The End of CRM?

There’s been talk recently of revisiting the use of the term “CRM” to describe how we interact with our customers. Big Data, engagement marketing and omnichannel are all competing with our old favorite acronym to be the thing that you do in marketing that isn’t “advertising.”

The term CRM has taken on a musty, worn-out aura overtone. But for luxury brands in particular, it’s never been more important:

  • Reaching consumers through paid media channels is increasingly hard to do, and converting new prospects among an increasingly cynical and over-served population risks ever diminishing returns;
  • The growth of wealthy Millennials, who will soon be luxury’s largest demographic, means that we have to align our brand strategy to their specific needs and desires. For them, many luxury brands are already household mandatories, so standing out must be earned through delivery of a unique and talkable personalized service, not just the product alone;
  • With the growth in influence of peer networks, we need to offer a way for consumers to talk about their experience, without them having to brag purely about the ownership of a product — offering a story that reflects well on them and the brand.

Every brand’s touch points across devices generate specific information about who it’s consumers are and what they want from the brand, offering clues for how that brand should react to them. So rather than being the end of CRM, now is surely the time to unpack CRM from prejudices of email spam and tired databases to uncover the true potential of the customer relationship for our next generation of digital luxury consumers.

Here are the three biggest growth areas for CRM in today’s connected, data-driven world.

Data = Personalization
Luxury experiences are best delivered through the effective use of data to create messaging programs that speak as closely as possible to the individual consumer. Data to drive CRM can of course be derived from anything as personal as replenishment cycles for cosmetics or matching outfits to previous purchases in fashion, through to broader segmentation-driven targeting based on geography, gender, and age. But we must not forget that a large number of consumers start to offer up data the moment they arrive on our sites – search strings from Google often reveal very actionable insights as to what a consumer wants, which can then be leveraged through personalized sites, and drawn through in personalized messaging.

Experience Focused
Any brand’s digital ecosystem consists of a range of digital touch points and experiences. Any of these is capable of influencing the consumer’s relationship with the brand – from an email that doesn’t work on her mobile phone, to a Thank-You page that doesn’t recommend a companion purchase. Luxury brands have to set digital experience at the top of their priority list, and learn that by developing premium brand experiences across the purchase journey, they will foster greater brand warmth from those experiencing them.

Too often there is a disconnect between what we do on the web and the consequent experience in store. It’s not just about that all-too-frequent moment when, having researched meticulously for the item you want, you go into store and find it’s either out of stock, or not in your size. It’s about how we should now be aspiring to turn online browsing and retail shopping into one seamless journey.

New technologies afford us the ability to provide the ultimate curated retail experience. Items that you have favorite online can be attached to your profile, then when you enter a store, using either iBeacon or facial recognition, your presence can be flagged seamlessly to either digital screens or iPad-toting retail assistants to help you find them or recommend alternatives. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg for the potential of emerging technologies.

None of the above will work to its full potential, however, without taking a step back to truly understand the journey that users currently traverse, both emotionally and on digital platforms, as they approach and develop a relationship with your brand. An understanding of the channel and psychological triggers or blockers that already exist will help to guide the development of a program that truly resonates with real consumer impulses, needs and desires.

In summary, the future for CRM has never looked brighter, and for everyone tired of receiving ill considered email blasts, that can only be a very good thing indeed.