I’m not a lover of TLAs – that’s two- or three-letter acronyms in case you didn’t know.

I’m not a lover of TLAs – that’s two- or three-letter acronyms in case you didn’t know. They get bandied around a bit too frequently, particularly in ecommerce and marketing.

Industry stalwarts often hijack them as a kind of club membership: if you don’t know it, you really don’t belong here.

The one that invariably attracts my attention is CRM, or eCRM. Yes, there are two of them. One stands for customer relationship management and the other, well I’m not actually 100% sure. Electronic customer relationship management, I think.

Whatever you call it, as far as I’m aware, it centres on managing the relationship with your customers. However, in practice there seem to be very few retailers leveraging CRM (or eCRM) to their advantage.

To effectively manage customer relationships you need to know who they are and understand their behaviour, including what they buy, when they buy, how often they buy, and how much they spend.

The upside of this insight is that you can positively influence customer behaviour, with the outcome that they spend more and buy more frequently.

With this in mind, I have to say as an online and store customer of John Lewis, I’m rather perplexed to have recently received a piece of direct mail asking me how often I purchase from its stores or online.

I have been a store customer for decades and, until recently, spent more than £100 a month online. Which tends to suggest that its transactional data isn’t linked to its marketing activity.

I’ve mentioned before that John Lewis sends me emails for women’s beauty products, so no point in going over old ground there. But it’s more evidence of the fact that its data isn’t joined up.

Either that or the people segmenting it don’t know what they’re doing.

I know John Lewis is a fantastic business. Just imagine how profitable it could be if it got around to leveraging customer data effectively.

Or is that what they call ‘big data’? In case you didn’t know, he’s the brother-in-law of CRM and comes from the same school of BS (there I go again with my TLAs).

  • Martin Newman, Chief executive, Practicology