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How To Get From CRM To Social

Your company's all over Facebook and Twitter, but until IT integrates marketing and customer service systems, it's all just show.

Facebook As CRM Database

With $2.5 billion in revenue, 892 stores, and wholesale, e-commerce, and licensing operations, Guess is at the opposite end of the retail spectrum from Wrigleyville Sports. The Facebook pages for three big Guess retail brands have a combined 2.5 million "likes." Companies in this class have sophisticated marketing programs, and they're looking to expand and improve on these efforts with social media.

The retailer's three major store chains, Guess, Guess by Marciano, and G by Guess, have more than 4 million loyalty program members combined. The company manages the loyalty programs within its Micros Retail CRM system. Guess collects minimal demographic information when it signs up members, because the more information you request, the lower the response rate. Once customers are signed on, Guess offers reward points for adding more tidbits of profile information in addition to the points customers receive for their purchases.

Because Guess gathers that loyalty card data over time, the retailer, as many companies have discovered, finds it hard to keep the information up to date, says Michael Relich, Guess's CIO and executive VP. The company does the best it can to segment its customer database with available loyalty program information, and it can also append demographic and lifestyle data from third-party marketing databases. But there's a certain other, very large database out there that Relich and others are hoping to tap.

"Facebook is the largest consumer database of consumer preferences, likes, and demographic and psychographic information on earth," Relich says. "Everybody I talk to in the industry is wondering how to monetize it, so my thought is that we have to try to turn Facebook into our CRM database."

Of course, that kind of connection has to happen one customer at a time and with the individual's consent. One way Guess is encouraging people to connect to it on Facebook is via a mobile app with built-in Facebook integration that can be used if customers opt in.

The app, launched in January, lets members of Guess's loyalty program find stores, look up their purchase histories, and see their loyalty points and rewards statuses. Members can also scan bar codes while they're in the store for more detailed product information, and they can browse and buy through a "Look Book" mobile commerce feature that shows the latest merchandise and related accessories.

The app is built on MicroStrategy's Alert mobile platform, which supports Facebook integration. When customers download the app, they're asked if they will grant Guess permissions to look at their base Facebook profiles and, as a second option, to look at their Facebook likes. If granted, this permission unlocks Facebook access tokens, letting Guess connect to that data.

Most of the mobile app's functionality works whether customers grant permissions or not, but if they do, they can log in to the mobile app with their Facebook credentials. They can also share their "likes" with friends as they browse the Look Book and Guess Facebook wall.

Guess uses the tokens along with a cloud-based MicroStrategy service to convert profile information into relational data that Guess can then analyze. It taps that data through Facebook's Graph API, which provides a consistent view of objects, including people, photos, events, pages, plus the connections among these objects. By looking at loyalty program information plus Facebook profile information, Guess is hoping it can better segment customers and target campaigns.

"We'll be able to aggregate data and get a better understanding of who our customers are, what they like, what other brands they value, what kind of music they like, and where they shop," Relich says. If Guess finds that customers are talking about the new Fiat 500, the company might come up with a contest in which customers can win a new car.

This sort of insight has long been obtained through customer surveys and purchases of third-party psychographic and demographic data, but gathering all that data takes time, costs money, and yields a much smaller sample than Relich is hoping to develop.

Not only might Guess use that Facebook data to offer tailored promotions, but it can also send those promotions directly to customers who use the mobile app. "We can communicate with loyalty program customers through email, but inboxes are inundated, people use spam filters, and the open rates are very low," Relich says. "Now I have more detailed information from Facebook, purchase behavior from the loyalty program, and location information often available from mobile phones."

If people allow access to their basic profiles, likes, and networks of friends, companies can access that data through Facebook's Graph API, but that can require tedious and repetitive data calls. For example, if you're trying to figure out which Facebook fans are frequent communicators with the potential to influence lots of friends, you might have to make hundreds of calls to the Facebook API, according to MicroStrategy. The vendor has developed a shortcut that makes it easier to access and query that data.

Down To The Details

Social media analysis is often rightfully associated with big data: Tens or hundreds of terabytes worth of data might be crunched to develop insights. Sentiment analysis--where companies monitor Facebook, Twitter, and important social sites for trending conversations about products or brands--does require that kind of horsepower.

Supplementing loyalty card and other in-house data with social data doesn't necessarily require big data analytics, because the data sets aren't nearly so large. But working with social data presents other problems. Privacy standards, for example, are a moving target. In recent weeks the European Union has talked up tough data management and data access standards that would require companies to let customers easily delete data pertaining to them in online data stores.

There's also the problem of data quality, long a struggle for companies using presumably well-managed internal data. Social media are littered with plenty of fabricated identities with garbage profiles tied to free Web-based email accounts. On the flip side, though, people who value Facebook and willingly share their profile information are much more likely to keep that information up to date than they would be to update any single company's loyalty program profile.

As companies delve more deeply into the social sphere, they typical start with a small experiment and expand by tying their social efforts into other campaign channels, such as email and e-commerce, says Roland Smart, an executive at Involver, a technology and services firm that helps big brands (including Nike and Cisco) and ad agencies reach customers through social networks.

For example, a common campaign approach is to buy ads to drive traffic to a microsite on a brand's own website. But by also posting that ad content on Facebook and promoting it to fans of its brand, "companies often find they can get 25% to 50% more out of the same spend," Smart maintains.

Many of those initial experiments that Smart refers to were likely shadow IT initiatives, ones run without IT involvement. The upshot for IT is that those early experiments now need to become part of the data management, data analysis, and CRM mainstream. IT needs to build a bridge with the marketing experts in their companies to make the most of the social experiment.

On what social networking site does your company have a  presence?

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User Rank: Apprentice
4/9/2014 | 5:56:16 AM
Social CRM and Personalization
That is quite an insightful article. I believe that personalization and social CRM are the two of the most important trends for 2014. I have been doing some research for cloud apps for CRM and found a few with amazing features. One of those happens to be Banckle.CRM which is quite a useful app. You can check out more about new customer support trends for CRM vendors and this particular app.
User Rank: Apprentice
3/4/2012 | 3:41:17 PM
re: How To Get From CRM To Social
Doug, great article. I feel that the intriguing part of integrating social media channels into "applications" is that you are reaching a tremendous audience within a "venue" that they are already comfortable and familiar with. They are more likely to "Like" and Tweet simply because it does not take too much time and its easy. How else can you get your point across in 140 characters or with a simple click of a mouse? :-) The data stored within these "social graphs" can provide its owners with critical metrics around their content. By analyzing trends within user growth and demographics as well as consumption and creation of content...owners and developers are better equipped to improve their business.

I also must admit, that this data can be unlocked in a number of ways- thanks to the publicly available social APIs. I have worked with both Twitter and FB APIs and they are extremely easy. This opens the doors for other lower cost data integration and business discovery solutions to grab a piece of this pie. In others words, if you have the right people with the right know how, you don't have to solely rely on an expensive BI vendor such as Microstrategy for this integration.

With this knowledge at hand, it should reduce the "fear" barrier that plagues most of the larger organizations. Most of them may not approach Social Media integration, because they simply refuse to change or "think" it is too expensive and will want to continue with "business as usual."

I have created applications using expressor Data Integration, QlikView and even some open source solutions that can achieve similar results like Microstrategy ... at a cost that is not even close.

One application extracts "marketing like campaign" and promotion information on a daily and weekly basis from Salesforce and posts it to the FB wall of "those" who "Like" the customer. The other application extracts FBInsights data, normalizes it and produces results in a QlikView Dashboard. Completely automated, robust solutions that provide information about the social graph when "they' need it.

Also note that these newer integration approaches do not always require IT involvement, as they are becoming more intuitive and provide more functionality that less technical staff can approach and understand.

I like to support my statements so I even provided a sample prototype on how one would leverage this type of integration with the FREE community version of expressor Data Integration software.


Thanks again for your article it was very informative.


Michael Tarallo
Technology Evangelist
User Rank: Moderator
3/1/2012 | 6:21:44 AM
re: How To Get From CRM To Social
You are speaking of demands from marketing for results in weeks, not months. I would first challenge marketing. If they have an actual marketing plan with targeted campaigns, and well thought thru strategies by demographic, aligned with the company's annual operating plan, then IT should have some runway to deliver the desired integration. My experience from the inside is usually when marketing is demanding delivery of items in weeks, they are thowing stuff out there to see what sticks with no real planning to back it up or they are just wanting to implement technology to say they have done it (keeping up with the Joneses).

Second point is that you can only do the integration thru the cloud if the company's other systems are on the cloud. If the core CRM and ERP systems are on premise, as they are at most large companies, bypassing IT thru the cloud is just not in keeping with the facts

Third point is that real business integration, that is, integration of process AND technology takes time to design and build and, often times, the process component takes substantially more time than the technology. Building integration in 3 to 6 weeks assumes automating an existing well designed process with a very narrow scope, which rarely exists in the social media space. The broader business integration that provides REAL value takes more time to work thru and deliver.

So while IT does need to become more adept at quick delivery, the business functions need to change their mode of operation as well. The business functions need to justify what they want with a business case (no technology for hype or to see what sticks) and they need to be prepared to articluate a well thought out process if they want quick IT solutions. It's a 2 way street, but instead every article just focuses on IT.

Steven Chapman
Business Process Improvement and IT Strategy Consultant
Stratolution, LLC
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2012 | 9:11:44 PM
re: How To Get From CRM To Social
Good article, Doug. And, thanks for your coverage of Attensity as Whirlpool's customer experience management and sentiment analytics application. The next time you're in town, weG«÷d love to have you come visit AttensityG«÷s Palo Alto headquarters to see the new Voice of the Customer (VoC) Command Center, their prototype of a G«£mission controlG«• for large companies looking to monitor AND manage customer conversations from both internal and social web sources, in real time.
D. Henschen
D. Henschen,
User Rank: Author
2/27/2012 | 8:01:20 PM
re: How To Get From CRM To Social
Byline has been updated. Doug Henschen wrote this article. Thanks for asking. --DH
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2012 | 7:43:47 PM
re: How To Get From CRM To Social
The article mentions two interesting things: More established firms are lagging behind in terms of adoption, and Adaptu is doing it right. Most established organizations are governed by the over 15,000 regulations in North America that apply to electronic communications. Social media is the new frontier for many and figuring out how to navigate those regulations along with complex eDiscovery requirements and internal privacy policies. Financial services is one of the most highly regulated industries in the world, and all over the globe our organization (Actiance) is taking part in discussions with companies trying to move to social in a safe and compliant way. In the course of two weeks we've spoken on Wall Street, in the UK financial services district and today at the SCCE Energy and Compliance conference in Texas. Companies that are lagging behind are doing so for some very daunting reasons.

Adaptu and other start-ups are probably also governed by many electronics communications compliance requirements, privacy requirements and other mandates but none as strict as those that govern Fortune 500 companies or Pharma, finserv, government, healthcare, Energy and others.

The trends we see on a weekly basis are that large organizations know that they need to make a change and are working to do so, but the red tape doesn't make it easy for them or their employees.

Melisa Bleasdale
User Rank: Apprentice
2/27/2012 | 6:36:32 PM
re: How To Get From CRM To Social

I read your CRM to Social article several times in fact to fully understand all the aspects of social, CRM, big data, marketing and IT and while I agree on almost everything you have written, I have to disagree on marketing integrating their social solutions with CRM in IT. I have worked as an IT Management consultant in the past for Gartner, Inc and am now working on my own, however never have I seen the marketing people more frustrated with IT then I have in the past several months. As we know most IT stops are run in maintenance mode for 70-90% of their day to day operations and that only leaves about 10-13% of their time available for implementing new solutions and this is where the problem begins.

The marketing teams are being told by their IT teams that on average it will take 3-6 months for them to be able to integrated their social solutions and other online marketing systems into the corporate CRM solution. Most of the marketing teams I have been working with have basically stated that they can't wait that long and want another alternative, one that they can implement faster and one where they have control over its roll-out and implementation. Whether this is good news or not, marketing now has an option they didn't have a few year ago, they can now go to the cloud and get it done in a 3-6 week timeframe, and completely bypass their IT team. While the CRM solution doesn't fully integrate with corporates CRM solution initially, marketing is able to move forward and meet the demands of its business customers. As an aside their is also leading the marketing people to hire IT people to help out with these type implementations.

While I completely respect the fact that you feel IT should be driving this, the truth is that IT has had a poor track record of meeting the business needs and as a result business unit are now moving their IT needs out to the cloud to circumvent IT vs having to put up with delays and processes, etc. I think IT needs rethink how it supports the business and especially the marketing department these days as I am seeing a trend from the business side to move more of their IT operations to the cloud vs having to deal with their internal IT teams.

Keep up the great work

Tim Pacileo
IT Visionary and Advisor to C-Level Executives
Proven Business and IT Problem Solver and Turn-Around Specialist
Ahead Of The Curve Advisory Services

Phone 203-494-5277
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User Rank: Apprentice
2/24/2012 | 9:44:07 PM
re: How To Get From CRM To Social
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