Improving Online Customer Relationships

Just as the term e-business no longer refers to the simple practice of conducting business on the Internet, the expression e-CRM
has evolved from just an online point application to a more comprehensive, ongoing strategy to enhance the end user's overall experience. Today e-business not only encompasses the exchange of goods and services online, but also has grown to include customer service and business collaboration. In turn, e-CRM, developed as a complement to a business's overall CRM strategy, has morphed to become an integrated online plan that includes Web analytics, content management, self-service, and collaboration. Now that e-CRM takes a more holistic view of the customer, the employment of appropriate online technologies will only move it closer to replicating the real-time interaction in the offline world that produces happier customers, sustained loyalty, and increased sales. With the onset of the Internet came a push for companies to establish a global presence. In fact, a recent Frost & Sullivan report valued the global CRM marketplace at $11 billion last year. And, this report listed the interactive marketplace as one of the main drivers of this growth--tallying a 30 percent increase between 2000 and 2001. Since the online world has become such an integral part of day-to-day business and because it appeals to such a mass, global universe of consumers, businesses are constantly searching for innovative, yet cost-efficient, methods to reach these relatively faceless individuals. Furthermore, e-businesses must also face the daunting task of harnessing the once "borderless" Internet in a manner that complies with new restrictions and regulations, moving e-CRM from a "nice to have" methodology to a "must have" strategy. The most successful e-CRM strategies are those that closely tie the company's online initiatives to corporate business objectives. And contrary to current perception, this can be accomplished through technology without a large investment in time, resources, and money. Sound too good to be true? If so, you need to take a look at adding a new type of business intelligence--IP-based intelligence--to your e-CRM strategy in order to start nurturing those long-term customer relationships. IP-based intelligence technology provides real-time information about an online user such as geographic location down to a city-level worldwide, connection speed, and Internet Service Provider--all based on the user's IP address. Until now, there has been no way to reliably extract such information about an online user unless he or she provided the information. And more often than not, consumers are unwilling to part with such valuable--and personal--information for fear that it will be mishandled or sold to a third party. Using third party databases and other such methods to gain customer insight have proven less than accurate. Widely used techniques such as cookies, which plant a small file on the user's computer to trace online activity, are considered extremely invasive by a growing number of Web surfers who are turning them off to avoid being watched by "Big Brother." IP-based intelligence, with a higher than 99 percent accuracy at a country level and higher than 94 percent at a city level worldwide, represents a new generation of online technology. It is easy to integrate and deploy--in less than an hour--and can be used under the e-CRM umbrella as either a standalone solution or integrated as part of an enterprise or networking application. The top-five functions that you can automatically build into your e-CRM strategy through IP-based intelligence are:
  • Localization -- Enables advertising to be "geotargeted" to a city level worldwide, increasing advertising reach and message effectiveness. Also, automates and targets the delivery of language- and currency-specific content.
  • Security/Fraud -- Offers a real-time authentication checkpoint and a new method for enterprise protection and fraud prevention. Also, increases confidence in preventing unauthorized and illegal online transactions.
  • Web Analytics -- Provides new ways to view, parse, and analyze Web traffic based on geography and other IP-based attributes for deeper analysis of Web site effectiveness and customer interaction.
  • Digital Rights Management - Addresses content issues such as copyrights and syndication by controlling access to digital content while complying with contractual obligations based on the location of Web site visitors.
  • Intelligent Routing - Delivers quickest-path routing based on the Internet's geographic and topological information. Enhancements include faster Web page downloads and savings on enterprise bandwidth costs. While the online channel is merely one piece of the CRM puzzle, it will become increasingly more important as consumers continue to take advantage of the Internet as a primary source for shopping, information and research. According to Jupiter Media Matrix, the biggest obstacle that U.S. companies must overcome when beginning a global, e-commerce project is the tendency to miscalculate the complexity of establishing localized Web sites for foreign markets and audiences. In fact, Forrester Research reported that localizing Web sites can increase foreign e-commerce three-fold. So, in deploying an e-CRM solution, it's important to remember that your customers can be from anywhere in the world via the Internet and that languages and customs are different everywhere. By automatically building IP-based intelligence into an e-CRM strategy, companies can gain the advantage as they begin to build solid, global relationships based on connecting with consumers within the parameters of when, where and how they want to be reached as well as providing relevant, personalized information that resonates with their lifestyles. About the Author Sanjay Parekh is cofounder and chief strategy officer at Digital Envoy, a provider of IP-based intelligence technologies.
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