The evolution of product development often follows an all-too-familiar pattern. Countless point solutions, developed to solve a single business challenge arise to meet market needs, only to wind up siloed and disconnected from one another. With time, some of those solutions gradually find their perfect match and become connected to achieve a more powerful, integrated solution.
As we look to the next evolution in technology, there is a clear case to be made that customer relationship management (CRM) systems will logically converge with the Ecommerce platform. It seems inherently obvious that a company would want to have a single system of record for customer information and interactions as well as the customer’s commerce transactions
In B2C ecommerce, the convergence of CRM and the Ecommerce platform introduces a wealth of new possibilities to monitor and measure everything that happens online. Combining interaction and order data in a single repository will enable the ability to drive dynamic and personalized merchandising and offers online.
Traditional sales force automation (SFA) in B2B markets can also benefit from a commerce-aware customer system. Certainly a sales representative managing a portfolio of accounts does not have the bandwidth to consistently communicate with every customer and prospect. When CRM capabilities are added to B2B websites, sales reps have much greater visibility into products or services an individual may be investigating on the website, improving sales effectiveness.
Taking this a step further, the integration of CRM and Ecommerce provides a foundation for customer self-service. This self-service capability has traditionally been challenging to implement because the necessary information usually lives partly in the Ecommerce system and partly in the CRM system. An integrated system obviates the need to reconcile data across two applications while improving the customer experience and, likely, sales.
Another factor that is driving towards integrated CRM and Ecommerce is increasing awareness that the traditional linear transaction funnel is obsolete. In the old world of commerce, where transactions were driven through sales people, each interaction was focused and time consuming. In today’s digital, mobile and social world, customer interactions with a brand leading up to a sale are far too frequent, haphazard and variable to fit that old-school linear model. A CRM system needs to adapt to these micro-interactions. Without an integrated platform that interaction will likely never be captured.
Despite the undeniable value of capturing and analyzing as much customer information as possible, the traditionally separate worlds of ecommerce and CRM have made integration economically unviable. Most companies would agree that recording all customer actions on an Ecommerce site is useful, yet few are willing to make the investment to replicate that data into a separate CRM system.
What is more likely to happen is for Ecommerce platforms to start moving beyond being a purely transactional system toward a system that provides the foundation of the customer relationship. The only way to achieve this goal is to build CRM and Ecommerce directly on the same platform, creating a single data source.
CRM capabilities embedded in an Ecommerce platform are greater than the sum of the two separate products. While the technology challenges presented when integrating standalone CRM and Ecommerce can be daunting, finding a vendor that offers both capabilities natively integrated will multiply your returns.
- Andy Lloyd, GM of Commerce Products, NetSuite