A Guide to Using CRM in eCommerce
CRM in eCommerce: What It Does
Originally, CRM was little more than an automated Address Book. A CRM app would keep track of the people who hadn’t been contacted in a while, and send you reminders to reach out to them.
The next iteration of CRM focused more its potential application in business. Salespeople quickly saw its potential for organizing leads and nurturing existing sales opportunities.
Though CRM still dominates the Sales space, the right CRM eCommerce app can help you with an array of critical tasks, with a scope broad enough to cover almost all aspects of your business:
- Acquiring leads through a variety of intake methods
- Maintaining timely communication with all your customers and B2B partners.
- Conducting email marketing campaigns and newsletters
- Managing your Social Media channels
- Keeping opportunities moving along your sales pipeline
- Advanced Reporting, to get a comprehensive view of your sales team, sales goals, marketing campaign effectiveness, seasonal trends, and more.
- Customer Support / Help Desk functionality.
- Data storage: localized Knowledge Base keeps pertinent customer information, support tickets, etc in the cloud for near-instant access.
And that’s just off the top of my head. In short, CRM for eCommerce covers just about everything from lead generation all the way through to a completed sale. Some CRM solutions even cross the grey area between true CRM and Enterprise Resource Planning. ERP picks up where CRM leaves off; covering sales fulfillment and supply chain, and typically ending in customer re-engagement. But that’s a topic for another article.
What To Get
Most eCommerce platforms (like Shopify, Volusion, and Bigcommerce) include some degree of CRM control. The depth of features offered will vary from cart to cart, and from one subscription level to another.
If you are just starting out, be sure to determine which CRM and Email Marketing features will be included in your chosen eCommerce platform. Don’t over-buy just to get a ton of features! You can always upgrade your subscription (even in the middle of a contract) if your needs outstrip the features you signed up for.
If you are already well-established with your shopping cart platform, eCommerce CRM features may already be at your fingertips. If not, you can either upgrade your subscription level (if the features you need are available from your eCommerce software vendor,) or you can easily integrate a third party solution. There are a ton of CRM apps which we have curated and reviewed here.
When evaluating the many CRM eCommerce options out there, choose one that focuses on – you guessed it – actually managing your relationships with your customers. So many CRM apps in the market are geared towards the aforementioned sales pipeline. Which is great, if that’s what you need. But businesses which operate in the eCommerce space typically do not utilize a sales team to drive sales, making a Sales Pipeline Tracker a bit less relevant.
Instead, you should choose a CRM for your eCommerce business which emphasizes these targets:
- Acquiring Customer Data
- Email Marketing
- Customer Re-engagement (typically through Loyalty Programs)
- Reporting and Analytics on customer purchases, seasonal sales trends, etc
- Customer Support / Help Desk functionality.
- Brand Visibility
In the next section, we’ll look at how to hit these six eCommerce CRM targets.
What To Do
Acquire Customer Data
The first, and hardest, part of using your CRM will probably be how you go about gathering useful data about your customers. There are a variety of ways you can do this, but perhaps the most effective way is to offer users the ability to create an account and log in to your site. This accomplishes several things at once (and who doesn’t love the efficiency of multitasking?)
Offering your customer their own account on your site enables certain features which benefit them, and ultimately results in a ton of happy byproducts which help you. It’s a win-win! (Though in full disclosure, it is not entirely without drawbacks.) Enabling customer profiles from your eCommerce CRM app brings these benefits:
- Customers will be able to maintain Wish Lists, get personalized loyalty rewards, shipment tracking, and streamlined checkout (with stored credit card information, shipping address, and order history). And a *lot* more, depending on the eCommerce and CRM apps you choose.
- As a byproduct, your CRM will be fed the most coveted data in Customer Info: email address, regional location, name, purchase history, and possibly age and gender. These pieces of information will jumpstart your CRM like nothing else, allowing you to develop the most precise and effective marketing strategies.
Over time, you’ll be able to:
- See which marketing efforts were most successful
- Create upsell strategies tailored to each individual customer
- Recover sales from abandoned carts
- Re-engage customers who haven’t visited you recently.
- Drawbacks. Since this is the best way to acquire customer data, it is an increasingly common practice. The end result for the user is that they’ll have far too many accounts to manage among all the various places they shop, and may be loath to start one more account. Each account generates (from the customer’s point of view) a ton of spam emails. Certain customers may simply choose Guest Checkout rather than create a new account, or they may register with a “spam email account” which they exclusively use to sign up for things. Thus, any spam (read as: your email marketing efforts) will go completely unseen by the customer.
This is where CRM really proves its worth. The axiom “it takes money to make money” is a nearly immutable law of business; so wherever business owners can cut costs, it’s money in the bank. Marketing costs can really add up when you include print, postage, and promotions, but all of those costs are made virtually nil when your CRM can automate mass-email campaigns. And when each of those emails can be custom-tailored to each customer, you can see how this beats the socks off of mass-mailers cluttering the USPS floor.
With the dovetail of CRM and eCommerce, your customer can be given unprecedented individual attention. If Sally Shoebuyer hasn’t been back to your online store in a while, your CRM can automatically send her an email when you have run a promotion on shoes. Or if Billy gets distracted mid-purchase, your CRM eCommerce platform can send him a reminder to come back and finish buying those t-shirts he wanted.
The possibilities go on. You can have your CRM automatically serve your customers with:
- Notifications about the Loyalty Points they’ve accrued
- Notifications about price changes on items in their Wish Lists
- Seasonal sales
- Personal coupon codes
- Blog snippets, local event invitations, or any other value-added info
- As many Calls to Action as you can dream up to bring them back to your site
Reporting and Analytics
In both eCommerce and CRM, it’s easy to get a bird’s eye view of everything that happens in your retail domain. Want to see all the items customers have bought more than once? No problem. Need to see which promotions helped the most during last year’s seasonal low tide? You got it. The ability to drill down into the specific details you need to see is easy.
Customer Support / Help Desk Functionality.
Customer support is often an afterthought, or worse, totally overlooked. (That is, until the avalanche of unanswered customer concerns overwhelms you.) Your eCommerce business lives or dies by the reputation you build for yourself, and nothing affects that reputation like excellent (or awful) customer service.
CRM to the rescue. Not only will happy customers be invited back to your store through your marketing efforts, but unsatisfied customers may yet be appeased if their problems can be resolved. Your CRM app will streamline this process. Support tickets can be flagged with varying levels of urgency so highest priority issues can be quickly resolved. Additionally, a customer’s entire history can be at your fingertips; your interactions with them will be informed by their order history, communication history with your agents, and any other information that you can track. You might never need to tell your customers “I don’t know.”
With something as simple as an email or a post to social media, your brand stays fresh in the mind of your existing and potential customers.
I can’t tell you how many great websites I’ve seen and assumed I’d remember, only to have them drowned out by a sea of vendors vying for my attention. Had I been able to follow them on Facebook (for example,) I’d be much more likely to revisit them in the future when I see their posts.
Is the combination of CRM and eCommerce starting to sound like a magic bullet?
It certainly can be, if implemented well. Like most things, what you get out of it depends on what you put into it. A halfhearted attempt to tack CRM onto your eCommerce business will yield small results. But if you invest well, CRM has the potential to streamline your workflow, broaden your marketing, and shine up your brand’s reputation, all without gouging your profit margins.
Check out our CRM software reviews to find the right CRM for your eCommerce business!
Good luck, and happy selling!