Customer Relationships on the Web are Broken (Why CRM May be the Answer)

The relationship between web and mobile apps and their users should be fundamentally different than traditional customer relationships in two ways:

  • Companies can see how customers are using their product at all times
  • They are getting paid continually over time – either via a subscription, ongoing purchases or ad revenue

In theory, this should make for an extremely satisfying customer relationship – companies are strongly incentivized to make users happy (because financial gain is directly related to how long customers stick around) AND companies have an abundance of data to help make customers happy.

The Reality of how Customers are treated on the Web

However, in reality, this relationship doesn’t play out as well as it could. Instead, we’ve defaulted to a world where, despite knowing exactly what each individual is doing, we treat nearly everyone the same. This problem has a few direct outcomes:

  1. Lots of people get lost between sign-up and becoming real “users”.  Whether they get stuck or distracted, too often there is no re-engagement by companies to bring people back afterwards.
  2. A huge number of features go undiscovered and unused. Because feature marketing is rarely tailored based on user needs or past behavior, it’s both less effective and plays to the lowest common denominator.
  3. Non-product user experience is poor. The majority of communications I get from web apps I use aren’t particularly helpful or communications are just generally non-existent.

Overall, businesses and customers have weaker relationships on the web. While we don’t want all of our relationships to be personal, may of the richest relationships we have with businesses are. The way customers are treated in Apple’s retail stores is a great example.

Why is Everyone treated the Same? 

I’d propose two challenges to building strong customer relationships on the web via personalization (in addition to the lack of face to face interaction):

  1. Most web companies don’t actually have an easy way to see what a given person has done. Most of the tools we have to collect data on our users (Google Analytics, In-house systems, Mixpanel, KISSMetrics, etc) are focused on high level experience changes (funnel optimization, site redesign, etc) rather than on an individual’s actions. Furthermore, these systems aren’t linked to the other sources of customer info (email services, help desks, etc). Want to understand who’s in day 7 of a trial, hasn’t used feature Y, and also has been ignoring the emails you send? You’ll be cobbling together different systems and combining everything in Excel.
  2. Taking personalized action requires too much complexity and work. Even if we could easily understand a complete customer profile, we need to translate that knowledge into action. To do this, we need to be able to figure out want we want to do to each customer at each stage in their lifecycle, based on what they’ve done, and then automatically reach out.

Why CRM for the Web might be the Answer

If you are building a web app and really nail a way to build strong and happy customer relationships through personalization, you have a unique advantage over other companies. Whether you build personalization into your product or into your other customer interactions (emails, support,  etc), the challenge is providing a personal user experience without drowning in money and time investment.

While there are plenty of ways to go about solving this problem for your business, this challenge is why we’ve built Klaviyo – to help you build stronger and happier customer relationships that are good for everyone involved. We think most current CRM systems do a great job of managing the sales-cycle – but generally don’t focus on helping you truly manage relationships with existing customers. If your product is online, the idea of a real “customer relationship management” system that doesn’t capture usage data just doesn’t make sense.

CRM for the web must be different – less data entry, more integration with other data sources, and a tight link with tools that can take action.

Leave your thoughts below and give Klaviyo a shot to see how we can help your business.


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