Last month, a panel of experts including Paul Greenberg, author of the seminal CRM at the Speed of Light, customer experience guru Shaun Smith and SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin, delivered their verdict on the most significant developments of the past year in the world of CRM.
In this follow-up article, the same panel provides its predictions on what will prove to be the talking points of 2011.
Customer insight applications
Businesses are increasingly looking to be able to personalise their relationships to the individual customer, and there is a realisation that insight into the customer is a key differentiator as opposed to the product or services being provided. Organisations are therefore investing in technologies that will support this and this will lead to 2011 seeing enormous interest in what Greenberg calls “customer insight applications”.
“Companies are beginning to understand that it is time for them to glean a deep insight into individual customers, and consequently they will start buying tools and analytics that will help them do that,” he explains. “There are a whole series of different steps that are out there already. For instance, there are social media monitoring tools, adaptive intelligence tools, collective intelligence tools, social media analytics tools, as well as the classic customer analytics tools.”
Interest will also be boosted by increasing sophistication of the tools. From a technology standpoint, for instance, Greenberg believes that sentiment analysis will develop significantly this year.
“Where sentiment analysis sits right now, is positive, neutral, negative, and one through five. And that is pretty much it. But what we’re starting to see is much more granular looks at the emotional states based on sentiment analysis – irritated, angry, mildly upset. We’ll even potentially see the most difficult part of sentiment analysis taken care of, which is sarcasm. So we are going to see this highly granular way of looking at the behaviour and emotional state of the customer that we’ve never seen before with this level of sophistication. In 2011 that will be one of the huge things that we see.”
Social media analytics
One of the aforementioned customer insight applications that deserves particular emphasis is social media analytics, according to Laurence Buchanan, head of CRM and social CRM at Capgemini UK.
“At the moment people are doing social media monitoring at a fairly simplistic level – are people saying stuff about the company or product, and what are they saying?” he explains. “But there is a next level now which is to come which is looking at what are the insights that can be gleaned from that – partly through the use of complex algorithms, natural language analysis and unstructured text analytics, but also, as we don’t want to view that in a silo, in combination with traditional business intelligence to give us more of a complete picture. So rather than just social media monitoring, this social analytics is the actual insight you can get from social media – the fact finding, the level two unstructured text analysis that you should be doing and the combination of that with traditional business intelligence. And that will be a hot topic in 2011.”
Mark Blayney Stuart, head of research at The Chartered Institute of Marketing, believes that this will have huge implications for the marketing department. “Social media offers super qualitative measurement, which we’ve never really had before,” he says. “It is potentially the best market research because you can put 50 people in a room and ply them with wine and then at the end of the half hour 72% agree that their skin feels 46% smoother than it did when they walked in. You can get that sort of evidence from traditional research. But social media really offers the eye onto what people are really thinking. You can measure it in the sense that you can aggregate that information and you can put it together and get some value from that.”
While a recent report from ABI Research forecasts that expenditure on mobile advertising will plateau in 2011, this flies in the face of most predictions, which see the coming 12 months as another step on for the platform. “We are going to see the continued growth of mobile – we saw it last year, we will see it this year, and next year too,” says Greenberg. “Mobile at some point will become the predominant means of communication and also customer co-participation. So we are going to see continued serious investment in the mobile application.”
“It is going to be the year of mobile,” agrees Smith. “The interest from customers hasn’t quite reached the tipping point, but we all like using our phones and apps and there is an appetite for mobile. The opportunities for companies to use mobile for their marketing also hasn’t yet reached anything like its potential. So those two factors are going to come together this year and mobile is going to be the outstanding medium.”
Meanwhile, The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s report ‘What hasn’t happened yet: the shape of digital to come?’, for instance, concludes that as the future of digital “will mainly be mobile, be it on computing tablets or smartphones”, businesses may want to begin investigating location-based services and augmented reality.
Shaun Smith, founder of Smith+co, believes that micro experiences will begin to emerge as a key trend in 2011. “It is going to be about allowing users to go on to the web and interact with the brand in a way which creates a bit of a micro experience. So for example, if you go on to the Ferrari website you can actually play a Ferrari race game and interact with other people virtually driving a car. And what the company has done is create a microsite which is only available to Ferrari customers, so it is a site within a site, with an experience attached to it. This is an interesting example of creating an experience for certain customers as part of the overall experience. And we could also start to this see this in stores, creating this kind of experience for customers with a product, providing that the store is large enough to allow that to happen.”
Inevitably, social media will continue to be one of the major talking points – if not THE major talking point – of 2011, as organisations explore how to best use the channel to engage with customers, and how employee use of social platforms can benefit the business.
“The resistance in some quarters to social media will thaw much more quickly,” predicts Stuart. “The conversations about whether employees should be allowed to go onto Facebook and so on will mature and an intelligent balance will be struck. You don’t want people sat on Twitter all day but on the other hand you don’t want to seal them off from all the insights that you can get into customers by judicious use of Facebook and Twitter and all the rest of it.”
Furthermore, businesses will have to adapt to customer expectations, with a growing number of consumers demanding some level of social functionality. Research by the Institute of Customer Service, for instance, suggests that one in four customers are less inclined to buy online from a site that has no use of social media tools. Of particular interest, according to the study, is the ability to post reviews of products and services on company websites.
“There is growing expectation of the organisation to have a social presence, but actually what they are really interested in is being able to give feedback about products and services,” says Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service. “You can look to the likes of Dell and Starbucks as examples of how to use social media to really engage customers to give them feedback about products and services.”
2011 is also forecast to be a defining year for social CRM, following a year that saw its validation through the likes of Gartner’s Social CRM Magic Quadrant.
“We’ll start to see a few companies adopt social CRM strategies holistically, whether they call it that or not. But rather than the piecemeal stuff which we have had up to date, we will start to see more of a holistic adoption, though more from a strategic and tactical standpoint also,” says Greenberg.
“From the technology world we will see more attempts at social CRM suites, and several are in the works now. As a result of this we will see a whole series of new players – by which I mean companies that are new to the space entering it. Rather than the traditional ones like Salesforce.com, we’ll start to see firms like Cisco enter the fray, or Google perhaps.”
Nonetheless, Greenberg expects deployments to continue to replicate the point solution approach to the issue. He notes: “Businesses will develop a Twitter channel for customer service because they can measure that. They’ll develop a Facebook page for fans because they can measure that. They’ll do corporate blogging and open it up to comments. We’ll see a lot more integrations between the social tools and the CRM systems out there – a lot of technology companies are moving in that direction – but over the next year or so I still think that point solutions and pieces will continue to predominate.”
From the vendors’ perspective, Augustin believes that the continuing economic development of nations such as Brazil, Russia, India and China could have major implications for the CRM industry in 2011 and beyond.
“Those nations have very little in place in the way of sophisticated software,” he says. “They are coming online, they are starting to look for solutions like CRM, and that plays very well to the CRM market going forwards, it means that CRM truly is a global market, and there is going to be a huge opportunity in the developing economies for CRM.
“It means that CRM is going to become heavily influenced by the needs of developing countries over the next few years, and it is a trend that I’m not sure we understand all the implications of. But you have got a variety of different cultures now coming online and the way all of them communicate is different and we are going to have to adapt to those cultures worldwide and their communications mechanisms in order to be valuable to the vendors and consumers in those different markets. And that true globalisation is something that is going to be a key theme for the next few years as well.”