Connect to Customers - Customer Relationship Management in Retail

Satrajit Bhattacharya, IT Head, Future Group India

A business philosophy and set of strategies, pro­grams, and e-platforms that focus on identify­ing and building loyalty with a retailer’s most valuable customers.

Retailers spend an excessive amount of time and money collecting, analyzing and trying to utilize customer data by turning it into information and knowl­edge that is actionable.

Loyalty programs have allowed re­tailers to collect and analyze vast quanti­ties of data on purchases by individuals. E-retailing has added to the avalanche of data.

While this information is essen­tial to understanding changing cus­tomer needs and expectations, it's im­portant that the systems you use to gather this information are efficient and cost-effective.

All customers are not equally prof­itable, and more or less profitable cus­tomers need to be treated differently.

Retailers now concentrate on pro­viding more value to their best cus­tomers using targeted promotions and services to increase their share of wallet

· The percentage of the customers’ pur­chases made from the retailer

· Committed to purchasing merchan­dise and services from a retailer

· Resist efforts of competitors to attract the loyal customer

· Emotional attachment to retailer

· Personal attention

· Memorable positive experiences

· Brand building communications programs

Technology has created more in­formed, more connected customers who are no longer loyal to a brand, but to an experience across channels.

CRM is an iterative process that turns customer data into customer loy­alty through four activities:

1. Collecting customer data

2. Analyzing the customer data and identifying target customers

3. Developing CRM programs

4. Implementing CRM programs

Retail CRM has become an underlying platform supporting proven business development strate­gies — such as omni-channel com­munications, customer experience (CX) management, social media engagement, loyalty programs, precision marketing and mobility among others

The gap between retail leaders and laggards is growing. Despite the retail industry research, retail best practices and numerous case studies, many retailers sit on the sidelines with regard to new consumer engagement methods and technology adoption. These retailers know their custom­ers are ahead of them but defer in­novative retail strategies and in turn find themselves perpetually behind their customers.

Organizations in the industries listed above demand solutions to help Sales, Marketing, Customer Service, and Support teams deliver great customer experiences at every touch point. CRM solutions provide capabilities that each of these groups can use in their daily routine: Sales can manage leads and opportunities, Marketing can manage campaigns and responses, Customer Service can manage returns and claims, and Sup­port can manage tickets and requests. Integration between front-office CRM and back-office ERP is very important in the industries above, enabled through powerful middle­ware solutions that can sync data and deliver a complete, holistic view of customer relationships.

Future trends

Mobile CRM, social media integra­tion, enterprise application integra­tion and business analytics are cur­rently the biggest trends in the future for CRM. Mobile devices are quickly outpacing computers as the main device of choice and the fact is that most business professionals do a big portion of their daily work on smart­phones, tablets, and mobile devices. The ability to access CRM data and functionality on a mobile device em­powers the entire organization with CRM no matter where they are in the world.

Social media is a major compo­nent of modern marketing strategies, but how do you take unstructured social media content and turn it into defined tasks, leads, opportunities, and traceable conversations? Social media capabilities within CRM and direct integrations to popular social platforms is quickly becoming a way to establish a competitive advantage with greater reach to your customers.

Integration between CRM and other business enterprise applications is also an important trend as organi­zations seek to unify systems togeth­er into a cohesive system. Back-office ERP solutions manage a wealth of customer information that can be synchronized with front-office CRM to deliver for total customer relationship visibility across the or­ganization. Analytics solutions that help analyze performance and help anticipate what’s next are imperative for strategic decision making. When analytics, reports and dashboards are part of CRM solution then the data can become tangible, provide true insight, and guide decision making at every level.

Cloud offers the same benefits to the CRM market as it does to many other industries: low-cost, fast setup, easy maintenance, and predictable costs. The best providers offer mul­tiple deployment offerings includ­ing on-premise, web, mobile-only, hybrid as well as cloud. This allows the customer to choose the opti­mal system and deployment meth­od for their organization, market and industry.

Cloud will continue to be a larger portion of total CRM sales in the coming years as more and more or­ganizations select that model for their IT solutions. There will also be an increase in hybrid environments as organizations with special security and regulatory requirements estab­lish a mix of cloud and on-premise environments when sensitive data is involved

Finally, the benefits, challenges, and the future of CRM that were discussed in this article point to the fact that in the future, success in im­plementing CRM solutions would depend on the extent of top leader­ship vision and commitment as the realization of the requirements and the translation into actionable imple­mentations would need the support of all stakeholders.