• July 31, 2015
  • By Brent Leary, cofounder and partner, CRM Essentials

Spring Events Yield Web Trends for SMBs

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A host of vendors, including Adobe, InfusionSoft, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, SAP, SugarCRM, and many more, held big user conferences during the first half of 2015, and as always news was made and trends emerged. While we have a short break in the conference action before CRM Evolution ignites the summer/fall season, now's a good time to touch on a few of those trends.

DIGITAL TOUCH POINTS OFFER BIG OPPORTUNITIES

According to a Forrester study in April, 59 percent of B2B buyers don't want a sales rep as their primary source of research, versus only 19 percent who do. B2B buyers prefer to educate themselves online, often where they have the best browsing experience. These themes were reinforced during SugarCRM CEO Larry Augustin's keynote at this year's SugarCon. Augustin noted that more of the customer journey is digital, with 57 percent making their purchase decision before speaking to a vendor.

The proliferation of devices and social networks means that more information is available digitally, but only 20 percent of brands are providing digital touch points exclusively to potential customers. This disconnect opens an opportunity for agile small and midsize businesses, which by offering these touch points can more effectively build relationships with the modern consumer, and succeed in building a modern business model.

MOBILE PAYMENTS ARE COOL, AND MOBILE WALLETS EVEN COOLER

The importance of digital touch points was hammered home at Adobe Summit. From the use of real-time analytics to shape your message to the demo of Under Armour's use of multiscreen technology to provide an unbelievable in-store experience, the conference reinforced how digital marketing can impact customer engagement.

But from all the great concepts, one stood out: the mobile wallet. When Apple Pay was announced as part of the iPhone 6 rollout last year, it accelerated the adoption of mobile payments. The mobile wallet goes a step further, replacing paper coupons and plastic loyalty cards and giving businesses another way to engage us through our beloved phones.

According to Mark Tack, vice president of marketing at Vibes.com—provider of a mobile marketing platform that integrates with the Adobe Marketing Cloud—coupons and loyalty cards can be transferred to phones via Apple Passbook or Google Wallet; when customers then walk past a participating retailer, their phone will alert them.

Vibes.com customer Men's Wearhouse used this feature last year, embedding a button in emails that allowed recipients to send coupons to their phones. So instead of having its coupons languish in emails, the retailer saw a tenfold increase in in-store redemptions with the save-to-phone feature.

SHARING INSIGHTS LEADS TO RESULTS

I presented some of the key findings from the 2015 Social Customer Service Index at SAP's SAPPHIRE conference. Nearly 950 respondents—half of them at companies with fewer than 100 employees—took part in the survey, which Social Media Today and SAP have partnered on annually since 2010 to see how companies are integrating social tools and strategies into customer service initiatives. It was clear from the results that integrating service insights into other areas of your business has considerable payoff.

Companies with a formal process for sharing service insights were twice as likely to have made progress on customer service goals and objectives as those with no formal process. And they were twice as likely to be satisfied with their efforts to integrate social media into service processes. In addition, they were 85 percent more likely to handle at least 25 percent of service inquiries over social channels. And though they were handling a much higher load, they were also 40 percent more likely to handle service inquiries coming from social channels in less than an hour. Getting quicker responses has to make customers happier, and the ability to provide them makes employees happier as well.

Digital touch points, mobile wallets, and integrated service insights aside, the spring conference season reinforced things we already knew: Consumers want to create better experiences for themselves, and companies willing and able to provide them with the tools they need to create those experiences will benefit the most. I can't wait to see what the summer/fall conference season will teach us about how to deliver better customer experiences.

Brent Leary is cofounder of CRM Essentials, an Atlanta-based advisory firm focused on small and midsized businesses. He is also the author of Barack 2.0: Social Media Lessons for Small Businesses.

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