"I think CRM is dead – it's yesterday's technology," Rob Shaw, global VP of general business at hybris and SAP customer engagement and commerce, tells Essential eCommerce.

"Historically it always promised to provide a single view of the customers, but it only presents you with a moment in time – a one dimensional snapshot," Shaw adds. "We need to move to a more dynamic real time environment."

Customer relationship management (CRM) may be dead and buried in the ground according to Shaw, but retailers still need a granular approach to creating relationships with their customers, while brands are discovering the need for a modern CRM system in order to upsell additional products and tap into their consumers' worlds.

"Consumer brands have a core product they want to sell – a one-time purchase like a car, camera or Nespresso coffee meachine," he explains. "But what they really want is to build a relationship with the consumer and provide stickiness of service so you don't go to a competitor."

Shaw said brands and retailers are becoming closer than ever before in their customer-relationship values.

He uses a car as an example of a one-time purchase which could lead to further regular upsells if the brand can successfully engage with its consumer.

"When you combine the internet with the CPU inside a car, you can offer all types of services," he says. "Say you bought a sports car and then decided to take it on a track day, you might want to increase the break horsepower for a limited amount of time.

"Or it's winter and the car manufacture might offer a programme where you can switch the heating on in the car remotely and defrost the car 20 minutes before you go outside – that's an online service you can tap into any car."

Subscription management service 

And it is this subscription management service which can bring these one-time purchases into the 21st century. Another example Shaw provides is a digital camera purchase – he says customers will want to back up images digitally, but the digital and physical channels conflict. If the camera manufacturer takes ownership of the digital channel they can monetise this solution without losing the customer to another provider.

"The historical sales channel for brands is incredibly strong," explains Shaw. "Because there's a lot of power and trust in the retailer to provide the information and product catalogue to the consumer with the brand manufacturer one step removed. But one of those frustrations is brands loose that consumer insight and have to rely on feedback and warranty cards."

Nespresso has successfully owned its sales channels. "It's unique – you could call it a retailer as it has its own stores and multiple points, but they really are a consumer brand and are about providing a rich experience at the right level of information to the consumer – what coffee they like, what accessories they own, and then provide real insight into different coffee capsules they might like to purchase.

"You have to build a relationship before you do this – it's less user experience and more customer experience and is about delighting and engaging and providing a rich environment."

Shaw says it isn't about conflicting with the retail sales channel for the same revenue, but providing additional support shoppers can't get from a store – such as promotions on limited edition coffee capsules offered based on their likes and dislikes.

"The trend SAP sees is that all of these micro services can be used and adopted to offer a more engaging experience," says Shaw.

And this is only possible if retailers and brands move to a dynamic, real-time sales and customer insights channel which Shaw said must be "living and evolving".

"Monday to Friday your likes, dislikes and time of browsing might change from when you're a different person at the weekend – customers don't just fall into a nice convenient bucket."

Marrying this customer insight with the right information for shoppers to make informed buying decisions is "where omnichannel really comes into its own", Shaw says.

Supporting infrastructure

But in order to do that, retailers and brands need to take a look at their back-end supporting systems.

"You need to have a very open, agile, flexible platform," he explains. "When you look at typical IT infrastructure it is very closed, difficult to integrate and difficult to get single viewpoints."

If retailers want to tap into new widgets, social networks and customer facing applications, they need to be open and agile so these applications can be easily integrated.

Shaw says historically IT was all about looking at the infrastructure back-to-front. "Omnichannel is all about listening to the customer first and then moving back into the enterprise – how are they buying and understanding the context behind the purchase, then think how do I move my business to service that market."

"Then you have the integration which tends to be the most complex area," says Shaw.

SAP bought hybris two years ago, after it saw an opportunity to delve into front-facing consumer applications. SAP is established in the enterprise resource planning and back-end business systems market, while the purchase of the hybris platform allowed the IT giant to compete with other complete platform vendors, because hybris is trusted to look after the front customer facing applications.

"eCommerce applications can get you so far, but you have to enrich it for more customer insight," says Shaw. "SAP gave us the marketing, cloud and CRM application and we folded that into a line of business focused around the customer."

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