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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 and .   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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