Four essential CRM lessons from 2013

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As we end another year, MyCustomer.com takes a look back at some of the news and stories that we've covered in the past 12 months, and consider what we've learned.

1. It was the year of the Marketing Cloud

The CRM vendor space has become dominated by talk of the ‘marketing cloud’ this year. All of the big players, including Salesforce.com, Oracle and Adobe have made moves to target the CMO with Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff proclaiming his Marketing Cloud vision to be “the next $1 billion product line in the making” at last year’s Dreamforce event. However, the most important event in the company’s marketing cloud vision was the purchase of Cloud marketing company ExactTarget , which manages multichannel digital marketing campaigns for the likes of Coca-Cola, Gap and Nike, for $2.5bn – its biggest acquisition to date. “The addition of ExactTarget makes Salesforce the starting place for every company and puts Salesforce.com in the pole position to capture this opportunity,” said Benioff.

Jamie Brighton, Adobe’s EMEA product manager, scathingly said of the deal: “The acquisition of ExactTarget is certainly a move in the right direction – I’m not sure what they had to offer was a Marketing Cloud until that.” Of course, this is unsurprising given that Adobe was one of the players in the Cloud Marketing war. Like SF.com, Adobe announced its own Mar­ket­ing Cloud solution at the end of 2012 – a reinvention of its existing Dig­i­tal Mar­ket­ing Suite. The firm revisited its marketing cloud message in April at the Adobe Summit in London with SVP Brad Rencher explaining why theirs is the right solution. A few months later came the announcement that Adobe is to acquire cross-channel marketing vendor Neolane.

“With this latest acquisition, we are extending our leadership in digital marketing and taking a major step forward in becoming the standard for how marketing is managed, measured and optimised,” Rencher wrote in a company blog post.  In an interview that followed, Jamie Brighton, the company’s EMEA product manager, attempted to further explain how their suite differed.

Oracle also staked in a claim in the marketing cloud debate when it bought marketing automation solution Eloqua last year for a whopping $871 million. President Mark Hurd said in an interview with MyCustomer.com:  “Eloqua is the centrepiece of Oracle’s Marketing Cloud and is expected to be a strong contributor to Oracle’s other customer experience Cloud offerings, which include Oracle sales, commerce, service, content and social Clouds.

“With Eloqua we’ll be able to deliver the most comprehensive customer experience Cloud. Eloqua’s modern marketing capabilities will extend our customer experience Cloud with modern marketing automation and revenue performance management to help our customers transform the way they market, sell, support and service their customers.”

2. Omnichannel is more than a buzzword

This year’s marketing buzzword that flourished into one of the biggest CRM trends was omnichannel. Whilst 2012 was all about multichannel and mobile for retail, consumers amalgamated these trends in 2013 to demand a joined-up approach within and across channels – be that in-store, online or mobile. As Sarah Todd warned, brands can no longer ignore omnichannel and must provide “an immersive customer experience regardless of the channel being utilised, making sure brand messaging and to promotions aren’t channel specific and consistent across all platforms.”

Two of the biggest retail moguls, head of John Lewis Andy Street, and ex-Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy, both started the year with a nod to the importance of omnichannel, further cementing the trend’s importance. In April, Street said of the store’s new commitment to omnichannel: “The strategy's quite simple. We know that about 60% of our customers buy both online and in shops so the approach is to make it absolutely seamless for them to move from one to the other” whilst Leahy spoke of the High Street’s failure to attract the omnichannel shopper (more of that later).

In the same month, a new report forecast an ‘omnichannel revolution’ with retailers predicted to spend £5bn in omnichannel by 2018 and radically alter the future of retail but some retailers have struggled to serve consumers’ changing expectations. An SAP survey of consumers found that as recent as October, just 15% feel extremely satisfied that retailers provide a consistent experience across different channels. And ignoring omnichannel is not just bad for customers but bad for business, too.  Forrester found that most firms have outdated customer service technology and processes that do not adjust quickly for customer’s evolving expectations to be served consistently across a variety of service channels – likely to result in customers abandoning purchases altogether.

Forrester advised: “Companies must define their customer experience strategy and ensure that their customer service operations are aligned with and support their company strategy. Processes that customer service organisations follow must allow for effortless, personalized, and context-aware service; must be consistent across communication channels; and must allow for omnichannel communications to support customers moving between channels. The right technologies must also be chosen to empower agents to focus on delivering customer service in-line with expectations today and in the future.”

MyCustomer.com also provided some advice in the form of a definite ebook to help with omnichannel service, from building a strategy, to creating the right technical infrastructure, to putting processes in place. 

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Research last month showed that omnichannel is actually helping marry online and in-store retail as consumers increasingly blend both to create the best experience. KF Lai, CEO of BuzzCity, said: “The end sale is no longer either in-store or online, but a combination of both experiences in the customer buying process. The use of mobile in shopping complements the in-store channel rather than threatens it, offering another sales platform to reach the customer both in-store and online.”

Talk of the death of the High Street has also dominated the retail industry this year. In January, HMV joined the likes of Comet and Jessops when it called in the administrators with many laying the blame at the door of retailers’ failure to implement a coherent web, ecommerce and mobile strategy. Whilst the store was fortunately saved in a deal, the near-closure saw many fear for the future of Britain’s High Street, including UK planning minister Nick Bole who suggested that local councils focus on revitalising just one or two “prime streets” and ready the rest for housing developments. And no one seemed more downcast than retailers themselves – a study of over 100 attendees at the Internet Retailing Expo event in April found that just 7% of retailers forecasted sales growth for 2013 whilst 63% expected sales in physical stores to decline.

In a bid to keep driving consumers through the doors, 2013 has also seen retailers implement new technologies and make consumers increasing use of mobile devices in-store a good thing. Marks & Spencer was one of the first to herald the trend as late as last year, arming their retail assistants with iPad and providing free in-store WiFi.

As Jo Moran, Marks & Spencer's head of customer service, told MyCustomer.com back in March about the decision to refresh the company’s service proposition: “The catalyst was that we were being told very clearly by our customers that more could be done to meet greater customer service expectations. Other retailers and sectors had been making significant strides in the area, so customers were comparing us to other organisations they interacted with as well. It wasn’t just traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers but online and other sectors too.”

Frost and Sullivan reported on retail stores’ transition from traditional bricks and mortar supermarkets to virtual stores and online hypermarkets as consumers increasingly complement in-store shopping experiences with online purchases. The analyst firm predicted that by 2025, the UK will have the largest online retail penetration in the world with 26% of all retail sales completed through ecommerce and will see new retailing business models emerge.

Click and collect being one such service, which retailer John Lewis first introduced back in 2009 and has since been adopted heavily by the High Street, as well as the likes of Waterstones' bricks & mortar ebook service, Boots' loyalty scheme digital kiosk Oasis' and online shopping in-store experience. More recent initiatives include the partnership between Argos and eBay, where shoppers will be able to order selected goods from eBay and collect them from an Argos store, whilst Asda recently launched a click and collect service at London Underground stations.

3. The Big Data conversation moves on

This year, organisations have also increased their understanding of what Big Data is and how it could transform the business in novel ways. The new key questions have shifted to 'What are the strategies and skills required?' and 'How can we measure and ensure our return on investment?'” As Kieran Kilmartin explained: “Big Data has opened the door for businesses to supply customers with the custom content they now expect. Instead of targeting a standard buyer persona or a market segment, CMOs can use analytics to drill down to the individual level and answer some serious questions.”

However, not everyone is feeling quite so optimistic. Earlier this year, analytics providers were accused of "dumping mountains of data" on clients without delivering clear and actionable insight. William Beresford, co-founder of Beyond Analysis, warned that retailers are being hampered by analytics firms that are only serving to make Big Data even more complex than it already is.

“Analytical insights should be presented in a simple and striking fashion that will be meaningful to people across the organisation, enabling the kind of informed strategic decisions that will help retailers to thrive. To harness its true power, Big Data needs to be delivered in small bites and simple steps in order to produce truly powerful results,” he said.

Anurag Tandon from BI champion MicroStrategy claimed that a lot of the issues around Big Data are the latest iteration of large scale business intelligence (BI). She said: “Too often, we hear about Big Data in the context of large volumes of data – retailers sifting through millions and billions of point-of-sale records or banks are looking at transactions in the millions and billions and whatnot. A lot of the time, those applications that are being discussed could be construed as just large-scale BI.”

In some corners the conversation is progressing even further. SAP’s co-CEO Bill McDermott announced that the firm is moving on from Big Data to ‘dark data’ to deal with smart technology: “Smart in the way that it’s no longer about analysing data from the past – it’s the era of real-time, and predicting the future. Ninety-eight percent of your data is locked up somewhere you can’t access it – we call this dark data,” he said.

4. Brands should start to consider The Internet of Things

Brands have also increasingly been advised to consider the implications The Internet of Things – whereby devices such as wearable technology, smart thermostats and pacemakers are connected to the internet – could have for businesses. Last month, Gartner forecast that the IoT market will create $1.9 trillion of economic value add by 2020 as we’ll see over 30bn connected devices in use, and listed it as one of the top 10 strategic tech trends for 2014.

Analyst Peter Sondergaard, said: “Half of this activity will be new start-ups and 80% will be in services rather than in products. The Internet of Things is a strategically important market. It will accelerate fast and will drive both revenue and cost efficiencies.” 

For businesses and marketers, Ingrid Froelich explained that the value of IoT lies in the ability of technology to generate better decisions and responses to the world, based on the increasing amount of data collected from these devices.  She said: “Marketing will need to use customer insight to deliver contextually relevant interaction. It needs to avoid creating customer self-consciousness (“I’m being watched”) and provide greater customer power through relevant offers and information.”

And a number of businesses have started leveraging IoT for their customer experience management strategy. Timo Elliott, innovation evangelist and 20-year veteran of SAP BusinessObjects, recently spoke of the datafication of everything whilst companies like Boeing are thinking about how it could shape their digital vision: For instance, Boeing saw that the internet of things is a big opportunity because sensors are everywhere. But then they began to ask, "How do we capture that as a company, how do we make use of the data?"

More recently, Salesforce.com founder Marc Benioff pivoted his Dreamforce keynote around the emerging technology, claiming that the internet of things will now herald the internet of customers.

"Everything is going to be on the net,” he said. “At the moment I get into the bookstore, I buy the books, but I get no reward because nobody knows who I am. But I will, because it doesn't matter what industry you're in, your industry will transform.”

It’s the same with toothbrushes he added, brandishing his Philips Sonicare toothbrush to make his point. It’s GPS enabled and “It knows how I’m brushing, how I’m holding it, where it is in the world,” explained the Salesforce.com CEO. “When I go to my dentist’s office, he isn’t going to say, ‘Did you brush?’ He’s going to say, ‘What’s your log-in to your Philips account?’

“It’s going to require a new level of trust with my dentist,” he added. “It’s a whole new world with my dentist.”

What do you think were the biggest CRM trends this year?

About Natalie Steers

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