De Bijenkorf is the luxury brand in the Netherlands. With more than 100 million visitors in-store and online it has set for itself a formidable mission: be the most inspiring, surprising, creative department store, where everyone feels special. But how do you provide a personalized, luxury experience to every shopper, every time they enter the store—either in person or online, from anywhere around the world?
That's where technology comes in. De Bijenkorf uses a single CRM (customer relationship management) system to manage in-store and online customer interactions and transactions. And the system is integrated with social messaging channels, making for a seamless, hyper-personalized commerce experience. They also use the insights generated from their messaging interactions to help their service agents be fully aware of the customer's situation. To enable this kind of premium service experience over popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, De Bijenkorf uses Social25 integrated with Salesforce Service Cloud.
It's a virtuous circle and, it seems, an ideal state for organizations looking to capture the hearts and minds of highly interactive, brand-conscious consumers.
Unless you're a digital native built to seamlessly integrate everything, from partner tech to communication channels, getting to that ideal state can be seem like an insurmountable hurdle.
Fortunately, what started out as a line-of-business application for support, CRM is increasingly becoming an anchor technology with many satellite components—across sales, support, marketing, fraud prevention, security and other areas—that are at the heart of today's hyper-connected commerce experiences.
CRM has come a long way. For anybody that's been around long enough, you'll remember the launch of Seibel's Mobile CRM back in the late 1990s. It was a great idea presaging the mobile revolution, but it lacked the underlying mobile tech to really take hold. Salesforce built on Siebel's concept with its Software as a Service (SaaS) CRM suite that allowed applications to be accessible from anywhere, through a browser. The big enterprise resource planning (ERP) players followed suit, extending their on premise sales, distribution and customer service capabilities with CRM modules.
Along the way tech stacks underlying CRM applications morphed from on prem to in the cloud and Platform as a Service (PaaS) enabled developers to build, run and manage web applications, with much less complexity. Suddenly various web app functionality could be integrated based on business needs.
In the late 2000s, in tandem with the meteoric rise of social media and the #hashtage age of social CRM, the technology shifted from transactional to interactive. And added mobile. Communication application programming interfaces (APIs) took center stage as a way to connect apps like messaging, chat, number data and authentication atop a CRM platform, and to in turn communicate digitally, gather data and protect information.
Fast forward to today's world. Retail and CPG are opting for multi-channel CRM that promises omnichannel presence, compatibility and responsiveness across all manner of devices. They're in the midst of digital transformations that focus on customer experience—including frictionless, secure mobile transactions and interactions. CRM is spreading across businesses (and verticals) to any function that needs to stay connected with customers and partners. And who doesn't need to stay connected?
Outside In, Inside Out
Late in 2020 Salesforce made its biggest acquisition ever, buying Slack for $27.7B. The combination, the company said, would create a platform that connects employees, customers and partners with each other and the apps they use every day, all within their existing workflows. Facebook, the month before, made one of its biggest acquisitions, buying Kustomer CRM for a reported $1B. The combo gives marketers new ways to improve interactions with customers across email, phone, web and messenger—even when conversations happen outside of Facebook. These deals, and a slew of other CRM acquisitions, allow companies to facilitate rapid communication from within their four walls (metaphorically speaking) and out to customers, consumers and partners.
At the same time, cloud infrastructures allow different tools to be used directly within CRM systems to facilitate communications, like Social25 that lets users send direct messages from within Salesforce. Cloud services make it easy to integrate applications, tools and services via APIs from a single user environment, for example sending notifications via WhatsApp from Microsoft Dynamics 365. All this boils down to the ability to use APIs to enable digital interaction and communication through existing business processes and systems.
But how do you make everyone feel special? De Bijenkorf uses the WhatsApp Business API, for example, via the Social25 app that's integrated right into their Salesforce Service Cloud, which triggers communications with their customers right on WhatsApp used by over 2 billion consumers around the world on a daily basis. This means a 360-degree view of the customer—with all related customer interactions in Salesforce. The result is a better understanding of the demands of the customer, improved processes within the organization to support (and secure) those needs and, in the end, higher customer satisfaction.
In a way, CRM and communication APIs bring the concept of personalization home. Today's consumers expect a seamless experience; we expect companies to know our history when we get in touch, and to be responsive. Delivering seamless experiences throughout the customer journey takes two-way data access, getting the data from CRM, and updating it from the new interaction. And it takes internal controls. Customer profiles, for example, play a role in determining fraud prevention measures (connected via two-factor authentication APIs, for example) to protect transactions while providing frictionless experiences.
It's a lot to keep up with. One piece of the puzzle, according to MIT CISR research on the “race to be future ready" for the hyper connected consumer: APIs. “For traditional organizations…this pathway involves building API-enabled business services to enhance internal and external deliveries. The end-result moves such companies from Silos and Spaghetti to Industrialized and finally Future Ready."
It makes an ideal state like De Bijenkorf's seem all the more feasible.