Navigating the Next Era: The Future of CRM and Essential Skills for Success

Let's chat about the evolution of Customer Relationship Management, or CRM. It's not just your average data tool anymore; it's the wizard behind those personalised customer experiences we all love.

We've moved way beyond the old transactional days to dive deep into a world of customer-centric strategies. Take a cue from the big players like Amazon and Netflix – they're not just meeting but predicting and exceeding customer preferences with the magic of predictive analytics, setting a whole new standard in the game.

The evolution of CRM: A personalised landscape

At Withfrontier, we have placed a dozen people into CRM roles in 2023 alone. It is 100% a channel that is/will continue to become crucial to the overall online retail plans of a business. we spoke with a a number of specialists to get some insights into how they see things evolving and the skills that CRM pros will need in the coming months.

Personalisation is now more important than ever

In exploring the evolution of CRM as a performance channel, it’s evident that personalisation at scale has become key. Monique Chambers, an industry expert, emphasises, “We are able to be more specific than ever; so much data is available at our fingertips, which means that the client/partner relationship has a more solid foundation. What we can plan and deliver can also be refined more to meet client needs.”

These days, CRM isn’t just about product sales or new customer acquisition (although that’s of course still important). It is equally about loyalty and retention, with more and more brands now seeking to re-engage with dormant customers and to incentivise the biggest spenders to spend more.  With the current climate and the huge competition in the markets, the need to know your customers intimately has never been greater!

This emphasises the shift from a ‘one size fits all’ approach, to delivering the right message, at the right time, through the right channel. Understanding the audience is now the backbone, with strategies aimed at conversion, engagement, and acquisition all rooted in a deep understanding of the customer.

And not to forget the growing choice of technology for CRM

Moreover, the landscape has witnessed an expansion in platform choices. While Salesforce was once a dominant player for example, other ESPs such as Kalviyo is now proving to be the system of choice for high-growth brands. There are of course a multitude of others – Emarsys being one. This variety offers CRM professionals the flexibility to select platforms tailored to their specific needs.

Retention is a growing consideration for CRM pros

Brands now thoroughly consider retention as opposed to concentrating all their efforts on acquisition. While capturing new customers is still a vital part of the strategy, the current scene leans even more towards nurturing existing relationships. Why? Because keeping those customers in the fold is not just effective but also cost-efficient compared to the constant pursuit of new ones.

This shift underscores the strategic importance of customer loyalty and long-term relationships, and therefore a need for CRM professionals to become more versatile. So much so, we’re seeing a rise in CRM & Retention Manager roles, specifically tailored to attract specialists capable of cultivating robust loyalty programs alongside their acquisition efforts.

What key skills should CRM specialists be looking to hone in on during the next 12-24 months?

Be more than just a data manager, be a data reader.
In today’s CRM landscape, people need to be more than just data-managers. They need to read and interpret the data in order to understand customer behaviour, plus improve the journey, convert more sales and instil more loyalty.

Know your platform and technology
Becoming a platform expert is also crucial. For example, as mentioned, Klaviyo is widely used today, but whatever platform you’re currently utilising or plan on getting to know a little better, strive to become an expert as this is transferable across all big players in the eyes of an employer.

Great CRMs need to be great collaborators with an understanding of cross-channel marketing

As CRM takes centre stage as a critical business channel, the demand for collaboration across departments has surged. Specialists now require robust stakeholder and collaborative skills to thrive.

The era of working in silos is no longer an option. Specialists must broaden their horizons and gain a solid understanding of other channels to collaborate effectively. Whether this be Organic Search, Merchandising and even the buying team, It’s no longer just a plus; it’s a necessity to be able to work across multiple teams in the dynamic landscape of CRM.

Other examples include a need to link up with customer experience teams, automating parts of their process at scale and utilising data to win back customers. Additionally, CRM’s partnership with paid media functions contributes to lowering spend, offering strategies like providing lookalike audiences from CRM tools driven by AI and sharing data from what performs well across CRM channels.

And finally, do we need to consider AI for successful CRM strategies?

Technology within CRM is at an exciting level, the capabilities are becoming endless and what you can offer to your audience is becoming far more sophisticated in catering for their needs.The transformative impact of technology on CRM is epitomised by Salesforce’s AI. This intelligent system analyses customer data to deliver actionable insights, enhancing personalisation and decision-making.

However, with this comes caution, many CRM’s become overwhelmed by the ‘shiny new toys’ at their disposal. It’s key to nail down what’s important to give customers the best possible experience and also establish what’s a ‘nice to have’ – this judgement is crucial in leveraging technology effectively for campaign improvement.

Monique Chambers reflects on the impact of technology within CRM, stating, “AI is handy for helping automate the admin elements of the role; even reporting has advanced from this, but a skill that is becoming more crucial as a result is being able to effectively monitor the output.” She emphasises the role of attention to detail, particularly in automating administrative tasks through AI, where a human touch is essential to maintain quality.

AI in CRM is also recognised as a great advancement. With the ability to produce predictive models, it can help with areas such as acting like an extension of your team for areas such as suggestive copywriting.

Advice for aspiring CRM professionals

In a nutshell: dive deep into the data, embrace a testing mentality, and stay ahead of the curve in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

For aspiring CRM professionals, Monique Chambers offers valuable advice, “Always be willing to ask, receive, and get what you want rather than just waiting. Know your value.” This resonates with the proactive approach needed in the dynamic CRM field, emphasising the importance of self-confidence, continuous learning, and understanding one’s unique value proposition.

“Simply be proactive”, she says, research best practices, upcoming changes, industry expert notes – all of these will help wider understanding and maintain your relevancy as a CRM expert.

A data-first approach is essential in order to lead your decisions within the workplace. This approach removes uncertainties and ensures that decisions are grounded in data insights. Additionally, a testing mentality is encouraged, where no question or thought is considered questionable within reason. If it has legs, don’t be scared to put it to the test.

As the future of CRM unfolds, professionals equipped with a holistic skill set and a proactive mindset will stand at the forefront of this transformative journey. Roll with the CRM evolution, stay tech-savvy, and face challenges head-on – that’s the key to succeeding in this field. CRM isn’t your run-of-the-mill data vault; it’s a dynamic force crafting unbeatable customer experiences. It goes without saying, CRM pros are the architects of this customer-centric revolution.