2020: The year ahead in CRM

  • Posted: 17th December 2019

2020: The year ahead in CRM

It has been a busy – and hopefully successful and productive – year for the industry, and to conclude it, we convened some of our favorite CRM experts to talk trends in technology. Last week, we held an end of year event at The Rosewood Hotel in Holborn for CRM and digital marketers called ‘CRM Trends 2020’. As you can imagine, everyone had a lot to celebrate – 2019 was a great but tough year for customer marketing and therefore festive drinks and food was a must!

We were lucky to be joined by Michel Tjoeng, Head of Digital and Customer Experience at De Beers Group; Ruth Mortimer, Managing Director for Global Education and Development at Advertising Week; and Tim Bond, Head of Insight at the DMA. They participated in our CRM trends 2020 panel, shredding some light on what we can expect in the CRM world over the next year, and here are some of the main takeaways.

Trend 1: CRM to CXM

Any marketer in the modern day knows that CRM is critical, because at its core it has always been about customer experience. However, over the past several years, the phrase ‘customer experience’ has gained a lot of additional cachet – a trend set to continue in 2020.

Fortunately, technology is expanding the number of companies that are able to build close, meaningful relationships with their clients. Anybody who has worked in retail can tell you that experience is one of the most effective ways of standing out to customers and establishing a real brand identity.

Source: Google Trends

This graph shows the increase in interest in ‘customer experience’ over time, whereas ‘customer relationship management’ below, has somewhat plateaued.

Source: Google Trends

Modern CRM lets companies provide excellent experiences, both online and in person. While many companies already use CRM to optimize their online interactions, considerably fewer are using it offline. This is an area that we can expect to see develop over the next year, since it is a complex and rapidly developing use case.

What is clear, however, is that brands that take full advantage of CRM through customer-centric strategies and storytelling will be able to provide the best customer experiences.

Trend 2: A boardroom seat for marketing

Businesses are increasingly measuring their successes purely in terms of sales and leads. As a result, engagement stats are being neglected, and we need to do something about that in 2020.

Currently, part of the problem is that executives aren’t familiar with the field. In fact, a third of companies still have non-marketing executives overseeing their marketing efforts. To set this right in 2020, we need the board level to start understanding the value of marketing.

Many boards still struggle with data literacy and frequently misinterpret statistics. Marketers need to have a firm grasp on the P&L and data sheets to be able to fill this gap. Developing a robust understanding of the whole business is critical to properly aligning the company’s marketing efforts. Interdepartmental cooperation may be challenging, and it will require consistent communication, but it’s inevitable as departments become increasingly less siloed.

In the coming year, marketers should continue to make a concerted effort to work with people from across the business – not just hiding behind email but going to talk to them face-to-face when possible – to move the whole company forward.

Trend 3: Channel-less CRM

The year ahead will require marketers to continue to establish an in-depth understanding of the role and vernacular of each channel.

As Ruth put it, without a clear understanding of what each channel brings to the table individually and when they’re combined, it’s impossible to build a coherent strategy to leverage them effectively. The other panelists agreed: every channel is unique, and we need to understand where each of them fits in creating a truly seamless experience. Instead of focusing on disparate areas, marketers must focus on the macro.

Perfecting this will be key to staying competitive in 2020 and beyond.

Trend 4: Automation 2.0

While automation has already made a huge impact on the industry, we must remember that it’s just getting started – and we shouldn’t get carried away.

As marketers, we’ve all been guilty at times of suggesting that automation will be the answer to everything. At this point, automation should really only be used to help improve aspects of our jobs that are already working well. It should be used to increase efficiency and improve the customer experience.

As Michel succinctly summarised: “No automation for automation’s sake.”

Tim made the further point that it’s not simply a case of setting up an automated solution and never looking at that task again; humans are still vital for overseeing the solution, and – crucially – adding creativity to the work.

While we can’t expect the robots to do all of our work for us while we kick back (yet), we should appreciate that the small forms of automation that are already on the market can make a massive difference. Even the tiniest improvements, such as the automatic generation of subject lines in emails, add up and can have a big impact: letting marketers spend more time focused on what matters.

The less time that marketers spend entering data and filling out paperwork, the more time they can spend on the uniquely human parts of their job.

Trend 5: AI

AI is certainly a buzzword, that along with machine learning has been gathering a head of steam (see below graph which shows interest in ‘machine learning’ over time.).

But the algorithms and neural networks that power many modern platforms are genuinely starting to impact the way that marketers work.

Interest in ‘machine learning over time.

Source: Google Trends

What senior management needs to understand is that AI isn’t a panacea, it will take time and it needs to be cleverly applied to have a positive impact. This is where it’s worth looking to where other companies – particularly start-ups – are using AI to improve their product or do something practical and adopting it yourself instead of trying to start something new from scratch. This will lead to easier, more effective implementation.

Going back to Tim’s point about automation, it’s also crucial that humans aren’t completely removed from the loop, since it’s important to oversee the data going in and the results coming out.

AI is only as good as the data it receives and can inherit biases if it is trained on historical datasets. It also raises the question of effective an AI solution can be if it’s working from incomplete data sets. So before committing to AI, first marketers should think bout their data and how it can be of use to the business.

Final Question… ‘Which brand do you feel has nailed Black Friday this year?’

And the twist is, they thought nobody had! But what does this mean for marketers, what is the lesson that accompanies this answer? The panelists repeated the need for brands to be transparent. Was it really the best deal of the year or were brands simply trying to flog last year’s items?

Historically, brands would get a lot of money all year from full-priced goods, and then every Black Friday consumers were provided a chance (through sales) to be on top: to be the one doing better out of the transaction. Yet, I think consumers are starting to realize through generic advertising, drawn out products and weak discounts, that consumers are still drawing the short straw in the relationship.

For us, the overwhelming lesson is to not underestimate customers. They are aware of a brand’s ‘Sale’ strategy, they are also aware that brands still make a nice margin on those sales, which makes customers then think twice about the value they are getting when purchasing full-priced items.

An exciting year ahead

Technology of all kinds continues to improve, and tools are becoming increasingly affordable and accessible. Meanwhile, marketing departments are increasingly integrated with the rest of the company, including many companies adding a marketing seat in the boardroom. Overall, 2020 promises to be an exciting year for marketers.

If you’re interested in continuing the conversation, drop one of our consultants a line today!


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