Online – all the time
Title: What does the rise of mobile computing and increased online time
mean for CRM?
Date: Jan 2011
Author: Alan Fryer
The explosion of smart phone and tablet computing apps means that finally we are
looking at the online world being truly integrated into all aspects of our daily lives.
What does this usage, and its subsequent data trail, mean for companies in how they
engage existing and potential customers? What can or should be done in real time?
What can be learnt for offline interventions? This paper discusses the current trends
and looks at the best way to leverage this change in consumer behaviour that has
long been predicted but is only really now coming to fruition
For a while now those in the know have been predicting that we would be online for most of our
waking time as access to the internet became more and more integrated into our daily lives.
However, the original great technological hope – Digital TV has not been the catalyst for this
fundamental change to how we access online services. Instead the emergence of smart phones
and tablet PCs, and just as importantly cheap apps, has been the biggest growth area for online
connectivity. This presents a whole new set of opportunities (and pitfalls) for how companies can
engage with consumers.
The commercial world is still coming to terms with what
all this means for CRM - not only are we being presented
smart phones and tablets
with more data than ever before about individual
lifestyles and preferences but we are also able to spot now make online - all the
trends more quickly and being given access to information time - a reality
about where this is all happening. They have a label for it,
Social CRM, but as yet execution is patchy, and in some
cases is having a negative impact.
Many ways to get location data but real-time activities need to be handled carefully
Mobile apps give us a lot of geographical information via the geotag, so we know where a person is
when they post to a social network site. The nature of these apps also lets a person inadvertently
signal where they will be at a certain point in the future, for example train time apps, ‘next bus’
apps etc. On top of this we are also seeing a rise in the amount of explicit location data being given
by consumers with the growth of ‘checking-in’ games such as Foursquare and network apps where
users invite their ‘network’ members to come and join them. So we know ‘where’ and to a large
extent we also know ‘what’ as the nature of social networking posts mean people will tell us what
they are doing and how they are feeling about it.
Online – all the time
This is enough to leave many a marketing professional salivating and the temptation to dive straight
in with tailored offers is high. However early attempts at such specific interventions have seen
mixed results. One such example is where a leading European retailer has been monitoring the main
social network sites and has been making one to one offers on specific items available in their
nearby outlets when they have seen people post about a high value item being broken. The
aftermath has been very negative with ‘stalking’ claims and people posting about protecting their
privacy in the future. It is worth remembering that consumers are new at this as well, they do not
know how their location and needs are being revealed and may well see it as more intrusive than it
actually is and feel that companies have more ‘personal’ data than they would like, or actually have.
Where CRM offers are made on a more subtle level that lets the consumer make the link between
the offer and their location/needs results are more promising. For example a recent campaign in the
US that took location data and made customers an offer that appeared to be national and therefore
coincidental that they were near a branch saw much improved conversion rates when compared to
traditional targeted campaigns.
Be part of their ‘network’
With all this new information that finally lets marketers
know where a consumer is at their point of need these
early results seem disheartening – talk of brand damage
and conversion rates that are still in the same ballpark
as traditional campaigns is not the promised land we
were expecting. However this is because we are Brand damage and little change in
thinking in a very traditional way about how this works. conversion rates is not the promised land
We are not thinking about the power of the network. we were expecting
People are spending so much time online harnessing and interacting with different networks – social
networks, information networks and situational networks. It is this draw that means they will invest so
much time online, it is the belief and trust that they put into their networks that causes them to be so
open and reveal so much. It can be argued then that if commercial entities can become part of these
networks as a trusted member then the commercial benefits can be better realised.
So how do companies become part of these networks? People do not know a large number of their
social networks personally, they are vouchsafed by being trusted by friends of friends. Companies can
get this status as well so that when they pop an offer they are not viewed with mistrust as consumers
know how they got the info and why. Think Amazon offers introduced by the chair of your bookclub or
Timeout recommendations as you enter Liverpool for a night-out, courtesy of that cute girl you follow
Online – all the time
Situational networks could be the easiest to join – and the most lucrative?
The right situation can build a trusted network very quickly in the offline world so why not in the
online world. People break down their barriers when they are in the same perceived situation; snow -
people push strangers cars, cancelled train – discussions with strangers about the best route/who
wants to share a taxi, baby care classes – the most intimate information is no longer a taboo as
lifelong friendships are made around a lifelong commitment. So for the airline passenger who has just
been told that they have an 8-hour delay to receive a ‘half-price coffee at Costabucks’ offer via their
smart phone the barriers to acceptance are eroded. They have a need but they also see that people
have information about them and their situation and that is actually reassuring rather than alarming.
In fact building situational networks is becoming a big area for the cool twenty-somethings. Checking-
in games encourage new networks to be formed quickly, yes there is the prizes and points aspect but
there is also the ‘meet people like me’ aspect as they share their geographical location with complete
strangers who are deemed ‘safe’ and ‘cool’ by being part of the wider group, and are encouraged to
make contact. This area has many commercial aspects to explore.
Focus on what is important
With all this new data to be analysed and exploited those who will win are the ones who understand
how to focus on what data is important otherwise you can quickly become swamped in irrelevant
information and miss the important trends. To do this you must be able to contextualise a person’s
online footprint so that it can weighted properly. Additionally as information cycle times become
shorter, a site or an app or a network can quickly go from hot to not, as the traffic volume and mix
changes. It is therefore important to keep your eyes open for new online activities in order to jeep
ahead of the competition.
Don’t forget the long game
With the furore about sexy online marketing campaigns it can be easy to forget the long game. The
increase in people’s online presence and the increasing use of mobile technology mean that as CRM
professionals we have unprecedented information on consumers as individuals and as groups. Even if
this information is not used for immediate real-time offers it can still be used ‘offline’ to meet a need
in its timeframe and increase conversion on campaigns significantly. It will also give us significant base
data to build predictive campaigns for a group or individual’s longer term needs. It would be a shame
if the clamour to use mobile technology for 1-to-1 real time tactical offers ends up precluding the
longer term use of this information as individuals are forced to become more circumspect and
governments are forced to legislate.
Online – all the time
Alan is Director of Consulting at TCG. He has lead a number of successful CRM
technology projects at blue-chip organisations
He can be contacted on + 44 (0) 7967 481 202