Survey: Retailers Identify CRM as Their Top Strategic Initiative for 2001

Retailers consider customer relationship management to be a critical business initiative in 2001, but few retailers will implement these strategies, according to a recent survey by Gartner Inc., a research and advisory firm in Stamford, CT.

Gartner surveyed 56 retailers in December and asked them their business priorities for 2001. Fifty-two percent of the respondents rated CRM as their highest business priority. Forty-three percent of the retailers saw CRM as a moderate business priority, and 5 percent rated it as a low priority. While most retailers consider CRM to be an important business strategy, only 34 percent of the respondents acknowledged using a CRM initiative.

“CRM initiatives, in a short period of time, have gained significant mind share because they offer to fill two of retailers' most critical needs — understanding customer buying behavior and providing better customer information throughout the organization,” said Carol Ferrara-Zarb, research director at Gartner's CRM research group. “But CRM technology is still very immature. This level of immaturity in the short term will hinder retailers' efforts to reap benefits. While sponsorship at the executive level is paramount, it's necessary to drive the CRM vision down to the execution level and foster cross-channel and cross-functional efforts.”

Gartner analysts said implementing technologies is not the key to success in CRM.

“Retailers that fall into the trap of thinking they can accomplish CRM based solely on technology will fail,” Ferrara-Zarb said. “Retailers that succeed in CRM will be those that evaluate their processes in light of customer expectations, honestly assessing their strengths and weaknesses, then rebuild them based on what their customers want.”

Gartner identified five key initiatives that CRM-focused market leaders in the retail industry are expected to take through 2004. They include:

• Promoting merchandising, marketing, servicing and selling across channels.

• Providing a consistent face to the consumer across all points of contact.

•Capturing and leveraging knowledge across channels at a granular level.

• Identifying, targeting and differentiating valuable consumers.

•Recognizing the lifetime value and profitability of consumers.

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