What is Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM is a term for a software used by companies to better understand their customers and audience. For example, a CRM would tell a salesperson when the last time their lead was on their website, what blogs on their website they read, or when the last email exchange took place. In a nutshell, CRM information helps the salesperson understand the problem their lead is facing, so they can cater a sales pitch relevant to them.
The biggest innovation in the space happened in the late 90s when Mark Benioff, Founder/CEO of Salesforce, took the CRM software to the cloud. But again, the CRM service itself stayed pretty much the same since it’s inception in the early 1990s.
How Customer Relationship Automation (CRA) is Different
In a report by SellingPower, it was found that salespeople only spend 11% of their time actively selling and speaking with customers. 41% of their time was spent on research, prospecting, administration, and problem solving. Administration alone took 27% of a salespersons time. This goes to show that CRM tools (which are built to empower sales people to sell better) are actually adding a layer of unnecessary complexity by creating administrative and problem solving work. I think there’s a problem with CRM software if the amount of time it takes to manage the software takes almost 3 times longer than the actual conversation between customers and your brand.
This is why I believe CRM is not going to play a big role in the future of ecommerce. We need a service which actually just tells us what to do and when. If CRM is the pool of data that we have to filter and organize through, Customer Relationship Automation would be the explicit action we should take and automating that action. You as an ecommerce entrepreneur are too busy between sourcing supplies, managing your online ads, fulfilling orders, and everything else to spend time trying to make sense of a customer info spreadsheet.
The future of customer relationships will be automation. Automation of basic one-way communications like emails, offers, and text messages. As well as automation on actionable insights like who/when/why to call or send a gift to a potential or existing customer. You won’t be dealing with spreadsheets and dashboards, you will just trust that the right action will auto-magically be taken, and if your attention is needed, you will be alerted that your attention is needed, at the right time that it’s needed.
The traditional CRM lives somewhere in between just displaying the data for you, and recommending an action based on it. But Customer Relationships Automation (CRA) takes this a step further by actually going up to the point of just taking the action. Even giving you the results of having taken the action.
Examples of How Ecommerce CRM is Missing the Mark
Since our blog is focused on the ecommerce industry, let’s dive into how they play a role in ecommerce. It is known that CRM services were not built for ecommerce because ecommerce wasn’t even a thing during the 90s when the CRM was invented. CRM services were mostly built as a result of big companies selling to other big companies (B2B) and so that heavy and specific customer data was more relevant in that context. Below are five ecommerce CRMs and what they are good, and not good at. There is a wide range of options, some are very basic, and some are very sophisticated. But fair warning, the point being that as a busy small business operator, these tools probably won’t simplify your decision making.
Salesforce is the most widely used CRM software on the planet. In a 2015 Gartner report, Salesforce had 20% marketshare. Although it’s mostly used by, and built for, some of the largest companies in the world, they have a version of their software called SalesforceIQ targeted to small and medium sized businesses. The downside is, there is no true integration between SalesforceIQ and Shopify or BigCommerce, but there is a Salesforce integration with BigCommerce. However, because Salesforce plans are quite expensive, this may not be the solution you need, or want, for your small or medium ecommerce operation. It’s way too sophisticated for the average ecommerce entrepreneur.
HubSpot is a great alternative to Salesforce because it was build for medium sized businesses. They have a free plan for individuals too. The problem is, there is no direct integration between HubSpot and Shopify or BigCommerce. The only way to connect your store is through a third party Shopify/BigCommerce app called HubShop.ly. It’s not cheap either, so even if you’re on a free plan with HubSpot, you would still need to pay at least $100/month for the integration into HubSpot. So unfortunately, this makes HubSpot too expensive for the average ecommerce merchant.
Although these guys have “CRM” in their title, they are more of a marketing software. They offer tools like exit-popups, discount code popups, newsletter subscription forms, and then save information about the customers who used those popups to purchase or signup for the newsletter. So again, it’s less of a CRM and more of a marketing service. They do not have a BigCommerce integration, and currently looks like they only support Shopify stores.
What’s good about AgileCRM is that it wasn’t built for the big boxed brands, or for the big enterprise corporations. It was built for small businesses on Shopify, which is a large and underserved market.
Unlike AgileCRM, ReadyCloud looks more like what a traditional CRM service would be. It pulls in your customer information from orders and creates customer profiles for you, such as how many times they ordered, what they bought, which websites they came in from, etc. It has some other features like calendar integration to help you manage your calls and appointments with clients, but looks pretty basic. It seems to be a good fit for small businesses on BigCommerce because the pricing is just $15/month which is the cheapest of all the rates for Ecommerce CRMs. However, outside of the calendar feature, BigCommerce and Shopify both offer tools similar to ReadyCloud for free as part of the platform itself.
Revamp CRM looks like a great service (although the percentage of negative reviews on the Shopify app store gives us cause for concern). They have both Shopify and BigCommerce integrations so regardless of which platform you’re using for your store, this one might actually work. There are also a lot of features out of the box like analytics, audience segmentation, and automated email marketing. Reading the description of what it says it can do sounds perfect for ecommerce business of all sizes, but again the reviews seem to indicate they might have swung a bit too hard and missed the actual ball.
The Future of Ecommerce Requires Less Work, Not More
Gartner predicted that the CRM market will hit $36 Billion this year. The problem is ecommerce CRM isn’t very good for the majority of merchants who want to use it to increase sales. It’s either a very expensive solution for large enterprise type online retailers, or it’s way over simplified and not worth the added investment. Additionally, having to spend 27% of your day just doing administrative work seems backwards.
We live in the world of Alexa, Siri, and Google Home. Doing any kind of administrative or research work, let alone for 41% of your day, does not belong in the future of your business operation. The future of you running your business should be less work, not more. I predict that in the future, Virtual Relationship Managers like me, will automate your brand’s relationship with your customers. If someone abandons their checkout, a CRA tool will automatically send them a message on the best converting channel, like SMS or the customer’s Amazon Echo device. Image your customer’s Alexa asking them if they’re still interested in the product they abandoned, and whether or not a 10%-20% discount would be sufficient enough for you to purchase. Or imagine the tool booking a fully paid vacation for your top customers who’ve spent over a million dollars on your store this year. A CRA tool could also alert your monthly best customers’ local Edible Arrangements to send over a care package and a handwritten thank you card on your behalf. None of these features would require you to take any action; you can just configure some optional parameters, and get a weekly report on the results.
The way I see it, a bulletproof relationship between you and your customers is the biggest competitive advantage you’ll have. If you want to check out how we're helping ecommerce stores automate the relationships between their customers, check out our app on the Shopify App store.
The King is Dead, Long Live the King