The Best CRMs for E-Commerce Are Not CRMs


hand drawn face of Kris Planeta

Not very long ago I tried and compared different CRMs for my client’s online store. After six months of tests, I came to 2 conclusions:

  1. typical CRMs are not a good fit for e-commerce,
  2. there are much better solutions for managing customer relations in e-commerce.

Why CRMs are not good choice for e-commerce

Simply put, CRMs are not a good choice for online stores because their workflow is not suited for e-commerce.

CRMs stick to the typical B2B workflow of lead > prospect > quote > deal in which prospects and deals are handled by designated agents.

In online stores however, customer support agents are only sometimes involved in the purchasing process. And the process itself is much shorter. And looks drastically different!

What is the alternative to CRM for e-commerce?

First, let’s talk about what you really need CRM for – feature wise.

If your requirements are similar to my client’s than you need:

  • a tool that identifies your potential clients and gathers information about them (automatically or manually),
  • a tool that allows you to use this data in your marketing efforts,
  • a tool that provides your customer support agents with this data when they are contacted by potential clients.

And this translates to 3 types of apps:

  1. Apps and systems that do personal tracking 
  2. Support desk app
  3. App connector

These are the apps that you need to handle customer relations in e-commerce like a pro.

Let’s talk a bit about them.

1. Apps that allow you to gather personally identifiable information

When it comes to tracking you probably heard about Google Analytics. It gives you traffic statistics on your site. But this information is not useful if a customer contacts you and wants advice – data from Google Analytics is anonymous.

Instead, you need actionable information about individual visitors of your store

Thankfully, you don’t need any (very) fancy apps to gather this information. You simply need:

  • a live chat app,
  • a professional email marketing service,
  • and a customer database.

Good live chat apps let customer support agents create notes on the people who contact your store (identified by the email addresses they provide in the app).

Next, we have professional email marketing solutions which not only let people subscribe to newsletters (that’s too simple and frankly not very useful) but also track what they do on your site. You can later use this information to send them targeted emails.

Lastly, we have a customer database that does one simple but very important thing – associates customers with orders they made.

Psst. Interestingly, WooCommerce, a system powering ~30% of online stores, does not have a customer database. It only lets you view your user list (no order history info) or single orders (no info on other orders made by the same person).

2. Support desk software

Support desk software is a core of customer service.

If it is well chosen and integrated with other applications (I will get to it later) it can become a powerful tool in winning customers over and providing superb customer service.

But let’s begin with what this support desk software actually is.

At its very basic form, support desk software is a type of an email inbox. After a customer sends you an email, it gets transformed into a ticket and assigned to an agent.

However, this is just the tip of an iceberg.

Professional support desk software usually offers integrations with many apps that extend its functionality (and the information they provide to agents). Typically live chat apps, call center apps and… social media profiles! Sometimes they can also integrate with web-shops to display order history of people who contact you.

3. App connectors

Last but not least we have app connectors. They work simlar to integrations because they too allow different apps to talk to each other and share data.

What is unique about them is the fact that they allow you to configure events which trigger actions in other apps.

But even if you won’t see a need for such triggers, you will still need app connectors because of one simple reason – I haven’t yet found a group of apps that all integrate with one another and share data.

To give you some real-life scenarios, thanks to app connectors:

  • customer order history, live chat conversations and history of email campaign can be made available to your customer support agents in the “desk” app,
  • customers can be tagged in email marketing app straight from the control panel of a customer desk software,
  • a new ticket can be created in a spreadsheet, task manager or a customer desk software every time a product is returned, etc.

App connectors that I use are Integromat and Zapier. They have a bit of a learning curve and require a smidge of technical knowledge, so you are better off hiring someone to configure them for you.

Do you agree?

Do you share my view on CRMs for e-commerce? Do you like my alternative solution? Or maybe you have your own? Please share in the comments section below.

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