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Customer Relatiosnhip Management (CRM)
by Juan C. Dürsteler [message nº 164]

E-commerce is already an established and vigorous reality that suffers from intense competition. Nevertheless, many websites are facing the double challenge of delivering sales critical information to their customers while gathering customer information about their preferences in order to optimise the business. In this short series of articles we'll see how information visualisation brings help with those challenges.
CicloCRM_en.gif (57950 bytes)
The CRM cycle. The arrows show the three basic stages of the cycle whereas the outer ring indicates the operations that can benefit from Information Visualisation.
Source: Adapted from Ganapathy et al. by the author.

Recently I have found out that electronic commerce doubled its transaction volume in Spain during 2004 with a total amount of 890 M€. Although it's only a fraction of the global commerce its relevance is increasing in many countries. 

In order to favour its development it's necessary to find tools that enhance the capabilities of customer relationship management (also known as CRM).

Ganapathy and others propose a framework and a model for the CRM cycle that can be of interest when considering how information visualisation can be of help in this field. 

The model is made up of a cycle with three main stages: 

  • Customer Attraction. This stage intends to attract the customer towards the website in order to expose the client to our online offers. In this part of the cycle the customer must be able to find out about our products or services in an easy and simple way so that he/she can 
    • find easily what he/she is looking for in our site.
    • browse the available product information.

    Here information visualisation can be very useful in order to

    • visualise search results
    • show product relates information as wel as showing the product itself.

  • Customer Acquisition. This stage has the important mission of converting the visitor into a buyer of our products. In order for this to happen the potential customer has to be able to:

    • evaluate the product, when possible visualising it as close as he would do in a traditional shop
    • compare the  product with other similar options.
    • select the product that best fits their needs, eventually purchasing it

    In this case information visualisation could help us by allowing us to do the 

    • online evaluation, comparison and selection by means of visualising suitable comparisons between products of similar features and/or prices.

  • Customer Analysis. In this stage the data gathered about the different actions and transactions preformed by the customers are analysed in different ways with the goal of understanding and better using the customers'

    • buying patterns
    • navigation patterns through the website
    • problems they suffer when trying to find information, products or both.

    In the words of the authors of the article above mentioned for this analysis it is extremely useful the

    • visualization of customer "clicks". Understood as the analysis of online transactions, the comprehension of the customer, their buying preferences, the "hottest" pages and those that don't mean anything to customers.

Next week we'll explore in more detail, including particular examples, the different ways that Ganapathy et al consider information visualisation is contributing to enhancing and making CRM more efficient. 

Ganapathy, S. Ranganathan, C. and Sankaranarayanan, B. Visualization Strategies and Tools for Enhancing Customer Relationship Management. Communications of the ACM Nov 2004/Vol 47 No.11.

Links of this issue:

http://www.e-global.es/modules.php?name=News&file=print&sid=139   Report about the evolution of e-commerce in Spain
http://www.infovis.net/printMag.php?num=164&lang=2#Ganapathy   Visualization Strategies and Tools for Enhancing Customer Relationship Management
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