Things Catalogers Should Know About CRM

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CRM is the new buzzword of the times. Incremental revenue and operations cost-saving opportunites abound, not to mention the possibility of blazing trails in the new frontiers of technology-enabled customer experiences.


Customer relationship management is just the new term for what database marketers have been doing for 20 years but with these bells and whistles:


Whistle No. 1. Integrated Internet marketing intelligence expands your lifetime relationship customer knowledge base. Clickstream analysis, Internet behavior-based profiles, banner response tracking, e-mail campaigns and automated e-mail series are some of the new data streams that can help you understand your customer better.


Whistle No. 2. Integrated 360-degree customer view and business processes for one-to-one marketing means adding the rest of customer touch-point data: customer service, fulfillment, call center plus creating new aggregation hierarchies for reporting and for profile-driven personalization. It also means aligning cross-functional business processes and business rules to create a seamless customer experience.


Whistle No. 3. All this takes more sophisticated data structuring, data mining and analytics, combined with sophisticated leveraging of new technology-enabled testing opportunities. But that's where you have a head start, since catalogers are not newcomers to the concept of testing, measuring and evaluating customer response.


Consider the following good news for catalogers:


• You are in a terrific position. One missing link for the pioneering dot-coms that have jumped into CRM ahead of you is customer data. You've got it, they don't. Just install enough CRM software to help you use it more than you ever have, and you'll be light years ahead of the "data-less."


• Another gap that print catalogers already have handled is segmentation expertise. Chances are you have got modelers mining your data for profiling purposes plus a direct marketer with a hunger for personalized marketing. Empower them with the new CRM analytic tools and watch them go.


• Unlike more multichannel direct marketers, your integration task is more manageable if you don't have a field sales force or retail channel. If you do, budget more. Either way, start planning now for the applications integration that will make the most difference to your customers.


Is your inventory system accessible to the call center so that back-order information is available in real time? Don't limit yourself to internal systems alone. Supply-chain integration affects the customer experience, too. Can call center representatives taking returns give the United Parcel Service tracking number in real time because you've integrated with UPS, or must the customer place a second call a day or two later, after the batch transfer is complete?


• With your basic infrastructures in place, like call center and fulfillment, unlike the dot-coms, you can focus on CRM-enabled enhancements like upsell and cross-sell opportunities to inbound customer service calls because you have integrated your call center so that customer profiles and appropriate scripts are available in real time to representatives.


• Testing is still a mystery to most Internet marketers. Your understanding of testing techniques enables more sophisticated personalization. By using a color palette, data category as a profile field, your e-mailed product image color can match the customer's past purchase behavior. Catalogers that have tested color-versioning report at least 30 percent lift.


• Self-service cost reduction. You can free up operations resources to redeploy toward CRM investments by adding an integrated order-tracking and returns system to your Web site as well as continual-learning frequently asked questions and a customer service portal.


• Micro-segmentation. You already know the offers that produced lift insufficient to warrant the cost of segmented print communications, but have you tried them in e-mail or dynamically generated personalized-offer pages?


• One-to-one product development is enabled through the more sophisticated data structures available through added analytics capability and a 360-degree integrated customer view, plus Internet-based pretesting. Now you can manage inventory with more precision and identify color and size trends for production, geographical demand for distribution, and seasonal and promotional spikes for call center staffing.


• Auctions for inventory control. License one to add to your own site or participate in someone else's. You can move out your discontinued items more inexpensively than ever.


• Plan to spend no less than $750,000 but more like $1.5 million to $5 million over one to three years to fully "CRM-ize" your organization.


Redesign your business processes for the Internet era; (Are you organization-wide, privacy policy compliant?); rearchitect your data model for new inputs now and more to come continually; define new reporting requirements; and design new marketing communications for data capture.


Once you've defined a customer relationship business strategy that includes all of these areas, you can define the business requirements for your CRM technology initiative and Web site back-end enhancements. n


• Beatrice C. Blatteis is owner of The Blatteis Group, San Carlos, CA, a CRM strategies and Internet direct marketing services firm. Her e-mail address is beatrice@blatteis.com.
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