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Is your CRM keeping pace with a rapidly changing marketplace?

With all the changes brought on by the web, we are facing a deluge of new terms about consumer buying habits. My favourite one is:

Showroomingis the practice of examining merchandise in a traditional brick and mortar retail store without purchasing it, but then shopping online to find a lower price for the same item. Online stores often offer lower prices than their brick and mortar counterparts, because they do not have the same overhead cost. Showrooming can be costly to retailers, not only in terms of the loss of the sale, but also due to damage caused to the store's floor samples of a product through constant examination from consumers.


A thoughtful manager might be inclined to wonder if technology is having similar effects on buying for his or her own Customers. And if so, can the organisation handle this? In other words: Is our CRM strategy and vision keeping pace with a rapidly changing marketplace?

Social Media
Some of the newer technologies is in the area of Social Media. We know that Social Media usually has little or no impact on business to business, but can have a big impact on business to consumer. However these new technologies seem to be changing the landscape, and therefore have an indirect impact even on B2B.

However the true impact of technology cannot be judged until we know both the industry and the strategy of a company.

Who do you turn to?
So how is one to judge the true impact of the changing marketplace on our organisation? Who do you turn to? The answer is the same as it has always been: Your Customers! Ask your customers about their experience. Find out what they value from a good experience and measure your performance. Hopefully your CRM system contains a survey module which automatically generates surveys, and has reports that allow you to spot and react to trends.

If your customer base is large and/or diverse in their purchasing behaviours, then more work is needed. You need to separate your "good" Customers and engage with them on their experience. This is spelled out very articulately in Dario Priolo's article:5 Strategies for Keeping Pace with Changing Customer Buying Behaviors.

Always work with a majority
Having a clear mandate from the Customer will help you to focus on the areas of improvement in your CRM Strategy, and your CRM System as well. Find out what their expectations are. Many innovative ideas have been born within this process. For example, many telecommunication providers face backlash from Customers due to high wait times. Adding staff will improve the experience, but will also increase costs. However after speaking to its Customers, one provider found that many of its Customers were generation Y, and preferred to use chat. This led the provider to integrate a chat module with the existing CRM system, resulting in shorter wait times and an improved Customer experience for a key demographic.

Be Proactive
It also makes sense to find a way to accurately monitor buying behaviour in your market, and to spot trends and changes. This may involve external as well as internal market research. This goes beyond your usual sales reports, and involves trends such as: "How much time is our sales staff spending with Customers today versus two years ago?" Once you are monitoring your market over the long term, it becomes easier to spot new trends.

Finally, look ahead and envision the future in the marketplace. What future ideas and expertise might you and your company be able to capitalise on? Be a part of the trend, and remember that the first mover will always have a strategic advantage. Even if the benefit doesn't outweigh the risks, it remains sensible as it makes your organisation ready for change

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