There are a few clear benefits to eCRM. Firstly it removes confusion and uncertainty for marketers in recession. There are proven methods, and they generate testable results, so marketing budgets can be allocated on a strict ROI basis. Secondly, solid eCRM programmes build relationships with consumers that can be both brand engagement-based as well as transaction-based. For example we've taken a 14% click-through rate from McCain "brand resistors" and transformed it into a 63% click-through rate in ten months.
The interesting thing for me as someone constantly trying to work out what's next, is that eCRM is a platform, not a channel. It's definitely not email marketing, although it uses it. It's not a technology, though it uses many technologies. What it is – and this is reflected in how it's practised – is a principle. ECRM comprises understanding (data and analytics), insights (informs planning and ideas), relevance (segmentation, targeting, timing) and testing. Notice I didn't use channels anywhere in there; I believe channels are simply the function of targeting.
And the channels can be anything – email (cheap as chips, immediate), SMS (cool but with ethical issues), microsites (essential in my view), e-commerce (handy if you want direct ROI!) and so on. We also use social media, online sales promotion, SEO, you name it – as long as you can directly track it.
All great. Sometimes though you have to start somewhere, and for many clients getting us in to take over and drastically improve an email marketing programme is the best way. Quick wins can generate millions in sales, or massive changes in engagement – as I mentioned in the case of McCain Foods. Speaking of which, we're counting down to the launch of a huge new initiative for them this autumn, providing consumers with a truly segmented brand experience and a new platform for a (properly integrated) eCRM programme.