6 CRM predictions for 2016

Experts in sales, marketing and customer relationship management share their thoughts regarding which CRM features and trends will be the most buzzed about in the year ahead.

CRM software has come a long way from its early days as a desktop-based sales tool. And each year, it seems, there’s some hot new flavor of CRM – social CRM, cloud CRM, mobile CRM, vertical CRM – with new vendors and apps constantly entering the market.

So what will be the big trends in CRM in 2016? Here are six predictions.

CRM software will become even more social. “In 2016, we'll see a lot more CRM providers adding new social media features, whether that be tracking customer interactions or suggesting new contacts,” says Marc Prosser, cofounder, Fit Small Business. “Nimble is out ahead on this, but expect others to add these features while their team (and others) devise new ways CRM can take advantage of social media.”

Mobile CRM will become a must-have. In 2016, “we'll see CRM go mobile in a big way,” says Prosser. “So far, most mobile CRM apps have focused on providing a basic phone-ready version of the desktop version, usually without the full set of features.” Over the next 12 months, however, “expect to see CRM mobile apps adding features that interact with map and note-taking apps.” Also, “CRM will become less hierarchical and easier to use on the go.”

Sales reps will rely on “mobile CRM [to] keep connected and in touch with prospects and their sales manager,” adds Sean Alpert, senior director, Product Marketing, Sales Cloud, Salesforce. “Real-time data [will] keep reps in the know about everything from usage rates to open service tickets to breaking news about the prospect they’re about to visit. And, mobile CRM [will become a] powerful sales tool as more and more reps eschew traditional slides in favor of showing a demo on their phone or pulling up the latest analytics or dashboards on their [mobile] device."

Integration will be the name of the game. “It's increasingly important that your CRM be able to seamlessly integrate with your ecommerce platform, your marketing automation software, your analytics software, your accounting system... the list goes on and on,” says Katie Hollar, CRM expert at Capterra, an online tool for businesses to find the right software. “Rather than spending hours downloading and uploading CSVs of data from one system to another, CRM users will demand that their provider build these native integrations with other platforms to make them more efficient. And if CRM vendors can't keep up with the demand, users will switch systems, finding one that works better with their existing infrastructure.”

“CRMs will evolve from sales-oriented tools to truly integrated marketing and sales platforms,” predicts Kathleen Booth, CEO, Quintain Marketing. “There has already been some movement in this direction, with many CRMs, such as Salesforce, offering integrations with marketing software. But in the future, integrations will be replaced by all-in-one software platforms that truly marry the needs of sales and marketing,” she says. “One example of a company that is doing this successfully right now is HubSpot, which added a free CRM to its marketing software last year. Expect more companies to enter this market in 2016.”

Vertical CRMs will give traditional CRM solutions some serious competition. “In 2016, the ‘verticalization’ of CRM solutions will be accelerated,” says Adam Honig, cofounder and CEO of Spiro, a personal sales app for salespeople. “A real estate salesperson has different needs than a medical device salesperson, and companies are increasingly realizing that they could benefit from using industry-specific CRM solutions like Veeva, Vlocity and OpenGov,” he says. “These vendors' built-in best practices and processes provide a level of expertise that companies just don't get with a generic CRM solution.”

As a result, “horizontal CRMs will start being replaced by industry-specific vertical CRMs that help you navigate the specific challenges of your industry,” says Anatoly Geyfman, CEO, Carevoyance. “Healthcare is a big example of this,” he says. “Veeva, a CRM for the pharma [and life sciences] industry, was in the first wave of these, but the wave is not over.” Now, as a result of an influx of industry-specific software solutions, “even Salesforce is releasing industry-specific features and brands for its CRM product.”

More CRM platforms will be equipped with predictive analytics capabilities. “In 2016, CRM systems will have analytics engines behind them that will enable the ability to provide real-time offers to customers based on predicting what they will want next or what kind of product or service they might buy next,” says Rebecca Sendel, senior director, Data Analytics and Customer Experience Management Programs, TM Forum, a global industry association for digital businesses.

Predictive analytics combined with CRM data gives marketers and salespeople the chance to learn, at a deeper level, customers’ habits and then react to those in real time,” says Vicki Godfrey, CMO, Avention, a provider of data solutions. “This makes for more personalized interactions, which leads to increased sales, better customer relationships and reduced churn rates.”

Look for the CRM of Things. “We’ve seen the Internet of Things (IoT) make major headway this past year, and CRM will begin to reap the benefits in 2016,” says Dylan Steele, senior director, Product Marketing, App Cloud & IoT Cloud, Salesforce. “Companies today want a complete understanding of their customers, and with billions of connected devices generating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day, it's more important than ever to know how this data can create an even more personalized customer interaction.”

So expect to “see smart devices linked to CRM, enabling automated business notifications, follow-ups for sales support, and billing processes that will redefine immediacy for customer service,” says Kevin Roberts, director of Platform Technology at FinancialForce.com, a cloud ERP solution provider.

[ Now read this: Big Data and CRM Help Public Broadcaster Attract More Donors ]

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