Do you dream of a future where you know what your customers want, when they want it, and why? Do you dream of being able to monitor customer issues in real time, solving their problems as they occur? Do you dream about having information about your customers in one centralized location so your sales, marketing, and service teams are all on the same page?
I’m here to tell you that the future is now.
Understanding your customers’ journeys, relaying that information to all the relevant people, and monitoring issues before they become disasters are all part of the latest trends in customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Admittedly, things that are trending now don’t always make permanent impacts. Arguably, some trends never should have happened.
But some trends and innovations emerge to meet the needs of actual companies serving actual people.
The trends in CRM software that we’ll discuss all fall under that category. They exist so you can give your customers a better experience. And happy customers means repeat business for your company. These trends are a win-win for everyone involved.
Below, we’ll discuss which features are trending in the CRM space and which forward-thinking CRM systems are offering those features at a reasonable price.
Capterra has already put its predictions in for overall market trends for CRM in 2017. Below, we’re going to take a look at specific trending features you might see popping up in more systems this year.
In general, we’re seeing these same trending features in some capacity across most software verticals, as they address issues related to:
- Avoiding doing tedious, repetitive tasks
- Communicating across departments
- Accessing information from anywhere
- Analyzing tons of data
- Storing everything in one place
Trends in CRM software specifically deal with:
- Gathering more information about customers automatically, which decreases the time spent doing it.
- Communicating with your customers more efficiently, on multiple platforms, across multiple departments.
Trend #1: All-in-one platforms
Think about it: Who do your sales, marketing, and customer service platforms revolve around?
That’s right: the customer.
And doesn’t it make sense to put all of your customer information in one place?
I’ll fully admit that an all-in-one platform is the trendiest trend of all the ones we’re discussing in this post, simply because most software vendors haven’t figured out how to make a good system that does everything.
In fact, there’s only one all-in-system on our list of futuristic CRMs, while the other two systems we’ll discuss rely on integrations with other platforms to keep track of all your customer data.
For now, integrations might be the best way to go with your CRM. That becomes clear when you look at several questions that come up when discussing an all-in-one system:
- With lots of different functionality designed for separate roles, won’t the system be too complicated to use?
- Since I’m already using separate systems, will I have to migrate all of my data to this new system?
- Won’t this system be prohibitively expensive?
Those questions are perfectly valid. And for the industry at large, all-in-one solutions could probably use bit of work before they become mainstream.
Trend #2: Predictive reporting and analytics
Using data to understand patterns can give you a better idea of what will happen later, which helps your team set realistic goals.
Your CRM already keeps track of a lot of data and numbers such as sales team activity and revenue. Integrating your marketing automation software and social media with your CRM pulls a lot more data into your system.
And having all this data at your fingertips shows you what’s going on in the present. But the real magic of what you can do with data today is using it to predict the future.
A good CRM will pull in data related to current sales revenue and call times. A great CRM will take that data and point you in the direction of actionable goals for your team for the next month, or even the next year.
Trend #3: Marketing automation integration
Sales teams traditionally use CRMs to track information about leads and deals. Marketing teams access CRMs to gather that data and use it in ad campaigns. With marketing automation integration, your marketing team can pull that data directly into its system, which helps in building campaigns, targeting higher-quality leads, and creating an accurate picture of who your customers even are.
You know who else wants an accurate picture of your potential customers? Your sales team.
Integrating your marketing automation software with your CRM brings your customer data full circle and gives both your sales and marketing teams real-time insight into how your company can and should target leads.
In the Information Age, it just makes sense to connect these two systems so all your customer-facing employees know as much as possible about your clients.
Trend #4: Social media integration
Social media integration, like marketing automation integration, plays a role in developing a 360 degree view of your contacts and their needs.
Lucky for you, according to our in-house user testing results, compiled by Capterra’s Software Labs, 70% of CRM solutions offer social media integration. But “social media integration” can mean a variety of things.
At its most basic, it means using a contact’s email address to pull information from social channels, such as LinkedIn, into their profile in your CRM. While this is the most basic form of social media integration, that’s still pretty powerful when you consider how much time your team spends researching contacts on various platforms.
More advanced social media integration tracks the conversations you have with your contacts on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, etc. This gives everyone on your team a more complete view of that contact.
For instance, if Joe Johnson speaks to a customer service rep via Twitter about an issue, his sales or marketing rep can reach out to offer Joe a discount to make up for his experience. Now Joe feels like his issues were completely acknowledged and he probably has a more positive view of your organization.
Trend #5: Mobile access
Cloud access to workplace software is the norm at this point. As a result, mobile access is increasingly common, especially in professions with employees, such as field technicians, that spend most of their time outside a traditional office environment.
And anyone in sales knows that a good salesperson doesn’t keep traditional office hours either. In a profession where rapid response time is crucial, your sales team is always at work. (Especially if they have international or needy clients—or, more likely, a combination of the two.)
By default, cloud CRMs are accessible from any device with an internet connection. But systems that are mobile optimized (or designed to fit your smaller phone screen) or, even better, provide a separate mobile app, give your sales team access to important information no matter where they are. Some mobile apps don’t even require an internet connection to view or update information.
Giving your team the tools they need to get their work done is something you’re probably already doing. But giving your team tools they can use everywhere is something that will put you one step ahead of your competition.
After hearing about all the exciting things the future of CRM has to offer, you’re probably ready to get your hands on a system that can do all the things we’ve discussed (and more!).
Without further ado, the following systems are keeping up with the trends in the CRM industry:
We chose these systems because they have the following trending features:
- Marketing automation integration
- Customer service platform integration
- Social media integration
- iOS and Android mobile apps
- Robust reporting capabilities
In addition, they each have:
- 10 or more reviews on Capterra
- A 4.5 out of five star rating, or higher, for ease-of-use on Capterra
- A user experience score of 80 or higher from Capterra Software Lab’s direct-user testing.*
*You can read more about Capterra’s Software Labs and how they test software here
Below, we’ll discuss each system in detail, listed in order of highest User Experience Score, so you can decide if one of these CRMs is a good fit for your forward-looking organization.
With a user experience score of 88 (out of 100) and an ease-of-use reviews rating of 4.8 stars, ProsperWorks is a CRM with robust functionality that both our Software Lab testers and ProsperWorks’ actual customers find incredibly easy to use.
And don’t let ProsperWorks’ cost rating scare you away. We’ll discuss how ProsperWorks’ futuristic features deliver a lot of value to their users in the section below.
Here, we’re looking at the ways ProsperWorks incorporates the required features for inclusion in this post.
If you don’t see a system you already use listed as one of ProsperWorks’ built-in integrations, you can still link your systems together with a “Zap” from Zapier, which partners with companies like ProsperWorks to connect different software.
Social media integration
One of the Zaps that Zapier provides is social media integration with Facebook, Twitter, etc., so you can pull conversation threads from these sites.
Even without a Zap, ProsperWorks will automatically add details to your contacts’ profiles by searching the web for publicly available information.
You can stay on top of all contact information via ProsperWorks’ online version of its system and also through its robust mobile apps for iOS and Android. Through the mobile app, you can:
- Log calls
- Set tasks and reminders
- Receive notifications when you have a new prospect
This last capability is crucial for sales teams focused on response time. Your sales team already receives lots of emails, so sometimes email notifications get lost in the clutter. Specific notifications directly from your CRM app give you a better idea of what’s going on instead of cluttering your inbox with one-line emails.
Connects to Google products
And speaking of email, ProsperWorks integrates directly with G Suite—another way they try to connect their CRM to the other systems you use.
Through integration with Gmail, you can send emails directly from your CRM instead of going back to your inbox. You can also track your sent emails, so you can see who’s opened or viewed them. Tracking lets you know when people are typically checking their mail and, therefore, when might be the best time to send an email with an attention-grabbing subject line.
Integration with G Suite connects all of your contacts, your files in Drive, and your Google Calendar events. It also helps in another “futuristic” way: The custom report builder connects to Google Sheets. The ability to manipulate your data in Sheets means it’s uploaded to a program you already know how to use in a format that’s shareable with other team members.
However, if you’re not a data nerd that loves customizable reports, ProsperWorks also has many prebuilt reports such as “team activity” and “likelihood to close.”
Some other cool features
- Gamified reports for your team, such as leaderboards, to encourage friendly competition (only offered in the “Business” plan)
- The ability to set up custom workflows so the completion of certain tasks automatically triggers the next one in your pipeline
- Setup of multiple customizable sales and business pipelines, so you can manage different teams from the same system.
Other notable integrations
- Collaboration software such as Slack and Dropbox for communication and file sharing
- VoIP calling integration with RingCentral (only included in the “Business” plan)
- Partnership with Tray.io to provide integrations ProsperWorks hasn’t built and Zapier doesn’t offer
- RESTful API if you need other or more complex integrations
And if you’re worried that your needs are too complicated, one customer has this to say about his experience with Zapier:
Ease of use
Despite all these features and integrations, ProsperWorks remains easy to use, according to user reviews. The platform has earned the No. 10 ranking on our Top 20 Most User-Friendly CRM Software report.
Since one of ProsperWorks’ selling points is its G Suite integration, many people are already familiar with its Google-esque interface, which makes its whole platform feel intuitive, even if you’ve never used it before.
Our testers echoed this sentiment in their comments, some of which are included below:
With a user experience score of 88 (out of 100), our testers feel confident using ProsperWorks to complete everyday tasks, even without training.
What users say
With an average ease of use rating of 4.8 out of five stars, actual users also seem to love how intuitive ProsperWorks is.
If you want access to most of the trending features we’ve mentioned, you’ll have to skip ProsperWorks’ “Basic” plan and sign up for its “Professional” plan.
If this cost seems steep to you, keep in mind that, according to Capterra’s Software Lab data, most CRMs cost about $37 per user per month, even without some of the more robust functionality that ProsperWorks offers.
Especially if you need custom integrations, you’ll want access to ProsperWorks’ RESTful API, which isn’t included in the “Basic” deal.
In addition, some prebuilt integrations, such as telephony, and certain features, such as sales leaderboards, are only included in the “Business” plan.
No matter which plan your budget can handle, you’ll want to make sure that ProsperWorks is right for your organization before investing.
Because of its myriad integrations, long list of useful features, and relatively low price point, ProsperWorks could realistically fit the needs of many different companies.
Specifically, ProsperWorks touts itself as “Google’s #1 recommended CRM” due to its integration with G Suite. So, if you’re one of the billions of people who use Gmail or other Google tools to get your work done, you’ll love the familiar interface and numerous integrations.
Similarly, if your sales process relies heavily on emailing your contacts, ProsperWorks is worth looking into for both its Gmail integration and its email tracking capabilities.
Finally, if you don’t have a lot of time to implement a new CRM or train your staff how to use it (and who does?), ProsperWorks claims that is has a “5-minute setup, no training required.” So you won’t lose any time getting up and running with this system.
Pipeliner CRM is the next up in our discussion of systems that are ahead of the curve.
Pipeliner earned a No. 17 ranking on our Top 20 Most Affordable CRM Software report. That means that despite its cost rating, it still managed to beat out the over 500 CRMs on the market to earn a spot among the 20 most affordable systems.
Below, we’ll take a look at the features and functionality that make Pipeliner a great choice for a company with its eyes on the horizon of CRM trends.
Pipeliner’s top integrations are all marketing-related. We’ll look at those, and the other ways Pipeliner meets our features requirements below.
It also offers a long list of other integrations with various types of systems, including customer service software and social media platforms. In addition, it also partners with Zapier for simpler connections between systems and offers an open API for more complicated integrations.
Social media integration
Pipeliner states that “social CRM is now a best practice,” so you know they’re taking this integration seriously. Their powerful social media integration is similar to ProsperWorks’, in that it uses a contact’s email address to pull publicly available information into their profile in your CRM. So, for example, if you have Bill Bell’s email address and nothing else, it can use that information to pull Bill’s job title from his LinkedIn profile so you don’t have to search for it yourself.
According to survey data collected by Capterra, only 50% of CRM users actually have this feature, while 30% wish they had it. Of those who could pull information from social profiles, 90% say they use this feature, showing its usefulness in decreasing manual data entry.
Pipeliner connects with Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and it does the following time-saving things:
- Track communication on social platforms so you can stay on top of conversations, wherever they happen
- Post to and communicate through those sites without leaving Pipeliner
- View shared connections with contacts to get a full view of your extended social network
On desktop, Pipeliner is available both on the cloud and as a desktop app. You can also access its iOS and Android apps with or without an internet connection.
For example, if you need to update information but you’re on the train and going through a tunnel, you can add the information and the app will sync to the cloud whenever you reconnect to the internet.
Though Pipeliner’s mobile apps have been pared down to make navigating the system on a smaller screen easier, they’re still very robust apps. Within the app, you can:
- View and update contact and account details
- Schedule events and tasks
- View a contact company’s geolocation, if their address is in their profile
- Email a client directly without leaving the app
- Make calls
Reporting and analytics
Pipeliner’s reporting tool is also very powerful. Even simple reports such as sales team activity can be drilled into for more precise, informative data on individual team members and sales representatives. And starting with its “Business” plan, which we’ll look at in more detail below, you can manipulate tons of your organization’s data with Pipeliner’s reporting and analytics capabilities.
Other notable features
- Outlook and Gmail integration
- A Chrome extension “web clipper” that helps you add information to your CRM faster
Ease of use
All those features don’t detract from Pipeliner’s usability, as it was No. 15 on our Top 20 Most User-Friendly CRM Software report.
Our Software Lab testers gave it a user experience score of 84 out of 100, with most testers indicating that they wouldn’t mind using the system frequently to perform everyday CRM tasks.
What users say
Actual users of Pipeliner, who perform tasks in the system every day, also seem to like using it, since they gave it an average ease of use rating of 4.7 out of five stars.
With its many capabilities, Pipeliner has the same cost rating as ProsperWorks for its more advanced features, which are included starting with its “Business” plan, at $65 per user per month.
That’s about $6 more per user than ProsperWorks. But Pipeliner’s accessibility both on- and offline, gives your team greater mobility and flexibility, which might be an extra $6 well spent.
If Pipeliner’s “Business” plan isn’t in your price range right now, you can get a more basic version of their CRM at half the cost per user with their “Starter” plan ($25 per user per month). However, you’ll miss out on some options for customization, as well as the robust reporting capabilities that comes with Pipeliner’s dashboard.
And as your business grows and your CRM needs become more complex, you’ll know you’ve invested in a CRM that will grow with you.
Pipeliner references this stat when explaining the benefits of using their system. They also claim that their CRM is “instant intelligence, visualized.”
If your team is full of visual learners or people who need to process things quickly—and in sales, everything happens quickly—then Pipeliner’s visual reports might be a step in the right direction.
Additionally, if your team travels frequently, the ability to access Pipeliner both on- and offline, via their desktop or mobile application, is worth looking into.
bpm’online is the only all-in-one CRM platform we’re taking a look at here. And to head off some of the questions we mentioned up top about all-in-one solutions, you’ll be happy to know that bpm’online ranked No. 8 on our Most Affordable report, so it doesn’t come with a ridiculous price tag. It also scored the No. 12 position on our Most User-Friendly report.
As we discussed previously, one of the biggest deterrents from choosing an all-in-one platform is the fear that it will try to do too many things and is, therefore, too confusing to use effectively.
But with bpm’online’s user experience score of 81 from our Software Lab testers and its perfect five-star ease of use rating from actual users, bpm’online has clearly managed to make a straightforward all-in-one sales, marketing, and customer service platform.
As an all-in-one platform, bpm’online obviously has quite a few features on its list. We’ll take a look at some of them in-depth below.
As previously mentioned, bpm’online has its own marketing automation and customer service platforms. So you know that both connect with their sales platform to give you all the information you need about your contacts in one location.
Social media integration
For social media integration, bpm’online has a tool called a “data scientist,” which is similar to both ProsperWorks’ and Pipeliner’s tools. It uses the contact information you have and matches it up with publicly available information such as social media profiles, job titles, etc.
bpm’online’s integrations with Facebook and Twitter also pull information such as threads and tweets into the system to further add to your contacts’ profiles.
All this information is viewable in bpm’online’s iOS and Android apps, as well. From the app, you can make calls or text contacts and update information in their profiles. Despite the company’s name, bpm’online’s mobile apps are available both on- and offline
Reporting and analytics
bpm’online also provides a wide variety of reports, from quick visual dashboard reports to customizable reports that let you drill down into your data.
In addition to fairly standard sales team activity reports, its “customer database” reports help you keep track of all the information you have on your customers and give your sales, marketing, and customer service teams ideas about how best to attract, gain, and manage your clients.
Other notable features
- Email integration with Outlook and Gmail
- VoIP integration, so you can make calls directly from the system
- Customizable workflows and “out-of-the-box processes,” which let you follow proven best practices while still customizing according to your organization’s needs
- Website integration for processing orders within the system
- A knowledge base where you can store documents, presentations, and other important team files
- Tools to manage a sales force in the field, so you can schedule visits, track employees by geolocation, process mobile orders, etc.
- Enterprise Social Network, which operates as an in-system newsfeed and allows your sales team to collaborate effectively. That’s important since nowadays over five people are typically involved in a B2B sale, on average.
Ease of use
With a No. 12 ranking on our Top 20 Most User-Friendly CRM Software report, it’s clear that just because bpm’online doesn’t focus exclusively on sales, they didn’t lose their focus on making their sales platform usable and intuitive.
Bpm’online received a user experience score of 81 out of 100 from our Software Lab testers. The system consistently receives high ratings from our testers, who say they feel all of its functions are well integrated.
What users say
With an average ease of use rating of a perfect five stars, actual users of bpm’online clearly don’t run into many issues using their platform.
Given the fact that bpm’online is the only all-in-one solution on our list, you might think it would be the most expensive option. But even its most basic version (the “Team” plan) offers pretty robust functionality for only $25 per user per month.
Its most expensive “Enterprise” plan offers full functionality for $50 per user per month, which is on par with both ProsperWorks’ and Pipeliner’s midrange plans.
Bpm’online’s “Team” and “Commerce” plans have fairly similar functionality to one another. However, the “Commerce” plan gives you the ability to create orders and invoices from within the system, as well as manage a product catalog. At twice the cost, the “Enterprise” plan includes sales forecasting features, project management capabilities, and contract management options.
Although bpm’online’s marketing automation and customer service software come at an extra cost, the price tag for these two solutions is still extremely reasonable.
Say you want to purchase bpm’online’s marketing module. For 1,000 contacts, two users, and ten emails per contact per month, bpm’online would cost about $1,475 per year. A similar product from HubSpot, a well-known marketing automation software, costs $9,600 per year.
So the combined cost of one of the other systems we’ve discussed and a third-party marketing automation solution—that might or might not integrate directly—could potentially be more expensive than bpm’online’s all-in-one platform. Whether that third-party system’s features is worth the cost is up to you.
And speaking of all-in-one functionality, bpm’online’s customer service platform starts at $35 per user per month, which is fairly typical for that space.
Bottom line: bpm’online’s modules are reasonably priced across verticals.
If you like the sound of bpm’online’s lower cost, below are some of our thoughts about which types of companies should take a second look at their system.
And if you’re concerned with protocol but don’t have the time to set up a bunch of customized workflows in your CRM, bpm’online offers a service to set up your system following prebuilt methods modeled on sales best practices.
As we’ve discussed, bpm’online is an all-in-one platform, and as such, it’s best for people who really want a single platform for sales, marketing, and customer service. All your data will go through one platform, so you know it will be compatible and readable within your system—no integration building required.
Speaking of data, a quick look through its website will tell even the most inattentive speed reader that bpm’online is all about analytics. The other systems we’ve discussed also have robust reporting tools, but they don’t emphasize the breakdown of different reports for different stages of the customer experience quite as much as bpm’online.
Finally, though we also cited Pipeliner as being good for teams on the go, if your sales team is largely in the field, bpm’online’s field sales tools will help you to manage and track their activities, even if they’re rarely in your brick-and-mortar office.
We’ve talked about the CRM software trends that are catching on right now. But what about the trends that are still in the works?
What will denizens of the future see happening in the CRM galaxy?
- Will one CRM rise up to dominate them all?
- Will customer relationship management become so intelligent about your customers that it will start making sales pitches itself?
- Will it become so functional that it will even make us breakfast before we head out for work?
The answers to those questions are: Nope, Maybe, and I sure hope so.
We’ll get into a deeper discussion about these trends in CRM further down, but here’s an overview for those who like to skim:
General trends in the CRM market
- More cloud CRMs
- More mobile apps from CRMs that don’t already offer them
- More all-in-one CRMs and partnerships with other software solutions to create a 360 degree view of customers
Cutting-edge trends that will affect your CRM purchases
- Fewer “software giants” dominating the market
- More CRMs tailored to different verticals
- The use of artificial intelligence and augmented reality for sales, marketing, and service
Rise of the little guys
Keep your eye on lesser-known systems instead of big names in the industry. Larger companies have been losing CRM market share in recent years. Part of that might be due to a larger trend in increasingly specialized CRMs.
Sure, CRMs that offer systems tailored to a specific vertical might attract fewer overall customers. But since their product is tailored to suit the needs of one vertical rather than trying to make all the verticals fit into one model for selling, their customers might be more dedicated and less likely to switch to a CRM that tells them they’re just like everyone else.
But as I’ve said, these trends are indicative of larger trends for all software in general and not just CRM. Let’s get into the cooler, trendier trends specific to your sales, marketing, and service teams here.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
AI is getting a lot of buzz lately. It’s touted as the next big thing in technology, and Capterra agrees that it’s a trend worth following, as our own Cathy Reisenwitz will start a new blog dedicated covering AI developments and the implications for small businesses in the near future.
AI basically means teaching machines to think like humans, but better. Think about it this way: Computers were originally created to be great calculators. That required giving computers specific, coded commands so that they could spit out answers to long, complicated formulas that would take people (or maybe just me) a bajillion years to figure out. People would then take the answers the computers spat out and decide what to do with them.
With artificial intelligence, though, the situation is reversed. Devices that use AI take in information, discover a pattern in that information, and use that pattern to predict or suggest an outcome in the future.
Artificial intelligence will also make a greater appearance in the CRM world. And, surprise surprise, CRM giant Salesforce is one of the first systems to advertise AI’s widespread benefits in their new “Einstein” tool.
In terms of your sales team, you can use AI to
- Set sales goals using more precise predictive analytics.
- Score leads with better lead scoring algorithms.
- Better construct your sales pipeline using the next best action.
- Function as your personal assistant. Think “Siri for sales.”
AI will also help marketing teams make sense of all the data they’re collecting on consumers. Using the patterns in this data, your marketing team can create smarter, more targeted campaigns based on consumer behavior.
Software that knows how you feel
And speaking of targeted campaigns, emotion detection technology might enable your marketing team to create personalized ad experiences for whoever is viewing your ad.
By reading a viewer’s facial expression, for example, you could change their ad experience in real time. I know it sounds a little creepy, but the emotion recognition market is supposed to blow the heck up in the next few years, so don’t be surprised when this marketing method becomes the norm.
Adventures in augmented reality (AR)
Marketing will also benefit from an increasing availability in AR technology for their consumers.
Before even setting foot in a store, for example, customers can try on shoes or clothes by skimming through virtual catalogs. In brick-and-mortar locations, shoppers can use AR-enabled phones or tablets to see which fixtures would look best in their living room or which shade of eyeshadow will really make their eyes pop.
You can also use AR to improve customer service or decrease the need for it. We’ve all been on the phone with our internet provider’s customer service rep where they run through a list of common problems. And the first question is always something insulting to your intelligence, like, “Is your router turned on?”
Instead of your customer service rep trying to diagnose your problem based on the typical problems of other customers, you can use your smartphone’s camera to display your equipment, and a service rep can walk you through how to fix your specific issue.
Or you can do what Hyundai’s done and provide an AR owner’s manual, so your customers can find answers to common questions themselves. By using your smartphone’s camera, you can scroll over different parts of your car and get information about different dials on your dashboard or tips on how to refill your windshield wiper fluid.
You might be wondering how this relates to your CRM. So let’s take this time to remember that CRM stands for customer relationship management. What better way to have a better relationship with your customers than by providing them with a personalized, helpful experience in the comfort of their own living rooms?
Is your mind blown yet? It should be.
Guys, the future is right now. Organizations are taking advantage of these trends every day.
And you know what they say—or, more specifically, what Malcolm X once said: “The future belongs to those who prepare for it today.”
So if you’re on the lookout for a new CRM, look for one that’s trying to stay ahead of the curve and will provide you with tomorrow’s tools today.
Here’s a checklist of features you should look for in a futuristic CRM:
You can visit our CRM directory and use the filtering tool to find out which systems offer some of these features, including marketing automation integration.
Let me know if you’ve thought of other trends in the CRM world in the comments below!