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Customer Relations Management systems can help jewellers learn everything they need to know to keep customers coming back
Customer Relations Management systems can help jewellers learn everything they need to know to keep customers coming back


Know your customer

In today’s hyper-competitive market, Customer Relations Management systems can help jewellers learn everything they need to know to keep customers coming back. Stuart Braun discovers new ways for stores to create a loyal following.

Australian jewellers are facing two problems in 2011: retail confidence is softening (some might even say melting), while at the same time ever increasing competition is forcing jewellers to diversify and segment their product offerings. The trick is to carve a niche in the first instance, but then hold onto it. The latter demands outstanding client loyalty and repeat custom generated via superior customer relations.

As competitors, and discounters, crowd the local jewellery market, establishing customer loyalty is no easy feat; but the process has been aided by new Customer Relations Management (CRM) strategies and technologies that can tighten the bond between store and customer.

CRM is a client data management tool via which jewellers can establish, grow and enhance relationships with customers – this applies equally to jewellery manufacturers, distributors and retailers – and thus improve their competitive advantage. Barry Urquhart, a business strategist, consumer analyst and managing director of Perth-based Marketing Focus, believes those in the jewellery industry could benefit significantly from such technology. “Regrettably, many jewellery professionals do not know their customers’ needs, wants and values as well as they think they do,” he claims.

So what exactly does CRM technology entail? “CRM is the systematic and integrated retrieval, collection, collation, analysis, monitoring, management and utilisation of invaluable and insightful information,” Urquhart explains. This data can help retailers gain an in-depth understanding of the preferences, buying patterns and satisfaction factors of existing, prospective and past clients.

As discounters continue to flood the Australian market, jewellers must build a strong CRM database of detailed customer information to ensure repeat custom and a “shortening of the purchase cycle,” argues Brian Walker, managing director of The Retail Doctor Group, a Sydney-based consultancy. For a jewellery retailer, such information would include, for example, the life events for which a customer purchases jewellery. “A typical cycle would be engagements, weddings, 21st birthdays and so on,” notes Walker. “A good CRM program would capture and identify customers who are entering into that cycle. Once a jeweller has sold a wedding ring, they would have a note in their CRM system, ‘contact in 10 months’ time for anniversary present range’,” he explains.

From ‘herd to hunter’

The CRM mantra demands that customers, and not just product, lie at the core of any jeweller’s sales strategy. “Customers are changing,” asserts Walker. It is no longer enough for jewellery retailers to simply push product via catalogues and strong seasonal promotions. Customers now want to feel special; with so many buying options, they demand a shopping experience that is tailored to their specific likes and dislikes.

That’s where CRM strategy comes into play, as it can help jewellers gather intimate data on their customers’ tastes, lifestyles and so on. “Understanding the needs and psyche of the consumer has become all too important,” says Walker, adding that retailers have effectively “moved from the herd to the hunter”.

Cameron Marks, MD of prestige Sydney jeweller Percy Marks, has long used CRM to improve customer retention amid increasing competition. “CRM has become a more important part of our business because we know they [the customer] like jewellery, they know they like us, so it’s much easier to talk to them to get them back in again,” he says.

Percy Marks’ CRM system not only contains customer emails, mobile numbers and postal addresses for general mailouts, but a wealth of more specific data: anniversaries, birthdates and so on, down to the date the client first came into the store, and their gemstone preferences. “It has each customer’s history so we can target customers who have been with us for 20 or 30 years,” Marks says. “We make an effort to get as much information as possible and make sure it’s accurate.” He adds that looking after old customers via an accurate CRM can help bring new ones. “We’re always asking: do you have any friends who would like to get mail from us?”

But for Marks, CRM is not only a customer relations tool, but it feeds into the wider stock and sales reporting process. “We use it every day. Our database gives us a record of every single purchase and repair; it shows us the invoices, the manufacturing sheets for each individual sale,” he explains.

CRM solutions

Gathering customer information is one thing; making it pay is quite another. The latest CRM systems can be designed to inspire repeat custom by allowing you to focus on your most important clientele. The key is to target “active customers”, says Jason Boles, business development manager at CRM Logic, a consultancy that customises CRM solutions via the Sugar software platform.

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Boles explains that although CRM is an effective tool for organising customer contacts used in email or mail campaigns, retailers may find that only 20 per cent of customers regularly respond to such promotions. “The key is to concentrate on those 20 per cent,” Boles advises. “The system helps you analyse and use the data to work out who’s a buyer and who’s not. Next time you send a campaign, target these people first.”

Marks has recently devised CRM strategies that similarly target ‘active’ clients. “We’re targeting smaller groups more regularly. We’ll search on something that customers have purchased in the past, like sapphires for example. We inform people on that list that we’re having a talk and an exhibition on sapphires, and would you like to come along?” If past clients do express interest, Marks will let them know of other specialised events that might inspire them.

Despite the obvious benefits of CRM, Walker warns that jewellers will need to put a lot of effort in to reap the rewards. “Typically, some larger scale jewellers would have an employee that looks after CRM, social media, marketing, that drives business into the shops. It’s not just a launch and leave thing – you can do a lot of damage that way.”

Marks admits that maintaining a CRM system worthy of the name can be hard work. “It’s very time-consuming. Every time you see a customer it has to be updated and you have to make sure it’s correct.” When staff are talking to customers, their information needs to be updated; otherwise it won’t work for you.

A good CRM not only helps retailers plan marketing campaigns, but shows exactly how well they are received. “With Sugar you can monitor how effective those campaigns are, and then change your campaign, or add to it, see who’s opted out, who’s forwarded it on, who are your key people,” Boles explains.

And as technology improves, CRM systems are becoming more sophisticated. Sugar, for example, is a ‘cloud’-based application, which means that the software program and the data are all stored online. This allows users to access the CRM remotely from any internet connection, and means there is no need to purchase and maintain costly servers on the business premises.

Andrew Charlton, CRM Solution Architect at Enabling, another trusted provider of CRM solutions for a range of Australian and New Zealand businesses, including jewellers, believes remote access is a boon when it comes to CRM. In his opinion, a “true” CRM system “provides anywhere, anytime access for management or remote users to view key organisational and customer information”.

Most of these dedicated CRM software solutions also allow clients to link their social media data into the system, meaning any ‘click-throughs’ from promotions or campaigns on Twitter and Facebook are saved into the CRM contact data automatically. “The more you put into it the more powerful it gets, the more user-friendly it gets, so it just snowballs,” explains Boles.

However, retailers need to assess what’s best for their business – many of the companies offering CRM programs can provide extensive customisation and set-up advice, and Boles says a jeweller’s incumbent IT staff could easily carry out modifications if necessary. This means jewellery stores should be able to create a system that fits their business perfectly, and adapt it as they grow.

For jewellers looking to take advantage of a more powerful, off-the-shelf CRM system, it’s easy to get set up online, as Charlton explains. “You can have a CRM system up and running together with email and productivity software in under an hour,” he says. All you need is internet access and a credit card and you’re ready to go.

Similarly, Boles says it isn’t necessarily as difficult to switch to a CRM software program as jewellers might think: “Jewellers right now might be trying to manage all their CRM on an excel spreadsheet,” he says, “but we can transfer it over to Sugar from any format”.

Customer loyalty

“CRM is no silver bullet to guaranteed repeat custom or loyalty,” warns Charlton. “It is a platform to facilitate the ongoing process of understanding customers, their needs and how best to serve them.” The rest comes down to good service – something independent jewellers have long been good at.

“I can’t help but be amused by a lot of the technology jargon when in reality CRM is in so many ways just systemising fundamental customer record-keeping skills, and relationship skills,” Walker opines. “Small stores can give that highly personalised service – they’re experts in what they do, incredibly friendly and they’re very trustworthy.”

Strengthen that trust and personal touch with the customer insight CRM can deliver, and jewellers will create a persuasive argument for customers to return again and again.

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