CRM is essential for a successful digital transformation. Customer experience is one of the pillars of digital transformation. The CRM is critical because it helps manage the relationship with customers.
With the rise of AI and blockchain, CRM is becoming a milestone about to change a lot in the very near future.
Customers are more and more taking control of their data. They can decide who they want to interact with and for what. Marketers need to be more sophisticated and smarter in the way they approach their customers. They need to build a strong relationship before all. CRM helps in this journey, by integrating more customer information and being smarter on how to communicate with customers.
CRM collects more and more customer data. Socioeconomics, interests, sentiments, browsing history, purchase history, exit, content, time spent, devices used…all kinds of data giving a very granular understanding of the customer and their behaviors.
With CRM, we can address all stages of the decision tree: awareness, consideration, purchase, advocacy and funnel customers from one stage to the other, in a way that makes sense for each customer.
CRM is changing in many ways. The main goal is to remove as much friction as possible in the customer experience:
It collects a huge amount of information about customers and keeps getting smarter, so the amount and the accuracy of data are increasing.
It helps organize this information in a relevant way. We are doing more than segmentation. We now can create cross-segments and clusters and organize the information in a very precise but also narrow way.
It helps forecast and identifies trends so that brands can prepare ahead of time and always be very synchronized with their customers’ expectations and interactions.
It automates the process by sending the right information, at the right time, via the right channel for a given customer, making the process as less intrusive as possible.
CRM needs to help more build relationships. Brands’ interactions are today still too transactional. Too often, customers are hit with promotions or products. Customers are looking for more and want a real relationship with the brands they like.
Customers define a relationship as follow:
Values: the brand needs to carry values. It needs to be engaged and fight for the right thing. It needs to be transparent, ethical, and authentic. Customers want to share the same values as the brand as much as they want a brand to support causes that matter. New generations are sensitive to inclusion, equal rights, environment, poverty, and have big hopes. They carry very strongly their convictions.
Human: the brand needs to show a human face. Customers want the brand to be inclusive and foster communities. It needs to talk to all. Handicap, races, sexes, origins do no longer matter. Customers view them as one and cannot follow a brand that would be selective.
Experience: the brand needs to provide a unique experience. There is no longer one fits all. It needs to talk to the individual and understand their differences. Customers need to be considered in their entirety and not as a money maker. They want to be respected, valued, engaged, understood, and considered for who they are. The brand needs to bring them value and make them live an experience unique to each one.
Participative: the brand needs to treat its customers as experts. It needs to encourage participation and include customers in its process. Customers want to be heard. They have a lot to bring as they are more and more educated and research a lot about products, functionalities, and competition. The proof is with the influencers. Initially, simple customers testing products, they saw their influence grow and talked to customers in a language they understood. They are now representatives of the human face of the brand.
Service: the brand needs to bring value and provide an optimum experience. Customers are ready to pay more for exclusivity, personalized interactions, and excitement. Brands like Ipsy are encompassing all these elements. They are personalized, they bring excitement to the customer each time they receive their bag, and the service is helping customers discover products.
Trust: the brand needs to show it is trustworthy. It is not here to collect information. It is here to help the customer and by collecting information it will help them. It is a relationship so the brand will take good care of the customer data and value a lot of data security. Customers want and need to be reinsured. Data security is part of their main preoccupations, so brands need to take it into consideration.
CRM needs to be part of the solution to all these expectations.
It has to be the center point to understand and collect all relevant information across all the channels. Customers do not make any longer any distinction between the channels. For them, the brand is the brand wherever it is. Not having an omnichannel strategy is today suicidal. CRM also needs to take into account all sorts of touchpoints and customer interactions. Email but also Facebook messenger and SMS. It needs to be smart enough to help marketers balance correctly the number of promotions vs. content. Not everybody is identical; some might be more sensitive to educational content; others might better like promotions. I still believe that content should be taken into account very seriously by an organization and there should be an important strategy put behind it. Content is the easiest way for a brand not to be intrusive and to be valuable. People want the brand to bring them value. In a true relationship, you help the other find solutions, be informed about what is going on, get recommendations about good deals, educate each other. Content is also the best way to answer all the customers’ expectations by demonstrating values, empathy, human face, engagement, inclusion, experience, and to build trust.
CRM should be the heart of an organization because it collects and stores all the customers’ information. All the organization's intelligence is there and ready to be used in a very precise way depending on each individual. When the CRM will become this pumping heart, integrating the technology of artificial intelligence, it can become an invaluable asset.
What about loyalty programs then? Can they be another catalyst to this growing beast?
Loyalty programs are still the major glue between all the customer data cross channels. It collects and reinjects. More than rewarding customers, it is a tool for brands to gather information in a consistent way. Customers entering their reward number give the brands a unique identifier everywhere they go.
3 patterns are going to shape the future of these programs:
Exclusivity: customers willing more personalization, they will want more exclusivity. By drawing the right customer journey and adding the right data, the CRM will help address customers at the right time, in the right way. They get a very unique and personalized relationship.
Rewards: customers like being pampered. They might not be excited just with redeeming their points against cash or products. They do want more. How can we show them a higher benefit when they sign up for a reward program?
Cross-brands: this is where the value is coming when the program is cross-brands. Customers can faster accrue points and have more options for redemption. For the brands, it provides even more data. By knowing more about customers, they can be even more relevant. Getting access to data pertaining to other brands and other behaviors allows brands to refine their approach. The challenge is that customer data are so precious that brands are very protective of it and not always willing to share with others. It will be great when we get a universal program as we have a universal login. Some brands can see that they might lose their advantage in the market if everybody has access to the same data. Sharing across industries or categories of products is the interesting part. It is up to the brands to be in the vanguard and to use the data is the best way for customers. The battle will be more about value and relevancy than anything else.