Relationship in the E-Com Space

Amazon, Flipkart, Myntra, Snapdeal and the likes have been giving sleepless nights to the executives of Shoppers’ Stop, More and Lifestyle and others of the brick and mortar world. Their executives are feeling the pressure to bring in measurable ROI from existing marketing investments as current economic and political uncertainty has squeezed the already tight marketing budgets.

Interestingly, none of the e-commerce players, barring Amazon, has invested in driving great customer relationships and retention. They all play mainly on the valuation game by ramping up number of users through massive discounting.

For them the availability of funds has not been an issue for scaling up and so continued investment in customer lead generation, promotion and discounting takes centre stage.

The good news, however, is that Internet spending is on an upswing by traditional businesses and ecommerce businesses. Marketers however need to remain conservative. Many are deploying customer relationship marketing (CRM) based analysis to justify online promotional spending despite huge beating on bottom-line.

How can enterprises push for a web-based customer relationship analytics approach to marketing? Here are a few pointers.

Interactive marketing has spawned a myriad of customer touch points through which people can make contact with a company. Marketers often are charged with measuring customer behaviour through the many facets that comprise the complete customer life cycle. It is no longer enough just to capture the data behind these individual channels in isolation. Marketers must see the big picture and be able to build an integrated profile of their customers, to understand how interactions within separate touch-points relate to each other, and to use the resulting customer intelligence to tailor company-customer interactions to deliver measurable returns.

Analytics is no longer just the job of the statistician or analyst. As departments become leaner, everyone in the organisation is responsible for using information from corporate processes and systems to measure the payback on programmes they manage. Marketers, in particular, are expected to actively seek out online customer behavioural patterns and trends, forge loyal relationships and customise promotions and content to individual audience segments. CRM analytics solutions help even non-tech-savvy marketers to distill massive volumes of customer intelligence data so that they can gain an integrated, real-time view of shifting customer preferences, market conditions and performance of online campaigns against these variables.

A solid analytics approach needs to be in place to probe the “why” behind customer behaviour, which in many cases is the “buy” (or the purchase). What are the triggers and the motivating drivers? The turn-offs? While most Web reporting solutions reveal the “what” in terms of hits and clicks to a site, marketers need more information to understand why site visitors behave as they do.

CRM analytics enable marketing managers to target and cultivate profitable customers while identifying and discouraging less-qualified window shoppers.

Marketing managers now must understand the moment of truth with each customer. In other words, when does a customer cross the line between browser and buyer? Rarely does today’s marketer, now held to stricter standards of accountability, have the patience – or the funds – to pour into courting fickle customers who don’t represent incremental business value.

More and more interactive marketing campaigns are measured against key performance indicators (KPIs) tied to corporate goals of profitability. Today’s analytics technology works by framing customer data within pre-determined

KPIs. Often, these can be arranged in a “dashboard” configuration that provides the context needed for the marketing executive who may not have a heavy analytics or technical background.

Old analytics techniques merely looked at counts and comparisons; now marketers are thirsting for more than just a transactional perspective on the customer. To achieve the full benefits of a true CRM analytics strategy that incorporates AI tools, businesses must be able to view the impact of transactions and interactions within the entire customer life cycle. A transaction is the end result – whether it’s a sale or a self-service customer who used the Web to download a solution to a problem without having to engage the call centre. Interactions, on the other hand, can be far more telling. They represent all the action points leading up to the final transaction. The e-channel (the Web) is the richest source of interaction data compared with the offline world where transactions reign. Collecting and analyzing such data from multiple customer touch points uncovers the customer’s own journey before completing an actual transaction. It is often this unique roadmap that can be the most insightful.

With new analytics approaches, marketers should be able to quickly bridge the gap that exists within interactive, multi-channel customer environments, resulting in more effective targeting, improved merchandising strategy and cost reduction for a far better return on investment.

(The author spearheads execution and innovation for clients @CustomerLab)