I don’t know about you, but the majority of my Holiday purchases were made online this year. The convenience and ease-of-use outweigh a trip to a crowded shopping mall every day and twice on weekends in my book, and statistically, almost half of Americans agree. A recent survey by Burst Media found that the key reasoning behind this is a preference for the relaxed online shopping experience, and according to HubSpot, the internet is fast becoming a preferred retailer with an expected growth to 192 million savvy e-shoppers by 2016. In fact, online spending is forecast at over $70 billion this Holiday Season, an increase of more than $10 billion year over year.
It is no shock that e-commerce is the way of the future, but simply listing your product or service online isn’t enough. The brands that incorporate e-commerce into their business model successfully understand the importance of maintaining a solid customer experience. We’ve all been that person on hold, waiting for a customer service representative to aid us in some form or another, being transferred around and prompted to repeat the same information over and over.
This is what we like to call a market differentiator, and it all boils down to this: The businesses that do e-commerce well understand the importance of back-end integration.
As we look at the big picture of technology evolution and market trends, it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is a growing bridge between a business’ e-commerce solution and their customer relationship management (CRM). This seems like a no-brainer; why wouldn’t a business want to be running on a single platform that tracks not only sales and order management but also customer data?
But many retailers are missing the mark. Why? The inability to access to real-time information compiled from multiple touch points across the entire organization. In this regard, having multiple channels to interact and engage with your customers almost works against your business when they are not integrated to deliver a complete, centrally located record. A 360-degree view of the client relationship, from online and in-store history to social media and email interactions, empowers your business representatives to offer a customized, efficient customer experience, and by providing seamless customer data to the hands of the team members at the front line of your business, your organization becomes more effective across KPIs.
Whether your business is B2B or B2C, the convergence of e-commerce and CRM systems presents numerous possibilities to both observe and measure your customer interactions and build upon your engagement opportunities. From personalized merchandising and offers to providing representatives with valuable account information at their fingertips, you can not only increase the quality of your customer service but also gain insights into the shopping trends of your customer, allowing reps to leverage cross-sell or up-sell techniques based off actionable inventory and engagement data. This integration can also provide the foundation for customer self-service which is rapidly becoming a demanded, if not expected, aspect of the online shopping experience today.
More and more e-commerce hosting providers are building CRM functionality into their sites, but unless there is a plug for your existing back-end, you are looking at replicating data. Rather, we are seeing an upswing of multi-functional business systems available in the market, combining traditional business back-end processes with e-commerce. Dynamic enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems like NetSuite combine e-commerce, point-of-sale (POS) and order fulfillment with traditional back office systems – from inventory management and financial reporting to support and marketing CRM capabilities – all on a single, scalable cloud platform. Additionally, nontraditional CRM systems such as Salesforce and InfusionSoft have expanded services, including e-commerce and analytics with multiple business application extras. CRM functionality ingrained in e-commerce retailing will become increasingly commonplace looking ahead, and the organizations that focus on this integration will be the businesses that stand above the rest and gain a competitive advantage in an increasingly commoditized marketplace.
Trina Michels is a business applications manager with Eide
Bailly Technology Consulting. Analytical by nature, Trina
aims to streamline operations that are often overlooked
by integrating and implementing end-to-end solutions for
her clients that support their unique business objectives,
leveraging technology to maximize goals.