The wireless age is upon us, but as many of you know, it's plagued with challenges. Chief among those challenges are limitations in bandwidth and costs for developing applications and supporting infrastructure. One start-up, Roamable (www.roamable.com) is attempting to work around those challenges by leveraging the infrastructures that most organizations already have in place. Roamable's technology platform allows an organization to offer content to users in a format with which they are already familiar-e-mail. Best of all, the content can be delivered on virtually any e-mail compatible device-from a RIM (BlackBerry) Pager to a Web-enabled phone.
For marketers, this technology, like many others can improve value to customers by providing such services as updates on order status, access to purchase history, and current sales promotions. However, what's different, and perhaps most intriguing about this technology its ability for dynamic interaction. Unlike most wireless content that's pushed from a business server to a user, this technology allows content to be pulled based on a user's request-enabling information to be provided both on demand, and with personal relevancy. Let us look at a couple of examples of how this might work.
I am on my way to the airport for a flight from New York to London. It is a particularly long flight and I'm bushed so I want to upgrade my coach seat to First Class, or at least Business Class. I want to use my frequent flyer miles for this upgrade, but I'm uncertain as to how many miles I have available. Using my web-enabled phone, I press a predefined number to send a message request to my frequent flyer account. Within a few seconds, I get a response that provides not only my available miles, but also the length, if any, of the wait list. If I so desire, I can then acquire the upgrade or be placed on the wait list-all done easily and within a few seconds time as I travel to the airport.
Another example might involve applications for a direct sales force,...
When CRM began to evolve in the mid-90's every software vendor who had an application that had anything to do with managing customer or prospect data began pitching itself as a "CRM System." Many of these systems were built to address one particular aspect of CRM, such as Sales Force Automation (contact management, Campaign Management, or Customer Analytics, and could not possibly deliver the value promised as "CRM System". It was a case of "over-promise and under-deliver."
Unfortunately, there were no end-to-end technology solutions for CRM at the time, and today, there still aren't (although we're getting closer). As much as vendors collaborate with one-another to provide an "integrated solution," the results have been less than stellar. One only needs to read the Wall Street Journal or any number of business and trade
publications to learn about the failures of CRM System implementation where multi-system integration is involved. It's no wonder that Pragmatists don't believe that CRM Systems are worth the investment. However, this may be about to change.
While there are undoubtedly a few CRM System vendors who are trying to monopolize the market with an end-to-end solution, there is a somewhat conscious move by most CRM System vendors to segment themselves into specific vertical segments. At this writing, these vertical segments seem to be:
Sales(Sales Force Automation, Contact Management, and Telemarketing)
Marketing(Campaign Management, Online/E-mail Interaction Management and Marketing Management)
Data Management and Analysis( Business Intelligence, Customer Segmentation and Data Transformation)
Customer Service(Order Management, Supply Chain Management, Call Center Management and Interactive Customer Contact
By self-segmenting into these categories, CRM System vendors will ultimately force segment standards, against which all vendors within the segment will be measured. This is the first step to vertical segment consolidation, which will force the smaller, less well-funded players into merging, or failure. In the end, there will likely be 5-7 major players in each of these segments.
So, what does this mean for marketers and how can we benefit from coming change? Here are my Top 3 predictions, with a few thoughts on how we, as marketers, will benefit:
CRM System vendors will concentrate on delivering value within...
In the last four years, billions of dollars have been spent on CRM technology that doesn't live up to its promise. A recent Gartner study suggests that nearly 60% of managers will view their CRM initiatives as failures. Organizations are wise to be skeptical of CRM system capabilities, but they are as much to blame as the system vendors. Many of the organizations that have failed with CRM did so because they did not conduct appropriate cost-benefit-analyses, reevaluate processes, procedures, and organizational structure, or fully develop CRM as a business strategy. Instead, they invested only in the technology, because as one manager said to me, "This software will solve all of our problems." It didn't, and it won't. At least not without addressing all of the other issues.
Not surprisingly, some of my friends in the CRM system business tell me that closing sales so far this year has been unusually slow. While undoubtedly, the cause of some of this slow-down is due to reduced Marketing and IT budgets, there is a growing realization among most organizations that CRM is a business strategy supported by technology and not a technology in-and-of-itself. It is likely this realization is playing a significant role in causing the current CRM system space to stumble. So badly, perhaps, that the rash of closures, layoff announcements and revised earnings projections announced daily by the major CRM system vendors, may leave many to wonder if spells doom for the CRM systems space. I would disagree with the doomsayers, as I believe this fall-out is necessary for the space to evolve.
Consider this. Some years ago, Geoffrey Moore (www.thechasmgroup.com) wrote a book called, Crossing the Chasm. In it, he discussed his theories on technology adoption, and how innovators and early adopters (called "Visionaries") drive the early market acceptance of technology, while the early majority (called "Pragmatists) help drive mainstream acceptance of the technology. The Chasm occurs when the Visionaries don't see enough of a head-start advantage to adopting the technology, and the Pragmatists don't see any compelling reason to...