Ability to Create Multi-Channel Ecosystem: Overlooked Challenges

The struggle to create the much-needed Multi channel ecosystem to reach out to targeted customers continues, and organizations are grappling to unravel the mystery. As per Gartner’s survey one of the top business priorities for CIO’s is to “attract and retain new customers”, but strikingly when this translates to Technology Priorities, Multi-Channel enablement does not even figure in the top ten. There is a clear contradiction. Is this because, organizations have given up on creating this eco system or are they so naïve not to understand the repercussions of not enabling this? I think it’s more of the former that the latter.

There has not been one business discussion where business leaders do not stress on the merits of a having a holistic multi channel strategy and enablement and they generally get good response; this makes me believe that the benefits are recognized. The issue  starts when organizations sit at the drawing board and start sketching their future business architecture. The challenges this exercise poses are three-pronged, viz. People, Process and Technology Challenges. Organizations generally make the mistake of overlooking the people and process challenges and all efforts are spent in identifying and resolving the technical challenges viz. Platform, vendor, Products etc.

Recently I was fortunate to work with William Band, Vice President & Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, so I bounced this thought with him for his opinion. Bill says “I agree with your premise that the core issues that stand in the way of effective multi-channel management are people and process issues. Most companies are not organized to manage across channel silos, and functional silos (as you know)”.

The easiest challenge to overcome is technology and organizations need to think and strategize more on overcoming the people and process challenges. As a discovery exercise, organizations need to first answer the following questions and gauge the exact nature and extent of challenge that they will face.

  1. What is the business objective (enhance reach, provide seamless experience to customers, etc) behind enabling a multi-channel environment?
  2. Is my structure (organization) ready to support this initiative? What changes do I need to bring to my organizational structure?
  3. Do I have process defined with proper entry and exit points?
  4. How would channels interact to each other and what is the overall business architecture?
  5. How would I engage each channel, maintain a uniform message and use them on their merits?
  6. Have I identified the different stakeholders and mapped them in terms of resistance offered and change needed?

The above questions are not the complete set, but surely the reference point to start. These questions are hard-hitting and require organizations to put on the self-evaluation hat to answer and create logical and realistic next steps.

Skipping this first step will result in creating a multi channel ecosystem that either does not function or functions in absolute silos. Over the last few years organizations have managed to deploy multiple channels but have failed to create a Multi-Channel ecosystem.

Its time organizations start this discovery exercise and rethink on their multi-channel strategy.

Special Thanks to William Band for taking out time to review this post and provide his comments.

Some Suggestive Reading on this topic

http://www.forrester.com/rb/Research/solutions_converge_to_support_multichannel_customer_interactions/q/id/60914/t/2

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Four Important trends in Mobile CRM Space

Last week one of my colleagues bought an iPad. He is currently gripped by something that people call the iPad syndrome. Ipad has helped people understand and appreciate the concept of mobility…in fact it has taken a giant leap in the mobility space. I have been receiving requests for mobility CRM much more in the last 2-3 months as compared to last year. Is it because of Ipad? Not sure, but the requests do translate into providing Mobile solutions that can run on mobile device; 1 out of 3 requests specifically for Ipad. One of our friends has put his thoughts around this revolution  http://social.eyeforpharma.com/story/will-ipad-kickstart-pharma-sales-and-marketing-revolution (read here).

I have been thinking off late on how should we go about designing the overall Mobile CRM solution? What should it contain? How should it be deployed? How will it provide enhanced value to organizations?  

Four Important Trends in Mobile CRM:

  1. Mobile CRM has moved beyond SFA on PDA: It is just not “Contact Management”, “Call Planning” etc. There are Features like Inventory/stock management, order reconciliation & tracking, Service Request Management, Real time analytics and “on demand” collaboration between field sales reps, service reps and customers. The new Mobile CRM needs to support much more functions and not just be a trimmed down version of the enterprise CRM system.
  2. Mobile CRM needs to be componentized: As organizations move away from the typical “arms race” in the sales function, where the sales volumes do not have linearity with the size of the sales force, and small groups of specialized sales force evolve; the need for CRM to accommodate the specific needs for these groups will increase exponentially. One solution fits all is not valid. What will work here is to have a bouquet of functionalities that can be made available depending on the end user need. End users pick and choose what he needs to be part of his Mobile CRM solution.
  3. Mobile CRM solution needs to be “On Demand”: The new age Mobile CRM solution needs to be available to the end user “On Demand”. Nearest parallel that one can draw is the “Blackberry Apps world” or” Ipad apps”. Organizations will maintain (can be a service provider) an application store and users can download needed application or components, use them and get rid of them from the mobile device after use.
  4. Mobile CRM solutions will drive the functionality: There was a time when the Mobile solution was a replica of the CRM solution with lot of restrictions w.r.t functionality and usability. Those days are gone. On Premise or Cloud Based CRM solutions will just provide robust backend and will not limit the Mobile CRM solution scope. The Mobile CRM solutions will have its own identity (the way functionality is achieved and enhanced usability features) and will integrate with the available CRM solution.

What do you think? Do you think that the Mobile CRM space is slowly transforming? Let me know your thoughts and comments.

Multi-Channel Marketing an Example: ETIOS by Toyota

So how many of you are not aware that Toyota has launched a Vehicle named “ETIOS”? I have not met many. I am a person who can endlessly browse the web to find news related to new cars and their reviews. I followed the complete Toyota ETIOS story very closely. I personally feel that this is one of the best examples for Multi-Channel Marketing. I am no expert at this but with my limited knowledge this is what I felt…

Given the importance of this vehicle for Toyota globally, Toyota created a campaign that engaged and informed the customers over the last 10 months.

Jan 2010…Toyota showcased the vehicle at the Delhi Auto Expo. The same day a TVC was launched to communicate about ETIOS. They came up with a very innovative Logo…The “I” in ETIOS has been written as the Indian TEEKA( a symbol of good luck and blessings of victory). The tag line also was chosen to aptly describe the essence of the vehicle “India First World First”. The whole positioning of the vehicle was very Indian. High time Toyota realized that India will play a major role in their Global Position as a Market leader. At the same time the Facebook and Twitter accounts were created. The initial buzz was created. Challenge at hand was… how to maintain this till the launch that was scheduled for the year end.

Again a very innovative TVC and Media campaign…”Q Promise” a campaign focused at demonstrating and placing Toyota as a Quality driven organizations. This was followed by an all India Tour “Q World Caravan” with the ETIOS concept. The choice of cities was very unique here…Chandigarh, Lucknow, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Cochin, Chennai, Bangalore, Calicut, Goa, Hyderabad, Vijaywada, Coimbatore, Bangalore, Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Siliguri, Guwahati, Varanasi, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Indore, Surat. At first glance one can make out that this is just not a random selection of cities, these are cities that hold lot of potential and are slowly turning out to be biggest markets after the metros. This event ended at Surat on the 15th August 2010…symbolic gesture to project that the ETIOS is for India.

In the mean time the social channels were very effectively used to drive the concept and the research that went behind creating this car. Social channel is the only channel that has the strength and merit of creating a 2 way communication. Toyota rightly used this to create a community that can discuss the Car and provide feedback and reactions to the ongoing campaigns. Exemplary use of social channel to inform, listen, and respond. I am not sure but I believe; these channels also enjoyed some exclusivity in terms of information. The exact launch date was first communicated here followed by a press release.

End of September the New ETIOS website was launched. Facebook and Twitter users were the first to know. The website provided information on the ETIOS concept and had games, quizzes (all focused towards INDIA First concept). Winners were awarded with some ETIOS branded stuff… (I was not lucky to get one). Website used as a teaser and to further strengthen the India First message. The launch of the vehicle was live on this website. One will be surprised to note that the content of the website changed the minute the vehicle was officially launched @Bangalore. Such meticulous planning and exemplary execution.

In the history of car launches in India, I cannot think of any other example that can either match or come a near second to this.  Analyze this information and one will find some best practices for Multi Channel Marketing:

  1. Use the channel as per its Merit
  2. Each Channel needs to have its unique message but with a single objective
  3. Distribute the three key functions of Marketing( Inform, Engage and Listen) across channels
  4. Create an ecosystem to provide seamless experience to the customers
  5. Continuously monitor and study the channel effectiveness
  6. See if channels can be provided some exclusivity

I am not sure of the sales figures that ETIOS will have in future, but for the time being the marketing team has exactly delivered what they would have envisioned 10 Months back. Great work … This campaign is also INDIA’s FIRST …

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