As with many marketing practices, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) can mean many things to many marketers.

For some, it’s about marketing strategy, for others the technology – or on a more tactical basis, the programmes employed to manage the customer experience. Whatever the perspective, most marketers would agree that CRM enables brands to effectively connect with customers, understand who they are, which messages resonate with them, and what activity builds customer loyalty.

When it’s done well, CRM can significantly increase reach and brand loyalty, while at the same time speeding up the evolution of a brand’s marketing with real-time actionable insights. However, whether we’re looking at direct-to-consumer marketing or simply brand awareness, understanding the mobile user experience in particular is a vital component of CRM success.  

Online shopping on mobiles has now overtaken desktop for the first time – 52% of website visits are now made via a mobile, while 36% of UK online sales are now completed on a smartphone or tablet. 84% of multi-screen experiences involve smartphones, and most interactions start with them, according to IMRG’s Capgemini Quarterly Benchmarking Report.

The foundations

The role of mobile is profoundly impacting CRM marketing strategies, technologies and programmes. However in my work with brand marketers, I tend to group CRM into three key types:

Lifecycle marketing – Typically focused on marketing programme automation at key engagement points, such as email sign up.

Advanced personalisation – Where customer loyalty is sought through delivering highly relevant, targeted content pertinent to customers’ implicit and explicit interests, preferences and shopping patterns.

Formal loyalty programs – Where customer behaviour is overtly driven through rewards.

These groupings form a useful framework for helping marketers build and prioritise their CRM strategy and the future evolution of brand engagement.  Mobile is creating a fundamental shift in marketing practice and marketers need to address this in their planning.

Trends such as the increasing adoption of e-receipts bring into question the need for formal loyalty programmes, the drivers for which have often been more about linking cross-channel transactions than influencing customer behaviour.

Evolving your approach

Similarly lifecycle marketing has often been shaped more by the technical constraints created by a lack of adequate systems integration than actual customer engagement. When brands can message customers at the moment of purchase consideration and make those messages contextually relevant, traditional marketing basics such as welcome programmes look increasingly redundant.

However, marketers shouldn’t throw out lifecycle marketing just yet. Looking at the traditional groupings of lifecycle programs is still a useful structure for planning the evolution of your CRM strategy – but traditional approaches need to change and evolve with the new opportunities and complexities that mobile technologies bring. For example:

Acquisition – No longer a simple case of maximising email sign ups; mobile enabled engagement channels such as apps, SMS and chat services require a broader consideration of value exchange and what marketing permission really means. Indeed, there are channels and markets, for example WeChat in China, where a smartphone is a fundamental prerequisite for sign up.

Conversion – Whilst purchase conversion and frequency are still relevant, our approach needs to evolve. For multichannel retailers, mobile apps make it possible to track browse behaviour in-store, opening up a whole new set of insights that at the moment are largely untapped.

Loyalty – We see an increasing shift from points and financial rewards based schemes to ‘surprise and delight’ approach. Key enablers underlying this shift are mobile technologies such as client telling apps in-store and app based membership ‘cards’ offering not only a rewarding experience for the customer, but also significant cost savings for the retailer.

Service – Historically treated at best as an opportunity to upsell, at worst a series of system generated messages, mobile technologies mean service messaging can contribute to customer loyalty by including useful and engaging content, whether it’s links to ‘How to’ guides on YouTube or user generated content on channels such as Instagram.

Retention – Whilst other areas may appear to have become more complex, creating long-term engagement through retention programmes such as regular newsletters has become a whole lot easier. Personalisation technologies have moved beyond product recommendations and are increasingly managing the dynamic selection of content not only relevant to a customer’s profile, but also to the context in which they’re engaging with a marketing message, creating highly relevant messages with a low cost of production.

Where to start 

In thinking about re-engineering your CRM strategy, I would suggest the following when considering your functional requirements:

Data collection – From all customer touchpoints; online, in-store, web, apps, mobile etc – quickly and easily incorporate it into your customer profile.

Data processing – The ways in which data can be enriched and aggregated into meaningful groups, at a speed that adequately supports the mobile ‘always on’ consumer.

Segmentation – The methods by which a marketer can filter their customer base without recourse to specialists and tech resources.

Messaging – The ability to orchestrate two-way communication across all relevant channels, online, offline, wherever.

Personalisation – The ability to effectively deliver a single message with unlimited variants in a logical and controllable way.

Above all else, the critical factor in future proofing your CRM is context. Context gained through location, proximity, weather, social chat, whatever the dimension – mobile makes context the key differentiator for truly relevant messaging.

The world has changed and marketers need to catch up, the Internet of Everything is the world in which your customers already operate and they expect a seamless experience.  So in getting your CRM and mobile strategies right don’t throw traditional marketing practice out, simply expand it to encompass the important new opportunities that it opens up.