Retail and CRM Continued…Retail as a Greater CRM Bellweather

I was going to comment on Colin’s last post, but being the attention hog that I am, decided to make a new post instead…

I have worked in and around retail for most of my life in various forms. As an employee of retail firms in high school selling overpriced records to teenagers; as a B2B retail journalist; as an analyst working with retail companies trying to find CRM solutions that fit; and finally as a software provider that sells to retailers among other verticals.

One thing I’ve learned is that many retail firms have been hesitant, to put it mildly, to adopt new technologies. Even if the software can give that company an amazing competitive advantage – it is often ignored. It is not out of ignorance, however. Margins are razor thin, and the technology failure horror stories could drive off even the most brazen of retail decision-makers.

There are a few retailers using technology in amazing ways – Wal-Mart is a great example. But their use of technology has created a ton of operating efficiencies and makes logistics look like a well orchestrated ballet – not a cacophony. Less tech spend goes to really promoting CRM initiatives in the traditional sense. And even when it does, retailers are very tight-lipped about telling anyone how they are gaining an edge (which is why you very rarely see major CRM case studies in retail, or a lot of retail logos on the SugarCRM web site, even though SugarCRM has a lot of retail presence, for example…).

Now, if retailers in general actually used technology to truly assess demand, value, etc. in all of their real estate endeavors, they probably would have realized a long time ago that the last boom was highly unsustainable. But, money was being given away cheap, land was plentiful, and everyone else was ramping up and retailers tend to play “me too” more than any other industry.

But to Colin’s main point, I have to emphatically agree. And it is not just with retail. There is so much excess value in our system (and by system I mean the world in general) that I think the world population is about to undergo an amazing and transformative reevaluation.

The end result will be interesting from a CRM perspective. If more and more consumers become smarter, and expect more from those selling to them, vendors have to make a lot of changes. This will usher in an exciting time for anyone touching the CRM space. A lot of companies have moved to a “customer-centric” model, but this time it is not a fire drill. It will be interesting to see how many companies are truly “all about the customers” after the bailouts have all been doled out and the world settles back to a re-assessed and stable mode of life…