you are not simply adding another item in a list of other work systems. Rather, you are streamlining your entire workflow - from lead generation, to engagement to customer support. A good B2C CRM should be able to seamlessly integrate with a range of software and solution like accounting software, HR systems, your website/web forms, your customer loyalty program, ecommerce platform, inventory management systems as well as marketing softwares. Also, ensure that the CRM supports easy data migration and data export features.
Never take a CRM (or any expensive software for that matter) on face-value, instead always take it for a test spin. A good way to start is by asking for a personalized demo where a sales person walks you through the features and functionalities and then follow it up with a free trial period so you can get a feel for the software. This will help you get a feel of the usability and experience the key functionalities of the software.
For brands that work in a niche segment or domain, it's always a good idea to evaluate B2C CRM vendors who have worked with similar companies within the specific industry. Start by browsing the vendor's website to gain insights into the type of customers and the size of companies that they serve. Another thing to consider is local partner support during pre and post implementation. Make sure you consider the local partner certification status and the number of implementations they have achieved so far.
Customization is a critical aspect for a CRM effectiveness since the software has to seamlessly merge into your business operations, sales process, marketing strategy and customer support activities. Staff training is an equally critical factor in deciding the success of a B2C CRM. Always remember that a CRM that your employees are apathetic towards is good as a non-existent one. Therefore, the training should not be restricted to online tutorials, instead it should be an on-going, hands-on experience that demonstrates how the solution can increase efficiency and productivity. Therefore it's vital to enquire about any hidden costs for customizations and staff training during the evaluation stage.
According to a research, 86% of prospects cite user-friendliness as their most important factor for choosing a new system. Therefore its important to evaluate the overall user experience and design of the interface. A few questions to consider : Is it intuitive? Is the interface pleasing and easy to use? Or is there something that irks you? How many clicks does it take to complete a specific task?
With GDPR coming into the picture, your customers’ data and how it’s stored is more important than ever before. For instance, if a customer requests a report of all the data you store about them, your CRM should be able to generate one with just one click. Otherwise, it will involve painstakingly checking for the data across sales, marketing and customer service databases and manually deleting them; which often leads to human error. An omnichannel CRM typically solves this pain point since it maintains a centralized database.
To make it easier to evaluate the features you will need in a B2C CRM, we've split the features into three groups - "must-have features", "good-to-have features" and "bells & whistles" features.
The following are the six features that are critical for the functioning of any B2C CRM. If your vendor doesn't list all of them, it might be wise to consider a different one.
The contact management feature lets you manage customer data from a central dashboard. A user should be able to update customer details like name, address and demographics with minimal fuss. A universal customer data management system ensures everyone in your company has access to the same data and ensures seamless synergies across sales, marketing, and customer service teams. Also consider whether the CRM supports automatic updation of database from email or submission forms.
This is a core B2C CRM function and a universal data pool can significantly improve customer engagement and overall efficiency across the organization.
A B2C CRM should be able to consume large amounts of customer data and convert them into useful, actionable insights that can contribute to the growth and revenue of an organization. Try to choose one that supports interactive dashboards, report customization and rich visual data outputs.
The ability to analyze large amounts of dynamic data quickly, easily and accurately can have major ramifications on sales, revenue and strategy roadmap for a consumer facing business.
Marketing automation allows teams to orchestrate user journey through a series of 'if-then' trigger functions. For instance, a marketer can setup the following functions whenever a user signs up for a newsletter : add the contact to the CRM, and send a series of follow-up emails. Some businesses prefer to use a standalone automation software, but they tend to be expensive, so having it built into your CRM can be a cost-effective solution.
Besides saving a lot of time and energy, these automation features also allows you to create highly personalized content and user journeys.
Real-time data processing is vital in a B2C environment where the purchase journey is highly dynamic and unpredictable. A batch-processing CRM might be cheaper, but it can negatively impact your customer engagement and experience.
A B2C CRM with real-time processing capabilities can offer you minute-by-minute update on the challenges and mindset of a customer at any point in the purchase journey, thereby helping you make quick and impactful decisions.
A CRM that can capture and unify cross-channel data from multiple sources like in-store, email, social media, SMS, live-chat etc and offer you a Single View of Customer can help you orchestrate powerful engagement and promotional campaigns.
Customer touchpoints are expected to increase even further with the adoption of IoT enabled devices and Voice Assistants. It’s imperative to choose an Omnichannel CRM for brands to stay future ready.
Personalization is increasingly becoming a vital aspect in driving superior customer engagement and conversions. The key to delivering a personalized engagement lies in the segmentation capabilities of your CRM. Since B2C audience tends to be dynamic when it comes to purchases and behaviour, it's important that your CRM is capable of real-time updation of their profiles
For effective customer segmentation forms the core of your personalization and customer engagement strategies.
As the name implies, these aren't super critical features but yet, they can be useful to your business and should be considered before choosing a CRM
The ability to create campaigns and track social posts from within the CRM opens up exciting new possibilities from both marketing and sales perspectives. This will be important for brands that heavily rely on social media marketing for lead generation and branding, a typical example might be a Direct-to-Consumer brand or an ecommerce apparel brand. This functionality should help you interact with prospective customers on social media and add them as contacts directly to your CRM
B2C CRMs that support loyalty software integrations can help you analyse customer behaviour and preferences to a much greater level. This can also help your teams to spot unhappy customers who are the risk of churn and also compare customer insights (demographics, website behaviour) and their loyalty profiles (redemption rates, repeat transactions etc.). Sentiment Analysis using Natural Language Processing and Text Analytics allows service teams and marketers to gauge the mindset of their customers with more precision. This can come in handy in several situations, but most importantly, it can serve as a great firefighting tool and stop a negative customer sentiment from spiralling into something worse.
An Ecommerce CRM is more of a recent phenomenon. In a nutshell, ecommerce CRM systems gives you greater insights into customer behavior like abandoned carts, product preferences, order history and purchasing habits. This in turn offers several opportunities for personalized campaigns, abandoned cart emailers, dynamic promotions and better customer service.
These are the CRM features that provide some additional benefits to your business and can be considered as part of a future add-on.
Visual dashboards are a great way to review progress and track performance in a quick and easy way. It's especially helpful for mid and senior management employees who need a quick status check and take appropriate actions.B2C CRMs that connect predictive analytics with rich visualization will help brands to quickly find customers who are at risk of churn and segments that are likely to remain loyal.
Chatbots are quickly becoming the most preferred touchpoint for customers and brands. A CRM that integrates with third party chatbot software can be a good way to personalize your customer interactions. This can also help your customer service teams to offer more resolutions to customer concerns more efficiently and allow them to transform chats into tickets that can be resolved at a later stage.
Mobile-friendly CRMs use different rendering techniques to showcase reports and contact information in a smaller real estate. The modern workforce loves flexibility and the ability to access information about a customer on the go can make a major difference to customer support teams in particular.
Setting measurable goals at the initial stages makes it easier to measure the effectiveness of your B2C CRM later on. A good way to measure CRM metrics is by assigning Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to each goal.
We've split the KPIs based on three major departments that a B2C CRM directly impacts Marketing and Customer Service.
CLV predicts how much revenue a customer will contribute over their entire lifecycle. You can learn more about Customer Lifetime Value, here. A CRM should ideally increase your CLV by increasing customer retention and bringing in more high value customers.
CAC reveals the total marketing and sales spend that was spent to onboard a customer. A CRM can lower your acquisition costs by helping you targeting more qualified leads and through personalized content.
Analyzing how much revenue each social media or email campaign is bringing can help you identify what content works for a specific segment within a specific channel. A CRM should help you increase revenue generated by campaign by giving you insights into customer behaviour and preferences.
This metric calculate the increase in your email list over a period of time . It can be calculated as follows
A CRM can help in increasing email list growth rate through personalized and relevant content and by creating more opportunities for opt-in forms.
NPS is a measure of the likelihood that your customers will recommend your brand to someone else. Based on a score of 1 to 10 , it segregates your customers into Promoters (9-10): People who loved your brand and will come back with friends, Passives (7-8): People who were satisfied with your product/experience and Detractors (0-6): People who did not have a great experience and are likely to switch to a competitor. A CRM can boost your NPS score by personalizing the customer experience, analyzing customers who didn't have a great experience and surprise them good offers or rewards.
This dreaded metric reveals the rate at which customers leave. A CRM system can actively reduce churn rates by engaging customers with personalized rewards at the right moment, sending personalized emails and even predicting that a set of customers are at risk of churn.
This measures the average time it takes for your customer support team to resolve an issue after a ticket has been opened. An effective CRM should be able to lighten the workload of your support team by empowering them with the right insights and data needed to quickly resolve an issue. If your average time to resolution remains unchanged or increases after implementing the new CRM, it indicates the need for additional training for your customer support team.
This measures the effectiveness of the responses by calculating the number of callbacks or email that was required to close a ticket. A CRM software offers insights into customer behavior, activity and previous support tickets in a single place. Ideally, this should help a customer support rep to offer the most relevant and helpful resolution to an issue within the shortest time with minimal steps.
In 15 years time, CRM will have transformed the way we work and connect in a business environment. These powerful systems powered by smart data is likely to have critical decisioning abilities which will make present day CRMs look prehistoric by comparison. A CRM is likely to become a singular entity, an all-encompassing expert that is always available via wearables or mobile on the go devices, and continuously offers suggestions about the next opportunities and risks at every level of the business.
End-users in CRM will have their time and workflow optimized automatically, with the technology doing all the data enrichment and action coordination for the user. In addition to workflow optimization, systems will be able to recognize the skill-level of the end-user and suggest recommendations to help reps learn faster and perform better, and tailor responses that will resonate with the needs of the customer.
With data from additional touchpoints like IoT applications, CRMs will yield more accurate and actionable behavior models that will deliver better content and offers based on real-time processing of historical data and in-the-moment behavioral data, providing for a very specific and personalized customer journey.