Siebel On A Roll

Siebel Systems is going vertical. Actually, the San Mateo, Calif.-based CRM software giant has been teeing up industry-specific flavors of its flagship Siebel 7 suite since December last year. The latest and arguably the most critical version is Siebel eRetail 7, which was unveiled today. All tallied, Siebel offers 20 versions of its Siebel 7 software, broken out in seven broad categories: financial services; communications; energy; life sciences; consumer; industrial; public sector; and travel and hospitality. All versions are available today, although Siebel has chosen to profile them in separate announcements throughout the year. It's part of Siebel's larger strategy of differentiating itself in the CRM market. "Our industry focus is the main competitive point Siebel brings to the industry," says Mike Murphy, general manager of retail at Siebel. "There's a lot of functionality needed in a CRM system, and one size CRM doesn't fit all." Delivering a parting shot to competitors PeopleSoft and Oracle, Murphy adds, "you can't merely extend an ERP application to CRM and be successful." Murphy declined to describe the vertical markets in order of importance at Siebel, only to say that retail "is huge." Siebel claims to have worked closely with blue-chip retailers such as Marks & Spencer, CompUSA and Home Shopping Network, in order to understand the pain points in retail and then address them in Siebel eRetail 7. Pain points are many and varied. The retail industry, in particular, is wide-ranging, covering everyone from low-margin grocers to expensive jewelry stores. "Retailers have traditionally been slow adopters of technology," says Murphy. "But there's segments in retail where margins are tight, such as grocers. They're experimenting with technology to help identify and understand core profitable customers -- anything to give them an edge." Siebel eRetail 7 includes a boatload of CRM functionality for targeted customer marketing, improved customer service, better employee performance and reduced IT costs. Each function, though, must be tailored specifically to retail, claims Siebel. For instance, retailers often live and die by brand awareness and customer satisfaction, which means they need to provide superior customer service regardless of location, time of day, or channel. A retailer's army of salespeople also have special needs. Siebel eRetail 7's employee relationship management Web applications and portal address performance management, business analytics, online learning, help desk, and company news. The goal is to keep employees better aligned with the retailer's overall objectives, Siebel says.
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