Since its inception, the customer relationship management field has undergone various transformations. From a simple customer contact spreadsheet or database to a complex repository of 360-degree customer views, CRM systems have changed drastically. Also, the latest waves of social and cloud solutions have forced CRM solution vendors to continuously evolve and adapt. Even customers have changed, from simple buyers to empowered individuals, demanding personalized experiences and acting as brand advocates or critics in social forums.
Traditionally, vendors have offered a variety of solutions for B2B organizations and helped marketers and sales personnel achieve great ROI on CRM implementations. But in comparison to B2B CRM offerings, the B2C segment has garnered little attention. The systematic, complex, and traditional CRM solutions designed to manage long-term relationships and good B2B customer experience ignore the needs of the B2C buyer.
Challenges in B2C CRM
For a B2C organization selling directly to a large customer base, managing relationships with each customer and providing a personalized experience can be a big challenge. In comparison to B2B, B2C customers tend to spend less time on decision making and buying a product. Also, the value of their purchase is often relatively small. The decision to buy is mostly emotional and personal, and the offerings are typically uniform in nature.
Below are the key challenges a B2C CRM solution must solve:
- providing personalized communication and listening to each customer;
- providing personalized experience and mass customization;
- providing personalized customer service; and
- retaining customers when products become commoditized.
The Current Scenario
Many CRM vendors offer social media capabilities for addressing B2C CRM needs. Social CRM provides a platform for customers to interact in online forums and communities. Organizations can perform marketing activities through social media. Social monitoring features let an organization hear what its customer base is saying, and serve distressed customers quickly.
However, not all customers are active in social networks. Some who have had an earlier online presence may reduce their online activity over a period of time due to various factors. Absence from social networks could be long term, or only temporary. It is important to keep in mind that active presence in social networks is not a persistent behavior among all netizens, and the usage pattern is prone to gaps. Hence, the need of the hour is a "street-smart" CRM solution, one that can adapt to changes in human behavior and consider the differences in customer needs. Such a solution needs to rapidly adjust or upgrade to changes in technology and consumer preferences.
The Road Ahead
According to Gartner, by 2015, more than 80 percent of handsets sold in mature markets will be smartphones, and tablet shipments will reach around 50 percent of laptop shipments. Many users own a tablet in addition to a mobile phone or smartphone, and they are literally glued to these gadgets. As the cost of smartphones continues to fall, the adoption of smart devices is expected to rise. Hence, this is the arena for which the B2C CRM systems should gear up.
CRM for the Mobile Era
Smartphones and tablets are the devices today's (and tomorrow's) consumer will predominantly be logged into for a range of activities, including communication, search, e-commerce, entertainment, and social networking. CRM systems designed to target this shift in consumer behavior can ensure greater ROI for the enterprises that use them. These systems should be able to actively listen to consumers, proactively identify their concerns, and provide personalized communication for tailored offerings and improved customer service. Below are some of the avenues through which a CRM solution designed for mobile devices can enable better customer experience, giving enterprises better odds of retaining their clients.
1. Marketing: Enterprises can create free apps or games for smartphones or tablet devices. This will ensure the brand name will be in "top of the mind recall" for customers. Proactive and personalized B2C communications can be made to the customer through this app.
2. Sales: Enterprises can enable mobile/tablet browser-friendly Web sites so that e-commerce transactions can be performed seamlessly and securely through these devices. A "mobile wallet" feature can be provided for enhancing B2C sales through the mobile channel.
3. Service: Customers can be segmented based on their preferred mode of communication, with customer service adjusted accordingly. An app/widget for service can also be created to be installed by customers in their gadgets. Through the service app, customers can make requests or inquire about products or services. Thus, any B2C company can directly cater to a large customer base and provide personalized service.
Padmanabha Sivanandan is a consultant with Infosys. He can be reached at Padmanabha_s01@infosys.com.