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Mobile Usage & CRM Strategy

This month, Gartner Research Group held a CRM Summit, and one of the hot topics was e-commerce and its effects on CRM practices. With the proliferation of social networks and smartphone usage, many companies are (or should be) developing mobile-friendly websites and eventually mobile applications. Gartner’s numbers predict that within the next few years, 30% of smartphone users will be shopping on the Internet, 75% of search systems will provide some social search functionality to calculate contemporary relevancy, and about 300 million mobile users will be subscribed to location-based services. Companies need to plan now for the influx of mobile users and e-commerce transactions, and many CRM platforms are introducing mobile counterparts in preparation.

Mobile and social expansion fosters a new community among web users, and one that organizations need to tend. Companies need to focus on an in-depth customer experience—give them options, suggest things they might like, etc.—and acknowledge the importance of user-generated content (UGC). Allowing consumers to review items and services provides helpful troubleshooting information, and it necessary for giving consumers the experience they expect.

Gartner Research VP Gene Alvarez outlined four different types of websites, and indicated at what stage in mobile development each should be.

  • Influencers. These are companies like automotive and appliance vendors, and their websites aren’t transaction-oriented, but rather aim to direct customers elsewhere for that exchange. If these companies have mobile apps, they are of similar functionality to their websites, but ultimately they don’t need to rush to the mobile market just yet.
  • Informers. These websites disseminate information—like newspapers—and the companies behind them are the ones spearheading the movement for mobile applications.
  • Facilitators. These sites belong to service-oriented companies—like banks and airlines—and while they court the mobile market, their customers might be wary of performing these transactions from their smartphone.
  • Sellers. These sites sell goods, and as of now the majority of them don’t have applications for mobile transactions. However, Alvarez does note that they should at least be developing some outlet for submitting UGC from a mobile device.

Alvarez termed the effort to cater CRM to e-commerce users as “e-CRM,” and the notion has several aspects to consider. The conference covered the need for companies to consider CRM strategies for mobile users, but there is also the need for CRM companies themselves to put forth similar consideration. Salesforce.com and Oracle have had mobile applications for a while, and NetSuite added an iPhone application to their mobile arsenal this week. Serious players will eventually need serious mobile applications (with good user interfaces and plenty of user options) to stay in the game.