Conceptually, selling something online should be easy. You set up a basic landing page, list some items you have for sale and put a price next to an image. People can find your items via a search engine, word of mouth, email, social media, or another marketing channel that points them to your page.
They buy, you send, and that's that. Ecommerce was like this in the beginning, perhaps, but it has since sprouted new extremities, grown, and morphed into an almost unrecognizable industry. Much of what ecommerce has become is due to its competition with a starkly contrasting business model: brick-and-mortar.
After years of evolution, ecommerce is now capable of making individuals the center of their own online business, with all the departments of a physical corporate entity. Payment software and services make it easier to take multiple credit cards and currencies, on-site customizing options like NikeID keep people's attention and encourage creativity, and new camera VR technology even lets them "try on" clothes or see what that chair looks like in their room before buying. Along with these new functions comes the need to get organized, especially when one's store turns into a high-volume destination.
Keeping track of customers, accounts, contact information, leads and more is crucial to success. These tools allow one to exercise more control and profit considerably, but require an investment of time and money.
One tool to rule them all
A growing business requires more input with each progressive step upwards. While business development and sales are primary, soon customer service, accounting and marketing will be required to keep the pace. For the sales team, it's possible to keep track of incoming opportunities on a spreadsheet, and this might be an organized way of staying up-to-date. However, this method requires constant upkeep and is often fraught with transparency issues. How can a manager know if there is a problem in the leads pipeline if the tool that tracks these leads isn't accessible?
Apart from picking up the phone or emailing every lead individually, how does a marketer efficiently transfer the hottest leads to an available, qualified salesperson? This rudimentary method can also lead to higher costs if orders slip through cracks, or if items aren't delivered properly. As the number of clients and moving parts grow, sticking to basic methods of tracking data can create more overheads than they resolve.
Another issue might lay with the notion of audience targeting: a business that knows its base very well isn't necessarily the best positioned for capturing a new audience, even if they're already buying products. Focus targeting a segment of customers that you don't know anything about is a difficult endeavor, and you can easily waste resources by creating ineffective marketing plans, advertisements, and other assets.
Finally, when a new salesperson takes over, it takes a significant amount of time to get situated. During this warmup period, leads are often lost. While it may not be due to negligence, losing potential sales because one doesn't have an inclusive system hurts the bottom line. Thankfully, for all the issues described above (and many more), the modern CRM system has emerged to help online businesses avoid the high overhead, wasted time, missed opportunities and general messiness that accrues as they mature.
Manager of relationships
There are sales managers, marketing directors, development leads and countless other authority positions in a business, but have you ever heard someone referred to as the "Manager of Relationships"? Unlikely. It's an odd and ambiguous name, but Customer Relationship Manager is exactly what a CRM platform is. As the tendrils of online businesses grew outwards and quickly became unmanageable, smart platforms like HubSpot's CRM came into existence to help managers rein in their loose ends.
A CRM platform like HubSpot is the ultimate tool for organizing an ecommerce business's most key flows. A sales manager with administrator's access to their CRM platform, for example, can analyze the past and present activity of all the salespeople under their purview, monitor lead conversion, and dig into the data to find gaps in coverage. Marketing managers can track key performance indicators in their messaging to customers, and adjust accordingly.
Ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce, which offers some key features to B2B merchants, are capable of automatically segmenting customers into dynamic, smart groups for later tracking and personalized messaging. Marketers that use add-ons from the BigCommerce app marketplace, or cross-platform data push connectors like Zapier, can even ensure that their CRMs are displaying the latest information about their various buyer cohorts.
Automation is a vital component for marketing through CRM. The best platforms allow complicated webs of if/then email chains to be sent, based on conditions and customer behavior like "abandoned the cart after 20 seconds," or "incomplete form fill," which can catch those who intended to buy but just forgot. With just a few dedicated, data-driven employees, one can create an entire automated multimedia campaign and let it run.
It's easy to see the end goal of a CRM platform: to increase the per-capita amount of efficiency in the whole company. In a competitive environment like ecommerce, these tools grant an edge that is hard to replicate elsewhere, and are considered necessary if you want to build a real ecommerce empire.