The wide spread growth of business which consists of several functionalities lead to the invention of Enterprise resource planning system with better customer management system.. Also the increased use of computers and internet has encouraged many organizations to do business online. Most of the businesses try to interact with their potential and existing customers through internet via opinions on blogs, online discussion forums, and consumer product review websites. Any organization with a close consumer base like the should think how to use web 2.0 applications to enhance the business. Especially the large retail companies with large customer base should use the latest technologies like web 2.0 to be competitive and to provide better customer service.
Currently many large retail organizations like many large-scale supermarkets have managed to incorporate Enterprise resource planning in to their business. Further, the customer management plays a very critical role on the success of those businesses. The organizations, which are providing excellent customer service, have better competitive advantage over the others who do similar businesses.
A brief introduction about Enterprise Resource Planning, Customer service management and Web 2.0 will help the readers to understand the research better. Firstly, ERP, which is an abbreviation for Enterprise Resource Planning, which is basically an “integration of business management practices and modern technology”. Information Technology (IT) is integrated with the other business processes such as Human resources, Finance etc in order to achieve the business objectives of the company. ERP consists of three most important components; Business Management Practices, Information Technology and Specific Business Objectives. Moreover, it is a huge software architecture, which helps to integrate information of the functional units of large businesses that are geographically scattered. .
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Customer management system aimed at improving the relationship between enterprises and customers. Many companies, to learn more about the customer needs and behaviors in order to build a strong relationship with them. This process also help those companies to gather information about customers, sales, marketing effectiveness, responsiveness and market trends which will help them to be competitive in their businesses.
This dissertation will critically analyse the impact of Customer Relationship Management in ASDA and to analyse the ways in which it can be successfully used to gain competitive advantage. The answer is sought through a comprehensive analysis of the retail companies such as large supermarkets that uses Information Technology and engaged in Customer Relationship Management to improve their businesses. . Further, Expert opinions in regard to this subject, through interviews and questionnaires, will be sought from those companies to suggest new ways to enhance the business opportunities by mitigating the potential risk with the use of these systems.
Based on the research done on current IT field, I found that web 2.0 is very popular between everyone. And to relate it to more practical scenario, I decided to do a research on how this can be successfully put in to practice for the improvement of information sharing. Further, customer Management, which plays a key role in those companies and to find a better method to improve the customer Management through the information sharing with the new technology like web 2.0.
The following research problems and questions can be used to analyze this problem to find an effective way to solve the problems.
What are the important aspects of Customer Relationship Management in a retail outlet and how Information Technology can be used to enhance its functionality?
(Enterprise resource planning systems and the use of web 2.0 for information sharing)
What is CRM and what it means to retail organizations? The use of Information Technology in a retail outlet?
Opportunities and risks of web 2.0 to a retail organization and the ways in which it can be handled to gain completive advantage over other competitors?
How can retail organisation like ASDA, can incorporate information technology in to the business to improve its customer relationship management?
The CRM models that can guide to build successful leading retail businesses.
Aims and Objective
Based on the research done on the retail outlet such as ASDA were customer relationship management plays a key role in its survival. With the current technological advancement the Information technology plays a key role. With such requirements, I found that web 2.0 is very popular between everyone. And to relate it to more practical scenario, I decided to do a research on how this can be successfully put in to practice for the improvement of information sharing. Further, customer Management, which plays a key role in those companies and to find a better method to improve the customer Management through the information sharing with the new technology like web 2.0.
And also in this internet age everything done via web applications and therefore the Web 2.0 plays a key role in the future development of Business like retail outlets were customer uses internet to buy goods and services.
The related research is structured in the following way:
As a primary step of the thesis undertaken, I would like to focus on the literature review to undergo a thorough study in the field of CRM to find out the risks and opportunities exist for an organization to adopt these popular tools to the improvement and productivity of the business.
As a secondary step, with the knowledge gained from these studies, the survey is to be carried out in two phases.
In the first phase of the survey involve designing and distributing survey questionnaires among the friends and colleges who works or shops at a retail outlet like ASDA with in UK .
As a second phase of the survey involve follow up interviews with the respondents to gather further information in the relevant areas which are covered in the questionnaires.
At the end the data collected through these phases are analysed to come up with some suggestions that can help the organization to attain benefits through IT.
It is a tool developed by Henry Gantt in 1917, to provide a simple visual representation of the task or activities that make up a research project. In this the research time scale can be divided into sub stages and each main activity can be scheduled according a time limit.
The time we estimated each task is represented by the length of an associated horizontal bar, whilst the task’s start and finish times are represented on the tile line.(Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis, Adrian Thornhill, 2009)
(Refer Appendix -1 -Dissertation schedule)
2.1 Introduction about CRM.
Wikipedia defines Customer relationship management (CRM) as a “broadly recognized, widely-implemented strategy for managing and nurturing a company’s interactions with clients and sales prospects” (Wiki, 2010). CRM uses the technology is used to organize and automate business processes such as sales activities, marketing, customer service and technical support. But the ultimate goal of CRM is attract new clients, keep the existing clients happy and save cost in marketing and customer service. Many organizations build their own databases that describe about customer and their relationship with the organization that enable the management and sales people to offer products and services that suits the customer expectations.
Generally the application architecture of the CRM has three important parts namely operational CRM, Analytical CRM and collaborative CRM. Operational CRM is to handle the front office business processes including customer service, marketing and sales, whereas the analytical CRM focus on analysing the customer segments based on the data collected within Operational CRM. Finally the collaborative CRM help the organization to interact with customers using all the available channels to find solution that bring all the entities together in order for the company to provide better service to its customers.
The new technology inventions and the use of internet have brought new ways of doing business. The company’s future success and its profitability is heavily depends on how that company treats its customers, that is why many companies including retailers invest heavily on improving the ways of doing business to improve customer satisfaction. Firms develop strategies and technologies for implementing better customer service management to be profitable in the current intensive and dynamic market environment (Pani and Venugopal, 2008).
There are many current IT developments in the retail sector that can help the retailers to gain competitive advantage over its competitors. Following IT systems such as Self checkout systems, new multimedia displays, electronic shelf labelling, and fraud detection systems,
U-Scan (the worlds widely used self checkout systems), Loss prevention software and Corema (helping retailers to create deliver and track loyalty programs and targeted offers and promotions) are used by many retailers to gain customer satisfaction. Further, the emerging technology like intelligent agents can be used as a tool to achieve e-CRM in internet.
2.2 Evaluation of Digital Media
The rise of the internet in 90’s created a new mechanism to distribute information among people. In the PC era the physical data is stored in digital form in to CDs and flash drives but, with the wide use of internet the “web 2.0 ” technology emerged to enable two way , many to many communication via internet in the form of feedback, ideas, reviews and recommendations which encourages the participation of the interested parties.
The following four developments are the crucial milestones that the internet media has gone through in the past decade. The primary development can be stated as the development of website communities that can be considered as an originator of the current time wikis and blogs, which is followed by the introduction of rich site summery (RSS) which is used to manage the frequently updated contents. The next milestone of this development process was the introduction of search engine marketing where the advertisement is returned just in time. The Google’s Ad Words is one such example of this which helps many small businesses to reach many new customers. The final developments was the introduction of behavioural targeting which creates a profile based on the user history and other information to target the customers according to their preferences. (Shih,2009)
2.3 Web 2.0
The web communication technology field has emerged through different innovations. The latest revolution in this field is called “Web 2.0 “. It was considered as the first phase of web evolution. This concept was first identified during a conference brainstorming session between O’Reilly and MediaLive International. Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard defined boundary therefore, It can be simply described as “a set of principles and practices that tie together a veritable solar system of sites that demonstrate some or all of those principles, at a varying distance from that core” (O Reilly,2005).
Finding a common definition for web 2.0 was a tedious task for the researchers. Therefore , we can come to a common understanding by analysing the definitions that are given by different researchers in this field.
According to Tim O’Reilly:
“Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them”.
Former Vice President of Product Management at Google Adam Bosworth describes Web 2.0 as “rich intelligent clients who share information across the web and deal with richer media (photos, sound, video)”.
Although different people have different opinion about web 2.0, all of them agree that it is a better we communication platform which has the ability to harness collective intelligence, enhance the user participation and collaboration. Therefore, we all agree on the fact that it brings new cutting edge opportunity for the overall users.
The second phase of the web evolution is emerging and it is called “Web3.0 “. During Web 1.0 era the contents are purely created by the producers for the users to share among them. But during the Web 2.0 the users have given the chance to participate equally in the content creation. Finally the Web 3.0 has brought the users more closely to the machines so that both the producers and users can create more interactive dynamic contents. Users and developers define Web 3.0 as “personalization of the Web”. The primary target of web 3.0 is connecting different set of data that is produced by different people in different places so that the limitations that exist in Web 2.0 can be eliminated to improve the benefits that it bring to the users (Pattal et al,2009) .
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2.3.1 Characteristics of Web 2.0
Web 2.0 has created a new revolution in the field of internet technology. But still there is a big confusion exist among the experts about the nature of web 2.0. Some have the opinion that there is no significant different between web 1.0 and web 2.0 but, others believe that it is a unique and revolutionary thing. By looking at the characteristics of this technology one can agree that it is different from other technologies that are existed before.
Let us look at the key characteristics which clearly differentiate web 2.0 services from earlier technologies :(Chaffey, 2009)
Network as platform: Unlike web 1.0, the web 2.0 has the ability to run the software application through the browsers with out installing it locally. Here the network act as a platform which host those applications.
Rich user experience and open culture: One of the key benefits of web 2.0 is that,, it allow the reuse of the contents that are contributed by the others which encourage the people to share their knowledge to create an open culture .This freedom in knowledge sharing will encourage the user participation that can create a collective intelligence which can be beneficial to the company as well as to the society as a whole.
Always beta: One of the key feature of web 2.0 is a continuous improvement . The services are constantly updated to improve the functionalities that are available in those services.
Scalability: Wiki defines scalability as a “desirable property of a system, a network, or a process, which indicates its ability to either handle growing amounts of work in a graceful manner”. It also a key feature of web 2.0 that make it more efficient than its predecessors.
Tagging: Rather than having to rely on use of formal classification systems (which may not be meaningful to many users) tags can be created by users. The tags, which may also be meaningful to their peers, provide communal ways of accessing Web resources.
Embedding: Many examples of Web 2.0 services allow the content to be embedded in third party Web sites, blogs, etc.
User interactive: Web 2.0 sites uses latest response technologies like AJAX , CSS in their sites which make them more user attractive and the use of these technologies make the website more dynamic which can incorporate more information in a given space.
Simple design: Most of the Web 2.0 applications like social networking sites, photo sharing sites like Flicker etc are focused on single purpose which makes the users to understand the system quickly and the simple design enhance the usability of the system.
2.3.2 Web 2.0 Applications
Web 2.0 contains variety of services and tools that enable the people to learn, communicate , and access information effectively. Here are some of the popular tools and services that are used to facilitate the collaboration among the users(Virkus,2008):
del.icio.us: Users can bookmark their favourite sites and can share that with other users.
RSS: RSS stands for ” really simple syndication” feeds. RSS feed give a typical way of updating the wide range of web users with the list of headlines, notices and the most current information that are updated automatically by the publisher. (Myhill et al, 2009).
Open access repositories: It provides a new way of publishing so that information is available for the large range of interested audience specially it is usefull in assessing research where the researchers need high level of publicity. (Myhill et al, 2009)
Blogs: Herring et al defines the “Blog” as, “frequently modified web pages in which dated entries are listed in reverse chronological order” and he specify that it can create a close connectivity among the bloggers who are linked with each other to comment on each other’s blogs . Also, a blog can function as an online journal which is written by individual or by a group of people , and the people who has the common interest can use the blogs as a tool to share , reflect and debate about this common topic within the community of practice (Baumer et al,2008)
Podcasts and Video blogs:
Geoghegan and Klass define podcasting as “audio content available on the Internet that can be automatically delivered to your computer or MP3 player”. The core of the podcasting is of creating audio or video contents for the audience in order for them to listen to it whenever that is convenient for them. The convenience in acquiring these contents relieve the users from the time spent on searching and downloading, and they can utilize this time on something more beneficial for the company. The most current developments in portable information like the iPod and smart phones have increased the popularity of podcasting among young professionals (Ractham and Zhang, 2006).
The information relevant to any tasks undertaken by the employees is essential for them to complete them successfully. Therefore accessing the information with less effort will motivate the employees to accomplish their task with less cost. Through podcasting the relevant information like latest conferences regarding the current technologies and developments can be made available to the IT professionals, for them to access the task relevant information which will help them complete their tasks more efficiently with no rejection.
2.4 Enterprise 2.0
The enterprise social software is a very important component of enterprise 2.0 also known as ERP 2.0. It is social software that is used by the organizations to manage their internal and external communication. According to Carl Frappaolo and Dan Keldsen the Enterprise 2.0 can be defined as “a system of web-based technologies that provide rapid and agile collaboration, information sharing, emergence and integration capabilities in the extended enterprise”.(Wiki,2009).
Generally the Web 2.0 refers to the technologies that are used to share information via internet, but the term Enterprise 2.0 is a specialized version of Web 2.0 which focus “only on those platforms that companies can buy or build in order to make visible the practices and outputs of their knowledge workers”. The technologies of Enterprise 2.0 such as search, links, authoring, tags and extensions provide an easy usability for the knowledge worker and it consist tools that can the help the knowledge work emerge from the workers which is an essential source for the productivity of the company.( McAfee, 2006).
Over the years the initial novelty stage of Enterprise 2.0 has passed successfully by learning new things lessons through the challenges faced. Now the new practical focus is emerged on creating and managing of business communities, finding ways to deliver measurable business value and learning best ways through collaboration and social software. Many organizations are implementing enterprise 2.0 for their business which includes the components like enterprise social networking, wikis, and social CRM which can bring the potential benefits. (Hinchcliffe, 2009)
Research Design and Methodology
The research can give different meaning to different people. But simply research can be defined as “a process of finding solutions to a problem after a thorough study and analysis of the situational factors”( Sekaran and Bougie, 2003) . Any research can be categorised as academic or business research. The academic research is performed on scholar purpose which is not client oriented whereas, the business research is performed to investigate a specific problems in the work setting which are client oriented.
The business research can be further classified as exploratory, descriptive and casual research based on the purpose of the research. The exploratory research is conducted to find out about any business opportunities, whereas the descriptive research is to describe the characteristics of people, groups, organizations or environments. But the purpose of casual research is to identify the cause and effect relationships. (Zikmund,2010)
3.2 Research process or Research methodology
The research methodology or research process is influenced by the purpose of the research undertaken. Therefore it is very crucial to select an appropriate research process to attain successful results at the completion of the project. The study undertaken here follows a cyclic research process that contains a sequence of highly interrelated activities.
As shown in the below figure, any research is started by selecting a research topic from the subject area related to your degree. Then further information has to be gathered about the topic by searching the literature of previous studies and other sources. Using the information gathered the general interest has to be narrowed down to a particular research problem that can be used to define the research questions.
The next important step in the research process is the research design which starts with the research paradigm which is the framework that guides the research. After designing the research the relevant data should be collected using different data collection methods. According to the research paradigm the collected data should be analysed and presented in the thesis at the end of the research process.
Choose a topic and search the Literature
Review the literature and define the research problem /Research questions
Design the research and write the proposal
Collect the research data
Analyse and interpret the research data
Write the dissertation , thesis or research report
Figure 3.1: Overview of Research process, Source: (Collis and Hussey,2009)
3.3 Research Approach
The research process can be compared to a map, because there is no single right path that can be defined for a journey. The path one wants to take depends on where he wants to go and the resources that are allocated. Accordingly the research process that needs to be followed depends on the research undertaken and the resources and the time allocated to the specific project. (Zikmund, 2010)
3.4 Data collection methods
Data collection methods are an important part of research design. The data that are collected during the research can be categorized as primary and secondary data. Primary data can be collected through the data collection methods like interviews and questionnaires whereas the secondary data can be gathered through books , periodicals ,government publications , media and company annual report. The time and cost can be saved through the use of secondary data but totally rely on the secondary data can have a risk of being obsolete (Sekaran and Bougie, 2010).
Interviewing is one of the popular methods of collecting relevant data of the research undertaken. According to Kahn and Cannel the Interview can be defined as a “discussion between two or more people”. Interviews can be used to collect valid and reliable data which are relevant to the identified research questions and the objectives of the project.
Interviews can be categorized as structured, semi structured or unstructured. Unstructured interviews don’t contain any planned set of questions to be asked from the respondents. This will help to bring out some preliminary issues to the surface. Semi structured interviews are more flexible than the structured ones where the researcher got a theme of questions which can vary from one interview to the other. Finally the structured interviews are formal interviews which have identical standardized questions.
A comprehensive study of CRM, CRM tools, Web2, ERP, and the importance of CRM in a retail outlet were carried through a literature survey. Questionnaire survey and interviews has been selected for the research methodology to conduct the selected research. The data that were collected through the questionnaires and interviews are recorded and the analysed under different criteria. At the end of the project time line, the findings of the research undertaken were presented in the final dissertation.
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