CRM: from focus to centricity

If there is one thing becoming increasingly apparent about CRM it’s that personalization is not a nicety – it is a necessity. And yet, in a world of global travel, omni-channel shopping, and continuous commerce, it is becoming increasingly challenging to do just that. Historically, it was easy to manage a customer who only ever visits the one store and builds a relationship with one or two salespeople.  But how does a company both embrace this new era of commerce whilst managing customer loyalty within it?

The answer, it would seem, is to apply a customer-centric strategy over a customer-focused one. As the name suggests, a centric model holds the consumers at its core; it revolves around them. It is proactive in the way it looks to anticipate their needs whereas the focused model reacts to the needs once they have already risen. This is no small undertaking, particularly for the larger multinational company competing across all channels. However, it is fundamental for any brand or company wanting to secure loyalty in today’s O2O market.

O2O (Online to Offline)

Given that consumers now drift between your online, mobile and in-store presence, you – the customer-centric brand – needs to have a strategy that accounts for this. The customer-focused brand would continue to silo in-store, e-commerce, search, mobile, and social as separate projects and assign value based on how each front operates individually, rather than how they work together.  This kind of digital disconnection between online and in-store is a massive obstacle.

For example, in a business model that rewards people on a commission basis, an omni-channel mindset is not in the interest of the individual salesperson or store. Their hard work and accountability gets quickly lost or, at best, diluted. And when accountability disappears, standards are likely to drop.

In fact, this is all the more reason to employ a customer-centric model that can measure its customer’s journey and credit the right people. Only then can you get everyone within the organization onboard and pointing in the same direction. This was the approach taken by Saks 5th Avenue following financial crisis sales slump and their results only go to show how effective this transition can be.

Managing the Data

You can’t have a customer-centric strategy when you don’t know enough about your customer. In an 020 world this comes down to data management and system integration. How else will you know that Suki from Osaka has been browsing the sunglass section of your eCommerce site in Japan, before she picked up a pair in your duty free shop on her way to New York, where she visited the store to buy a dress to go with them?

Imagine the kind of CRM experience that could come with this. To be treated in an overseas store as if it was your local; to have personalized in-store discounts tailored on the basis of your online retail browsing history; to be able to speak to a brand anytime anywhere, yet never as a stranger.  When carried out in a sensitive, mutually beneficial manner, these are just some of the enormous opportunities that the customer-centric brand might engage and secure loyalty with the modern day consumer.

The example of Suki’s journey might seem idealistic and undoubtedly expensive to obtain, but don’t be under the impression that it is impossible, or even an improbable space into which retail is heading. Of the many conferences we have recently attended, these kinds of innovative system integration platforms and point-of-sale devices such as RFIDs (Radio Frequency Identification) have been showcased repeatedly. We are not talking about concept models, but technology and data platforms that are out there and being implemented into the market as we speak.

If there is one thing we are hearing time and again, particularly from luxury and fashion brands operating in Asia, it is that loyalty is a massive problem. In today’s market, winning on this front will come down to long-term vision, considerable investment and above all, customer centricity. This is no mean feat, but future customer loyalty will likely depend on it.

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