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Guest Blogger

By Volker Hildebrand, Global Vice President of Customer Engagement and Commerce, SAP Hybris

A deep understanding of the customer has long been the key to business success. But with ever shifting goal posts, amplified innovation and a minefield of data on their hands, how can companies ensure they adapt to serve a new generation of buyer?

Brands are aware that today’s connected world has introduced a new type of consumer; one that will not be passive or controlled by mass media or vendors. Digitally connected, socially networked and better informed than ever, the customer has changed the rules of the game. The era of digital connoisseurs has already started, and soon trusty legacy systems will no longer provide the detail needed to get fully under the skin of customers.

So what steps can be implemented today to ensure the maximum potential of each customer interaction?

Transform your interactions

Modern customers have increasingly little patience for the distraction of traditional marketing. The snapchat and youtube generation is skipping through broadcast media and tuning out online advertising, to an extent that 39% of UK consumers (47% in the US) have installed ad-blocking software on their PC, mobile or tablet to minimise the impact of advertising.

And whilst marketers focus on a ‘personalised’ experience, the line for getting this right is growing increasingly thin. Savvy customers buy into the fact that brands collect data with each interaction, but in return they expect it to be used in a way that will truly benefit them. Emails with tailored greetings but irrelevant or duplicate content won’t cut it and the unsubscribe button will quickly clicked.

What’s clear is that the world of commerce has evolved, to present a highly engaged audience in control of their own customer journey. They expect to be able to inform themselves, have more choice and get assistance with service requests as quickly as possible. Not only do they want the information, but demand it faster and through a variety of new channels – whichever is most convenient for them in the moment when it matters to them.

Yet many legacy CRM systems now struggle to interpret the volumes of data into a format that it can be applied. When it comes to undertaking any form of digital transformation, a first place to start should be to question whether current systems provide the insights needed to serve a new generation of customer.

Embrace the insights era

Firms are handling more insights and data than ever before. Due to the way that individuals consume content and engage with brands via a range of platforms, the modern customer generates a tremendous amount of data. And such, a growing wealth of information presents real business opportunity.

Enterprises have long been sat on a treasure chest of data, and the challenge has been exactly how best to collect, organise and interpret this store of big data into actionable insight. CRM systems have promised the key to unlocking insights that will help target and engage with customers better, develop products and shape strategic business initiatives.

However, it’s already tedious work to convert large volumes of structured and unstructured data from across a business. With the pace of digital change and increasing customer expectations, a more superior level of insight is increasingly required to provide a 360 customer profile on-the-fly. But traditional CRM systems fail to do so.

Today the challenge for brands to use the data in their grasp to build consolidated profiles from across a variety of channels, anticipate customer behaviors and define target audiences by blending customer information in real time. A more sophisticated system will need to be introduced if brands want to build profiles quickly enough to be able to act on them in the moment, and thus take a powerful competitive advantage.

Searching for a solution

If the objective is to give customers a consistent and meaningful experience across every channel, and each interaction, then the answer is to start transitioning beyond CRM.

Quite simply, traditional CRM systems will not be sufficient to fuel the level of customer engagement required within a digital era. The marketer’s best friend was built to support a different breed of customer, and even the point solutions introduced to solve specific engagement challenges (such as managing customer interactions on social media) are starting to lose their stitches.

To ensure that brands aren’t faced with complex solutions that hinder new business models, or customer engagement across multiple channels, building an effective omni-channel experience is the solution.

Shaping your future

The customer ecosystem has grown more complex over time and shows no signs of slowing down Individuals now expect a new heightened level of personalised experience, delivery channels are becoming less relevant and a data-driven value chain is on the rise.

As such, companies of all sizes and industry must find out a way to work more efficiently and use business insights more effectively, if they want to stay ahead of the competition.

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