Monthly Archives: July 2017

Implementing Social Customer Relationship Management in Retail

One of the most important goals for retailers is to maintain long-term and profitable relationships with their customers. The construct Customer Relationship Management (CRM) started when retailers moved the orientation of their business from their companies to their customers. However, the advent of the internet, Web 2.0, and online social networks have disrupted the traditional way that retailers communicated with their customers.  Hence, Social Customer Relationship Management (SCRM) came to the fore because of the emergence of a “social customer”.

Social customers comprise the 2.8 billion* active social media users (Dr Dave Chaffey *, Smart Insights, 27 Apr, 2017). With these billions of social media users, retailers are no longer in control of customer relationships. Instead, customers and their highly influential virtual networks are now driving the conversation, which can trump a retailer’s marketing, sales and service efforts with their unprecedented immediacy and reach 1. However, social media needn’t to be a threat for retailers. Indeed, retailers that learn how to use social media technology to their advantage can gain valuable insights about the demographics and buying behaviour of their customers.

The use of technology for successful Social Customer Relationship Management

Social networks offer retailers practicing Social Customer Relationship Management masses of customers who group themselves around a brand 2. It is here, in these networks, that retailers can study the community’s behavior toward a brand or firm beyond purchase. The data originate from motivational drivers such as word-of-mouth activity, recommendations, customer-to-customer interactions, blogging, and the writing of reviews 3.

But retailers haven’t yet realized the opportunities of using their own data resources for Social Customer Relationship Management. Sandra Gittlen, mentioned  the following recently in CIO: “In an age where most companies have a social media presence on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Instagram, it’s somewhat surprising that many still haven’t figured out how to turn the data gathered from company-owned properties and broader social media listening tools into automated and actionable intelligence”.

Trainor, Andzulis, Rapp and Agnihotri, (2014) 4 identified four functional blocks enabled by social media technology that are particularly relevant in a CRM context:

  1. Sharing – refers to technologies that support how users exchange, distribute, and receive digital content (e.g., coupons, texts, videos, images, “pins” on Pinterest, etc.). This is similar to the concept of information reciprocity – the activities and processes that encourage customers to interact and share information – which has been shown to positively influence a firm’s ability to manage relationships.
  2. Conversations – represents technologies that facilitate a firm’s interactive dialog with and between customers (e.g., blogs, status updates on Facebook and Twitter, discussion forums, etc.) and capture the information from these dialog.
  3. Relationships – represents the set of technologies that enables customers (and businesses) to build networks of associations with other users (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Ning, Yammer, etc.) and allows organizations to utilize this network information.
  4. Groups – represents the set of technologies that support the development of online user communities centered on specific topics, brands, or products. Examples include SalesForce.com’s Ideaforce and Igloo’s Customer Community application software.

Integrating your Social Customer Relationship Management program with your marketing automation

SCRM deals with the strategies, processes and technologies that retailers can use to link the social web with their CRM strategy. According to Reinhold and Alt, (2012) 5, SCRM poses a challenge for large firms with numerous employees, market offerings and offices. Consequently, they need to discover the relevant conversation threads, synchronize information flows, initiate the appropriate actions and communicate at an individual level within millions of social web conversations.

However integrating SCRM with marketing automation is not impossible – you only need to start right. Malinda Wilkinson (DestinationCRM.com) advises that it’s important that your technology should always follow your process, not precede it. “Without this integration, it is difficult to create a consistent experience for your prospects and customers. And on top of that, too much time and too many resources will be drained trying to coordinate activities to ensure leads don’t fall through the cracks”, concludes Malinda.

Fitting your Social Customer Relationship Management program with your business philosophy

The success of an effective CRM system depends on the background marketing methods and business philosophy 2 of retailers. Therefore customer centricity should become the new strategic goal, where retailers build their brand and image together with their customers.

Linda Shea in AdAge.com proposes the following to become and remain a customer centric company:

  • Executives need direct interaction with customers. The key to executive buy-in, commitment and active support is first-hand knowledge and understanding of what is delivered to the customer, relative to their needs and desires.
  • All employees need to embody the intended customer experience. A narrative must be cascaded down to every single individual in the organization. Your employees must clearly understand their role in delivering the promise the narrative makes to the end customer.
  • Just say “no” to off-strategy ideas. Excitement abounds in most organizations with ideas and fresh thinking that may lead to new revenue streams. However, it is imperative to recognize that customer-centricity is not a destination but rather a multi-faceted, multi-year journey that will require laser-sharp focus, commitment and investment.

Concluding

Retailers that are not with their customers on the social networks will soon run out of customers. The Social Customer Relationship Management construct is customer centric by definition, giving retailers the opportunity, with the aid of marketing automation, to be part of the social media cloud.

Further reading:

  1. Finding Customers in the Vastness of the Internet
  2. Predictive Analytics helps Retailers to make sense of Big Data
  3. Demise of Loyal Retail Customers in the Digital Age

Notes:

1 Heller Baird, C. and Parasnis, G. 2011. From social media to social customer relationship management, Strategy & Leadership, 39(5):30-37.

2 Bagó, P. and Voros, P. 2011. Social customer relationship management, Global Journal of Enterprise Information System, 3(3):35-46.

3 Yoon, K. and Sims, J.D. 2014. Integrating Social Media and Traditional CRM: Toward a Conceptual Framework for Social CRM Practices, Harnessing the Power of Social Media and Web Analytics, IGI Global, Chapter 5:103-131.

4 Trainor, K.J., Andzulis, J.M., Rapp, A. and Agnihotri, R. 2014. Social media technology usage and customer relationship performance: A capabilities-based examination of social CRM, Journal of Business Research, 67(6):1201-1208.

5 Reinhold, O. and Alt, R. 2012. Social Customer Relationship Management: State of the Art and Learnings from Current Projects. In Bled eConference, 155-169.

Image:

Flickr.com

 

Webrooming and Showrooming – Buying Behaviors of Retail Customers in Virtual and Physical Environments

Webrooming and showrooming are popular jargons that describe how retail customers use different combinations of online and physical channels to search for information about products, corroborate this information and make the purchase 4. These customers are tech savvy and they use their mobile phones to great effect to help them to decide what to buy where and at what price.

Both Bricks and Mortar retailers and Clicks Only retailers were slow to react to the changes in the buying behavior of their customers. However, Bricks and Mortar retailers are now adding the online channel to their business and Clicks Only retailers are opening physical stores. The adoption of the omnichannel by retailers couldn’t happened sooner. Hence Bricks and Clicks retailers…

Brain Eisenberg, quoted by ClickZ said that “Retail does not exist without an online component and online retail isn’t as cost-effective if you don’t have a brick-and-mortar component.” “We’re connected all the time through the phones in our pockets, but we live in a physical world”, said Eisenberg.

Webrooming and showrooming

Showrooming

Most of us has done showrooming at least once before. Showrooming is when you visit a store, saw a product you like, but then purchase it online instead of from the store 1. According to Douw G Steyn, author at Bricks2Clicks, the advent the internet has led to the adoption of innovative digital technology and the rolling out of broadband mobile connectivity.

At the same time, consumers quickly learned how to use mobile devices to compare products and prices when shopping 2.  These tech-savvy consumers are changing the fundamental consumer-retailer relationship and showrooming is fast becoming a problem plaguing the retail industry.  In the past few years, as online shopping exploded and smartphones became the norm, the showrooming phenomenon — consumers using their phones to comparison shop in stores — seemed poised to gut the revenue of offline retailers.

The real hurdle, though, is pricing writes Ann Zimmerman in the Wall Street Journal 5. “Lower prices are one of the main reasons people pick Amazon and other internet-only emporiums over traditional retailers” said Ann.

Machavolu and Raju, 2014 6 advice retailers to do the following to counter showrooming:
  1. Adopt a Collaborate-and-Coordinate business model. In today’s business set-up, manufacturers and retailers, both are working in different silos and eventually end up contending against each other. But it will be fine if both operates together to offer customized solutions that exactly suits their shoppers’ needs.
  2. Treat customization as the mantra for success. Customization programs can only be successful when retailers believe they are a key areas of focus for all their staff. Treating the programs as only a ‘side task’ may result in mediocrity and leave the retailers worst off than before.
  3. Lay emphasis on customer experience. The new age customers want themselves to be part of the process while the product is being planned, developed or delivered, hence companies must focus on getting their customers involved in doing so.

Luo, et al (2014) 2 have identified two measures that retailers can take to influence shoppers’ intention to showroom, namely 1) to reduce the online-offline price difference and 2) to improve the level of employee knowledge competency. Webrooming is nowadays recognized as an opportunity that retailers can use to counter the showrooming phenomenon.

Webrooming, which is similar (but opposite) to showrooming is a manner which customers use to help them in making their buying decisions.

Webrooming

Webrooming is the opposite of showrooming.  Showrooming is when you’re standing in a store, and you pull out your smartphone to see if you can get a better price online. However, webrooming is when you’re searching online, check what item you like and go to the store to pick it up 3.

“Webrooming is actually nothing new. Since the early days of online shopping, more people have researched their shopping online than have actually bought there”, says Emily Adler in Business Insider. Emily highlighted results from a recent report from BI Intelligence:

  • Webrooming is more common than showrooming. In the U.S., 69% of people practice webrooming, while 46% do showrooming.
  • The data shows that millennials prefer webrooming. For electronics, shoes, sports equipment, and cosmetics, more millennials say they prefer to webroom, rather than research in store and then buy online.
  • Amazon remains the No. 1 place where showroomers end up making their purchases. But it’s an even more popular destination for webroomers who ultimately buy elsewhere.
  • Only recently have Bricks and Mortar retailers begun to capitalize on webrooming. They’re using tactics like knowledgeable sales staff, in-store pick-up of online orders, in-store Wi-Fi, and smartphone discounts that nudge showroomers to buy in-store.
  • New initiatives for the connected in-store experience keep popping up: tablets and mobile phones used as register systems. Also robotic arms that deliver clothing into dressing rooms, and beacon hardware, which powers in-store maps and automatic hands-free payments.

Concluding

It seems that retailers are starting to catch up with the buying behavior of their tech savvy customers. Whether their customers are webrooming and showrooming , the retailer’s main goal should be to get the sales through their businesses.

Notes:

1 Quint, M., Rogers, D. and Ferguson, R. 2013. Showrooming and the rise of the mobile-assisted shopper, Columbia Business School, Center on Global Brand Leadership.

2 Luo, Q., Oh, L.B., Zhang, L. and Chen, J. 2014. Examining the Showrooming Intention of Mobile-Assisted Shoppers in a multichannel Retailing Environment, In PACIS (p. 141).

3 Nesar, S. and Sabir, L.B. 2016. Evaluation of Customer Preferences on Showrooming and Webrooming: An Empirical Study, Al-Barkaat Journal of Finance & Management, 8(1):50-67.

4 Flavián, C., Gurrea, R. and Orús, C. 2016. Choice confidence in the webrooming purchase process: The impact of online positive reviews and the motivation to touch, Journal of Consumer Behaviour, 15(5):459-476.

5 Zimmerman, A., 2012. Can retailers halt ‘showrooming’, The Wall Street Journal, 259:B1-B8.

6 Machavolu, M.S.K. and Raju, K.V.V. 2014. Showrooming: The Next Threat to Indian Retail, MITS International Journal of Business Research, 1(1):1701.

Image:

Flickr.com

Thinking About Competing With Amazon.com? Think Again…

Competing with Amazon.com may prove to be a difficult if not an impossible challenge. You are up against an extraordinary company led by an extraordinary leader.

“Your margin is my opportunity”, dares Jeff Bezos, the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Amazon.com. According to Jessica Stillman, contributing for INC. , Jeff sees a competitor’s love of margins and other financial ‘ratios’ as an opportunity for Amazon. Says Jeff: “The competitor will cling to them while he focuses on absolute dollar free cash flow and slices through them like a hot knife through butter.”

The migration of Amazon.com from a sole online retailer (Clicks Only) to physical locations (Bricks and Clicks stores) is perceived by many retailers, big and small, as a threat to their existence. However, incumbent retailers can learn much from how Amazon.com conducts their business. Amazon.com is now an omnichannel retail giant that makes the most of the opportunities that digital technology in the new economy offers – showing the way for others to follow.

George Parker has recently converted from an Amazon hater to an Amazon admirer. George writes in Business Insider: “But perhaps the thing that impresses me most about Amazon’s unconventionality is its ability to structure its business model in unexpected ways. Because of the massive volume of product it sells 24/7/365, Amazon maintains 80 enormous warehousing and fulfillment centers scattered around the known universe.” Amazon.com is an uncompromising competitor with an unconventional business model.

How on earth can retailers compete with that?

Where is Amazon.com coming from?

Amazon.com was founded during 1995 and started as a website selling only books. They started out as an online bookstore and grew patiently but significantly to be the world’s largest online retailer. Being one of the few companies that survived the “dot.com” crash during 2000, Amazon.com made their first yearly profit during 2003. Net profit came in at $35 million, or 8 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $149 million, or 39 cents per share, in 2002 (Quora.com).

NASDAQ reported Amazon’s net income for 2016 was an impressive $2.37 billion. This income was mainly coming from its online retail business. RetailDive recently reported that Amazon dominates online sales traffic with an equal or greater share of sales compared to all other e-commerce sites combined, when measured across 11 retail categories. Indeed better than all the rest.

What is Amazon doing now?

Amazon.com is on a buying spree in the Bricks and Mortar retail market. They’ve also came to realize that adding Bricks to Clicks is the future of retailing. Richard Kestenbaum, contributing for Forbes concurs: “Now even Amazon has recognized that online alone is not going to work. In order to succeed in grocery, there will have to be a symbiosis of online and physical stores.” There seems no stopping from Amazon buying Bricks and Mortar retailers.

Competing with Amazon.com is getting more difficult. The Seattle giant launched a radical assault by acquiring a brand-name high-end grocery chain with 456 stores in the U.S. (436), Canada (11), and the United Kingdom (9). Whole Foods also owns three distribution centers (Brad Thomas, Forbes).

So, Amazon is now becoming a true Bricks and Clicks retailer and you will most probably have to compete with it. What are Bricks and Clicks retailers up against when competing with Amazon?

Competing with Amazon.com – the last crusade or new horizons for retailers?

Amazon’s business model is a formidable one, with deep moats on multiple fronts that make it tough for competitors to gain ground. The only way to stop Amazon is to either beat AWS [free Amazon Web Services], which holds a commanding lead in the cloud platform market, or replicate Amazon’s multi-layered Prime strategy [offering tons of benefits on Prime memberships]; (Leo Sun, The Motley Fool).

Kavadias, Ladas and Loch, (2016) have identified six recurring features in the business models of companies (also Amazon.com) that were successful in transforming their industries:

  1. A more personalized product or service – many new models offer products or services that are better tailored than the dominant models to customers’ individual and immediate needs. Companies often leverage technology to achieve this at competitive prices.
  2. A closed-loop process – many models replace a linear consumption process (in which products are made, used, and then disposed of) with a closed loop, in which used products are recycled. This shift reduces overall resource costs.
  3. Asset sharing – some innovations succeed because they enable the sharing of costly assets, e.g. Uber shares assets with car owners. Maybe independent retailers can share assets across the supply chain – what about sharing warehouses, or delivery services?
  4. Usage-based pricing – some models charge customers when they use the product or service, rather than requiring them to buy something outright. The customers benefit because they incur costs only as offerings generate value. The company, on the other hand, benefits because the number of customers is likely to grow.
  5. A more collaborative ecosystem – some innovations are successful because a new technology improves collaboration with supply chain partners and helps allocate business risks more appropriately, making cost reductions possible.
  6. An agile and adaptive organization – innovators sometimes use technology to move away from traditional hierarchical models of decision making. In order to make decisions that better reflect market needs and allow real-time adaptation to changes in those needs. The result is often greater value for the customer at less cost to the company.

Independent or small retail chains need to “think outside the box”. Maybe you should pool your resources and thereby establishing a critical mass to counter the likes of Amazon.com. Also, your location and local knowledge may be a substantial niche – be the first to explore it!

Concluding

Competing successfully with Amazon.com will probably be not viable for independent or small retail chains. Best is to learn Amazon successes and failures and use that knowledge to compete locally in a niche market.

Further reading: Amazon.com and Walmart – Set to Face Off in the Omni-Retail Channel Space

Note

1 Kavadias, S., Ladas, K. and Loch, C. 2016. The transformative business model, Harvard Business Review, 94(10):90-98.

Image

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