Customer relationship management (CRM) and commerce have long been viewed as separate functions and capabilities, with commerce typically rooted in the transactional side, and CRM focused on building customer relationships. However, this viewpoint is now shifting as brands see the high cost of customer acquisition and recognize the need for both value exchange and relationship building throughout the entire journey.
At a Campaign US roundtable, hosted by Publicis Commerce, technology editor Jessica Heygate led a discussion between Amy Lanzi, chief operating officer of Publicis Commerce; Brad Blackmon, EVP and CRM practice lead of North America at Publicis Commerce; Marc Warshawsky, chief digital officer at Labcorp; Stephanie Horton, global marketing director of commerce at Google; Cara Pratt, SVP at Kroger Precision Marketing; and Raashi Rosenberger, head of brand of Meta Quest, about what marketers, CRM and consumer experience decision makers need to do to leverage the right data and insights to craft the best experiences possible.
Delivering personalized customer experiences
The commerce landscape has shifted significantly in recent years as more people become familiar with social and e-commerce, blending digital, physical and now metaverse experiences interchangeably. As a result, it’s important that brands “help people get the answers they need, personalize them and help them understand what’s going to be relevant in their lives,” explained Pratt.
When Publicis Groupe first started building CRM into its services, the focus was on “driving that first-time transaction and keeping the proverbial funnel full,” Lanzi said. As consumers and the ability to connect with them has changed, the customer experience and retention has moved to the forefront. “Loyalty has always been associated with rewards and points to a degree and now it’s becoming this pathway to enrich relationships,” she added.
In order to do that, “everything needs to work seamlessly together,” Horton said. “CRM needs to be just as intelligent if you’re in the store or online.” However, privacy remains key in maintaining those relationships. “There’s a beauty in the intersection of art and science,” Blackmon said. “If it's so science-based, you are going to be retargeted constantly and you’ll be creeped out.”
Leveraging this information and creating personalization “reduces friction and gives people the trust and the confidence that you are serving their best interest and putting information in front of them that is going to be helpful,” explained Warshawsky.
Creating long-term value
The value exchange isn’t “always in dollars and points but dominoes into the next experience,” said Pratt. “The connective tissue remains for how well we know our customers.” Uncovering recommendations for what suits them is part of that experience. “The magic of CRM is when you can be smart and targeted, but also enable serendipitous discovery with content.” Rosenberger said.
It’s “less about short-term versus long-term and more about fostering trust among the consumer,” Horton added. For example, putting aspirational luxury sneakers in a gaming environment helps future-proof the consumer and build participation in the brand among a younger generation, “a trade-off between short-term performance and long-term brand value,” Blackmon said.
One of the challenges is “finding ways to engage with customers later on they know [will] add value long term,” Warshawsky said. “You have to be deliberate about doing that at every touchpoint.”
Managing the data
To do that, brands need to operationalize at scale. “For our data scientists to get the right answer to leverage that intelligence in the right way, to de-identify appropriately, to get the right value out of that for our brands, and to inspire and delight customers, the structural components and how we house that information needs to be incredibly clean,” Pratt said.
Of course, simply having the data to “defend your short-term or long-term position does not make you more customer-centric if it all doesn’t work together,” Lanzi said. It’s important to “build out how you’re doing this in a scaled way from an experience standpoint and in a way that’s meaningful.”
The truth is, it’s “magic” when a brand can introduce something new to a customer they already know and understand, Horton said. When talking about data and scale, brands can lose sight of “the idea of creativity in nudging human behavior and how that’s core to the intersection of commerce and CRM,” Blackmon added.
Digital and commerce experience agencies at Publicis Groupe use intent-based planning to “understand how to use signals and make sure sequential content makes sense” to move customers from discovery to purchase, Lanzi explained. Google, of course, relies heavily on search intent. “Understanding where the market is, [and] looking at search intent are important tools” that help focus messaging, Horton said.
“Social platforms are doing a great job in terms of the real-time window,” Blackmon said. However, data lag times can cause “a break in the customer experience because it's not connected infrastructurally.”
Filling the gaps
Labcorp is ultimately building toward the single customer view, Warshawsky explained. “It’s with the full breadth of your relationship with us, no matter what channel or different area that you’re interacting with us, that’s been helpful to customers.”
First-party data is the starting point for any conversation about personalization. Brands “want to understand what’s happening across all the categories across the different brands that are being supported, and the interoperability and the reusable composable parts of how the data and architecture underneath is orchestrating within the CRM asset,” Pratt said.
CRM provides a cohesive system to “connect the dots of interests and passions to feed into acquisition,” Rosenberger said. “Being more intelligent about what people care about allows the whole system to work better.”
The good news is “technology is where we need it to be to move beyond theory and into activation,” Blackmon concluded. “We’re about to supercharge what modern marketing looks like in the future.”