BARCELONA: UK brewery Marston's has opted to use a combination of Microsoft customer relationship management (CRM) software and social listening tools to improve customer interactions.
Paul Hume, development manager for emerging technologies at Marston's, said in a presentation at Microsoft's Convergence 2015 conference in Barcelona that the company needed to find a way to centralise data and improve interactions with customers.
"We need to differentiate ourselves from the competition. We're all saying the same things. For example, at Christmas every single pub company will say the same message. So that's our real challenge: how we get to know our customers better," he said.
"We needed some tools that allow us to store our customer data in one place. No more gong off to disparate systems and spreadsheets and trying to merge them all together. We needed a tool to bring that data into one central location.
"We also needed a tool to allow us to listen to our customers and what they say about us. And then we needed a tool that allowed us to look and see what our customers are doing when they look at our websites and go to our pubs, and how can we use that data to personalise our communications to them and therefore differentiate ourselves."
This mission led to Marston's opting for Microsoft's Dynamics CRM as its core system of record, keeping track of all its customer data and interactions in one place.
"It's the core to this entire strategy: it keeps everything in one place and gives us that 360-degree view of the customer. No more disparate systems, no more stitching spreadsheets together," said Hume.
At first glance this would seem like a simple case of replacing an old business process with a more modern and digital system. However, things get more interesting with components that Hume and Marston's plugged into Dynamics CRM.
Marston's opted for Microsoft's Social Engagement tool, which effectively allows the firm to see customers' public online conversations and measure the reception to its pubs and beers.
This provides an extra level of insight that can be combined with customer data in Dynamics CRM to get a bigger and richer profile of customers.
But that was not enough for Marston's, as the company wanted a way to tailor its marketing and communications activity to be more personal to individual customers.
The firm turned to Thunderhead, a cloud-powered web activity listening and analytics system that monitors what customers are looking at and clicking on when visiting a website.
"We put ‘listeners' out on all of our web estate, so we're talking 800 to 900 individual websites, but we want to know what people are doing on those websites and what they are looking at," said Hume.
"Obviously, something like Google Analytics gives you a view of what people are doing and tells you that certain amounts of people have looked at a certain page or certain menu. We don't want to know that. We want to know what exactly did [an individual] look at so we can take that information and start tailoring that information."
Thunderhead is go
But the clever part is when a visitor interacts with the website in a more direct way, such as signing up to offers or providing feedback. When they do that the information they provide is collected as a record in Dynamics CRM, which leaves the customer with another ID in the CRM system.
Once such a record is generated, Thunderhead links the two IDs to provide a detailed view of a customer's interests, for example the types of menu or beer they favour.
That data is then passed back into Dynamics CRN ready for use by Marston's marketing team to tailor communications, offers and promotions to individuals.
Thunderhead can also tailor website content in real time based on the data held on the customer, showing customised pages as they browse.
Hume explained that this has generated a better response to email campaigns and marketing activity and resulted in customers interacting more with its websites. This in turn fuels the amount of data Marston's has to work with, effectively creating a loop of information and action.
"So all this new information that we've filled our CRM system with allows us to make intelligent decisions, and we base those decisions on customer information," he said.
Social listening appears to be a growing section of the technology world, especially when startups such as Twizoo spring up with targeted applications.
Marston's stands out as a company working in a traditional industry adopting technology in a way that directly benefits its business rather than just modernising IT.
However, it is not the only company making business-focused use of IT. Mole Valley Farmers is another company from a traditional industry that has tapped into Microsoft Dynamics and data analytics to improve its knowledge of, and relationship with, customers.
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