With customers more volatile than ever before, Renault needed its CRM strategy to have greater precision, despite increasingly complex customer journeys. So how did it succeed?
Today’s marketers have more customer data at their disposal than ever before. A good thing, one might think, when it comes to gleaning a better insight into your customers. But the proliferation of data is a double-edged sword.
Marketers are pulling in audience data from multiple sources, like social, web and their own ecommerce platforms, yet combining it to identify audience personas is proving a real challenge.
The challenge is particularly acute for those industries where customer loyalty is low, with the brands desperate to drive higher quality relationships with their existing audiences and get more impact from their digital activities because the one-size-fits-all approach to marketing no longer performs.
One industry that is all too familiar with this scenario is the automotive sector.
“Building customer loyalty over time is extremely important to the auto industry,” explains Francois-Xavier Pierrel, director of data, CRM and social, at Renault. “Our main aim is to create market-leading products and, ultimately, to sell cars – but to do so, we need to properly understand our customers.”
In order to achieve this, Renault has employed a variety of different tools and tactics to understand who people are, where they fit into the funnel and how to engage with them - and customer relationship management (CRM) sits at the core.
“We’re trying to ensure we move from mass communications to tailored, one-on-one communications, using the latest conversational tools to do so, such as chatbots and instant messaging. This all feeds into our evolving CRM strategy,” continues Pierrel.
“The goal of CRM is to reach the right person, at the right time, with the right frequency. Our message has to support a great customer experience, so that customers encountering our brand are engaged with the right tone and share of voice at that right moment.
“For example, a customer could receive a message that they have driven for 21,000km and their tyres might need changing – at which point, we can offer a specific discount if they come into our store. We take care of the relationship but also everything that comes alongside this. Having the right communication at the right moment is what we are looking for and where CRM helps us much better than media.”
However, the shifting landscape in the auto sector has put the existing CRM strategy under strain, and in particular the growing volatility of its customer-base. As Pierrel notes – customer loyalty in the automotive sector has changed entirely over the past few decades.
“Our parents and grandparents bought cars as status symbols, to cement their position in society. As a result, they kept the same car for much longer – and brand loyalty was king.
Consumers are much more likely now to switch on account of something small, such as one brand launching a hybrid car. This means we have to stay well ahead of the curve – which is no mean feat.
“Nowadays, with financing options available and new models coming out every day, it’s become easier and more acceptable to change car every couple of years. This, in turn, gives consumers the flexibility to move from one brand to another more than ever before and presents us with a unique challenge in understanding our customers. Consumers are much more likely now to switch on account of something small, such as one brand launching a hybrid car. This means we have to stay well ahead of the curve – which is no mean feat.
“Being a global brand also presents its own challenges. It is increasingly hard to find the right channel and use the right tone of voice across so many platforms and in so many languages. Put this across different markets that each have their own products and structures, and many more touchpoints, and CRM becomes much more complex than before.”
It was against this backdrop that Renault decided it needed to revitalise its CRM strategy.
“For marketers across industries, CRM is a funny thing. At Renault, we treat social and data as an expert’s job, something that has to be analysed and parsed by the professionals. But when it comes to CRM, everyone has an opinion – it means so much to so many people. We all receive the emails, push notifications, texts, IMs, and ads, so we all have a vested interest. The relationships that were previously happening in brick and mortar dealerships are now happening constantly on digital – and consumers now trust information they find online much more than from within the dealership."
For Pierrel and Renault this has meant that the insights they require are much more complex than ever before. With so many touchpoints, it has become harder and harder to be as precise in its customer communications as it would ideally be.
He continues: “A Google study found there were 900 touchpoints in the three months from discovery to purchase. We knew we needed to understand the value of every touchpoint and be confident in where we should put our money and effort based on our knowledge of our customers and prospects. This drive for precision despite complexity in understanding the customer journey – and where people fit into the path to conversion and engagement with us – is vital. That is why a revitalised CRM strategy was so important.”
This process of overhauling the CRM strategy encouraged Renault to investigate the latest generation of tools, and specifically tools that could provide much more detailed insights into audiences and their unique personas, so that the auto firm could reach them with the most relevant and engaging content. This search led them to social media marketing platform provider Socialbakers, enabling them to test the beta version of the new Audience Segmentation tool and engage with their support and product team.
"We are gaining autonomy in our approach to audience definition by leveraging our own data and what the platform brings us. Until now, when we launched a vehicle, we had to purchase studies to define which audiences we should be targeting. Now, thanks to Socialbakers' Audience Segmentation, we have access to more detailed and actionable insights into our audiences and their unique personas so that we can reach them with more relevant, engaging content."
We knew we needed to understand the value of every touchpoint and be confident in where we should put our money and effort based on our knowledge of our customers and prospects.
Integrating multiple data sources with one-click discovery of audience persona profiles, the content they engage with, the interests they have and the influencers they trust, the platform is enabling Renault to approach audience engagement with far great focus.
While Pierrel notes that companies like Renault traditionally used off-the-shelf influencers, such as DJs to football players, now it has the ability to be much more agile. A case in point is its recent activity around its electric car Zoe.
He explains: “When it came to inbound marketing for our electric car, Zoe, we needed to find the right entry point for the right audience. We were able to use Socialbakers’ machine learning technology to identify and relay our proposal through influencers – but smaller ones with smaller and more engaged communities. Through this approach, we were able to relay the benefits of Zoe from, for example, an ecological standpoint.”
With its CRM strategy supported by a platform that integrates social and other digital data sources while capitalising on the latest AI and machine learning technologies, Renault is now able to better understand its audience and reach them with more relevant content on the right channel at the right time.
Pierrel concludes: “Machine learning means we now have access to snappy information, which otherwise would have taken a very long time to get, and are able to leverage that in real time to improve our CRM. Then, we can find the right insights to promote and communicate around the car, finding the influencers that potential customers care about, and passing this vital information onto marcomms teams.
“Now, we have a good knowledge of how people are using our car specifically – which is invaluable.”
About Neil Davey
Neil Davey is the managing editor of MyCustomer. An experienced business journalist and editor, Neil has worked on a variety of newspapers, magazines and websites over the past 15 years, including Internet Works, CXO magazine and Business Management. He joined Sift Media in 2007.