Recession Bound, Retailers Could Learn A Lesson Or Two From CRM

Some of the big news in the business press this morning circled around retailers reporting weak September sales as consumers tighten up their wallets amid worries about the security of their financial future.

Recession, positive cash flow and CRM aren’t terms that have traditionally mixed well. CRM and customer-focused market strategies are typically the last thoughts to enter a CEO’s mind during times such as these, but in all my years of working within this industry, I’ve come across plenty of examples of how CRM can be leveraged to help weather the storm.

For instance, a competitor’s struggles are another’s gain, and taking advantage of market opportunities in the process. Just today in the Wall Street Journal there was an example of a small manufacturer snatching up competitors customers by securing workers, machinery, warehouse and other capital to support larger customer bases and increase market share. Another is retailers purchasing excess inventory from a struggling competitor and reselling it via promotions and discounts, and opening their doors into a new base of pleasantly-surprised consumers in the process.

I’ve also seen similar strategies applied in terms cutting costs by consolidating customer-facing departments. Some retailers have saved money and improved customer service by merging buying and marketing operations for stores and online sales by aligning merchandising for direct channels (such as Internet and catalog) with their brick and mortar shops. It’s a perfect example of businesses that have identified the need to cut costs and refine the customer experience by merging two channels and making it more convenient and cost-effective to do business, both for the consumer and the retailer, all the while keeping customer satisfaction top-of-mind.

While I’m not suggesting that CRM would be the end-all, be-all way to financially flourish during a downtrodden economy, targeting new consumer bases via new marketing strategies and taking advantage of market opportunities is certainly a good way to help weather the storm.