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Will 2014 Be the Year Mobile CRM Goes Omni-Channel?

Will 2014 Be the Year Mobile CRM Goes Omni-Channel?

"Omni-channel" is as much a buzzword in the industry as are "social media" and "mobile marketing." Certainly, however, it goes to the heart of what CRM purports to stand for: handling all customers from the same knowledge base of data, regardless of whether they come in through the front door of a retail store or their smartphone or a laptop or tablet.

By Erika Morphy CRM Buyer ECT News Network
01/06/14 5:00 AM PT

There was no end to the enterprise interest in mobile CRM in 2013. From apps to innovative text marketing campaigns to self-service tablet applications for B2B industries, companies were gleefully trying out new pilots and experimenting with new technologies.

Why? Simply this: Computing has reached an inflection point. Desktops are just one vehicle offering access to the Internet -- and one with shrinking market share, at that. Tablets and smartphones are about to outnumber PCs' installed base, according to IDC figures, both at home and in the office.

An IDC survey of IT managers, for example, found that 30 percent of employees are expected to be using their own tablets at work in 2014.

So the question isn't whether CRM users will be enthusiastic about mobile or willing to invest in the necessary technologies and infrastructure -- that has been answered in triplicate.

Rather, the question for the industry now, with the holiday period over and serious work beginning anew, is this: Is 2014 the year companies start to see the value of integrating their mobile CRM into the rest of the enterprise? To put it another way, will mobile CRM truly go omni-channel this year?

Still a Narrow Channel

That question is relevant, because while a huge number of companies tapped into mobile technologies to reach and research customers and get in front of industry trends, most of these initiatives were stand-alone projects, with only minimal back-end integration. So while a retailer might have mobilized a website and connected it to the relevant back-end functionality, for example, it didn't go so far as to integrate the functionality and data from that mobilized site with its brick-and-mortar operations or optimize its self-service functions for that mobile website.

It is not that a company needs to be sold on this vision. "Omni-channel" is as much a buzzword in the industry as are "social media" and "mobile marketing." Certainly, however, it goes to the heart of what CRM purports to stand for: handling all customers from the same knowledge base of data, regardless of whether they come in through the front door of a retail store, access the website through their smartphone or log onto the website from a laptop or tablet.

It is also not necessarily about the money. Last year companies began investing heavily in CRM, and that trend is expected to continue this year, according to a Gartner report. In fact, Gartner predicts that CRM will be the top spending focus for enterprises in 2014, edging past the behemoth category of enterprise resource planning.

Many, many other studies also forecast continued investment in mobile. One such report from the Enterprise Mobility Exchange, for example -- "Global State of Enterprise Mobility for the Past, Present and Future" -- concludes that mobile will be a key area of investment for companies in 2014 and beyond, with key priority investments including mobile applications and mobile device management.

Change Management Issues

Given all this, it would seem natural to conclude that yes, mobile CRM will morph into something larger -- and perhaps it will. But another statistic from the Enterprise Mobility Exchange report points to why it might not -- as do numerous failed IT implementations over decades.

Seventy percent of respondents cited increased productivity as the main reason behind their mobile solution investments, noted the report, which also found that the biggest obstacles hindering mobile implementation included change management issues and integration with legacy systems.

These are issues that have stymied generations of previous technologies, from ERP to the older CRM projects to even Software as a Service implementations -- especially the question of change management. If management is not completely vested in the IT vision and what it can do for a company, then chances are good that it will either 1) never get off the ground or 2) flounder if it does.


Erika Morphy has been writing about technology, finance and business issues for more than 20 years. She lives in Silver Spring, Md.


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