One of the buzzwords most uttered by vendors and other pundits for CRM investment is visibility. Vendors promise visibility into the sales pipeline, marketing campaigns, customer desires. Like the proverbial crystal ball, one tool that has been driving this promise of visibility and the competitive edge that it creates is analytics.
"Companies need to measure where they have been along with what is coming up," says Joe Galvin, vice president and research director for CRM strategy at Gartner. Pointing out the preponderance of predictive analytics tools being applied to CRM systems today, he adds, "Companies want to get to where they can see around a corner."
This is why analytics is increasingly a hot CRM trend, and why vendors have been enhancing the tools that provide for wider deployments of predictive analytics capabilities with better results.
Analytics has been a key tool in driving value from customer data, but not until recently has there been a major push to embed analytics capabilities into CRM suites. Leading the way with a purely analytics-driven CRM suite was E.piphany, which restructured its operations from a point solution--analytics vendor into a CRM solutions provider a few years back. PeopleSoft recently added a wide range of predictive analytics into its enterprise suite of CRM solutions. In addition, Oracle and Siebel Systems both tout complex analytics capabilities that mesh with their CRM functionalities.
The goal is to provide a seamless link between the capture of customer data, the analysis of the data, and the dissemination of the polished data into the hands of the right people. "Having your analytics capabilities inside your suite provides the promise of the real-time enterprise," says Thanh Hyunh, director of development, sales intelligence, at Oracle. "It provides a much better visibility into the life cycle of customer data."
Duane Cologne, senior director of market development for analytics at Siebel, says that the company's goal is to blend analytics with everyday operations so well that neither the customer nor user can tell they are using analytics.
Erin Kinikin, vice president and research leader at Giga/Forrester Research, says that vendors are doing a good job of adding analytics into their suites, but more capability is needed to drive real value. "Very few companies have moved to true inline analytics, where the analysis actually drives action," she says. "It's great that agents can see nine more fields on the screen, but why not use the analysis to prompt action? It's an evolution: Companies won't feel comfortable acting on analytics until they feel comfortable that the analytic decisions are right for the business."
Power to the People
Closely related to embedding analytics into CRM suites is the task of placing the power of analytics tools into more hands across the enterprise. Gone are the days where only analysts and IT professionals were able to harness the power of analytics and then churn out reports for marketing and sales departments. With the embedded approach to analytics comes more democratic analytics tools that can be accessed and used by all types of associates who previously were not trained to set up algorithms and complex data-mining reports.
The latest objective is to provide analytics capabilities right out of the box that anyone can use, especially those without a background in statistics, says Jeff Kirk, director of business intelligence applications at Oracle. "Our latest analytics products are designed for business managers, not data analysts," he explains. "It has to be as easy to use as Yahoo!."
Colin Shearer, vice president of marketing for customer analytics at SPSS, notes that his company has been making strides to place analytics directly in the hands of marketers. "Marketers want to understand customer behavior, but most do not have a Ph.D. in data mining," he says. "Therefore we hide the complexity and present the tools in an appropriate way that lets marketers use analytics without having to approach an analyst for that kind of information."
Shearer adds that SPSS's recent acquisition of Data Distilleries has given SPSS even more capability in allowing marketers to view campaign performance and calculate the ROI of campaigns on the fly.
Gartner's Galvin says that analytics on the whole has been a user-driven environment on all fronts. "Where analytics really has power is when you can push it to the decision-makers who can use integrated dashboards to make real-time decisions and identify key opportunities for the business when they arise," he says.
All this attention is being paid to putting analytics into the hands of the business user, but this is not to imply that deep analytics tools are being neglected. "Putting some analytics power into the hands of the business users simply allows analysts to get even more down and dirty, into the modeling and reporting," says Nelle Schantz, global strategist and program director for CRM at SAS Institute. "It simply allows the analysts' analysis to flow more easily into the business users' hands."
The hottest new analytics tools, analytics-driven suites, and Web-site analytics from the top vendors include:
Cognos ReportNet The latest from Cognos uses analytics to allow anyone in the enterprise to design and run complex reports.
Databeacon Collaboration Edition Web-reporting and data-analysis software that enables organizations to publish and disseminate live Web reports and data analysis to a large number of people over the Internet.
E.piphany 6.5 The latest version of E.piphany's CRM suite relies on deep analytics functionality to power sales, service, and support modules. Analytics are a core of the suite's "customer relationship backbone," which aims to provide total visibility into customer behavior.
iPhrase One Step One Step's analytics is designed to highlight the products and services that online customers are most interested in, and helps organizations fine-tune Web content and system understanding to deliver the best self-service search experience possible.
Oracle Daily Business Intelligence 6.0 This business intelligence release from Oracle includes better integration between sales and marketing, including greater revenue tracking capabilities.
PeopleSoft Predictive Analytics From guided selling tools to marketing campaign visibility, PeopleSoft has added analytics capabilities that tie in with key areas of its CRM suite.
SAP mySAP CRM Analytics New real-time analytics in mySAP CRM combines customer insight with predictive information to make recommendations to help increase the value of each customer interaction.
SAS Institute's Interaction Manager, Marketing Optimization, and Marketing Automation SAS's solutions for behavioral tracking, campaign analysis, and automation have been updated to allow business users to harness analytics capabilities and have been enhanced to better serve vertical industries like financial services, telecommunications, insurance, and retail.
Siebel Systems Siebel's Customer Analytic Applications 7.7 includes new guided analytics and business process integration--analytic capabilities for mobile users, expanded vertical solutions, and several analytic platform enhancements. There are also new intelligent customer-interaction applications that use real-time predictive and descriptive analytics.
SPSS The company's newest predictive text-analytics tool integrates data mining with text mining technologies to enable organizations to analyze text sources like customer call reports, emails, and documents along with structured data like variables in a database, to aid in company decision making.Additionally, SPSS continues to add predictive analytics functionality to the NetGenesis Web analytics tool it acquired in 2002, including offering a choice of a hosted model, a managed service model, and a service bureau model.
WebSideStory WebSideStory has recently updated its HitBox Enterprise solution to provide more in-depth reporting and tracking, as well as greater ease of use. --M.S.
NTE on Salesnet
NTE on Salesnet
When NTE implemented Salesnet's hosted CRM solution, the firm focused on using the company's analytics dashboard included in the suite. The dashboard allows NTE executives to eliminate some of the guesswork from sales forecasting, and provides them with more accurate forecasting and greater visibility into the sales pipeline, according to George Abernathy, senior vice president at the transportation industry logistics outsourcer.
"To justify investment in your company and plan for growth, you need to have the ability to accurately forecast downstream revenue," Abernathy says. "That's what Salesnet does for us."
Abernathy says that Salesnet's forecasting and reporting tools are so easy that anyone can use the solution, and notes that even the company's board members have Salesnet logins so they can gain instant visibility into the company's expected revenue. "You need not be a [Microsoft] Excel or Access jockey to be able to build custom reports," he says.
In the past 18 months NTE has been able to forecast its future sales and ramp up appropriately due to Salesnet's analytics dashboard, Abernathy says. --M.S.
Jostens on Siebel Systems
Siebel Analytics gives Jostens insight into the sales effectiveness of its 800-person sales force. Jostens, which sells class rings, graduation announcements, and yearbooks across the country, uses Siebel Analytics for tracking year-over-year sales for all of its product lines, but most important, the company's class-ring business. Jostens can pinpoint the top and bottom performers at each of the schools at which it does business, enabling the sales reps to more effectively upsell and cross-sell products based on the specific situation they encounter. In addition, Jostens is now able to benchmark individual performance and increase penetration in underdeveloped accounts.
"The sales force loves it--it simply works," Jostens CIO Andrew Black says. "The fact that we are continuing to invest in it proves its worth to this organization."
Siebel Analytics simultaneously integrates information from multiple sources within Jostens, including an Oracle data warehouse, a Microsoft SQL Web/e-commerce application, and even data housed in Microsoft Access. The application was quickly deployed with minimal training of executives and the sales force through role-based, interactive dashboards of key customer and business metrics.
The product also helps Jostens ensure that it has all the documents in place to be able to sell to public schools. "It is a very seasonal business, and we have to make sure we have everything in place to keep the product pipeline moving," Black says. He adds that the company has placed the analytics features into an employee portal, which has made the product easy for sales representatives to use. --M.S.
e-Dialog on SPSS
Before deploying Clementine, SPSS's data-mining workbench, email marketing firm e-Dialog wanted to ensure that the email marketing campaigns it was implementing on behalf of its clients were as effectively targeted as possible. "Nowadays, with everyone complaining about spam, we needed to understand what the customer is interested in so the emails wouldn't instantly be deleted," says Michael Wexler, director of research at e-Dialog.
With each new email within a campaign, more data is generated and customer profiles become increasingly complex. E-Dialog uses Clementine to sort through the numerous variables and determine which ones are meaningful and, as a result, support its clients' campaign activities with hard numbers. Clementine enables e-Dialog to group people by behaviors and interests, further ensuring that relevant campaigns reach the right audiences.
Now, e-Dialog is able to increase its clients' ROI by determining which offers or combination of offers would most effectively drive purchases. For example, before signing a contract with e-Dialog, one retail client conducted a test in which it sent customers emails that contained links to a random assortment of items on sale. E-Dialog used Clementine to determine that these customers could be effectively segmented based on the sale items' prices.
By targeting more lavish spenders with sales on expensive items, and frugal consumers with cheaper items, e-Dialog enabled the retail client to use target emails based on the recommendations from the customer profiles e-Dialog provided to raise click rates on sales items by 15 percent.
"When we apply analytics we can achieve 25 to 30 percent improvements in performance for some subgroups," Wexler says. "And we can see as high as 15 percent higher dollar amount sales, proving that when we target the right customers, they buy more items."
Wexler admits that analytics-enabled emails are not magic bullets that ensure a sale, but he says the intelligence analytics adds is invaluable to marketers trying to cut through the sea of spam that consumers receive. "Now we can send emails with greater confidence that we are matching the right offer to the right customer." --M.S.
Contact News Editor Martin Schneider at mschneider@destinationCRM.com
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