Onecub offers Internet users a single account, based on their email inbox, as a means of managing all their online registrations and relations with brands.

Will Vendor Relationship Management Supplant CRM?

Is the customer now centre stage in his/her relationships with brands? Well, that’s the way things are going at least. L'Atelier has already flagged Shopilly, a site which uses email to streamline and centralise multi-channel retailer communications across hundreds of brands. It does this by offering a dedicated address which is only used for dialogue between buyers and brands. In the same vein, Onecub a French start-up, has launched a web tool which will enable Internet users to manage their relationships with their online suppliers of goods and services. The site was launched in beta version at the beginning of November. The system structures information received in a user’s email box into various categories: administration, e-commerce, travel, real estate, etc. Olivier Dion, co-founder and CEO of Onecub, told l’Atelier that the idea is “to put the customer back at the centre of information exchanges by giving him/her control over their data”. But the new site is also a reaction to the boom in online services such as e-commerce, which bombards Internet users with a huge number of online messages, giving rise to fears about the security of their personal data. Given this torrent of commercial spam flooding people’s email boxes, a new type of tool is now seeing the light of day. It is based on the concept of Vendor Relationship Management (VRM), the mirror-image of companies’ Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programmes.

Enhancing the email box

These tools help to put the Internet user back in charge of how his/her data is used and shared and enable the user to decide whether or not to authorise any kind of engagement with a supplier. The user can also decide the kind of information s/he is willing to divulge, in relation to each supplier. The Onecub platform enables a user to see all the information relating to his/her online suppliers of goods and services, which Onecub calls ‘partners’, and their services (such as invoices, bookings, orders, etc). When you start to use the service you will first need to classify and label your communication exchanges in the system so it is then able to recognise automatically the type of communication – newsletters, transactions, notifications, contacts with after-sales service, etc – coming in. You can also give your opinion of each ‘partner’.

Onecub, an information hub in the making?

But could this approach derail the marketing machine? “These days, we’re living in an economy which is still controlled by suppliers. But this mechanism is now reaching its limits in terms of speed and efficiency because Internet users are getting to grips with things,” Olivier Dion told l’Atelier. In future we’ll be moving more towards an economy run for the benefit of the demand side, i.e. the consumer will be able to dictate what is on offer, he believes. However Onecub certainly does not intend to leave the suppliers in the lurch. The French startup offers a range of services which can enhance the user’s experience, but its business model is based on B2B services.  It is able inter alia to supply anonymised statistics on Internet users’ actual overall consumption behaviour and so help suppliers to refine their pitch in line with the customer’s real needs. “Longer term, an entirely new market structure could emerge from this process of standing the relationship between the Internet user and the brand on its head,” suggests Olivier Dion.