The CRM and e-commerce convergence begins
PA Consulting retail and digital experts Henry Wilmer and Kirsten Pattie discuss how CRM and e-commerce platforms can work together to improve customer interactions with Phillip Britt from destination CRM.
The article notes that e-commerce really gained traction during the COVID-19 lockdowns and is expected to continue its long-term growth in 2023 and for the next five years, even if the economy as a whole takes a nosedive.
Consumers and businesses alike are continuing their shift to digital shopping, and CRM and e-commerce platforms are now starting to work together to improve customer interactions and open up new avenues for growth.
Henry said: “CRM and e-commerce platforms can work together effectively by integrating customer data and sales data to create a more personalized shopping experience for customers. By using the information gathered from a CRM system, such as customer demographics and purchase history, e-commerce platforms can personalize product recommendations and targeted marketing campaigns to individual customers.”
Kirsten said: Business customers want alignment between CRM and e-commerce technologies to deliver a better omnichannel experience to their customers.
Analysts have seen greater integrations between e-commerce platforms and loyalty platforms, along with improved integration between online and physical commerce and larger CRM systems, all of which is important for retailers looking to grow hybrid shopping experiences such as buy online, pick up in store.
Henry adds: The integration of CRM with e-commerce platforms allows for streamlined communication and customer service, as customer information and purchase history can be easily accessed by customer service representatives. “Fundamentally, the integration of CRM and e-commerce platforms can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty, as well as improved sales and marketing efforts.”
According to Henry, data can be shared between CRM and e-commerce platforms in various ways, depending on the specific integration and systems being used.
Both agree that while some companies have added newer CRM and e-commerce technologies that are built to easily integrate across a suite or with technologies from another provider, there are ways to integrate older CRM systems with e-commerce platforms so data can be shared across the two.
Henry cited some examples of data that can flow between the two systems, including the following:
- customer information, such as contact details, demographics, and purchase histories, to create more personalized customer experiences;
- customer behavioral data, such as browsing and order history, sales totals, and product information, to provide better visibility into customer buying patterns;
- marketing data, such as campaign performance, click-through rates, and customer engagement;
- inventory data, such as stock levels, product information, and pricing;
- voice-of-the-customer (VoC) data, such as surveys, customer effort scores, reviews/ratings, customer satisfaction scores, and mobile and web analytics; and
- Customer service data from customer inquiries, complaints, and support tickets.
Henry says that “ultimately, the integration of CRM and e-commerce platforms allows for a more seamless flow of data and can greatly improve the customer experience and business operations.”
The increased integration between CRM and e-commerce has helped startup companies as well. “In recent years, anyone has the ability to set up their own e-commerce businesses and link directly with last-mile logistics providers or fulfillment hubs. There are infinite opportunities.”
He suggests adding CRM technology to an e-commerce platform such as Shopify and the startup business has access to loyalty and personalization capabilities. Integration of CRM and e-commerce platforms has also enabled businesses to better track customer interactions and purchasing behavior across multiple channels, such as email, social media, and online marketplaces.
Beyond the personalization and loyalty benefits, Henry says CRM/e-commerce integration helps companies in the following ways:
- improved sales and revenue growth through greater visibility into customer buying behavior;
- increased customer lifetime value through retention programs that bring all of their customer data in one place for a better understanding of behavior and preferences;
- better inventory management, tying inventory levels to customer demand to reduce the risk of having too much or too little on hand; and
- streamlined communication that leads to better and faster customer service, which can improve customer satisfaction and retention.
He said both CRM and e-commerce platforms have benefited from AI for better customer segmentation, personalization, and product recommendations, as well as automation of repetitive tasks, such as basic customer service requests and inventory management.
Henry predicts that in the next five to 10 years, the use of CRM and e-commerce platforms is expected to see a significant shift toward more personalized and immersive customer experiences, enabled by advancements in technology, such as artificial intelligence, virtual and augmented reality, the metaverse, and 5G networks. This will lead to more sophisticated and integrated systems that can provide real-time, individualized interactions and experiences for customers.”
He also expects the use of blockchain technology to become more common in e-commerce technology, providing increased security and transparency for transactions. Another of his predictions is that e-commerce platforms will begin focusing on sustainability and ethical consumerism.
Henry ends with, “Overall, the integration of various technologies and a focus on customer-centric experiences will drive the evolution of e-commerce and CRM platforms in the coming years.”