rippleIn previous customer relationship management (CRM) reports, Info-Tech viewed social media integration as one of the features of CRM suites. This year, we chose to include a mandatory social component in the evaluation of sales, marketing, and service management features for all CRM vendors. By 2013, it’s crystal clear that social media is part of a large ecosystem. The lack of social for sales hurts your agents’ performance. The lack of social for marketing sends a ripple effect across all your marketing efforts. Your quality of service is compromised every time a customer fails to receive support via Twitter or Facebook.

The evaluation results were more disappointing than surprising: the state of the market showed a deteriorating performance in what should otherwise be commodity areas by 2013.

If you are looking to implement a CRM suite in the small enterprise space, be prepared to implement a standalone SMMP solution to supplement the lacking functionality. In the large enterprise space, the tools may be available as add-on products from your vendor or from third-party partnerships.

More tidbits on the small enterprise CRM market:

Product affordability is definitely an important selection criterion for small enterprises. Keeping that in mind, Info-Tech had to make a judgement call on what product mix to evaluate from one of the vendors,

With the addition of Marketing Cloud to Salesforce’s product portfolio in 2012, deciding which products your organization needs can become increasingly complex. If you chose to include Marketing Cloud, you will likely bridge many of the social “gaps” discussed above. The price will go up as well.

Info-Tech’s assessment demonstrated that the social features that come with Marketing Cloud will be a worthwhile investment for many organizations. For a more detailed assessment of Salesforce’s product portfolio, as well as other competitive solutions in the small enterprise CRM space, see Info-Tech’s Vendor Landscape: Customer Relationship Management Suites for Small Enterprises.

More tidbits on the large enterprise CRM market:

With rapidly changing market demand, some vendors are unable to keep up with prominent collaboration trends. Just a few years ago, Infor Epiphany was defining the market with its agent-to-customer collaboration through live chat. Today, the vendor scored “unsatisfactory” on collaboration because the product lacks other leading-edge collaboration tools.

Think of agent-to-agent collaboration, for instance: this critical feature facilitates the 360-degree view of the customer across sales, marketing, and service. Customer-to-customer collaboration features are also gaining prominence. Inbuilt customer communities are paramount to decreasing support case volume and increasing efficiencies in the service process domain. Keep an eye out for these collaboration features when shopping for your CRM suite. For more information, please see Info-Tech’s Vendor Landscape: Customer Relationship Management Suites for Large Enterprises.

To learn more about selecting and implementing CRM suites see Info-Tech’s Build a Customer Relationship Management Strategy.

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Exploding LightbulbPoint of Sale (POS) systems are one of the most critical systems in any organization. They are where and how a company records its sales. They deliver the final interaction with the patron. They are what the entire customer experience builds towards. They are pivotal to any business.

And their vendors have kind of been coasting.

POS solutions have seen lots of innovation throughout history. They started as simple cash registers and evolved to become computerized networks with touch screens. Then, they expanded to encompass a plethora of additional hardware components, from credit card readers to grocery scales. Now, they integrate with everything from loyalty and marketing solutions to business intelligence and accounting software. However, as in-depth integration becomes more and more of a requirement, innovation around functionality has begun to slacken. Mobile device support is far from widespread and even reporting and analytics is often quite basic. To be fair, the more complicated the system becomes, the harder and costlier it is to evolve it. The industry has a trapped market – every business needs a POS system. Why throw money at innovation when customers will settle for stability?

Well, motivation is beginning to appear.

Emerging competitors are offering very basic but progressive POS solutions for small businesses. Square Register and PayPal Here are two such examples. While their features aren’t extensive, their solution is ridiculously simple to understand and equally easy to implement. Mobile devices are quickly transformed into portable POS terminals. While the solutions target SMBs, not yet posing a direct threat to the incumbents’ offerings, their popularity is skyrocketing and they, unlike the incumbents, are readily evolving.

For more information on the solutions in the market today, take a look at Info-Tech’s  Vendor Landscape: Hospitality POS Solutions.

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Web Content Management (WCM) was the darling technology of the late 1990s. It was positioned as a tool to help IT overcome the complexities of hand-coding web pages and publishing them to the web. The use case for WCM has changed. It is now a marketing tool.

WCM enables marketers to effectively create content and push it to the web. More importantly, WCM solutions allows marketers to create and test content and to monitor how users interact with a web presence. This interaction is key for enabling things like prospect conversion and upsell. In some cases, the website can be customized on-the-fly to appeal to particular customer/prospect desires or expectations.

Of course, with increased complexity comes increased maintenance. IT and marketing professionals must work closely to ensure that the WCM solution is delivering to expectations. The key challenges with WCM typically aren’t related to traditional IT issues. Info-Tech data indicates that enterprises have a good handle on concerns like the usability or the adequacy of various tools. The real concerns include working with marketing to actually discovery up-sell opportunities and convert prospects. These are traditionally marketing issues but they go right to the heart of WCM success.

Recent changes in web user behavior is also forcing people to rethink their WCM and web marketing strategies. Social and mobile are particularly thorny issues. Social content, for example, can give marketers unique tells about a user’s preferences and interests. Mobile, meanwhile, presents challenges for both content delivery and user profiling since a mobile device can provide insights on user location and preferences.

These emerging issues speak to the need for integration. WCM is no longer a completely stand-alone system. IT professionals must consider integration with different tools for customer management, lead management, and social media management.

For more information on WCM, see Info-Tech’s recently published Develop a Web Content Management Strategy. Info-Tech also offers two Vendor Landscapes on the topic: VL: Web Content Management and VL: Web Experience Management.

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Websites have evolved into strong tools for marketing strategy. Web Experience Management (WEM)  vendors are offering products that ensure marketing alignment and offer multi-channel support to maintain a coherent and on-going relationship with all customers. Some vendors have expanded their multi-channel offering to include print materials and even call center support, in addition to web, social, mobile, and email channels.

WEM solutions are placing websites at the center of customer experience. From the very onset of the customer relationship information is being gathered on the customer based on their interactions with the organization. This can be coupled with information about the customer, their personal interests or needs, which is garnered through the creation of a profile either on the website or imported through the use of social site logins (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, etc.). All of this data can be used deliver highly targeted content to individuals.

Ektron and Autonomy both have a search-based approach for content delivery for their websites. Their search engines are intuitive and sophisticated as they utilize personas to help define search results and provide personalized content. Autonomy also has the ability to deliver search results based on concepts and ideas, rather than just keywords, as Autonomy IDOL uses advanced pattern matching and probabilistic modeling to understand content, including audio and video content.

The provisioning of customized content increases the likelihood that website visitors will be engaged with what they are presented with and become both a customer and a fan of the organization. Turning customers into fans is big business for organizations and can lead to the generation of more customers as they endorse the organization through expressing their positive sentiments and experiences on social media sites.

Interestingly, some vendors have the ability to monitor the comments that people are making about the organization or product and determine whether general feelings are negative or positive. Autonomy’s solution looks for patterns of characters and is able to determine slang in 150 languages, including Klingon! It also lets you train the program, so that if it perceives a positive comment as negative, you can go in and change the way it reads the comment.

Our look into the WEM marketplace has revealed that Sitecore, Adobe, and OpenText are offering top level solutions. Sitecore’s Digital Marketing System (DMS) delivers solid multi-channel support, complete with prescriptive analytics to help your campaigns reach greater success.

Adobe is a leader in this space due to their strong campaign management, which includes the ability to rapidly launch new campaigns. This is done through the ability to import static HTML landing pages made by 3rd party developers, which are made immediately editable. In addition, Adobe’s recent release of CQ Cloud enables the quick provisioning of micro-sites and is a bonus for IT admin who need to manage Cloud usage by marketing.

OpenText Web Experience Management is also a strong contender for this space, with solid content management ability and advanced analytics and search capabilities. For an in depth look at the WEM market and insights in the solutions available look at Info-Tech’s Vendor Landscape: Web Experience Management

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