3 Steps to Building Solid Customer Relationships
Successful e-commerce companies have found ways to incorporate both automated systems and human processes to help run their organizations. Through their implementation, these systems and processes produce a significant amount of data that companies can tap into, helping to improve performance. In an effort to balance this overflow of data while not losing sight of the people on the other side of those numbers (i.e., your customers), I suggest building what my company calls an e-commerce customer lifecycle platform (ECLP).
At its core, an ECLP is about taking data and aggregating it into a central source — i.e., customer dashboard — built around individual customers, or customer stories. Building analytics around customer stories captures a bigger picture of your customers, their needs and how your brand can best serve them. Once you've established an ECLP, do the following:
- Determine which marketing channels are most profitable.
- Identify which customer groups purchase the most products.
- Analyze website content to determine what produces the highest customer engagement.
There are a number of ways to create an ECLP. Although results will differ for each company, three elements need to be identified before your ECLP will manifest: customer dashboard, data sources and means of integration.
1. Select a customer dashboard. The customer dashboard is a database of all customers, actual and potential. Many companies already have platforms in place to serve as a customer dashboard. For example, you might track customer profiles in a shopping cart, email marketing platform, etc. However, the goal is to consolidate all customer profiles into a single holistic source. First, choose where you want your consolidated customer dashboard to live. Although there are many options, consider one of the following:
- Excel: Excel is a robust data management platform and can easily serve as a customer dashboard. While Excel is worth considering given its flexibility and low cost, it's not for the faint of heart.
- Custom SQL database: For companies with developer/programmer resources, a custom SQL database is a fantastic option. A custom database provides flexibility plus advanced querying capabilities to build insights between data sources.
- Shopping cart platform: E-commerce companies have shopping carts that capture customer data. Many cart platforms allow the addition of custom fields. With the right integration, you can build a rich customer story where your customers are actually purchasing products.
- Marketing automation platform: Increasingly, e-commerce companies are expanding beyond email newsletters into the world of "marketing automation," which delivers tailored content. This ensures higher customer engagement and provides a rich source of information tied to customers’ email addresses.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) platform: Often pegged as a sales tool for service companies, CRMs provide customizable profiling capabilities. An integrated CRM will append additional information to customer profiles.
2. Identify your data sources. Once you've chosen a customer dashboard, you must identify where the data comes from. Consider the following: