The Future of CRM: Devices, Data, Touchpoints, Apps—and Analytics

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We’re in a critical moment for customer relationship management solutions. The reality is that these systems are all too often plagued with dirty data. Analysts in the software business have recently reported CRM data duplication rates as high as 40%, leading to millions in wasted marketing dollars.

Also, consider the shift we’re seeing away from the cookie, at last, and long predicted. There’s even a term for users whom cookies can’t follow: the unreachables

These factors, and others, have significant implications for marketers and advertisers. The good news is this: In a mobile-only world, better CRM solutions are as close as the smartphones in our pockets. At the core of every mobile user’s hardware, there is an anonymized mobile device identifier at work. With that in mind, let’s look at what the mobile device ID can do to reshape CRM and at how it points to the future of better consumer experiences.

The Future of CRM

Let’s start with a question: What is a mobile device ID?

Our friends at TechTarget usually have good answers on these matters, and this how they define it: A device ID is a distinctive number associated with a smartphone or similar handheld device.

That’s not a serial number, mind you. The mobile device ID is a software identifier that’s linked directly to an individual and is thus privacy-compliant when carefully matched to permission-based personally identifiable data. Also, device IDs can connect online to offline data seamlessly. That’s a key advantage as well, driven by the facts that our mobile devices are central to almost all of our online brand interactions and that they accompany us everywhere.

Now, on to what this technology can do for brands.

There are five major steps that brands can take once they have device IDs in the mix and they’ve matched those IDs to CRM records. Each of the following approaches supports best-case customer relationship management systems for marketers and advertisers, and each step takes us further into the future of positive, personalized consumer experiences.

  • Build out your brand’s device graph. The mobile device ID opens the door to direct matching—meaning, take the organization’s database of permissions-based personally identifiable information and tie each instance back to the device ID. This unlocks massive gains when it comes to targeting and measurement.
  • Layer on location data and behavior. The path leads to better understandings of where customers go over time, how they react to digital experiences, and what roles recently visited locations play: the brand’s stores, competitors’ stores, etc. All these factors help indicate and forecast in-market browsing and readiness to purchase, a crucial insight that every advertiser craves.
  • Revise in-app messaging based on device ID data. How we reach consumers makes all the difference. Longitudinal and real-time data collected at the device ID level allows a brand to message within its own app, and a retailer can also use in-store signals from beacons and other sensors to further improve messaging, as well as to fuel insights and measurement. Device IDs are a conduit to better communication at various levels.
  • Activate directly against devices across CRM touchpoints. With data collected at the device level, matched to PII, and layered with location and behavior, the mobile device ID is now informing messaging across any CRM touchpoint. It’s not just store-visit experiences but also key windows of browsing and shopping elsewhere. This also concerns lateral moments like commute-time and how advertisers might message consumers throughout their daily routines.
  • Fuel internal models. The fifth step in this sequence is to prospect using lookalike modeling. When we feed device-ID-driven data into other models and machine-learning processes, we drive even more optimization and performance for the CRM program.

Finally, here’s where an abundance of caution meets enthusiasm and ambition. Personalization is the goal, but there’s a limit to how much we should—and can—personalize the messages we deliver via device-ID tech. Remember that relevance and timeliness are key, but with the great power of the device ID, we also accept the great responsibility of making the digital world a better place and not an ecosystem full of intrusions! Bottom line, design campaigns and messaging with consumers’ well-being in mind.

Implementation: The Right Questions to Ask About Mobile Device IDs

Outcomes are one thing. Implementation is another. The mobile device ID future is a partnership-based place, and there are some steps and approaches brands can take to identify the best partners to bring this technology into their mix.

  • Dynamics and system quality. Remember to be expansive enough in the menu of services you ask a given partner to provide. Having a device-graph partner alone may not be enough, for example. Even a CRM on-boarder might be too limited: While these can generate scale, simply associating PII with online identifiers is often a black-box experience, creating thorny questions around which matches are deterministic versus probabilistic and also around accuracy. 
  • Additional signal capacity. Look for dedicated mobile partners that can own the collection of device IDs and associated permissions, removing doubt and lightening the technology and implementation load. A strong partner is also able to add in signals beyond just the device identifier itself—location, app usage, and the like.
  • Beyond the database. Look for a partner who can add in other device IDs, bringing in data that the brand doesn’t have already, and then the partner must have the capacity to match these new IDs to known customers who do not have that brand’s app installed. This provides fresh waters for prospecting and broader media targeting.

We market and advertise in an era of unparalleled opportunities around personalization, accuracy, and creative approaches to the underlying action of activating smart, discerning customers with digital ads. The mobile device ID is the tool we need to build on this opportunity, and, luckily, it’s the tool we already have in hand. So, let’s get down to building better CRM, one ID-to-device match at a time.

Tim Gough is VP, Insights and Analytics, at Verve. He has spent his entire career making sense of data, whether consulting with senior commercial stakeholders or working with technical and engineering teams to build products and custom analytics. Prior to Verve, Gough was VP of Media Solution at dunnhumby, where he spent a decade leading an insights team responsible for the delivery of media targeting and effectiveness.