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The month in CRM: Why there was more than meets the eye in August

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30th Aug 2013
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August - not at first sight the automatically most sensible month of the year to start a new monthly round-up of CRM tech news.

Coming up, we've got the likes of Oracle OpenWorld, Box's BoxWorks conference and of course the CRM daddy-of-them-all, Salesforce.com's Dreamforce jamboree.

But August - really?

Actually there's been more to August than meets the eye, albeit an eye that is necessarily forward-looking to the events of the coming months perhaps.

Let's start with Box - or rather with Box's latest liaison with Salesforce.com which seeks to align the former's collaborative Cloud services with the latter's CRM Cloud applications.

Box Embed is now officially supported in Salesforce.com to bring the collaborative and workflow functionality of Box inside a Salesforce.com record to provide access to relevant content to customers.

The solution also offers users a preview of files from within user records and simplified navigation through an entire Box folder tree without leaving a Salesforce record.

The relationship between Box and Salesforce.com has been an interesting one to watch. Box, founded by Aaron Levie, has long been a favourite of Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff with Salesforce.com itself a "strategic investor" in the firm.

But all's fair in love and software (or No Software). Last year Benioff took everyone by surprise - not least perhaps a lot of people inside Salesforce.com - by announcing on stage that the CRM firm would be producing its own collaboration offering - which he dubbed ChatterBox.

To date, ChatterBox has yet to appear, but with Dreamforce looming on the horizon in November we might get some more insight before the year's out. It's possible of course, as Levie suggested to me a couple of months ago, that Salesforce.com might have other more pressing priorities - especially now it's got Oracle back as its BFF.

But, but, but - what's this lurking in the Winter 14 edition of Salesforce.com? It's something called Salesforce Files which allows users to "securely sync files between Chatter and your desktop and some mobile devices". That sounds an awful lot like what ChatterBox was supposed to be.

I'll be talking more about Box and its CRM integration play next month. Winter 14 enters its preview phase for those subscribers with sandbox accounts from 6th September.

A big month at Microsoft

Meanwhile over in Redmond where the Microsfoties are coming to terms with the (long overdue) retirement of CEO Steve Ballmer, they're gearing up for what looks like an October release for Dynamics CRM 2013.

David Pennington, Microsoft director of product marketing for Dynamics CRM, seems to have let the release date slip in a blog posting where he flags up a session on Dynamics CRM 2013 to be held at the upcoming Partner Connections Event in Florida on 20th October.

Pennington alludes to this being the "first, official partner readiness event following the launch of this exciting product" which suggests an early to mid October release date. 

The Partner Connections Event begins on Oct. 20, and Pennington seems to suggest that Dynamics CRM 2013 will become generally available before that date.

Dynamics CRM Corporate Vice President Bob Stutz described the run up to this release as "building a different kind of CRM in a world focused around consumerisation" with specific improvements around process, mobility, and enterprise collaboration. 

So what's new? In terms of features and functions, there's a new user interface, support for Windows 8 of course as well as Apple's iPad. support for Windows Phone, iPhone, and Android "shortly after" the official release.

Reaching back to the Box/Salesforce.com tie-up there's also a greater emphasis being placed on integration with Microsoft's collaboration tools such as Yammer and Skype.

What's new elsewhere is a new three tier licensing scheme with access via mobile device included at no additional cost. Initial US pricing is pitched at $65 per user, per month for Professional level will cost $65 per user, $30 per user per month for Basic (aimed at sales, service and marketing users) and finally $15 per user, per month for Essential (aimed at light users).

The emphasis on mobile platforms in the new release mirrors the wider interest that the CMO and customer management communities appear to have at the moment. If it's not got a mobile angle, don't bring it to our attention!

The power of mobile

Clearly a powerful and effective mobile offering can be a major asset in customer engagement. Starbucks Chief Digital Officer Adam Brotman highlighted that earlier this month when he revealed that more then 10% of all transaction in US branches are now made via a phone.

"Mobile devices have become increasingly important part of the customer experience at Starbucks as the fastest and easiest way to pay in our stores and we will continue to bring more innovation to this space," he stated.

“One of the things that’s allowed us to get such a big lead in mobile payments is that we did not try to go for example, right to the cloud or right to some sort of tap to pay, although we do plan in the future on implementing whatever is suited and most convenient to our customers."

That's clearly the right philosophy - designing from a customer-outwards point of view rather than just chasing the latest whizz-bang offering or rushing into mobile delivery channels without due care and consideration.

The price of not thinking things through can be high. A study from Mazymiser this week - entitled "Mobilising the Retail Shopping Experience" -  came to the (not particularly startling) conclusions that  poor customer experience on mobile devices can be detrimental to a retailer's bottom line.

According to this study, some 39% of us will get sufficiently hacked off by a bad mobile experience with a retailer that we will leave in a huff, never to return.

What do we want from our mobile experience to stop this happening? It seems 65% of us are most keen on ease of use and fast loading of pages.

Presumably that's being borne in mind over at Facebook where  Zuckerberg's legions are set to take on Paypal and co at their own game with a mobile payments capability that would allow us to use credit card information already stored in Facebook accounts for gifts and in-game purchases or to buy items from external sites. Using Facebook logins, customers will therefore be able to buy an item without having to re-enter a billing or shipping address, credit card number or security codes.

Which simply begs the question to me: who the hell is daft enough to store their credit card details on their Facebook account?

Right, that was August. Here comes September - and that's when everything kicks off!

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