Making Your Website A CRM Tool

With all the most recent bells and whistles, with all the new gadgets and trends, online retail marketing is still about two fundamentals: 

  • getting prospects and customers to your website
  • getting them to make a purchase (and, preferably, purchases) from your website. 

It’s not rocket science; it’s what we do to make a living.

And if you think about it, our CRM goals are the same: we want to keep our customers happy so that they will continue to purchase from us, and so that they will go out and encourage others to purchase from us. The methods we use to get there may vary; we may find that we need to optimize for mobile, notice new demographics, pay attention to trends, but in the final analysis we still want to get prospects and customers to our websites and we want them to buy from us.

With that in mind, I’d like to encourage you to take a long hard look at your current website. Is it really doing what it’s supposed to be doing? Is it making the path to purchase the easiest thing that can be done? And is it doing that in a way that makes the customer feel valued and respected?

Can your website hold an intelligent conversation with your subscribers every time they return to visit it? Can it analyze their behavior individually, and respond with appropriate navigation and follow-up emails to best meet their needs—and do it all quickly enough to keep their attention?

Most online retailers are getting very good at optimizing their websites with reporting, analytics, and technology. That’s all good: the more information you can get, the better equipped you are to understand who is buying, who should be buying, who isn’t buying. But this conversation between your website and your subscribers isn’t even close to optimal.

First of all, I’m making a huge assumption when I say “conversation,” because for many online retailers, it’s a monologue aimed at the subscriber rather than a conversation engaging the subscriber. If there is a conversation at all, it typically stops the moment your customers leave your website. This creates a less-than-satisfactory experience for both of you. 

And it’s not just about the conversations on the website itself, it’s about the conversations in between visits to the website, which is the domain of email marketing. You’d have pretty stilted conversations with your friends if you saw them once a month, with no communication in between, wouldn’t you? Conversation needs to be ongoing in order to be effective.

There are two components to building a conversational website:

1. You have to optimize navigation and collect data at key navigation points.

2. You must use the data collected to continue the conversation once the person has left the website.

What exactly is your website doing right now that will enable you to collect data and use it effectively to start—or continue—a conversation with your customers? Take some time to answer this question… and prepare yourself to be surprised at some of the answers. You may find that there’s a lot of noise around the data you’re collecting—that sometimes you’re getting data that you’re not using, and that sometimes you’re not collecting the right data. The point of getting information from your subscribers’ visits is to figure out what they are doing on your website and what they want from it. Your subscriber is carrying on a conversation with you—but you’re often dropping the ball and responding to a different conversation altogether.

Once you have the correct data in hand, you can answer the important questions:

  • How well do you currently identify relevant content and offers based on subscribers’ behaviors while on your website?
  • Are the content and offers likely to meet subscribers’ needs and goals?
  • Are you providing content and offers that can be sent via email shortly after your subscriber leaves your website?
  • Does your website give content and offers that will both confirm the relevancy of the conversation … and add value to the subscriber experience?

Using your website as a CRM tool is all about developing satisfactory, fulfilling conversations with your subscribers every time they visit your website, conversations that generate more sales and higher ROI precisely because you’re providing your subscribers with exactly what they are looking for. That’s great business: and it’s even better CRM.

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