Is it really almost the end of January?
When I started making this list of CRM predictions in early November, I thought there would be plenty of time before the New Year arrives for me to digest my thoughts and put together a thoughtful year-end post highlighting the big changes we can expect to see in the CRM software industry in 2016… maybe even with a week or two left to spare. Alas, we are now nearly a full month into 2016, and I still haven’t fully digested all the changes we saw take place last year and what they all mean for the CRM industry. Does that mean I’m just getting old, or are things really moving faster than they used to? (That’s a rhetorical question.)
Nevertheless, I decided that it’s time to just put pen to paper and predict what I think the big CRM trends will be this year. Otherwise, the year will be over before I know it, and predicting what’s already happened doesn’t make for great blog reading.
Whatever the CRM industry has in store for 2016, one thing we know for sure is that the graphs will be trending up and to the right. Gartner reports that the CRM industry grew 13.3% year-over-year last year, and they predict it will be a $36 billion market by 2017!
Here are my six predictions of how the CRM industry will get to $36 billion in the next twelve eleven months:
1. Small Business CRMs will continue to cut into the “Big 4” market share
According to CRM software research Capterra conducted in 2015, 75% of businesses use Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, or SAP CRM. However, that same research showed that most CRM users work at businesses with less than $10 million in annual revenue and fewer than 100 employees— not the big enterprises those “Big 4” CRM vendors have typically targeted. Based on the growing number of low cost and free CRM alternatives available, I predict that some of the more affordable CRM solutions will continue to take away market share from the old CRM stand-bys, as startups and small businesses realize that CRM is no longer just for big enterprises.
2. Users will demand tighter CRM integrations with other software
As the marketing technology landscape continues to explode, it’s increasingly important that your CRM be able to seamlessly integrate with your ecommerce system, your marketing automation software, your analytics platform, your accounting system, and all the other solutions in your business software stack. Rather than spending countless hours translating data from one system to another, CRM users will demand that vendors build these native integrations with other platforms to make more efficient use of their time. If CRM vendors can’t keep up with the demand, I believe users will consider switching systems to find one that works better with their existing infrastructure.
3. Social and Mobile CRM will no longer be optional
Recent studies show that 46% of consumers use social media in purchase decisions, and mobile media time actually surpassed desktop internet usage in 2015 for the very first time. In 2016, businesses will increase their focus on the entire customer experience, regardless of the channels or devices used. As such, CRM software can no longer offer optional social tracking or mobile capabilities as upgrades or add-ons. This functionality will need to be built into the core CRM packages so that all businesses can easily track prospects’ and customers’ journeys more accurately.
4. CRMs will make better use of Big Data to predict sales
Big data will finally hit Main Street in 2016. While enterprise providers of big data analytics like SAS and IBM have been around for several years, in 2016, look to see smaller predictive analytics players start to pop up and offer their services to supplement your existing CRM software solutions. By tapping into larger business purchase trend data and pairing that with personalized prospect activity, these predictive analytic providers will be able to better pinpoint specific sales opportunities and identify how to move prospects through the funnel more efficiently.
5. CRM software will finally be able to map the customer journey across multiple channels
We all know that last-click attribution doesn’t cut it anymore for measuring where your sales come from. These days, prospects interact with companies across a myriad of channels and devices, for an increasingly longer consideration time before purchasing. Between reading reviews on sites like Yelp or Amazon, watching product demo videos on YouTube, asking their peers for product recommendations on Twitter and Facebook, Googling blog articles to research their purchase, or chatting with a sales rep on your website, there are infinite paths a customer may take toward eventually purchasing your product or service. Tools like Google Analytics have already started to map this purchase path online with their Multi-Channel Funnel report:
However, tools like Google Analytics can’t tell you which specific customers came down each path. In 2016, look to see tighter integrations (a la trend #2 above) with these customer mapping technologies and the specific leads you have in your CRM software. By coupling this multi-channel data with specific leads, your sales team will be able to offer a more personalized sales pitch and your marketing team will be able to better understand where to invest budget to fill the top of the funnel (as opposed to just putting money into whatever channel drives the most last-click conversions).
6. Content marketing software will become the next hot segment of CRM technology
Over the past 5 years, we’ve seen that the marketing automation software industry has witnessed the fastest growth of any of the other CRM segments. In 2016, I think that trend will start to shift even further up-funnel toward content marketing software. As marketing automation users become more advanced, they are beginning to “hit the wall” with their software’s built-in capabilities. Nurturing leads, building lead scoring models, and using dynamic emails and landing pages only allows you to personalize the marketing experience so much. And only for those prospects who are already captured in your CRM or email database. With content marketing software, sales and marketing teams can start to personalize the customer journey before they even know exactly who their prospect is. They can serve up related blog posts and recommended content based on a prospect’s previous browsing history. They can customize their website experience based on the search term someone used to find their site. They can better track content performance and tie that to real sales data to inform which content is going to convert more leads and ultimately drive sales for their organization. Inbound sales tactics have really overtaken outbound sales efforts in the past few years, so naturally, CRM users will look to see how they can drive even more inbound leads in 2016 by having a more holistic view of their content performance.
Did I miss any big CRM trends you foresee for 2016? Disagree with my predictions? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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