Category Archives: internet marketing

Remember the song “Steam Heat”?

There was a famous Broadway musical back in the 1950s (and NO I am not old enough to remember it from back then!) called Pajama Game.  The show stopping number was called Steam Heat — and the number and show helped to make Shirley Maclaine a star!

These days the word “steam” evokes a whole different image.  Ask my son who is the expert on all things gaming (as are most teen boys).    Steam is a platform developed by Valve Corporation.  It lets users download games (and in October 2012  Valve expanded the service to include non-gaming software).  In our tech world, Steam gives access — digital distribution, digital rights management, multi-player and communications.

If you haven’t heard of Steam before — it will probably become part of your life in the near future.

Remember the X-Box from Microsoft?  The X-Box (the current one is called the X-Box 360) is a video gaming brand created by Microsoft. It includes a series of video game consoles, the latest of which will be the X-Box One.   Kids all over the world love the X-Box because they can not only play games on it, but they can play games with others from around the world using something called X-Box Live.  Xbox Live costs about $60 a year and for that fee you subscribe to a service  that lets you stream multimedia content from PCs, purchase and stream music, view TV programs and films through the Xbox Music and Xbox Video services, along with access to third-party content services through third-party media streaming applications.  Microsoft does offer a free X-Box Live, but functionality is very limited — it lets you get to the store so you can actually pay for stuff (hmmm, and the ability to shop is free, how ironic is THAT?) and you can play demo games to see if you want to buy them.   As I said the free version is very limited.

X-Box took over the gaming world in a big way — thanks in large part to the multi-player gaming abilities of X-Box Live (not to mention some killer shooting games). . .   But thanks to Steam this reign may be about to end.

Steam now has more than 65 million active accounts.  65 million!  This is a 30 percent rise in players in just the last year.  On any given day Steam may have more than 6 million concurrent users.  Microsoft’s X-box Live has 48 million accounts — around half of whom reportedly paid extra for a gold subscription.

Steam has 17 million more accounts than Microsoft’s X-Box Live!

I can almost hear 17 million voices crying out “In your face Microsoft!”

Poor Microsoft, once the king of technology the iPad and Google Android tablets are sucking life out of its key computing model, and now Steam is taking a bite out of its lauded gaming throne!

Steam is not new.  Steam has been around for 10 years.   There was a time I hated Steam because of the complexity it took to download games — if they even worked at all after you went through the trouble to download Steam and then download a game. . .

Ten years is a long time in tech years.  Most tech companies who survive that long have come to prominence and then decline — if they ever became a leader in the first place.

The success of Steam in keeping up with technology and even leading it contrasted with so many high tech companies who lay in the graveyard of technology past brings to mind Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore and Regis McKenna.    The concept of the chasm of dead products that either never make it to main stream or hit it and then rapidly die out was brilliant.  Moore and McKenna said there is a chasm between the early adopters of a new technology product, mainstream users — and then finally the late adopters.    In the “old days” a product could be designed and last a lifetime (more than a lifetime — think of something like a shovel or a hammer — how long have those tools been around).  Now think about how Math technology went from a slide ruler to a calculator to Lotus 1-2-3 to Microsoft Excel to an app on your cell phone or tablet. . .   That product life cycle just gets faster and faster — and companies rise and fall so rapidly it makes your head spin!

Valve is innovating so it shouldn’t fall into the chasm any time soon.  Valve (owner of Steam) announced a new operating system.  SteamOS is a Linux-based (bypassing Microsoft) operating system — a navigation solution for gaming PCs in the living room.  It can be installed on any PC (and it’s free).   SteamOS will be the operating system powering the physical Steam Machines that Valve will soon be shipping to eager gamers.  The Steam Machine is supposed to be its ability to stream games from your regular gaming PC to any TV.

Valve also announced a new game controller.  The Steam Controller has two clickable high-resolution circular track pads with haptic feedback, which supposed to be precise enough to match gaming keyboards and gaming mice.

Time will tell if Steam will continue to steam roll over its competition — but our high tech world keeps on a changing!

Shared Hosting to Save Money on your Internet Site

I’ve been feverishly working away on designing a new personal website (well, sort of personal — I’m branching out and providing social media consulting along with the CRM / data warehouse consulting I normally provide).  I’ve experimented with various inexpensive ways to go “live.”  I found that I could register my domain for a year at GoDaddy for one penny — a special promotion.  This saved about $9.  (I’m notoriously cheap).

Then I checked around for shared hosting.  I know I can host it myself, and given my technical background probably should — but I just don’t want the hassles right now.  I did a lot of research and decided that Hostgator sounded both inexpensive and fairly good as far as up-time, response time and so forth.  I found a one month trial deal, also for a penny.    That is expiring soon, so I don’t know if I’ll stay there.  I can get a one year deal for around $5 a month which isn’t bad — and Hostgator has been really great support wise. . . so I need to decide soon.

Lots of people on the internet “pitch” Hostgator because they get PAID if you sign up through them.  I’m not one of them.  This is not a paid advertisement.  My opinion of them is that they are fine and I’ve had no trouble with them, but this is just my opinion.

I actually used their online chat a few times and they responded right away to fix a few things that were broken (like my domain transfer from GoDaddy not showing up).   Very easy to do business with.

So if they’ve been so nice why not stay there?

I found a cool little shared host with a proprietary platform that offers a free web hosting service if you use their domain.    The company is Wix and they have beautiful templates that are very (and I mean VERY) easy to modify.  You can even add videos with a click of a button — no coding.   I can host there with my own domain for about the same cost as Hostgator.  So I am debating it.

My Hostgator site does not look that great.  I am not a designer (OK, I’m very talented, but not when it comes to design!).  You can see it if you want, but be forewarned that I am not proud of it.  Check out my site, “It-SME.”

The Wix site looks nicer, although I’d appreciate feedback as to whether you like it or not.  Maybe it is too “cutesy”?  Here is a link to my Wix site.

Any way, not a lot of substance in this post, just a lot of “The interior defense dines under the sabotage.” which doesn’t make real sense.   Just wanted to let you know I am busy — and when it comes to making money with technology, saving money is making money, too.  If you are interested in setting up a website and want to know what coupons and deals are “out there” you should check out Retailmenot which lists coupons and such.   I don’t see a current penny deal at GoDaddy, but here is the link for the current coupon codes for GoDaddy, found at Retailmenot.

I’ve noticed that Wix, Hostgator and other web hosts always have “deals,” so if you are looking for a host do check out the deals.

Two Ways to Make Money – Email and Social Media Marketing

The chicken or the egg?

Many Social Media pundits have stated that “email is dead.”    Social media applications like Facebook and Twitter have killed email.

With 500 million users on Facebook it may not be a stretch to understand why all the “Chicken Little’s” are going around the chicken coop yelling “the sky is falling!” on email marketing.   But Chicken Little was wrong, and so are the “experts.”

Email marketing still makes money in a relatively low cost way.   There are numerous online vendors for small and medium size businesses which offer free or low cost email marketing tools that include analytics (so you can see what works and what does not work).  I use MailChimp which promises it is always free for less than 500 email addresses, and I’m quite impressed with its abilities and the staff’s responsiveness.   One great thing about MailChimp (and a competitor, Constant Contact) is that both have recently integrated Social Media into their offers. Constant Contact announced Social Stats which tracks Facebook “Likes,” tweets, Linked In posts and such.  Social media statistics are shown on the email analytics report.  With MailChimp their social sharing tool lets you post your email marketing campaign on your social  networks with one click in your campaign dashboard.  Be careful, though.  Social Network users HATE “sales pitches” and you can destroy your credibility.   Like Constant Contact, MailChimp lets you you can track the activity on those networks, too.

I’ve mentioned Constant Contact and MailChimp which are great for small and medium size companies, as is iContact.  There are even more out there:  AWeber and Vertical Response are two more.

According to Forrester Research, email marketing is growing, not dying. 

Considering that you can email for free (MailChimp) then Forrester’s research should impress you that you can indeed make money via email marketing.  Their research shows that ROI is two to three times higher with email marketing than with any other form of direct marketing.   Two thirds of the marketing executives interviewed concurred that email marketing is the most cost-effective marketing tool they have.

So much for the death knell!

Far too often techno-geeks (and hey, I like to think that I AM one) decry the death of a technology when something new comes along.  Fact is that it takes a while to kill things off.   There are still people using land line telephones, TVs with picture tubes, and even horse buggy whips.   Direct mailers still “snail mail” catalogs.  Billboards still blight our nation’s highways.  Newspapers still get printed.

So, no, email is not dead.   When it comes to making money with technology, email (with opt-in permission so that you are not SPAMMING) is a very efficient way of communicating sales or new offerings to your customers.

Social media is a fantastic communications media, but it is not meant to be a sales tool (well, not directly).  If you pitch a sale on Facebook you are likely to get flamed and slammed.  Social media is all about conversations, and if along the way people come to hear of a great new product, and buy it — terrific!  Yet, Facebook and others are more likely to be a passive, indirect sales channel rather than an immediate one.  The only difference is an entity like Dell Outlet who may tweet a special sale on Twitter — but most of us are not Dell.   You have to be in a unique position to be able to use Twitter or Facebook as a sales platform directly.

Email marketing and social media are not an “either / or” decision of email OR social media for making money.  Email marketing is still a very strong approach for staying in touch with customers and cross-selling and up-selling into your base.  Social media is a wonderful way to stay in touch more often than you can via email (without irritating your base).  Both are complimentary if used properly, and the email marketing tools with their integration efforts can help you do that — as long as you abide by the “rules” of both email marketing and social media and enhance your customer’s experience.  Don’t over stay your welcome in either venue.

The blog is moving.  If you like the blog, please visit us at http://www.it-sme.com/blog .

Three Ways to Make Money with Web 2.0

I do my best to post every few days, and it has been more than a week since my last blog.   I have a good reason.  I’ve been busily creating a new website for SME, Inc. — Social Media Excellence in Orlando, Florida.    I’ve also moved my blog to the site, and the new address is http://www.it-sme.com/blog .   If you’ve been reading this blog, or my blog in IT Toolbox or Blogger, hopefully this will be the new “permanent” home for the blog.

I’ve been digging deeper and deeper into social media (Facebook, Twitter, and other methods of online conversation) and have found mostly anecdotal assurances that companies can reap much higher new sales revenue with much lower investment by using Web 2.0 tools such as these.

Believe it or not I actually am from Missouri, the “show me state” and it is hard to believe these claims without some sort of proof.   We’re pretty graphic “down home” and an old saying comes to mind:  “With all this manure, there must be a horse in here somewhere.”

McKinsey and Company is considered a top notch consulting company and they recently did some research on the topic of ROI with Web 2.0 efforts.  The results are pretty surprising.

69% percent of companies that have made some sort of Web 2.0 investment reported real and substantiated business benefits, including more effective marketing, better collaboration and a reduction in the cost of doing business.

“How companies are benefiting from Web 2.0: McKinsey Global Survey Results.” is the source.  This survey examined 1,700 executives from all over the world.

The top three ways to make (or save) money using social media were:

  1. Faster job completion by improving the speed to access information (68 percent of respondents averaged a  30 percent improvement, which is substantial);
  2. Lower communication costs (54 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Faster access to internal experts (43 percent of respondents with an average improvement of 35 percent)

20-35% improvement is pretty impressive.

When just asked to look externally, the 1,700 executives reported:

  1. More effective marketing (53 percent; average mprovements ranged from 17 percent for conversions up to 25 percent for awareness activities);
  2. Increasing customer satisfaction (43 percent with an average  improvement of 20 percent);
  3. Reduced cost of marketing (38 percent with an average improvement of 15 percent).

Again, not bad.  #2 is particularly interesting since social media is all about communication and conversations — your customers talk to you and to others, as compared to traditional marketing where they passively view a commercial or read an ad.

All in all an interesting report and the beginnings of something to show your management when arguing for the use of social media.

37% of employees using social media w/o IT permission

We make money or save money by providing value to others in a cost effective manner.  Pretty simple, really.  Technology can streamline the process and make us more efficient at a lower price point — but just as easily technology can be a massive time waster that actually costs us money.

Think of all those apps on Android and the iPhone that are games like Zombie Farm.     Loads of fun, but not exactly productivity enhancers!

Which brings me to a recent blog on the Harvard site.   The article discusses a study by Harvard which shows that employees are using social media including mobile technologies and video to improve how they do their jobs.  These employees are solving your customer and business problems without permission from the information technology (IT) departments:

“In a survey of more than 4,000 U.S. information workers, we found that 37% are using do-it-yourself technologies without IT’s permission. LinkedIn, Google Docs, Smartsheet.com, Facebook, iPads, YouTube, Dropbox, Flipboard — the list is long and growing.”

Forrester Research even gives this trend a name:  Technology Populism.

In a sense all this end user “power” is a good thing — people are not waiting for IT to solve problems.  Technology like Facebook and other social media proves that if companies don’t take advantage of new technologies then customers WILL and this is not always good for companies.   Many a corporation has been blind sided by consumers angry at faulty equipment or mishandled customer “service.”

Yet picture a large company with employees each “doing their own thing” technologically speaking.  Fairly soon will we not have misinformation from our own employees with videos on YouTube giving out erroneous “facts”?   Will we have “stuff everywhere” and a common corporate value proposition (aka the corporate position) totally destroyed and misinterpreted by people who only see part of the picture?

I am reminded of the story of the blind men and the elephant.   In this parable by Sufi Jalaluddin Rumi we are told that a group of blind men touch an elephant  and then must describe the elephant. Each man feels a different part, but only one part and the result that no one describes the elephant as a whole, but each describes the animal differently based on one piece.  One describes an elephant as long and thick like a boa constrictor — he feels the trunk.  Another describes the elephant as long and skinny — he is describing the tail.  Another says the elephant is flat like a stingray — he describes the ear, and so forth.

If our employees are using social media and other technologies to help “describe” our companies and our products / services are they knowledgeable enough of the whole —  the goals and true strengths — to be helping the corporation, or is there wholesale chaos as each is so focused on one small part that they miss the elephant for the tail?

True enough there is no way to put the genie back in the bottle.  Technology, particularly “Web 2.0” with smart phones and social media is here and will be part of our future if we deal with it or ignore it.   Should we allow our employees to go off willy nilly and be empowered to “do their own thing” or should we try to build some rules around this wild west of technology?   My contention is that in the end we will all meet somewhere in the middle.  We cannot truly control all of our employees any more than we can control our customers (or our children).  Yet, we must put some structure into place or we will face wholesale anarchy.  Welcome to the new, brave new, world of technology.

66% of marketers investing in Social Media

66% of marketers plan to invest in social media over the next 12 months.  This is from a study by Alterian.    20% of traditional marketing budgets are being funneled into social media by 40% of the marketers questioned in the study.

When we think of making money with technology our minds may drift to software, but in the very rapidly changing world we inhabit,  Web 2.0, aka “social media” like Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube is becoming a key place to not only find our customers and target them with enhanced customer service or cross-selling (offering them a product or service that compliments what they already buy from you), it is simply the fastest growing way to reach new prospects and stay in touch with your current customers.


Making Money with Facebook?

Social media (the latest “techno-buzz term”) simply refers to people having conversations online.  In the far away land known as “Web 1.0” the internet was one-way.   You threw a website online or sent out emails and things were pretty simple.  Customers would check out your website for information, and might call your contact center or send you an email.  Ah, the good old days!

Social media (Facebook, Twitter. . .even YouTube) makes this seem quaint and old fashioned.  In the world of Facebook a short comment is followed by other comments and pretty soon you have a town meeting going on.    The vendor does not control the conversation — in fact no one controls it, not even the person who begins it!     With 500 million users now on Facebook it is larger than the United States of America — and perhaps just as powerful in its own way.

This new phenomena of social media can be a power for good or for evil.    It can help your business, or it can destroy you.   Businesses today must learn to deal with it one way or the other — and to try to find a way to use it as a way to make money.

The first thing to realize is that if you take a used car sales approach to Facebook or its ilk you will fail miserably.  Social media is all about the conversation and nothing turns people off faster than a sales pitch in the middle of a party.     To get fans who “like” you and read what you post you must provide valuable information, hopefully in an interesting way!  Doing this must be consistent — you may well have to hire an employee to manage your social media presence.   My company provides training, consulting and even provides the social media “presence” for companies — but be forewarned that if you outsource to someone like me they still need to learn a lot about your company and stay in close contact with you.    Why?

Because it is all about the conversation — and if there is no meat, no “there” there, you will quickly turn off anyone interested in you — and far from making money, you will soon start losing it to your competitors.

Content is king.  To make money on Facebook, Twitter and the rest you must have content of value and you must provide this in a succinct fashion.  You must post often (2-3 times a day on Twitter, at least daily on Facebook and 3-4 times a week on your corporate blog).   Since this is a conversation, you must encourage “fans” (find them via your email databases and by posting in places your customers visit online).    Respond to comments, good and bad — and do not be defensive.

Remember it is a CONVERSATION.

Some of the keys to success in Social Media are:

  1. Build a large and legitimate following by being informative and interesting;
  2. Respond to comments quickly and with substance
  3. Blog, Tweet and post frequently — but again it must be USEFUL information
  4. Monitor your social media communities — know what is working and what is not working

There are some great tools to help you manage multiple social media efforts, and to analyze how successful they are.  You will most likely not see “over night” results, but over time your base and your sales will increase.

As social media grows (and the largest growth is in women 55-65!), the traditional marketing bases of newspapers, radio and television are losing customers and advertisers.    Social media is a revolution.  There are ways to thrive in the revolution, but it is not by playing the game the way you might have historically with press releases, TV ads and the like.   The new world is all about loss of control and “the conversation.”

Social CRM is redefining customer relationships

Have you heard the story about “Dell Hell”?  A few years ago a Dell customer was unhappy with a computer he’d purchased.   In the old days he would have groused to some friends and spent countless frustrating hours on the phone to Dell customer service.    Those days (perhaps unlucky for some vendors) are gone.  Now we live in a social media (Facebook, Linked In, blogging, Twitter, etc.) world where we are no longer “six degrees of separation” from one another — but more right around the internet corner.

In this case the unhappy user wrote a blog and in it he wrote:

I just got a new Dell laptop and paid a fortune for the four-year, in-home service. The machine is a lemon and the service is a lie. I’m having all kinds of trouble with the hardware: overheats, network doesn’t work, maxes out on CPU usage. It’s a lemon.

Jeff Jarvis, the blogger in question, might have been very surprised by the reaction of his blog.  He hit a nerve and within two days his blog was the topic of a New York Times article. This is not the type of public relations any company wants.

In the “old days” of just a few years ago the company drove the message.  Today with social CRM the customer is driving it as well.  If your customers are not happy they are blogging, tweeting and letting the world know of their unhappiness with your products / services.

The future belongs to those who realize that communication with customers is now a ‘two way street.”   Social CRM (customer relationship management) means that the customer can communicate to the world at large without a multi-million dollar ad campaign.   All you need is a keyboard and an internet connection (and the keyboard may be a virtual one on a smart phone).  People “tweet” their unhappiness instantly.

Businesses need to realize that social media can be their friend (as in Gary Vaynerchuk who spent $15,000 on a  direct marketing mailing which won 200 new customers; $7,500 on a billboard ad which brought in 300 new customers; and spent $0 on a  Twitter “tweet” (social media blast of a few sentences at most) and got 1,800 new customers.

The power of Social CRM is that today’s savvy customers trust their friends (and social media is all about connecting with people who share your interests) more than they trust a paid marketing mailing or billboard.   When Vaynerchuk tweets and someone contacts them he makes sure he contacts them back.  It is a two way conversation.  Granted he is a busy guy and the reply may take a long time — but he DOES respond.  Meanwhile others continue the dialog for him, and the “conversation” (social media is all about conversation and not a one way ad) continues, the audience grows and the control of the message may not lie with the business — but if the business is involved it influences and wins the business.

The way we sell and market is changing — and this change is bringing us back to the “one to one” marketing goal of CRM in a way that big business could never do all on its own.

Dell learned a lot from “Dell Hell,” and you can too.  Realize that if you have a great product people will sit up and take notice.  They will also notice if your product is not so good — and they will tell others of their unhappiness.  The customer relationship is now perhaps the customer / vendor relationship and it is definitely a two way street.

Disney on the cutting edge again (or is that “still”?)

My last blog discussed how smartphones will soon suprass PCs as the main way we surf the ‘net.   In turn this access gives vendors a whole new way to personalize service to us as consumers.   Using GPS, CRM and unified communications we’ll be able to shop smarter and vendors will be able to pinpoint personalized offers to us based not just on our past buying history or our demographics (where we live, our age, etc.) but actually by knowing where we are and what we are doing.

Big brother is watching!

So how does Disney tie into this?   Disney is working on new technology for its theme parks (Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, Tokyo Disney Resort and  Disney Hong Kong) .  Disney has not announced this, but a former executive is on record as stating that Disney is working on wireless-communication technology to tailor theme park offerings to the likes of individual visitors.  This same source claims that Disney is spending $1 billion to $1.5 billion on this project, so it is considered a “game changer” by them.

What types of things does Disney plan to do with wireless technology?   CRM of course!  They will offer Disney visitors all kinds of enhanced services that will shorten waits on line, customize the “experience” of a Disney vacation all the while they are compiling information on you and your family. . .what rides you went on, what restaurants you visited, where you stayed. . .  this information is then used to offer you knew vacation offers tailored to your likes.

Nick Franklin Executive Vice President, New Business Development

The person in charge of this herculean effort is Nick Franklin, head of global business and real-estate development for Disney’s theme park division.    Franklin has had an exciting career with Disney Franklin as well as serveing as a member of the Executive Committee for the Parks & Resorts segment overall. “This is not the typical opportunity that gets described in business school,” he said. “My job is to help envision the next generation of Disney experiences around the world, which is pretty cool.”

I’d say so!

I’ll bet back in his days at the investment banking at Goldman, Sachs & Co.  Franklin could never have dreamed he’d be working in the “House of the Mouse” working on new generation entertainment venues!

But I digress.   The rumors (and that is all we have at this time, rumors) say that Disney’s NextGen (code name) CRM technology push will include keyless hotel-room doors to rides and shows in which the experience varies based on an individual guest’s preferences.

The main source of information on this oh so secret development project is Michael Crawford, publisher of Progress City USA. Crawford writes that Imagineers (Disney’s name for engineers)  hope to use RFID technology in concert with their new Fantasyland attractions.  RFID stands for Radio frequency identification.  RFID tags can be incorporated as a chip in a Disney park pass (for example).  RFID can track your ID on your Disney “passport”, it can be your room key to your hotel room and even be used to enter mass transit like the monorail or be used as an in park credit card.    All the while Disney knows where you’ve been, what you’ve done, and where you are now.

Pretty slick!

Disney could even use the personalized card to allow attractions to access personalized information about each guest, thus personalizing your “experience.”  This was somewhat tested out last year with Disney’s  Kim Possible World Showcase Adventure at EPCOT in Walt Disney World Resorts.   This features an interactive experience where guests are given a “Kimmunicator” (Kim Possible is a Disney cartoon about a girl who is a spy) found at kiosks in Epcot. These interactive devices use  technology which gives clues from the Kim Possible characters to find “villains” they cna track as they wander around the theme park.

Each adventure is unique, personalized.  CRM, right?  Right!

RFID should be used to make each vacation to a Disney theme park totally random and new — thus removing the “we’ve already been to Disney and it’s boring, can’t we go somewhere ELSE this year?” argument moot.  At least that is the hope of Disney.

It just struck me as interesting that this news hit the Orlando Sentinel today, the very week I blogged about Smartphones and CRM.   As I mentioned in that blog — the world is moving at a very fast clip these days!

Smartphones and CRM

Have you ever noticed that the world just seems to be changing faster and faster all the time?

I’m a big fan of the British television show, “Doctor Who.” The premise of the show is that a time lord travels throughout time and space — from ancient times to tens of thousands of years into the future.  “The Doctor” is a mysterious time traveler whose life is often lived “backwards” as he appears in places where people may know him, but he hasn’t met them in “his” life yet.  It must be very confusing.

Sometimes I can relate to the Doctor.

The way our world is moving so quickly it is hard to “keep up” with the technology and how it changes us.  Technology changes the way we work, how we interact with our own families and how we shop.

The idea behind CRM (customer relationship management) is that vendors, to be successful, must know who their customers are and why they buy what they buy.  In the “old days” a small town might have had one butcher, one baker and one candlestick maker.  A customer was known by name and the vendor (say the candlestick maker) knew what kind and color of candle Mr. Jones bought or Mrs. Smith acquired.  CRM was just a part of the small customer base and the small proprieter.

Today we live in a world of Wal-Mart and Best Buy, not to mention Amazon.com and Buy.com .   We customers are anonymous, and if we are anonymous we may only shop one time and never return.  To gain our loyalty these large retailers must understand “who we are” by our buying habits, our demographics and our past buying habits.

Have you ever noticed when you visit Amazon’s website that (if you’ve shopped there before) the website recommends new purchases to you based on what you’ve bought before?   Smart marketing, and a good application of CRM.

The days of shopping online via our PC alone has already changed and CRM must change along with it.

Gartner Group, a research company specializing in high technology,  is predicting that mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common way to access the Internet by 2013.  This has both a huge impact on what vendors will require from CRM, as well as a huge opportunity to sell us more, while also making us happier by meeting our needs in “real time.”  Customer loyalty and customer retention benefits from CRM tied to smart phones is an enormous potential — and the holy grail of CRM.

Smart phones use both push and pull technology.  Pull technology is when a phone user goes online via the phone and searches for an address or driving directions.  They have proactively “searched” (or pulled) data from the internet.  Perhaps they are looking for a nearby drug store.  Perhaps they are searching for a certain product (perhaps a Wii game for their child).  As the person runs the search CRM is at work.

Now “push” technology comes into play.  An add for a Wii game sale is sent to the phone via GameStop or Wal-Mart.  The user checks local prices and sees how close each vendor is to them (pull technology.  GameStop is say 1/2 a mile away and Wal-Mart is 3 miles away).   A 15% off coupon is sent to the phone by GameStop (push technology).

And so it goes.   The future is the past, and soon the mega-stores may know you as well as the local candlemaker ever did.

The potential value of combining CRM, smartphones, GPS and unified communications to empower the customer while ensuring even higher customer loyalty is staggering.   The opportunity is there, if CRM is properly utilized.  The winners will do it.  The losers will be gone.

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