Updating CRM For The Digital Age

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, April 20, 2015

CRM, or customer relationship marketing, began as a way for brands to efficiently deal with customer service issues when the customer base was too large to maintain a personal connection. By collecting such data as prior purchases, last purchase made and history of contacts, a brand could deliver the right messages to the right people.

Over the years, we began to recognize that this data could also help us increase customer lifetime value, the gold standard of ROI. Insights from the data helped marketers be relevant and increase the customer’s frequency of purchase, upsell to higher-priced products, and cross-sell to new product or service categories.

We even began to use our existing customer data to help us find more customers who look like our best customers. 

These were all steps in the right direction, but while we were busily collecting data through analog means, the digital world was proliferating around us.

Digital is fragmenting not only the types of channels and content available — such as YouTube videos, Twitter’s 140-character tweets and Snapchat’s vanishing stories — but also to whom and how quickly we can communicate, and with what degree of relevance.



Consumers have demonstrated a preference to engage with content rather than banner advertising, even when they know full well that a brand is behind that content. But not all those interactions can be collected and traced back to the individual.

Enter Distributed Customer Marketing, or DCM. DCM is an acronym we use to describe digital age CRM. Brand messages and how they are delivered must evolve if we have any chance at getting our customers’ distributed share of attention.

With DCM we apply the art and science of CRM but against a distributed group of customers and within the channels they frequent. This includes the old “push” channels like TV, some new push channels like digital display, and the more exciting pull or engagement-based social channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others.

DCM starts with already-existing CRM and third-party data. It goes beyond the traditional demographic and psychographic segments to find clusters grouped by brand affinity and potential lifetime value. It then takes things further by analyzing patterns in how people like to consume and respond to content.  

More focus is spent on clusters most likely to respond with relevant messages delivered via their preferred combination of distributed channels. Our ability to track and identify existing customers and look-alikes across the digital spectrum opens up the world to digitally enabled dynamic messaging based on a consumer's segment, and our strategy for that segment.  

How does that work? One large consumer electronics marketer developed digital personas that vary somewhat from their offline counterparts. Using strategic partnerships that connect cookie IDs and device IDs to one unifying ID, the brand can use this to target consumers across devices and platforms.

Leveraging that unified ID, consumers are identified and targeted with relevant messaging across a broad spectrum of media opportunities. This is further leveraged into a visual depiction (or Visual IQ).  This provides a clearer view of consumer interactions and media performance with attribution tracking through the entire sales funnel. Custom analytics allow for even more innovative possibilities.

At the most basic level, these steps help us target paid, earned and owned media more effectively. We can also deliver appropriate creative based on things like whether the individual is an existing customer, a prospective customer and what device they seem to be interested in buying. 

Because of the size of the marketer’s customer base, it is critically important not to waste media impressions on existing customers, which at best are wasted dollars or, at worst, induces churn behavior.  

This strategy is then applied across all potential customer touchpoints in a way that feels personalized. Messages customers would traditionally see in email or direct mail now appear on Facebook, Twitter and sites they visit most often. 

In short, the new world of DCM is founded on the principles and systems of CRM but is much more broadly applicable to the world most of our customers live in. It’s still about customers and relationships, but now it’s truly across all channels.

Kelly Roe, IMM director of loyalty, contributed to this article.

1 comment about "Updating CRM For The Digital Age".
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  1. Kevin Lee from Didit, April 20, 2015 at 9:26 a.m.

    We shall see if the acronym DCM gains traction.  I've turned purple over the last 22 years waiting for marketers to think and act more holistically under the banneer of integrated marketing, attribution modeling, econometric marketing mix models, etc. ;-)   I certainly do my best to get clients to do so.

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