CRM Trends in CPG

Published May 15 2014 by Kelly Logsdon
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For decades, consumer packaged goods brands (CPG) have leveraged Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions to engage with retail trade customers and the end-consumers like you and me. It's not always been an obvious fit; most CRM systems are designed for the hunter-gatherer sales model with a leads-opportunities-orders workflow.

CPG brands are more aligned with the farming sales model built around the Trade Promotion Management (TPM) workflow model. Best-of-breed TPM solution vendors emerged to address the TPM process with stand-alone systems. Brand account teams ended up using several separate systems to manage their retailer and consumer relationships.

Building TPM workflows into CRM

The work-around was to integrate CRM and TPM systems to ease the workload on the account teams. In the 1990's, companies like Siebel Systems and SAP started addressing this issue by building TPM workflows into the CRM platform itself. Today, brands have more CRM options than ever before and more opportunities to realign their CRM platforms with today's business environment.

The 2014 Reader's Choice report on CRM by Consumer Goods Technology1 (CGT) highlights the trends influencing CRM decisions that brands are making. Jon Van Duyne, senior executive advisor for Booz & Company, provided commentary on key trends.

First, with supply and distribution operations nailed down, the investment focus has shifted to the front-office, especially in the mid-tier brands. Having gotten a handle on the supply chain pipeline, these companies are now looking to improve the effectiveness of account and retail teams with better sales and trade promotion tools.

Key considerations in the CRM evaluation process include:


  • How well are TPM with CRM's collaboration functions integrated?
  • Will the ease-of-use keep training costs down and user adoption up?
  • How manageable are the customization costs?

On the other hand, companies with CRM legacy systems, some now over 10 years old, are grappling with replace – upgrade decisions. These older deployments continue to accrue hefty support and maintenance fees and user adoption continues to be a challenge due to design decisions made many years ago.

Managing legacy CRM systems

If the CRM and TPM systems were never integrated, a rip and replace decision is more straight forward, but typically that's not the case. Another option is to keep the legacy systems and provide a new CRM interface system for the field teams' use. In either case, CIO's are keen to avoid long and expensive implementations. The key CRM criteria typically evaluated are:

  • Will the implementation be quick and cost-effective?
  • Do they simplify complex tasks for the users?
  • Can they be easily adapted to evolving business requirements?

Building a mobile workforce

All brands, small or large, are feeling the pressure for more smartphone and tablet access. Our "app" culture at home is spilling into business. Users expect real-time mobile access to CRM/TPM information when in the store, with the buyers, or anytime they are away from their desk.  Email and text message interactions is not enough. Effective employees, and sub-contractors, expect mobile access to any information that can help them make better decisions faster.

And that information includes the explosion of consumer data from social sources, consumer research, and customer service departments have been a gold mine for brands that can integrate these consumer insights into the daily decision workflow. Brands leveraging these tools and data-streams are considering:

  • Centrally provisioned mobile devices or administrating user owned devices (BYOD).
  • Easing data and process access outside the corporate firewall.
  • Integration of customer service activities into the account profile.
  • Deriving, and using, actionable insights from social listing tools.

The shift to modern software, cloud deployments, mobile access, and social consumer insights is redrawing the playing field for brands and technology vendors alike. 

  1. 2014 Readers' Choice: Customer Relationship Management, CGT

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