Becoming a smarter customer

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—by Brent Leary, CRM Essentials, in partnership with SMB Group …

—by Brent Leary, CRM Essentials, in partnership with SMB Group

In conjunction with IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative, the SMB Group and CRM Essentials are working on a series of posts discussing how technology is empowering today’s customer, and why companies have to change their approach in order to build strong relationships with them. This is the first in the series, and was based on a couple recent experiences of Brent Leary of CRM Essentials. The last example is really Brent’s dad’s experience using his iPad – which is the one that really brings it all home…so to speak.

This is the first of a six-part blog series by SMB Group and CRM Essentials that examines the evolution of the smarter customer and smarter commerce, and IBM’s Smarter Commerce solutions. In our next post, we’ll look at key points businesses need to consider to best serve the smarter customer. In the meantime, we’d love to hear how you’re using the web, mobile and social technologies to become a smarter customer.

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  • 1. Becoming a Smarter CustomerPosted on October 31, 2011 by lauriemccabe—by Brent Leary, CRM Essentials, in partnership with SMB GroupIn conjunction with IBM’s Smarter Commerce initiative, the SMB Group and CRM Essentials are working on a seriesof posts discussing how technology is empowering today’s customer, and why companies have to change theirapproach in order to build strong relationships with them. This is the first in the series, and was based on a couplerecent experiences of Brent Leary of CRM Essentials. The last example is really Brent’s dad’s experience using hisiPad – which is the one that really brings it all home…so to speak.I recently bought a new video camera—a Panasonic AG-HMC150. This was a pretty significant purchase for mebecause it represents a step up into the semi-pro leagues, as I’m planning to do some documentary style programs. Ikicked off my buying process with two things: a question and a search.I posed a question to my friends first. A few people I know do this professionally, so they were my first stop. Andbecause I posed my question to them on Facebook and Twitter using a couple of hash tags, I received their valuablefeedback along with great information from people I’m connected to but didn’t know were knowledgeable about videoproduction. On top of that, I received even more valuable information from people I wasn’t connected to, but who sawmy question due to the hash tags I used. So within a matter of minutes, I had a great deal of information to siftthrough to help me with my big buying decision.While the feedback was pouring in from my social network, I also took to Google to find product information on videocameras. I found links to review sites, informative blog posts and videos comparing the various aspects of cameras tohelp me with my decision. I went to manufacturer sites to get specs, and followed that up with trips to CNET for in-depth reviews. All this was topped off by finding a few great online communities created by enthusiasts who arepassionate about video production, and in some cases about specific cameras—like the Panasonic AG-HMC150community on Vimeo.Within a few days, I went from not knowing what to get, to feeling very confident in selecting the right camera for myneeds. I also found a community of knowledgeable, experienced people who I could learn from and collaborate withto help me not only with my buying decision, but also with my video production activities. Once I decided whichcamera to buy, I used the web to find the right place to buy it. My newfound community recommended a companybased on their previous interactions with it.While this is just my personal experience, individual examples like mine are being replicated all over the web associal, cloud and mobile technologies help connect us to the people and information we need in order to findsolutions when we need them. It’s what is driving hundreds of millions of people to spend a growing amount of timeon Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. With these social networks becoming collaborative platforms, andwith smart mobile devices providing access from anywhere, we can build and extend relationships to people andinformation in ways that truly improve how we experience life.One thing I love to experience every year is watching college basketball’s national tournament, also known as MarchMadness. I’m not alone, as this is annually one of the highest rated television events of the year. But this year I waseven more into the tournament than ever before.For the first time, every game was shown on one of four television networks. But the big reason I had a much bettertournament experience had to do with the free apps for both the iPad and iPhone that streamed all games live—giving me a choice of seeing any game from wherever I happened to be.Not only did the mobile apps make it possible to stream any game, they also made it possible to keep track ofbrackets, share information with my Facebook and Twitter friends, and participate in ongoing tournamentconversations. The Social Arena, available through mobile apps and multiple websites, provided me with a non-stopflow of tournament information, including insights from on-air personalities like Charles Barkley. The Social Bracketallowed me to vote on who I thought would win each game, but it also tallied up all the votes to see how the overallviewing community picked the games. Finally, the NCAA and Turner Broadcasting hired people to use social media
  • 2. monitoring tools to analyze the chatter taking place around the tournament, in order to provide insights into what wasdriving conversations.Now even if I didn’t have the social and mobile apps, I would have been watching the tournament. But because I loveall my mobile devices as much as I love watching the games, I experienced March Madness in a way I couldn’tpossibly have done in years past. And, as you might have guessed, I’m not the only one who likes both basketballand mobile devices, as you can see from the numbers below:  March Madness On Demand (MMOD) was the #1 free app for both the iPhone and iPad in the App Store during the first two days of availability.  36% of all streams were from the iPad and iPhone apps the first weekend of the tournament.  The mobile apps averaged 683,000 daily unique users.  An average of 67.5 minutes per daily unique visitor was spent streaming MMOD on broadband.  The NCAA.com/MMOD broadband site averaged 3.8 million daily unique visitors.Turner was able to leverage our love of social/mobile tools to provide viewers with a whole new level of engagementwith the tournament. And, as Fast Companymagazine stated in an article about the project, Turner is fit to deliver “atrue revolution in sports. And in return they’ll get audience data, captivity and flexibility like no sports broadcasting hasever seen before.” As a side note, television ratings were the best they’ve been in 15 years.It is clear today that people depend heavily on social networks and mobile technology. Now, more people haveaccounts on social networks than they have email accounts, and mobile device sales are poised to surpass combineddesktop/laptop sales within the next year in the United States. Google+, a network only a couple of months old,already has more than 25 million users sharing over 1 billion pieces of content daily. The ease of content creation anddistribution has led us into the age of the zettabyte (with 21 zeroes after the “1”)—which is the amount of informationestimated to be available to us online today.It’s not just the younger generations that are heavily dependent on these technologies. Baby Boomers, and peoplefrom earlier generations, are also adopting these tools. I know this from firsthand experience, watching my soon-to-be80-year-old father using his iPad to do things he had never done before on his desktop computer. He reads books,listens to NPR, watches videos and shares information with his siblings on Facebook—and even Twitter. He usesBank of America’s app to do his banking. He shops on Amazon.com and Apple’s App Store. He even mentionedreading a few of my blog posts, something I can’t remember him doing before.Quite honestly, my father loves his iPad because it allows him to easily do so much more. And these tools enabletoday’s customer to do and experience more than imagined just a few short years ago. But, the fact that customersare smarter today has more to do with having better technology at their disposal than being brainier. Customers havealways wanted more information and access to the right people. They have always wanted to be listened to, andhave their ideas incorporated into developing better products and services. They’ve also wanted to be valued beyondthe financial transaction that they bring to a company’s bottom line.And now, because technology has empowered them to get together, share experiences and amplify their collectivevoice, customers expect companies to engage them with these new tools and communication channels. Ascustomers leverage social and mobile technologies to improve their knowledge and life experiences, they will look tobuild relationships with businesses that will do the same. Well, at least my father and I will.This is the first of a six-part blog series by SMB Group and CRM Essentials that examines the evolution of thesmarter customer and smarter commerce, and IBM’s Smarter Commerce solutions. In our next post, we’ll look at keypoints businesses need to consider to best serve the smarter customer. In the meantime, we’d love to hear howyou’re using the web, mobile and social technologies to become a smarter customer.