Marina Voloshina, Head of CRM at METRO Cash & Carry Ukraine, believes that in the next few years the communication between brands and customers will be automated in 99% of cases in the progressive fields. In the interview for AI Conference Kyiv, the expert explains how the interaction between the brand and customers transforms under the influence of new technologies and what has not changed in marketing even over the period of 10 years.
Marina Voloshina has 14 years of experience in customer experience management (CEM) and customer relationship management (CRM). She provided services to telecom operators (Lifecell),bank institutions (Alfa-Bank Ukraine), payment systems (SEB), and well-known companies working in the wellness industry (Yves Rocher and Bottega Verde).
Interviewer: AI Conference Kyiv (AICK).
Respondent: Marina Voloshina (M.V.).
AICK: Cashback is one of the popular loyalty programs now. How do you think, will this customer acquisition technique remain as efficient as it was several years ago?
M.V.: Yes, this customer incentive has the future, as it has characteristics of the so-called gamification: the customer accumulates points and tries to increase the score thanks to purchases. Cashback is real money and this greatly motivates buyers. Besides, cashback is a transparent and comprehensible system – the fact that also facilitates its popularity, as simplicity is always equal to fast adoption.
AICK: Is it worth catering to the minority in your marketing communications if it brings most of the income?
M.V.: Oneshould caterto all customer segments in marketing communications. Proficiency of marketing specialists lies in the correct approach to segmentation. Sometimes one segment can account for less than 1% of your customer base but bring 20% of revenue. Of course, you should cater to this segment.
AICK: For example, Appleand Nikedo not have loyalty programs but this does not influence customer loyalty. Can smaller brands do without loyalty programs and how?
M.V.: The fascinating book The Discipline of Market Leaders by Fred Wiersema and Michael Treacy gives a very clear answer to this question. I read it 10 years ago and day by day, I become convinced in the correctness of the theory proposed by authors. Strong product brands primarily focus on the product, its features, and characteristics. The desire to own a product is the main criterion of loyalty for such brands. If we are talking about new sneakers, the product brand has to incentivize the want to own those particular sneakers, whereas stores have to struggle to make it interesting/beneficial for the customer to buy sneakers at their place. This is the main and principal difference.
AICK: How does a CRM system help to develop the customer base?
M.V.: If we are talking about a CRM system as an IT solution, undoubtedly, due to the correctness of processing and automation of work with big data sets. However, one should not overestimate the role of a CRM system, as it functions using algorithms built by people. And here everything depends on how customer interaction processes are seen by those on whom they depend.
AICK: Please tell us about a case study, where software that automates customer interaction helped to grow sales or brand loyalty.
M.V.: The core idea of CRM is to show customers that the company knows and loves them. We often organize special offers for our customers. For example, thanks to the bill amount or availability of certain items in the bill, we can offer the customer additional benefits – discounts to the next purchase or special offers from our partners. Our systems allow sending such offers in real time. The conversion rate proves that customers love this approach.
AICK: You are involved in the realization of projects related to the development and implementation of sales and service standards. How do you think, is full automation of the interaction between a brand and customers possible in the future?
M.V.: Yes, it is possible and necessary, but of course not 100%. I think that in the next few years this level may reach 99% in the most progressive fields. However, 1% of cases when human interference is needed will always remain. Besides, human resources are growing in cost, and machines are getting smarter. So companies are constrained to shift to electronic ways of customer interaction, as this is the question of economic survival for business than simple sympathy to innovations.
AICK: What would you like to discuss during the roundtable at AI Conference Kyiv?
M.V.: I want to understand the level of the market’s readiness to use AI, as there is still a certain gap in different fields, but many of them are developing rapidly, which is a pleasant surprise.
On June 4, Marina Voloshina will take part in the roundtable at AI Conference Kyiv. Together with other experts – iHub founder Dimitri Podoliev, IoT HUB founder Roman Kravchenko, and moderator Stas Petriv – the speaker will discuss the most efficient ways of developing business with new technologies.
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