Since 2000, we all have seen a parade of technology emerging, which includes mobile technology, browser-based cloud computing, social media, workflow management, journey mapping, Big Data, IoT, and last but not the least Blockchain.
It is typical that at first there is only a fragile relationship between all these technological innovations and CRM’s original mission, but in most cases, over a short time (often by rethinking) CRM comes into the foray that leverages the technological attributes of these global computing inventions.
Therefore, it is natural; we can always think that the next invention of CRM will be Blockchain technology, which is gradually making its way around the back office.
In the real word, discussing this new(ish) technology called Blockchain, let us first understand that Blockchain is just more than a digital ledger for cryptocurrency.
Nevertheless, before we turn our attention to how Blockchain can be applied in CRM scenario, let us understand the basics of Blockchain technology.
So, what is Blockchain?
The Blockchain is undeniably a resourceful invention, the pet project of a person, or a group known by the ‘nom de plume’ Satoshi Nakamoto, which allows information in its digital form to be distributed without being copied to create a novel moral fiber of a new type of internet. Of which, the tech community is presently finding other potentials uses of this technology, like in CRM.
Therefore, Blockchain can also be described as an approach to data management that allows incongruent organizations, where none has an absolute control of the data, to trace data through a lengthy process that connects to multiple computer systems, which are owned by dissimilar parties, whose requirements and goals can vastly differ from each other.
To know more on Blockchain there are several online links, which provides a Blockchain Demo, for people who want to see how this technology works in real time.
What are the advantages of the Blockchain?
The greatest advantage of Blockchain technology is that it is public; hence, every single participant can see the transactions and blocks stored in them. However, it does not signify that all can see the actual transaction content, which is protected by a private key. In other words, there is a big amount of trust involved in the Blockchain process as all the network participants rely on a consensus to accept the transactions. What makes it even more secured is that in Blockchain the database can only be extended but previous records could not be altered by the participants.
There are two main types of Blockchain- public and the private.
While with a ‘Public Blockchain’ anyone can read and write data (like with Bitcoin), with ‘Private Blockchain’, all participants are known and trusted and so it is useful between organizations that belong to the same legal mother entity.
This decentralized approach of Blockchain technology not only reduce single failure point, but it also helps in building a more resilient ecosystem for data to reside (using cryptographic algorithms) to make consumer data more private that provides the silver bullet for blocking the missing link for settling privacy, scalability, and reliability in platforms like CRM and others.
Important Use Cases of Blockchain Technology
Blockchain can be useful, on anything where you require an accurate record. Right from tallying votes to recording a proof of concept, Blockchain technology can be used anywhere when you need a proper ledger or an accurate description of events. The uniqueness of using this technological bonanza is that instead of having a centralized source needed for controlling and tracking the flow of information, all communications and records are agreed upon through a consensus of all nodes in the Blockchain network.
Here are 6 important case uses of Blockchain Technology:
•Supply Chain Logistics
Blockchain Technology is ideal for tasks such as tracking of goods as they change hands and move in the supply chain. Blockchain is a technology that opens up a multitude of alternatives for companies shipping these goods. The data entered on a Blockchain can be used for the purpose of lining up events upon arrival of goods in conjunction with a supply-chain management system.
As moving containers most often involves several different parties, which include carriers, terminals, haulers, forwarders, shippers, drivers and more, this process results in hundreds of interactions between the parties, conducted through a mix of phone, fax, and emails.
Blockchain technology provides a dynamic and new means of organizing tracking data and putting it to use.
One of the primary challenges that medical institutions face with regard to their patient is the dearth of a secured platform, which is capable of storing and sharing data owing to the ongoing usage of outdated infrastructure and legacy systems.
Blockchain is a technology that can allow hospitals to safely store patient and medical records and also share them with selected authorized medical researchers, pharmacists, practitioners, and patients, which in turn can help with the speed of diagnosis and accuracy.
Apart from this, medical devices and pharmacy records can also be linked to a person’s health records with the help of Blockchain. Prescribed drugs purchased from pharmacies can be appended on the patient’s records, so that there is an unambiguous medical history of a patient, which can help in new drug trial analysis, without disclosing the identity of the patient.
It has been observed that in the real estate industry most of the homeowners sell their properties every 7-10 years and move to new locations several times in their life. To find authentic information regarding property lines, covenants, easements, CC&Rs (Conditions and Restrictions), agreements, resolutions, and ordinances is generally a laborious and time-consuming process, in which it is easy to miss important information as well the tendency to tamper with it.
Blockchain technology can easily solve these age-old problems and help real estate owners to expedite home sale by quickly verifying finances, which can reduce fraudulent transactions, thanks to the encryption process used by Blockchain that can offer transparency throughout the selling and purchasing processes.
The last US election 2016 was not the only example where certain political parties were impeached of manipulating election results. Democracies spread all across the globe have sometimes undergone some sort of election meddling, either with votes miscounting, election booth rigging, fraudulent and fake identities used for the purpose of gaining extra votes, electoral voting system hacking and others.
Integrating Blockchain technology in the voting mechanism will provide the very essence of a democratic government by reducing fault tolerance, as every node will access the same results and votes once submitted cannot be altered, as every vote can be traced to its source, maintaining the voter’s anonymity. Therefore, Blockchain technology is capable of providing an end-to-end solution for a verifiable voting system, whereby even if a ballot is modified or found missing, it can be detected by any voter from any location before the end of the electoral process.
Blockchain used for government electoral process will not only provide a certifiable voting audit trail, but it will also ensure that none of the votes are removed, changed or fraudulent votes are added to the ballots, guaranteeing a proper election.
•Charities and Non-Profit Organizations
One of the biggest complaints around various NPOs and charities revolves around their corruption and inefficiency. As there is no proper trace of how the money being donated was used or if it has been redirected away from the people who actually need it, due to inappropriate data sharing of funds donated has created negative public trust in charitable organizations, all across the globe.
Using Blockchain technology, donations can be tracked at every stage, which could help these organizations to manage their financial resources and distribute their funds more efficiently since fund collection and distribution data cannot be tampered or altered by using Blockchain’s enhanced tracking capabilities.
•Blockchain as a Service (BaaS)
Many enterprise software-vending companies like Microsoft Azure, IBM, Deloitte, Amazon Web Services, and others have already announced or are in a process of announcing BaaS offerings, by which customers can leverage Blockchain in a Cloud environment.
With the advent of the IoT (Internet of Things) era, governments, institutions, individuals, and businesses are now collecting data from almost any device that are connected to the internet. However, all these data needs to be organized in a scalable, reliable and secure database. Blockchain-based enterprise software will offer just that solution by creating a database that is completely transparent, secured and can be distributed to their respective business models.
With the current, and ongoing craze in cryptocurrencies like BitCoin, Electroneum, KodakCoin, Ethereum, and others, cryptocurrency startups can bypass the rigorous and regulated capital rising processes while providing ICO(Initial Coin Offering) by integrating BaaS technology in their businesses.
According to Don Tapscott, who is a name and an authority in the social and economic impact of technology:
With this global peer-to-peer platform for identity, reputation, and transactions, we will be able to re-engineer deep structures of the firm for innovation and shared value creation. How about these billions of connected smart things that will be sensing, responding, sharing data, generating and trading their own electricity, protecting our environment, managing our homes and our health? And this Internet of Everything will need a Ledger of Everything (i.e. Blockchain).
Blockchain and CRM
As an indicator of the public ledger acceptance, Bitcoin is probably the most popular and mainstream use of Blockchain, but as CRM users often have to remain contended with inaccurate and duplicate customer data, Blockchain can enable a Customer to own one block that exhibits an accurate and unified picture of the customer’s personal information, transactions, and other necessary data. With the help of this block organization using a CRM that has invested in Blockchain technology will never have to worry about bad or repeat data which most often than not hampers marketing, sales, and support related activities.
Blockchain will not only provide a greater 360-degree view of the current state of your Customers but CRM with Blockchain will also give a granular view of the demands of your customers, providing a competitive advantage over your competitors. Just like the commercial potential of Blockchain will enable customers to have a greater peace of mind while making purchases on the Web.
Hence, use of Blockchain in CRM would not only accelerate data aggregation but also would definitely improve insights and help organizations to offer more personalized and accurate offers for their Customers.
Apart from this, even loyalties and rewards programs can be appended to these secure blocks.
Although there is always, a risk involved with cryptocurrency as no government agency has a control on these digital wallets and the same can be used for nefarious purposes, but organizations can make legitimate use of digital currency in a slightly different format and one of such usage can be in the CRM space.
The concept of loyalty points has been there for decades, but presently the use of rewards and loyalty points is limited to few merchandisers, which using Blockchain technology can be spread among a vast group of merchants using loyalty points as a digital currency with the widespread use of this technology.
Therefore using Blockchain technology, vendors can easily create secured digital contracts to use loyalty points gathered by their customers and sell their services by making these contracts available to a multitude of vendors across the globe.
Benefits to the Brands
By using Blockchain technology brands will no longer have to engage with other brands to improve the attractiveness and usability of their loyalty programs. For example, the loyalty points on your Visa Card can only be redeemed with the merchants who are participating in the program. However, if these loyalty points can be used as a digital currency, brands will not have to entertain multiple engagements, but instead of that, they can sign a digital contract to use loyalty points as a digital currency to sell their goods and services. Therefore, they can instead focus on their core business area to earn a share of the customer’s digital wallet. Moreover, brands can also learn from the traceable journey of reward points to gain additional market insights.
Benefits to the Customers
Loyalty points will become more useful and hence attractive to the customers and this will definitely help increase the redemption of these points. In addition, control of the experience of using these points will remain with the users instead of the brands. Hence, brands will compete with each other for the share of the consumer’s digital wallet and so would provide better deals to their customers. Using Blockchain technology, these loyalty points can also be transferred among peers who are there within the Blockchain’s network.
There will be greater transparency and accountability due to the implementation of the digital contract, which is safe and secured. The traceability factor of the reward points from its point of origin to the last mile can be used for advanced data analytics, which will help in customer retentions by the brands participating in the use of Blockchain in the CRM space.
To summarize here are some of the compelling use cases of Blockchain and CRM, which includes:
1. Greater 360-degree view of the current state of your customers.
2. Customer loyalty and rewards management.
3. Decentralized yet connected community service based updated Contact database.
4. Customer wallet for managing multiple membership programs.
Why should marketers take Blockchain Technology seriously?
Blockchain is not an upcoming idea or a theme that has been universally hyped by the technology industry. It is a reality.
Research done by Deloitte in 2016 show that:
• More than a billion USD in venture capital investments has been funded to more than 120 Blockchain startups, with half of this amount being invested in the last 12 months.
• More than 30 of the world largest banking organizations have joined in a consortium with the vision of building Blockchain solutions for their operational ease.
• Nasdaq is piloting a project, whereby Nasdaq wants to create a Blockchain-powered private market Nasdaq’s ‘Linq’for stock and commodity exchange.
• Microsoft has already launched a cloud-based BaaS (Blockchain as a Service)
• Blockchain prototypes, concepts, and investments are fast emerging in every major industry across the global boundaries.
Due to the P2P (Peer-to-Peer) nature of Blockchain technology all these opportunities are utterly customer-centric and so it will deliver genuine engagements for the brands those who are prepared to invest in long-term customer engagements and loyalty.
BlockChain is a reality now; how and where we find the early adopters are yet to be seen but should be in the open very soon. This technology stack coupled with business use cases would slowly streamline many industries and make it simple and convenient to share and exchange information or services.
AUTHOR: Manash Chaudhuri