Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gartner Identifies the Top Six CRM Marketing Processes for a Cost-Constrained Economy

Marketing budgets are most at risk during economic downturns, but Gartner, Inc. has identified six marketing processes that can be automated to drive revenue and cut costs, maximizing marketing budgets and return on investments (ROIs). Gartner advocates the use of six key marketing processes to help marketing drive revenue, cut costs and drive ROI, thus justifying its spending.

1.Retention Management
Retaining high value or potential high-value customers is essential in difficult economic times. Gartner advises that organizations calculate the profitability and value of customers, identify those they want to keep and develop retention programs based on their customer segment and identified needs. This includes understanding how a customer may be affected by the economy and developing programs to support them. Event triggers can proactively identify when a customer’s circumstances may be about to change and staff should be trained and empowered to recognize this. Gartner predicts that in 2009, companies that develop effective retention management processes will reduce churn of profitable customers by at least 10 percent within six months.

2.Lead Management
By expanding marketing’s role in the lead management process, companies can improve lead quality and ensure higher conversion rates by sales. Gartner advocates leveraging marketing insights, such as using marketing data and content to augment leads prior to sending them to sales. Gartner expects companies that automate lead management processes in 2009 will increase revenue by at least 10 percent within six to nine months, despite the uncertain economy.

3.Online Marketing
The Web is a cost-effective way to reach customers and one of the easiest channels in which to measure marketing ROI. Gartner advises companies to identify and prioritize three to four online marketing initiatives and measure marketing ROI, increasing budget programs for those delivering high ROI. Gartner foresees that in 2009, companies that invest in new online marketing processes will drive at least a 10 percent increase in revenue within six months.

4. Creative Production Management
Automating creative production or product launches reduces time to market and improves resource allocation and efficiency, cutting marketing costs without cutting programs. A marketing resource management (MRM) module for creative production management can incorporate calendaring, tasks, project management, business rules and workflow, freeing up time for more-creative work. Gartner predicts that in 2009, companies that automate creative production will save 15 percent or more of their creative advertising budgets within three to six months.

5. Marketing Fulfillment
Marketing fulfillment solutions (often a module of MRM) provide 24/7 access to collaterals via portal, print-on-demand and procurement capabilities, helping companies save on paper, shipping and physical storage costs. Gartner expects that in 2009, companies that invest in marketing fulfillment solutions will eliminate 5 percent or more of marketing waste within three to six months.

6. Financial Management
In a difficult economy, improving marketing’s accountability is required to convince the finance department of the value of marketing’s programs. Gartner suggests creating a standard set of planning, budgeting and financial management processes for the marketing organization that, in turn, include processes for monitoring and alerting, thus allowing for ongoing financial management and reallocation of funds. Gartner predicts that in 2009, marketing organizations that invest in financial management capabilities will see fewer budget cuts.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Monday, January 26, 2009

Personalized Ads Attract High-Value Customers

ChoiceStream, a recommendations service provider, has announced the findings of its 2008 Personalization Survey. According to the survey, retailers’ most attractive prospects -- those who spend the most money and shop most frequently -- are more likely to click on personalized ads than non-personalized ads.

Overall, 39 percent of consumers are more likely to click on an ad if it is personalized. Of those who shop online at least several times a month that number climbs to 58 percent. The survey also finds that the bigger the spender, the greater the interest in personalized ads with 50 percent of those spending more than $250 online over the past six months indicating that they are more willing to click on ads that are personalized.

The survey also finds consumers surprisingly savvy about online advertising in terms of its effect on their behavior. 70 percent of consumers admit that their purchase decisions are at least sometimes influenced by having seen an ad for an item. A smaller but still significant percentage of consumers admit that they are influenced by brand advertising as well, with 39 percent admitting that they are more likely to buy from vendors or retailers that they have seen advertised than from unrecognized sources. In both cases, the bigger the spender, the more likely they are to admit to being influenced by advertising.

Consumers are also aware of how shopping sites use data to target ads to them. A full 60 percent of shoppers are aware that retailers use information about their online shopping behavior to target advertising to them.
More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Top Issues Facing Businesses in 2009

Deloitte has released a report today examining the top issues facing U.S. executives across more than a dozen industries in 2009. In addition, the report includes suggestions to help executives weather the current economic recession and position their organizations for recovery and future growth.

Some of the highlights from the report’s cross-industry issues:

Navigating the Economic Crisis: Forward-thinking companies should focus on maintaining margins, aggressively pursuing cost and operational efficiencies, optimizing their supply chains and evaluating their current situation against long-term objectives so they are prepared to move forward when the economy turns for the better.

Increased Application of Technology to Industry: Innovation will be an important operational theme in 2009, as organizations seek to develop products and services that can help bolster balance sheets or grow market share in a shrinking economy. Increasingly, the application of technology within and across industries is the springboard to innovation and enhanced performance.

Talent Challenges in a Down Market: Even in a period of escalating unemployment, companies in many industries continue to have difficulty attracting and retaining high-quality employees. In 2009, virtually all sectors will need to balance their long-term talent demands with short-term needs to right-size their workforce in an effort to offset the economic downturn.

A New President and Congress: Tackling the nation’s overwhelming economic problems will be the number-one priority for the president, his administration and Congress when they assume office in January 2009. Less clear is how quickly the administration and Congress will address other issues from Obama’s campaign platforms, such as broader health care coverage, clean energy, infrastructure improvements and education reform.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at http://www.crmindustry.com/

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Consumers seek more self-service options due to pressures of price and time

According to a survey of U.S. consumers commissioned by NCR Corporation, unprecedented price wars and product promotions by retailers may be saving consumers money, but also costing them more in terms of personal time.

The research reveals that bargain conscious American consumers are spending more time evaluating less familiar brands, switching among stores to capitalize on deals, and also scheduling their shopping trips to coincide with the arrival of paychecks.

As a result, retailers stand the best chance of winning consumers’ business if they can make things faster and easier through more in-store help from staff, faster checkout, and seamless integration of store offerings with Internet and mobile technologies.

The research findings reveal that the efforts by retailers to drive sales through discount and promotions are having a major effect on shoppers’ purchasing decisions and behavior.

--53 percent are using the Internet more frequently to research products and prices.
--46 percent want to receive price comparisons, product reviews, coupons, promotions and store sales information online or via email.
--Almost half, 49 percent, are switching between retailers, ‘shop hopping’, to get better value.

With in-store shopping patterns changing, a large majority of shoppers expect staff to help them in store.

--73 percent believe that it is important that store employees are available to help locate products.
--55 percent believe it is important that employees ensure discounted items are not out of stock. --48 percent believe staff advice on discount and promotions is important.

Critically, the research reveals that shoppers believe that a range of multi-channel and in-store self-service technologies play a vital role in meeting service needs and they will differentiate between retailers that offer these technologies and ones that do not.

--72 percent said they are more likely to shop with a retailer that gives consumers the flexibility to interact easily via online, mobile and kiosk self-service channels versus a retailer that does not.
--Around half, 49 percent, believe that kiosks that show them where to find products in stores would be convenient.
--43 percent believe receiving discount offerings and product information on large screens in store would be convenient, while 39 percent want self-return solutions for processing returns quickly.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Friday, January 16, 2009

Blog Influence on Consumer Purchases Surpasses Social Networks’

The number of those who read blogs at least once a month has grown 300% in the past four years, and what they read strongly influences their purchase decisions, playing a key role in ushering them to the point of actual purchase, according to a BuzzLogic-sponsored study. The study aimed to uncover changing behavior around blog discovery and consumption, how blogs factor into consumer purchase decisions, and the nature of blog influence on buying behavior.

Key findings in the survey include:

Buying Behavior: The Nature of Blog Influence

--Blogs influence purchases: One half (50%) of blog readers say they find blogs useful for purchase information.

--Blogs go beyond tech: Outside of technology-related purchases, for which 31% of readers say blogs are useful, other key categories include media and entertainment (15%); games/toys and/or sporting goods (14%); travel (12%); automotive (11%); and health (10%).

--Niche focus ups influence factor: For those who have found blog content useful for product decisions, more than half (56%) say blogs with a niche focus and topical expertise were key sources.

Blogs’ Place in the Purchase Cycle

Blogs factor in to critical stages of the purchase process, weighing most heavily at the actual moment of a purchase decision, according to the study: Among respondents who say they have trusted blog content for purchase decisions in the past, over half (52%) say blogs played a role in the critical moment they decided to move forward with a purchase.

Blog readers’ responses regarding blogs’ influence as it relates to the following steps of the purchase process:

--Decide on a product or service: 21%
--Refine choices: 19%
--Get support and answers: 19%
--Discover products and services: 17%
--Assure: 14%
--Inspire a purchase: 13%
--Execute a purchase: 7%

Blog Ads and Reader Trust

For frequent blog readers, ads on blogs are on par with sponsored search results, one of the most prevalent and successful forms of advertising on the web - and trust of blog advertising exceeds that around social networking site advertising.

Fully 25% of frequent readers say they trust ads on a blog they read; paid search links also account for 25% of their responses; and 19% say they trust ads on social networking sites.

The study also suggests ads on blogs spur various activities:
--40% of blog readers have taken action as a result of viewing an ad on a blog; 50% of frequent blog readers say so.

--Top activities include the following: read product reviews online (17%); sought out more info on a product or service (16%); visited a manufacturer or retailer website (16%).

Changing Reader Patterns: The Power of Links

Frequent blog readers use blogs as the top online navigation tool to discover other blog content, ranking higher than general web search or blog search, the study also found:

--38% of frequent readers said blog links were the top tool for discovering new blog content.

--34% cited web search, and 11% said blog search engines were the top tool for discovering new blog content.

--For frequent readers, blog links appear to have similar impact as a trusted recommendation from a person (a response from 39% of survey participants).

One in five general blog readers (defined as consumers who have read a blog in the past 12 months) use blog links to discover new blogs.

Blog search engines received the lowest ranking from respondents: 6% of general readers say they use these tools to discover new blogs.

Blogs are not consumed in isolation, but experienced as part of a connected conversation: Nearly half (49%) of blog readers and 71% of frequent readers read more than one blog per session.

More information on CRM can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Research Reveals Key to Understanding the Customer-Focused Organization

For many organizations, the contact center has become a critical component to achieving strategic goals because it is the heart of customer-facing activities. Unfortunately, many organizations are constrained by an eclectic mix of integrated technologies and proprietary solutions. Both front and back office operations can benefit from tighter integration between technology solutions, data, processes, and resources. A recent research study conducted by the Aberdeen Group finds that 69% of survey respondents believe the number one strategy for reducing cost and improving the customer experience is to gain a deep understanding of the link between back-office operations and customer service. Aberdeen’s report reveals that the Best-in-Class achieve superior performance by taking a customer-centric view of organizational resources and initiatives.

The report demonstrates the value of collectively leveraging organizational practices in process, performance measurement, knowledge management, and technology to provide a foundation for Enterprise Performance Optimization. By combining organizational capabilities and technologies, such as automated workflow and integrated analytics, Best-in-Class companies are able to positively affect customer retention and average revenue per contact.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Top Marketing Trends for 2009

The Marketing Executives Networking Group (MENG), a nearly 2000 member, not-for-profit organization of senior-level marketing professionals across all industries and marketing disciplines, and research firm Anderson Analytics, have issued the results of their second annual survey of Top Marketing Trends for 2009. The survey of MENG members focused on top marketing concepts, buzz words, global areas of opportunity, targeted customer demographics, as well as the books and thought leaders that marketers look to for inspiration and growth opportunity.

A key finding of this year’s survey is that 72% of respondents indicated that innovation efforts would stay the same or increase. This is significant given that most marketing experts agree it’s imperative to innovate during a recession and further exemplifies that MENG members are leaders in their respective industries. It’s also no surprise the economic climate showed greater interest in the survey as more marketers expressed concern on how a recession would impact priorities moving forward. For example, half of executives believe their marketing budgets will be decreased in 2009. However, 56% of marketers indicated their staffing plans will either stay the same or increase.

The top five trends:

--Insight and innovation viewed as keys to combat down economic and business cycles; Marketers indicated market research and development would either stay the same or increase in 2009.

--Customer satisfaction and customer retention remained the top two marketing concepts, followed by marketing ROI, brand loyalty and segmentation, which represents a “Back to Core Principles” approach to marketing. Of the 62 identified marketing concepts, faith-based marketing, six sigma, game theory, anti-Americanism and immigration were viewed as the least important.

--The issue of global warming showed the largest decrease in importance (dropping 14 places in the rankings), while green marketing showed a statistically significant 5% drop.

--Twice as many marketers are “sick” of hearing about Web 2.0 and related buzzwords such as “blogs” and “social networking” compared to last year’s survey; however, marketers still admit they don’t know enough about it. This was evident in the results of a social media study MENG released on November 6, 2008 showing 67% of executive marketers consider themselves beginners when it comes to using social media for marketing purposes.

--Despite well-publicized quality issues over the last year, China ranked the number one greatest area of opportunity for marketers with international responsibility. India was a distant second with only 17% of respondents.

More information on CRM can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Friday, January 9, 2009

Blogs Can Ease Customer Communication

Blogs have long had an avid following, but corporations are finding that blogs can be a secret sauce to building solid relationships with their customers.

For one thing, blogs are popular with consumers. According to an August 2008 study by BuzzLogic and JupiterResearch, there has been 300% growth in monthly blog readership over the past four years. In fact, nearly one-half of the online population reported reading blogs.

The study also found that blogs have more impact on purchasing decisions than social networks. One-quarter of readers said they trust ads on a blog, as opposed to 19% who trust ads on social networks.

In addition, 40% of blog readers -- and 50% of frequent blog readers -- have taken an action after viewing an ad on a blog. Aside from technology-related purchases, for which 31% of readers said blogs are helpful, other categories for which respondents say blogs are influential included media and entertainment (15%); games, toys and sporting goods (14%); travel (12%); automotive (11%); and health (10%).

Marketers increasingly view blogs as a key part of their marketing plans. An October 2008 study found that more than 66% of executives employ blogs in their marketing efforts.
More information on CRM can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Customer Satisfaction Study Predicts Merry Outlook for Some Top E-Retailers; Others Will Struggle in 2009

A study of customer satisfaction with top retail websites during the holiday season is shedding light on which online retailers will thrive in 2009 and which could have an uphill battle ahead. According to the annual report from ForeSee Results, Amazon and Netflix continue to delight holiday shoppers online while customer satisfaction with websites for Circuit City, Gap, Home Depot, HSN, Neiman Marcus, and Overstock fall below industry standards.

The annual Top 40 Online Retail Satisfaction Index from ForeSee Results and FGI Research uses the patented and predictive methodology of the University of Michigan’s American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) to examine how successful the top 40 retail websites are at encouraging loyalty and purchase intent. All 40 websites are rated on a 100-point scale (a full list of scores is included at the end of this release). The study found that a highly satisfied online shopper is 73% more likely to purchase online, 38% more likely to purchase offline, 75% more likely to recommend than is a dissatisfied website shopper.

Highlights of the report include:

--The only two e-retailers scoring above 80 on the study’s 100–point scale (generally considered the threshold for excellence by the ACSI) are Amazon and Netflix, both at 84. QVC was a distant third at 79. Not surprisingly, Amazon just reported its best ever holiday season.

--Only 10 websites improved online shopper satisfaction since last holiday shopping season, and the most improved are Wal-Mart.com (+5% to 78) and HP’s online store (+7% to 76). Other top gainers include Staples (+6% to 77) and Target.com (+4% to 75).

--Forty percent of the measured sites saw satisfaction decline year-over year. The largest declines were for Home Shopping Network (- 9% to 69) and Gap (-7% to 69).

--Retailers scoring 69 or lower are less successful at satisfying shoppers, which can erode loyalty while missing out on a tremendous opportunity to leverage the web channel to improve the bottom line. Six e-retailers scored 69 this year, and five of the six had lower scores in 2008 than in 2007.

--Prices are a key element of satisfaction for many individual websites, but overall, improvements to merchandise and functionality will have a greater return on investment.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com

Monday, January 5, 2009

eMarketer: Seven Predictions for 2009

As we step tentatively into the new year, prospects look pretty grim. With unemployment predicted to top 9%, industry bailouts looming, a massive retrenchment in the stock market and a generally accepted view that things aren’t likely to get better any time soon, it will be all too easy to slide into a state of cynicism, or even despair. eMarketer has made seven predictions for 2009. Not all of them are positive, mind you, but there can be some comfort in quantifying the pain we all know is coming.

1. Marketers will be cutting back on advertising spending this year.

2. Among traditional media, newspapers, radio and magazines will see the worst declines.

3. Advertisers’ pull-back in overall marketing spending, coupled with a serious re-examination of traditional media, will set in motion a series of permanent changes that will affect how media is planned and measured, as well as the media mix itself.

4. Throughout all this economic shrinkage, the Internet will continue to grow, though at a far more constrained pace. eMarketer projects online ad spending will rise 8.9% in 2009, after an already ratcheted-down rate of 11.3% in 2008.

5. Despite the general consensus that online will ride out the storm, expect to see a growing contingent of bearish forecasters disparaging its prospects.

6. Growth in online display advertising will languish -- but only in terms of absolute-dollar spending, and the effects will be temporary.

7. E-commerce, already hammered in 2008, will see growth slip even further, from 7.2% in 2008 to a measly 4.1% in 2009.

Beyond the seven predictions discussed above, the most important theme to keep in mind is that things will get better, eventually. Whether the curtain lifts in late 2009 or some time after, the economy will most assuredly come out of hibernation. And when it does, it will be the stronger for it.

More information on Customer Relationship Management can be found at www.CRMindustry.com