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Video: James McQuivey of Forrester Research on Why CRM Is Far From Boring

It's All About a Future Dominated by Digital Giants

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Mention "customer relationship management" and people's eyes often glaze over, Forrester Research VP and Principal Analyst James McQuivey acknowledges. That's because people associate the term with messages stuffing their inboxes or newsfeeds from brands offering discounts or other "experiences" of questionable interest.

"It' s an unfortunate thing that we wasted the term customer relationship management on an era where there wasn't really a relationship to be managed," he said. But that's changing.

Mr. McQuivey foresees a world where marketing is all about relationships of a far broader and more meaningful sort, where virtually every brand will need to use the digital tools at hand -- from smartphones to smart packages -- not so much to deliver messages as to create products and services that meet every conceivable need.

Speaking in an interview after his April 5 presentation at the Ad Age Digital Conference, he said that relentless striving by brands will inevitably lead to "relationship fatigue" -- hence a need for a handful of major players to assemble broad horizontal alliances. Amazon is clearly in the lead here (think of Alexa not so much as a weird talking tube on your table but more the hub of a multifaceted relationship with Uber, Spotify, Dominos and so much more). The likes of Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft are also in the running for a similar role in people's commercial lives.

The relationship battle is already playing out in the laundry room, where Procter & Gamble Co.'s Tide has a popular Amazon Dash button that can go on a Whirlpool washing machine, but Whirlpool is building replenishment at the touch of a button directly into new-generation machines. And it's a battle where Facebook's huge WhatsApp audience or Google's Nest thermostats could also play a crucial role.

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