Customer Relationship Management (CRM) has existed as a concept and term since the early 1970s. A lot has changed since then and there are three development trends in particular which now make CRM tools better and more important than ever before: changes in user behaviour, communications technology and CRM platforms. According to Google, never have marketeers known so much about their customers as they do today, while customers have never been so dissatisfied with marketing.
User behaviours and expectations
In the B2B world, CRM solutions are rarely more than a digital business card archive, while the B2C world is about ensuring that mass dispatches of addressed advertising end up in the right post boxes.
These days all trade takes place online to a lesser or greater extent, and we all have digital profiles that enable one or other kind of personalisation of information. The main focus of the sales process has moved from telephone conversations and personal meetings to the web. The majority of purchasing processes start with a Google search and end with “Add to basket” or “Contact us” – regardless of whether this is an individual household purchase or a more information-demanding acquisition for your own organisation. For each click you make, data is stored that can be used to tailor and simplify the process for each person.
Relevant information at the right time – without feeling you are being monitored. And it is precisely this that is the task of state-of-the-art CRM tools.
Tolerance of poor user experiences and unnecessarily complex processes is minimal, and the expectations that Apple and Amazon have instilled in us when we shop from home have been taken into the workplace. Relevant information at the right time – without feeling you are being monitored. And it is precisely this that is the task of state-of-the-art CRM tools.
You gather information in a consent-based state-of-the-art CRM tool.
Communications technology – “talk with me where I am”
From the moment that email became common property and the launch of the hyperlink-based internet in the early 1990s, we have been able to measure the effect of the messages we send out. Since then we have gradually acquired new channels, devices and platforms for digital dialogue. Channels that reach you where you are, devices that know where you are and platforms that know who you are and what is important to you. Common to all of them is the possibility of traceable and tailored mass communication.
The growth of global membership and advertising networks (such as Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube) has created additional arenas for personalised content and marketing. The advantage of all these digital communication options is that the party communicating has the opportunity to increase the relevance and accuracy of the message – and you achieve an immediate response to what works. The disadvantage is that you are often dependent on 3rd parties to reach your audience and that anonymous segmentation has its natural limitations. If, however, you base your target group distribution and message adaptation on your own customer and contact Information (first party data), both the relevance and accuracy will increase, while costs will decrease. Information you have collected in a consent-based state-of-the-art CRM tool.
Channels that reach you where you are, devices that know where you are and platforms that know who you are and what is important to you.
CRM platforms: a cloud-based revolution
Digital user behaviour and the new communications channels mark the transition to a new era for these tools. The fact that every stage of the process is now digital and measurable – from information procurement and marketing to purchasing and customer follow-up – paves the way for completely new opportunities for relevant messages and user-adapted processes. With cloud-based technology, a global market and subscription-based price models, even the smallest companies can become customers of the very largest suppliers. This has injected new life into an industry that seems to have struggled in finding its way for a few years.
The best example is Salesforce.com – which for many years was a single-purpose sales support system but which in recent years has grown into the undisputed leading global ecosystem for customer development (Customer Success Platform). With annual global growth of 30% over the last four years, continuous expansion and improvement of the platform as well as a passionate group of followers, Salesforce.com appears to be at the forefront in the battle for world supremacy in CRM. For its part, Microsoft has also experienced a minor revolution after the cloud service also became its primary platform for CRM. And if you have your other tools in the Microsoft universe (ERP, collaboration, document storage, mail, etc.), then this is a strong argument for considering its customer follow-up tools. Nevertheless, it has to be said that compared to the market leader they have a way to go with regard to marketing and customer dialogue functionality.
With cloud-based technology, a global market and subscription-based price models – even the smallest companies can be customers of the very largest suppliers.
New actors introduce “Inbound marketing”
Where Microsoft comes from the ERP side and Salesforce originally was a sales support system, actors like Hubspot are developing in the CRM domain from the marketing side. With origins as a blog platform, Hubspot's inbound marketing approach has shown itself to be a good tool for information-intensive sales processes in which the customer’s own research is a vital part of the process. And in recent years it has supplemented the range of functionality with both sales support and customer follow-up (customer service). An exciting regional actor is Sweden's Voyado. As a customised B2C tool specialising in the retail sector it offers all the desired functionality for tailored and personalised follow-up across digital and physical points of contact, while it steers clear of what is required in order to follow up business customers and complex sales.
Siebel Systems – which started operating in 1993 – was acquired by Oracle in 2005 and has long been one of the largest and most cutting edge actors in the market. But while the market for CRM solutions is growing by 20% to 25% a year, Oracle has stood still in recent years, thereby losing a relative share of the market. This is a fate it shares with SAB – one of the other global enterprise suppliers of integrated CRM solutions. If you have used SAP previously and would like to work with sales and customer data in the same ecosystem, SAP has organised modules for this in a suite that it calls SAP C/4HANA.
In recent years, Adobe Systems – the last actor among the global giants – which historically has been best known for its B2C functionality in the Adobe Marketing Suite, has made some decisions that we expect will also make it more relevant to the Nordic market. In August 2018, Adobe acquired Magento – the world’s most extensive e-commerce platform, while in September of the same year, it acquired Marketo – an inbound marketing and marketing automation platform tailored to the needs of the B2B segment. The expectations are that it will also switch to a cloud-based and more flexible pricing model that better matches Nordic conditions on the customer side.
Ranked #1 for CRM Applications based on IDC 2018H1 Revenue Marked Share World Wide. Kilde: IDC, Worldwide Semiannual Software Tracker, October 2018.
Automation, intelligence and machine learning – the holy digital grail
Everything that can be automated is exciting. The idea that things happen by themselves and that machines can think for us is captivating. However, there are still too few examples of processes in which the data is good enough and the interaction is sufficiently digitalised to harvest the benefits of automation. A genuine exception is CRM processes: marketing, sales and customer service. As most interaction and communication is now measurable and digital, platform suppliers have optimal conditions for developing and offering automated and intelligent tools which improve the customer experience and which make the working day easier for those using the tools. Everything from predictive lead scoring and marketing automation, via smart purchasing recommendations and personalisation, to audience matching and predictive customer analytics.
In a nutshell, CRM is basically about functionality that makes it easier to know who should have what information and when, and which facilitates virtually one-on one-communication on a large scale.