CRM in a post GDPR world

Welcome to Digital Marketing Roundtable, hosted by Acquire Digital Talent.

As we come towards the end of our tour which has seen us speak with experts from SEOGrowth MarketingPPC, and Paid Social, we turn our attention to CRM.

With GDPR coming into play last year, how has this changed the CRM landscape? I spoke to the experts to find out.

I was joined by:

Lindsay Bateman (Head of CRM @ Motorway)

Jillian Courtney (Head of CRM at Skyes Cottages)

Stevie Whiston (Head of CRM @ Festicket)

Here’s how it went down…


Alex Marriner: Thanks for joining me today. Let me start off with the starter question in this series. How has CRM changed since you started?


Lindsay: One of the changes I have seen since starting in this industry has been the continual growth of recognising how important CRM is for a business. Companies started to realise that it was a lot cheaper to retain their existing customers than to acquire new ones. They needed to build better customer relationships and more sophisticated CRM journeys. Trends that drive innovation have also come a long way in the last decade. Customer expectations are always changing. If someone like Amazon was sending highly automated and innovative campaigns, then customers begin to expect that from everyone else and therefore businesses constantly need to improve their customer experiences.


Jillian: CRM now is much more focused making things as easy as possible for the customer. Any good marketer has also got to be thinking about UX and the impact on customer conversion. The CRM market has also become a lot more technical with Customer Data Platforms and Customer Experience Platforms providing new ways to unlock the full potential from your customer database.


Stevie: The tools available are so much better now – particularly when it comes to segmentation.

When I first started, we had to write out code to segment the data and we only ever really split by simple lifecycle – Active or Lapsed. Now you can segment to such a granular level, if used correctly it can be a much, much better experience for the recipient.

Manual emails used to make up over 90% of monthly campaigns, now it should be the other way around, 90% automated.


AM: What impact has GDPR had on the CRM space? Do you feel it has been a positive or negative step?


Lindsay: The reality is that GDPR wasn’t actually the catastrophe a lot of marketers feared it was going to be. I personally feel it has been a positive step. If customers are opting in more explicitly then this surely means they are simply showing more interest and more intent to engage. It has also given a lot of companies a chance to improve how they work and how they approach the use of consumer data which can only be a good thing in the long term.


Jillian: Overall it has resulted in losses of opted in customers for a lot of businesses but perhaps these were not the most valuable customers for that business anyway.


Customers have become a lot savvier about the use of their data in the dawn of GDPR so it’s more important than ever that businesses are seen to be treating their data in the right way.


For me, it was a positive step and a great way to ensure that those opted in to the database are the customers who are really engaged with the brand and who actually want to hear from you. it has acted as a good cleansing project.


It has also meant looking at new ways to reach the unsubscribed base through channels such as Direct Mail. Not your old-style batch and blast activity but using it more like the digital activity in a programmatic and triggered way.


Stevie: At first, I was genuinely concerned for my job! But I think it’s actually a very good thing for everyone. Now users have opted-in because they want to, and while the subscribers may be less than half in some cases, the quality is 5 times better. Seems obvious now, but “tricking” people into subscribing is only going to lead to an unhappy recipient.


AM: What have been the biggest CRM trends you’ve witnessed in 2019 so far?

Lindsay: Automation tools such as CTM’s AutoSergei or MoneySuperMarket’s Energy Monitor and Credit Monitor are recent trends with many of the price comparison sites jumping on board as well as new start-ups such as LookAfterMyBills. A huge part of these tools is the CRM integration which improves the customer experience and helps consumers save money with minimal effort and stress. Another trend that we are hearing a lot about is AI and how we can use it within CRM. For example, Salesforce’s AI tool Einstein (a smart cloud analytics platform) will allow marketers to do things such as automate email send times based on AI predictions of when customers are most likely to engage.


Jillian: AI is something that is talked about more and more. It can be a useful conversion in areas such as subject line testing and send-time optimisation. Use of video content is also continuing to increase. Apps are continuing to grow and take more of the device share away from desktop, mobile and tablet.


Stevie: Everyone seems to be very keen to add more channels, Facebook Messenger seems to be very popular and powerful if used correctly. We’ve just started using it to the festival audience and so far, it’s been very well received. Still waiting for more CRM through voice – one to watch out for, I think.


AM: Looking into your crystal ball, what do you think will be the big changes for CRM over the next 5 years?


Lindsay: Machine learning and AI will begin to become standard in CRM systems. We will see intelligent chatbots, advanced data mining and much-improved personalisation. Voice recognition technology will start to change CRM with speech to text software improving data entry, customer service and improving business processes.


Jillian: Better and more affordable automation options for automation being available to companies that will challenge the giants like Salesforce. An increase in the use of AI products and services which make it easier for Marketers. Growth more traditional channels such as direct mail as well as more digital channels such as push.


Stevie: Voice – using all the new voice-activated devices as marketing products eventually – “What’s the weather like today?” “It’s raining all week – get 20% off waterproof coats on amazon right now!” or perhaps more subtle than that. It’s become such a normal part of our lives, it’s only a matter of time before this happens.


AM: Automation is becoming bigger and bigger. For those working in CRM, what is the best way for them to future proof themselves?

Lindsay: As automation becomes bigger it doesn’t necessarily mean humans won’t be needed. The technologies that we are beginning to see won’t replace the skills that we have. Automation will act as a supporter and an integrator. It will help us become more efficient and reduce some of the more repetitive tasks (which, let’s be honest no-one enjoys doing anyway). However, some of the skills that we do need to maintain are; people management, creativity, critical thinking and complex problem-solving. These are the skills that will help us work alongside automation and not against it.


Jillian: The data in a business is one of its most valuable assets and it needs to be treated that way. Ensure the data is in a good state and really think about the customer journey and how you can actually make it as easy as possible to get what they want.


Automation is a very valuable tool for any business looking to grow through cheaper channels such as CRM. Investment in a good automation tool is a must but it is key to find a partner who can provide the level of expertise and support that is right for you and your business. It is also really important to consider the longer term and how the automation can grow with you as you look to expand into new channels e.g. push.


Stevie: Automations should be mapped out so everyone can see all potential touchpoints for a user across all channels. This isn’t done enough by CRM teams or CRM tools. With many journeys/cycles triggered by completely different/unique events, it’s very difficult to keep track of it all.

I usually do this using simple tools like ‘google draw’, but this should be available on all CRM platforms, so I don’t have to.


CRM lives on! By the sound of it, and like most channels in the Digital Marketing space, it will only continue to thrive and get bigger, yet adapting to change on its way.

Many thanks go to Lindsay, Jillian, and Stevie for taking time out of their busy days to participate in this article.

Do you agree or disagree with what they had to say? Feel free to comment below.

Either way, thanks for reading!

–       Alex Marriner