An industry veteran and expert on all things ecommerce, Blue Acorn founder Kevin Eichelberger is constantly thinking about how to create better experiences for people who shop online. One of the topics he and a few other thought leaders are talking about right now is the omnichannel technology stack, and how its current setup could use a major makeover.
To create truly personalized, engaging experiences, thus driving revenue, Kevin says that the omnichannel stack needs a B2C CRM at its hub. “The entire premise of omnichannel is to move from a channel-centric business, where our systems, processes, and people are organized and designed around the customer experience within a specific channel, to a customer-centric business, where we create the best experience for our customers collectively across all channels and touchpoints,” says Kevin.
We won’t get into all the details here, but it’s important to understand the fundamentals of this shift. If we consider the fact that omnichannel requires a customer-centric approach, how do we expect to achieve this without a customer-centric system?
There’s a great deal of buzz surrounding omnichannel—order management, product information management, marketing—but rarely do we hear anything about a CRM. This isn’t your typical CRM that we’re talking about, either. It’s the master customer record that underlies each channel—a view of every interaction you have with customers, including what they’ve viewed online, what they’ve purchased, what they’ve done in your store, which RMAs they’ve processed, every customer service call, and all marketing they’ve engaged with, including social media.
“We hear about so many organizations claiming to be on the frontier of omnichannel, yet how can that be when many of them don’t have a singular view of their customers,” asks Kevin. “Maybe they have a data aggregation or dashboarding tool, maybe their marketing suite gives them some of this, but in my opinion, you cannot truly be omnichannel without a singular system of record for all of your customer interactions.”
One such B2C CRM system tackling the omnichannel challenge is Zaius, which was designed to help marketers understand cross-channel revenue drivers and engage customers more effectively. To learn more about the tool and its role in omnichannel, we sat down with the company’s co-founder, Matt Tharp. Here’s what he had to say.
Amy Hourigan: Are B2C CRMs a new concept?
Matt Tharp: No, but B2C CRMs are being reinvented post-big data. Prior B2C CRMs were typically [from] services companies like Harte Hanks, and software-based CRM tools focused on supporting sales reps and 1-1 account management. Today’s B2C CRM focuses on segments of individual customers with similar attributes or behaviors. [This can include repeat purchasers, loyal customers, at-risk shoppers, and more, and can enable marketers to automate real-time campaigns.]
AH: What do B2C CRMs do that traditional B2B CRMs do not?
MT: B2C CRMs should focus on connecting the multi-touch, multi-channel experience to provide more accurate segmentation and attribution. Traditional CRMs focus more on account hierarchies, pipelines, and aggregate reporting. Segmentation in traditional CRMs is typically static. This is something that B2C CRMs can do differently.
AH: How do B2C CRMs benefit retailers?
MT: There are many benefits for the retailer, and they vary from system to system. B2C CRM should dramatically improve segmentation and targeting of campaigns. By connecting email interactions with web and mobile interactions, retailers can get a much clearer sense of who their most engaged customers are, and a clearer picture of their purchase intent. One of the biggest benefits—attribution—is often the hardest problem for retailers to solve. Having the data in one place for every customer allows retailer marketers to really understand what is impacting the business positively and over time. Without a good CRM strategy, retailers can’t expect to understand and influence customer lifetime value or loyalty. But with a good B2C CRM, retailers can achieve those goals, plus use the data about their best customers to improve acquisition strategies.
AH: What’s the adoption been like?
MT: Very good, but I think we’re only in the early stages of awareness. [Many people don’t know] that there is a difference between B2C CRM and traditional CRM solutions.
AH: What are the barriers?
MT: There are two, but the biggest is noise. According to Chief Marketing Technologist, there are now more than 4,000 marketing technology solutions, and almost everyone that sells to marketers claims to put ‘the right message to the right person at the right time.’ I wish I could help all the retail marketers who are trying to [figure out] how various marketing technologies are actually different. The second biggest barrier is getting access to the data. Marketers are at the mercy of IT in a lot of organizations, which makes it difficult to get data into a CRM. If marketers can’t get good data in, it’s hard for them to do much. Luckily, modern applications have APIs that enable these systems to talk to each other without much IT involvement.
AH: Our CEO says that B2C CRMs should power the omnichannel experience. Do you agree?
MT: Completely. I don’t know how retailers expect to have a true omnichannel experience if they don’t have a B2C CRM at the center as a single source of truth.
AH: What’s on the horizon for B2C CRMs?
MT: More automated intelligence, and finding a way to make it easier to go from insight to action in a single platform. Also, integrations into more channels. Retailers can’t expect one solution to do everything, so they need tools like CRMs to enable them to deploy new best-of-breed channels as needed. Finally, better attribution. This is the ultimate challenge in a multi-channel consumer world, and it’s a hard problem to solve.
AH: What are some of the better B2C CRMs?
MT: For companies trying to optimize their business, Zaius, [because] we’ve designed Zaius in concert with our customers to solve the B2C CRM problem. For companies that are smaller, and focused on just trying to do a better job at engaging customers, solutions like Intercom have really disrupted the SMB CRM market by combining support, sales, and marketing features in a single tool.
AH: Thanks for sharing your insights!
MT: Any time.
Your turn: What do you think about having a B2C CRM at the center of your omnichannel technology stack? Share your thoughts below.