9 CRM Trends to Watch

Drew Robb

Updated · Oct 07, 2015

CRM is something of a boom area for enterprise applications. According to Gartner, sales topped $23 billion in 2014, 13.3 percent higher than the previous year. Gartner forecasts the market will expand to $36.5 billion by 2017, which makes it the leader in projected growth among all enterprise application categories.

So, given its growing importance, what are some significant CRM trends?

No CRM Is an Island

Years ago, CRM was a point solution implemented across a sales team or limited to specific portions of the organization. It didn't integrate well and its ability to pool data from other sources was limited or even non-existent. That's been changing gradually and now is becoming part of the price of admission into the CRM sales arena.

“Increasingly we see customers looking at how their CRM applications tie into other business applications,” said Angela Bandlow, Microsoft's senior director of Product Marketing for Dynamics CRM. “Rather than using CRM in isolation, companies are considering how employees can do their job in the most productive and effective way possible by integrating email, calendaring, note taking, communication and collaboration into a seamless experience.”

More Strategic CRM

CRM systems play an increasingly strategic role in many companies, according to Volker Hildebrand, vice president of Strategy, Customer Engagement and Commerce at SAP and hybris. This is due to the desire for omni-channel coverage and a growing focus on mobile. In an omni-channel world the lines between sales, service and marketing are blurred.

“Customers expect to engage with the whole enterprise on their terms throughout the entire customer journey, and they expect to seamlessly switch between channels,” said Hildebrand.

For example a company's Twitter feed used primarily for announcing marketing offers could quickly change into a customer service channel, with a question or even a complaint is tweeted back in response to the offer. The ability to enable a smooth transition from one function to another or one channel to another while retaining context is becoming increasingly important.

Cloud and Mobile CRM

Diane Haines, vice president of Product Marketing at Sage, quotes Gartner statistics to back up her assertion that mobility and the cloud are the determining factors of future CRM:

  • By 2015, more than 70 percent of new sales application projects will be software-as-a-service (SaaS) and the cloud will represent over 50 percent of all new CRM applications;
  • By 2020, mobile devices will be the new standard for everyday computing for small companies, often replacing or bypassing desktops and laptops;
  • By 2016, 55 percent of salespeople will access sales applications exclusively through smartphones or tablets, and mobility will be a top priority for SMBs' IT spending, driven by cost savings and productivity gains

No CRM Magic Bullet

You'd think Salesforce.com would be a firm advocate of the glories of CRM and how it can instantly transform any sales team into world beaters. This is not so, however. Although more information than ever before is now available for both sellers and buyers, human interaction is what really impacts sales, said Sean Alpert, senior director, Product Marketing, Sales Cloud, Salesforce.

The whole point is to put something in the hand of sales and marketing people that helps them do their jobs. Alpert stressed the role of sales people and aligning CRM to that.

“Salespeople need to act as champions for their customers because customers are looking for valuable interactions at every point in the selling cycle,” he said.

CRM Late Adopters Getting Onboard

Large and mid-sized enterprises generally are long-term users of sales force automation (SFA), and many are also well versed in marketing automation. The SMB segment has lagged behind larger competitors. But that is changing, said Katie Hollar, Capterra's director of Marketing. SMBs are now waking up to the potential of these CRM segments.

“Sixty-one percent of SFA buyers are from companies with less than $1 million in annual revenue, and 37 percent of marketing automation buyers are from the real estate industry that has traditionally lagged behind others in terms of software adoption,” she said.

Changing CRM Expectations

Capterra studies also indicate that the bulk of CRM users now work at businesses with less than $10 million in revenues and fewer than 100 employees. This is being driven largely by a rash of free or very inexpensive CRM tools specifically for SMBs. This gets their feet in the door and lets them experience the value of CRM.

“The growth of free and low-cost CRM is going to set buyer expectations once those users upgrade to paid solutions,” Hollar said. “They're going to expect intuitive, Web-based interfaces that don't require hours of training with all of their sales reps, and they're not going to want to sign on with one CRM provider for five or 10 years for tens of thousands of dollars.

No More CRM Donkey Work

CRM is and always has been for the manager and the sales leader, said Tawheed Kader, founder and CEO of ToutApp. But as sales reps become more tech savvy, they're realizing how much time gets wasted doing CRM data entry. It is estimated that sales reps only spend 24 percent of their time on actual selling, he said.

“When it comes to the actual salesperson, CRM will go more into the background as a database, while smarter software designed to streamline the salesperson's workflow will come into the foreground,” he said.

This will manifest in areas such as social collaboration. “This is where work is completed as teams collaborate with colleagues, call in requests for assistance and ask for input from subject matter experts,” said Kevin Roberts, director of Platform Technology at FinancialForce.

“To drive the highest level of adoption of a new feature, it is important to think about how that feature can be made accessible within that social layer,” he added. “If you can perform a business action like approving a discount or escalating a sales ticket, without having to exit that social feed, users will simplify deployment and be able to achieve the greatest levels of adoption.”

  • CRM
  • Research
  • Drew Robb
    Drew Robb

    Drew Robb is a writer who has been writing about IT, engineering, and other topics. Originating from Scotland, he currently resides in Florida. Highly skilled in rapid prototyping innovative and reliable systems. He has been an editor and professional writer full-time for more than 20 years. He works as a freelancer at Enterprise Apps Today, CIO Insight and other IT publications. He is also an editor-in chief of an international engineering journal. He enjoys solving data problems and learning abstractions that will allow for better infrastructure.

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