Mobile and CRM: Integrating CRM and customer data into your consumer facing apps

Now your apps are your storefront, your product, and your customer service department, why is app optimization focused on the apps themselves, not the broader context of the customer relationship?
Abstract: Big brand mobile apps are not just ads any more. Two trends are colliding: consumers are increasingly more reliant on mobile and, at the same time, companies are delivering more and more of their offerings as connected services. Bulk mail, web sites, and emails are all part of a marketing mix that leverages customer data and CRM systems as a primary input. Mobile apps try to serve multiple purposes, as both product itself and sales tool, so they are surprisingly lagging on that curve. Mobile app optimization is focused on the app alone, not the broader context of the relationship the app should be supporting.  Companies like FollowAnalytics, and their clients — including Groupe Renault, one of the world’s largest auto makers — are starting to incorporate customer data into app experiences to engage across the entire customer journey, from first consideration, through to purchase, ownership, and repurchase.

In this report we look at the why, the how, and the who of integrating CRM and customer data into mobile apps. A key component is a survey conducted by FollowAnalytics and Survata earlier this year, of 450 marketing professionals at large corporations.

This is a sponsored report on integrating traditional CRM data into mobile app marketing strategies. It was brought to you by FollowAnalytics and opinions are my own.


Why integrate CRM and customer data into mobile apps?
Your app is optimized, and push notifications are getting delivered as users get close to your store: why do you still feel you are missing that real 1:1 customer engagement?As consumers move more and more of their media consumption to mobile it’s not surprising that brands have been following. This is happening both in mobile advertising (slowly but surely), and also in brands having their own content, in particular mobile apps. Until recently these mobile apps have tended to exist in vacuums, often managed quite separately from other digital marketing efforts. Mobile has been thought of as a different, purpose-driven activity, and in that context it is understandable that marketers have treated optimizing the mobile experience as a goal in and of itself. Indeed, when marketers started with mobile apps this made complete sense, since mobile was a new interaction mode for most consumers, and even getting people to download an app was an effort. Now marketers are realizing they need to deliver a consistent experience across platforms.
What’s working today in the mobile space? Best practice involves at minimum two things: effectively instrumented app analytics and some degree of contextual content. In terms of driving the best experience a number of app optimization tools have emerged, and mobile aspects of Google Analytics remains a default offering for many. A/B testing, and heat maps, seeing where users interact with an app, are increasingly well understood and can deliver measurable results (a nice example of both was recently posted by Lonely Planet).
Making consumer apps more contextually relevant can drive consumer engagement, and some level of apparent personalization. Ensuring that geography and time of day are accounted for in the experience is often seen as best practice. Companies like Starbucks and Starwood are making sure their users are soft notified on the iOS lock screen based on geography (near a hotel, near a coffee shop). iBeacons, QR codes, NFC tags and the like promise even more contextually relevant content, with more or less consumer interaction– these tend to be more specific, often down to the product level. A FollowAnalytics survey indicated at least 60% of large company marketers confirmed that they were already at least trying to deliver contextual and individual messages to customers. In-app notifications and mobile push customer messaging (which have replaced, for many marketers, the earlier direct mobile communication capability promised by SMS, and typically have better customer acceptance (at least so far)) are usually well integrated with app experiences, but still remain in the mobile silo.
What’s missing is the customer context of previous journeys.
What’s missing is the customer context of previous journeys. Was a consumer researching products or offerings last night on the PC? Are they in this location having received a promotional offer in the past few days? Customers are increasingly cross-platform, often most engaged on mobile, but coming back to the PC for more complicated interactions (I’m going to communicate with my Airbnb host via my Apple Watch, but I’m not going to spend 45 minutes with my wife working out where to stay in New York on anything but a PC screen).
followanalytics-survey-crm-and-mobile-campaigns-success
By treating mobile as a silo, to be individually optimized, companies have not yet maximized the potential for the data within their CRM and other customer systems to inform what is increasingly the most common interaction mode. It’s ironic, for example, as more and more email is opened on mobile devices, that the personalization of those emails is not carried over into the same brands’ apps (indeed often the emails are barely mobile optimized). Marketers are clearly aware of the possibilities of this level of communication and interactivity, but are not yet satisfied with what they can get done here. In the same survey by FollowAnalytics, 91% of marketers (see graph above) they felt their app efforts would be more successful if they could better incorporate data from CRM or other customer systems. A true cross-platform experience will apply that customer data to as many touch points as possible. Even the most engaging mobile app exists in part to complement the overall brand experience.
That experience needs to be a two way street. For many consumers mobile is increasingly the most engaging interaction point with a brand. Being able to tie back a app interaction to a quote request or a phone call ought to deliver better experiences across all interaction channels.  What consumers does on mobile needs to be fed back into the broader CRM systems to inform the next cycle of the relationship.
Is there a reason this is still in the planning or idea stage for many marketers? CRM and customer data systems can often seem somewhat inwardly focused, driving the actions of a sales department or store– “this is the appropriate product for this person.” It’s worked for a long time, but may not work as well when the customer is having a longer engagement with a brand. It’s not so much about promoting a specific product at a particular time, but more making sure the right experience is in front of the customer as they, the customer, pick the time to engage. Remember that the best mobile apps will be part of the customer experience throughout the purchase and ownership cycle, not just a point of sale messaging device. Understanding that an app might be combination of above the line and  below the line marketing, targeted promotion, and customer service is important to maximizing its potential.
How are companies things about the implementation challenges, and what are the expected benefits?
‘Our customers have quickly gone from “I need an app” to “I need downloads” to “I need business impact”.’
Brand and retail mobile apps have moved rapidly from being brochureware and advertising to customer engagement and real commerce experiences. As noted above, many of the tools used to optimize these experiences still live in mobile silos, which delivers great apps, but not always great business results. Mobile optimization tools which integrate CRM and other customer data systems into the app experience are starting to deliver value for those working with them.
As Samir Addamine, Founder of FollowAnalytics puts it, “our customers have quickly gone from ‘I need an app’ to ‘I need downloads’ to ‘I need business impact’.” He continues, “whether it’s helping transit companies starting to sell more tickets on mobile [than on the PC], or mapping ecommerce shopping cart abandonment to real-world shop visits, we are linking mobile app usage to the real business of [the company].” Many of the requirements are framed in terms of multichannel activity with the PC as a strong component today. It’s likely that more and more of these companies will move to a mobile-first interaction model with their customers. But even as we see 50, 60 or 70 percent of customers on mobile, more devices (whether watches and fitness trackers or smart home thermostats) will deliver more data back to companies, and repay customized responses. As we move to a more mobile world, we are not going to be a single device world. Businesses and customers will do best with experiences optimized across all those devices, and where data from all those device interactions feeds back to enhance the next cycle of the the relationship. Under Armour’s acquisitions in the fitness tracking space are just one example of a non-technology consumer brand that is going to be able to think about about additional data points as it communicates with its customers.
A mobile app is most effective when tightly focused
Nothing about adding customer data from CRM or other business systems to optimize a mobile app experience should take away from a core principle: a mobile app is most effective when tightly focused. The best mobile apps are still going to be narrow and deep. Understanding when to break functionality into multiple apps can be challenging, especially when companies have customers with different roles (which might be as simple as buying different products, or a completely end user different workflow). In this context it’s interesting to see how many brands do have multiple apps (more than 60% of the companies a recent FollowAnalytics survey had more than one app, and many had more than ten (!)). A fun cosmetics tester app should likely not be part of the same app as a store map and inventory checker, but the best customer experience should come from understanding both are being used by the same person. Apps which can do everything will rarely be as effective, even when optimized, as very focused apps, and consumers will get confused if the same app appears to be doing too much.
Nothing about adding customer data from CRM or other business systems to optimize a mobile app experience should take away from a core principle: a mobile app is most effective when tightly focused. The best mobile apps are still going to be narrow and deep. Understanding when to break functionality into multiple apps can be challenging, especially when companies have customers with different roles (which might be as simple as buying different products, or a completely end user different workflow). In this context it’s interesting to see how many brands do have multiple apps (more than 60% of the companies a recent FollowAnalytics survey had more than one app, and many had more than ten (!)). A fun cosmetics tester app should likely not be part of the same app as a store map and inventory checker, but the best customer experience should come from understanding both are being used by the same person. Apps which can do everything will rarely be as effective, even when optimized, as very focused apps, and consumers will get confused if the same app appears to be doing too much.
Actually enabling this level of integration has been a challenge. Perhaps because mobile apps have become much better instrumented in the past few years responsibility has often shifted, appropriately, into marketing departments from IT. Those teams still feel the pain of development cost and integration. In work done by FollowAnalytics 53 percent of surveyed marketers cited IT costs and other development issues as reasons why they were not yet integrating customer data into apps. followanalytics-survey-what-crm-challengesAs marketers get used to being able to A/B test and optimize apps without IT help, they are going to want to pull in customer data too. Not all of the mobile marketing optimization tools have caught up.
The schematic below represents the evolution of the tools in market here from what are effectively developer and designer analytic tools (including A/B testing and heat-maps), to mobile marketing optimization (e.g. location driven push messaging) to the newer opportunities represented by integrating CRM and customer data.
Follow Analytics schematic
While it’s clear there are obstacles to overcome, companies expecting their apps to deliver long term business impact will need to integrate customer data into the experience. The final part of this report looks at an in-market example.
Who is leading the way here?
Bridging the chasm between the app experiences you deliver and the customer data that is informing your sales and marketing
We’ve discussed above a number of practical and business challenges in bringing CRM and other customer data into app experiences. Some companies are starting to bridge this gap, and we expect more and more will look to do this. In a world where the product a company sells is often indistinguishable from the ongoing experience the consumer has with the brand, especially now with pervasive and always-connected technology- mobile today and IoT tomorrow, it will be more and more important to make this linkage.
At Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual event, with over 160,000 registered attendees) in San Francisco this September, companies were starting to push the envelop in linking consumer experiences on mobile with CRM, but relatively few providers and developers emphasize this. Perhaps part of the challenge lies in traditional thinking about what brand marketing, direct marketing, and sales management systems do. Today, apps blend these elements right in consumers’ hands.  It is hard to deliver a coupon-like special offer into a high-end brand experience stressing luxury, and what do you do if your best direct campaign this month emphasizes skiing holidays, and you know this person is about to leave on a business trip to Dubai for three weeks, or just hates skiing?
Transforming the entire customer funnel
So how are companies delivering across this chasm, and is it going to be become more important? Groupe Renault, a FollowAnalytics customer, is starting to see value in connecting customer data to experiences throughout the ownership cycle. At Dreamforce Gigaom Research got the chance to catch up with Patrick Hoffstetter, Chief Digital Officer at Groupe Renault. He described how the group is using digital to “transform the entire customer funnel from first consideration to repurchase,” and in addition he noted that as 40% of the group’s web traffic is on mobile, it has become a critical consumer engagement tool.</p
Groupe Renault started using FollowAnalytics as a reporting and analytics platform to manage internal apps. As consumer use of mobile has exploded in the last 12 months, the group has expanded their use of FollowAnalytics. An important part of this is using the consumer data in their Salesforce system to inform the mobile experiences they deliver to their customer. The group launched their My Renault loyalty program prior to the move to mobile and now it has moved to an app experience, powered by FollowAnalytics, which is an increasingly important part of the overall customer journey.
My Renault
Personalized offers and vehicle servicing within the My Renault application
Groupe Renault is also thinking about the car as a connected device. This starts to point towards a real IoT set of experiences. CRM and other customer data is going to be informing the in-car experience. As Patrick commented “the car is becoming connected as well [as mobile]… increasingly we see the connected car creating a customer engagement opportunity.” This is part of an overall customer engagement effort. “We are connecting with consumers on digital for services during car ownership as well as at purchase and repurchase,” continued Patrick. “Much of the activity around CRM is in coordination with Groupe Renault’s 12,000 strong dealer network.”
As an aside- Patrick noted that after the positive experience working with FollowAnalytics, and spending time at Dreamforce and in Silicon Valley, one of his objectives for the coming 12 months was to start working with more early stage technology companies.
Apps are not just ads
Samir Addamine, Founder and Chairman of FollowAnalytics, is confident that more and more people will understand that “Apps are not just ads, companies need to connect them them to back into their business- CRM and other customer systems are not just data for salespeople, they can and should inform the entire consumer experience.”


Conclusion and Takeaways
The key questions our research sought to address was whether marketers were using CRM and customer data in consumer facing apps today, and if not why not.
What we have seen is that a few companies are already seeing value with this, but for many mobile apps are still being optimized in a mobile-only silo. That approach worked when mobile was a special case experience, but now as consumers become mobile first, mobile only, or mobile normal much more needs to be done.
Takeaways:
1- Review your app strategy to ensure that you are using customer data to inform the experience (a test would to look at your marketing emails, are they more personalized than your app experience?).
2- Capture app use data and feed it back into more than just the mobile use case. Remember that mobile usage is (still) just part of an overall picture.
3- Make sure you don’t try to do too much with one app (note that many successful mobile strategies combine multiple apps, as well as mobile and PC web). The best mobile apps are focused, personalized experiences, driven by everything you know about the customer.
And finally, there is more to this than just mobile devices; companies that can execute here will see competitive advantage on mobile today, and the multiple platforms of IoT tomorrow.