From CRM to CMR: How to make things work in the era of the connected customer

From CRM to CMR: How to make things work in the era of the connected customer
Juliet Schuler is SVP and MD international at Zeta Global.


The idea that brands can decide how and when to engage their customers – on their terms and according to their rules – is out of date. Attempts to tell customers what to think or how to buy now receive short shrift from today’s savvy shoppers. As we enter the era of Consumer Managed Relationships, power has swung firmly back in favour of the customer.

The shift from CRM to CMR represents a sea-change in the dynamic between brands and consumers, with brands scrambling to keep up with the constantly shifting demands of today’s ‘connected customer’. This new breed of consumer is always on, mobile-centric, filtering, sharing, and experiencing. They have higher buying power, even higher expectations, and are digitally savvy and advertising averse.

So what do brands need to do to get ahead in the age of the connected customer?

Embrace the device-driven mindset

The defining characteristic of the Connected Customer is their ardent devotion to their devices. The rise of mobile takes the relationship between brands and consumers to a new level of intimacy, enabling marketers to derive powerful insights into habits, preferences and lifestyles from a range of cues –  from location and device type data to time of day, dwell times and interaction rate. Aggregating these moments of insight means businesses can build a bigger, better picture of their customers and engage them accordingly.

Creating a ‘mobile data value exchange’ between brand and consumer is essential to making this relationship work. Today’s connected consumer is willing to share personal information with brands on the understanding that this data will be used to add value and improve their customer experience. This means marketers must be careful to only use consumer data in ways that will directly benefit the customer – such as allowing for tailored and targeted messaging or offering discounts in exchange for signing up. 

Invest in mutually beneficial information sharing to enhance customer experience

In the era of Customer Managed Relationships, adopting a strategy that prioritises customer experience will deliver better results than an approach which focuses only on driving short term sales.

Irrelevance is anathema to good customer experience. In a recent Relevancy Group Consumer Survey, 55 percent of consumers state they ignore or opt-out of messages that are not relevant to them.

Understanding the nuances of today’s cross-device customer journey, and being able to identify how to appropriately engage a consumer across channels, is key to being able to create relevance. Orchestrating channel and message enables you to improve customer experience by building upon each touch, generating a seamless experience that lays the foundations for an impactful nurturing programme through deeper customer connections.

Whether it’s a ‘surprise and delight’ tailored offer in email that is followed up in store, or a helpful post purchase email containing data-driven purchase recommendations, engagement at every touch must anticipate customer needs and reflect the current context. Connecting touchpoints across the online and offline customer journey is one of the most effective ways to optimise targeting and smooth the path to purchase.

From big to fast to smart: using data to move from superficial to pervasive personalisation 

One of the greatest challenges for marketers is how to extract actionable, meaningful insights from the mountains of data they hold. The good news is that with advances in technology, big, sprawling data is making way for smart, fast data which can create truly connected experiences for customers. But how can brands make this data work for them?

The first step is to centralise all data sources and ensure that the right frameworks are in place to effectively capture and measure the impact of campaigns – both online and offline. This means using better systems that facilitate automated analysis, and building effective attribution models that can factor messaging that is always on. Having this measurement-insight ecosystem will help to optimise your test and learn environment.

The next step is to create macro-level propensity models that inform how to segment, the right messages to communicate and appropriate times to receive them. This can be complemented with machine learning technology that can decide the best course of action for an individual customer, and factor time-sensitive contextual information. Marketers can achieve ‘pervasive personalisation’ at scale – using the data and systems they have at their disposal to create hyper-optimised communications. For the customer, these shifts lead to experiences that are richer, better connected and more meaningful.

Space is the new time: combining the where with the when to create true moment marketing

Brands can ensure they are in the right place at the right time by adding in an element of location-based marketing. When done well, geo-targeting can make a customer’s life easier, tailoring messages in a more personal and relevant way.

More and more, brands today are coming to recognise the value of ‘moment marketing’, with 58% of marketers now saying they use real time data to drive point in time relevance. Information such as location, web event data, and even weather will improve the accuracy and precision of marketing efforts. Similarly, being able to act on real-time behavioural elements will deliver better context for campaigns and therefore improve conversions. 

Creating a customer-centric marketing function

Customers can now connect on more channels than ever before, allowing brands to gather huge amounts of data. In practice, this should allow businesses to gain rich insights into customer preference and behaviour – but many companies are being held back from reaping the benefits of a truly customer centric approach by the unwieldy and antiquated structure of their marketing teams.

To avoid this disconnect between teams, it’s essential that marketers break down silos and align cross-channel goals and technologies to better serve their customers. This ‘Every Channel Execution’ improves relevance and allows brands to more effectively measure engagement across channels and devices.

The age of the connected customer means businesses must be customer led, insights driven, fast and connected. They must always have their ear to the ground – listening to the demands of their customers and acting on them in real-time.

Adopting a connected customer mind set allows marketers to build truly customer centric marketing strategies that steal a march on competitors and boost business results. The stakes are high, and while today’s consumer might hold all the cards, brands that play smart can still take home their share of the winnings.

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