The Future of CRM: Top Predictions That Came True for Small Businesses

by:
on October 16, 2017

In recent years, the CRM software market has evolved to meet the needs of the market, adopting technologies such as the internet of things, customer analytics, artificial intelligence and more. Many systems have moved from on-premise deployments to the cloud, addressing the needs and expectations of their customers.

back to the future gif

The present has caught up to the future for CRM users

Gartner is one of the leading voices making predictions about the CRM market that various enterprises seriously consider. Small businesses can also learn a lot from these predictions.

This article looks at three of the top predictions by Gartner for CRM and what small businesses can gain from them.

We also look at some common use cases and how a few companies have benefited from the predictions.

Prediction #1: Cloud Deployment Will Be the Preferred Choice

Cloud-based software is becoming more popular than on-premise deployment due to faster implementation, support of mobile devices, offsite data storage and cost savings. Mobile access helps salespeople who are on the move as well as those who frequently work with independent consultants, brokers and freelancers.

Gartner prediction:

“By 2016, 50 percent of all sales applications will be delivered via the cloud.”

Source: Gartner’s Predicts 2013: CRM Sales (content available only to Gartner clients)

Business value: There are three main benefits of moving to the cloud:

  • Cloud platforms often offer an open API, enabling integration with third-party software
  • Cloud technology offers high levels of data encryption to prevent breaches or cyber attacks
  • Many case studies demonstrate that cloud models have better ROI than on-premise applications
Here’s a look at how moving to the cloud helped Xtreme Lashes, a small business that provides semi-permanent eye lash extensions and professional training:

 PRE-IMPLEMENTATION:  As Xtreme Lashes grew, it became tough to manage its globally expanding business on its self-built on-premise system. The company was using different applications running on different databases, creating complexity, inefficiency and the risk of error.

These challenges were also detrimental to the business’s growth model. To meet their CEO’s expansion plans and business vision, the company needed a single cloud-based solution.

 POST-IMPLEMENTATION:  Xtreme Lashes adopted Salesforce to store all its data and run apps for each department. The cloud-based solution now covers 90 percent of the business, with every department having access to the same data via an integrated cloud database.

In addition, Xtreme Lashes has been able to add new functionality such as analytics and reporting to gauge customer satisfaction, enterprise resource planning and accounting. Salesforce also helped Xtreme Lashes view the complete product life cycle, a feature not available in the earlier legacy system.

how to save money crm salesforce

Single platform for CRM efforts on Salesforce

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Gartner recommends that companies should continue supporting their existing on-premise applications until they figure out the costs of transition and its effect on the company’s productivity.

Cloud-based systems can help businesses save money and increase efficiency in many ways, such as by making it possible for salespeople to access the complete leads database when they’re traveling.

HubSpot CRM, Salesforce.com, Pipedrive and Zoho CRM are some of the top solutions listed in Software Advice’s FrontRunners for CRM software.

Prediction #2: Mobile Devices Will Improve Customer Experience

Back in 2012, Gartner found that enterprises were adopting iPads and tablets for their sales organizations. Enterprises found that tablets improved their image in front of customers during sales meetings. And for salespeople, tablets were both more ergonomic and functional than laptops, with longer battery life too.

Gartner prediction:

“By 2014, 30 percent of sales organizations will issue iPads and tablets as the primary device standard issue for salespeople.”

Source: Gartner’s Predicts 2013: CRM Sales (content available only to Gartner clients)

Business value: There’s no doubt that tablets are more convenient than laptops in certain regards like weight, ease of use and familiarity. You can easily swipe through presentations and pass the tablet around as well. And most major software products offer mobile apps that make it easy to stay in touch while traveling.

And now, companies are increasingly requesting mobile CRM access so salespeople can access their leads database as quickly and conveniently as possible—through their smartphones.

For example, in 2017, our advisers spoke to Jeff, a one-man real estate agency and developer, who wanted a CRM solution that worked seamlessly on his smartphone.

 PRE-IMPLEMENTATION:  Jeff found it difficult to manage his database of more than 2,000 contacts on his smartphone. He wanted an intuitive, cloud-based CRM solution that would seamlessly synchronize data to his smartphone.

 POST-IMPLEMENTATION:  Instead of hiring an assistant and increasing expenses, we recommended that Jeff try Salesforce.com and JobNimbus. These cloud-based solutions offer a single place to store all contacts and suit small businesses especially. They sync with native email, calendars, tasks and phone contact software so that users can easily import contact information into the CRM.

The solutions also automate notifications, provide note-taking functionality and track transactions and emails. This helped Jeff save time entering and searching for data, which used to take up a significant part of his day.

The Android app for HubSpot CRM (Source: HubSpot)

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Considering the business value, cost savings and ability to dazzle your customers, here are some Gartner recommendations on adopting mobile devices for CRM:

  • Encourage use of tablets and smartphones during sales pitches to present more engaging and feature-rich content to sales prospects.
  • Check for third-party apps on the Google Play Store or App Store that address your immediate sales-related concerns and don’t cost much, or are free. That way, you can use these apps while you shop for a proper CRM solution.

Some of the leading CRM solutions that offer mobile and/or tablet apps include bpm’online CRM, amoCRM, ProsperWorks CRM and Nimble.

Prediction #3: Social CRM Will Improve Sales Revenue

According to Gartner, a social media strategy helps sales organization create additional business value and provides an additional revenue channel. Current social CRM capabilities allow salespeople to track, monitor and contact leads.

Gartner prediction:

“Through 2014, public social media networks will be adopted by over 80 percent of salespeople.”

Source: Gartner’s Predicts 2013: CRM Sales (content available only to Gartner clients)

Business value: Companies are using social media to create brand awareness and nurture loyal customer communities. Gartner predicts that social CRM will have a major impact from 2017 through 2022. Marketers should especially target millennials and Gen Z, who are highly media savvy and can promote your brand to a wider audience.

Here’s an example of a startup that wanted to reach out to its target group of 20-somethings. To do this, it needed a solution that connected with all the social media networks it maintained.

 PRE-IMPLEMENTATION:  The startup, which develops software and apps, needed to reach out to new customers who are in their twenties. This task required communicating extensively via social media. It also needed a solution that would help agents provide customer support faster than other channels could.

 POST-IMPLEMENTATION:  The startup’s business partners recommended LiveAgent to communicate on social media. LiveAgent made it easy to identify leads on social media networks, particularly high-value ones in their twenties who use social media many times a day. Agents could also respond to queries faster on social media than via email.

The startup was so pleased with LiveAgent that they gave it rave reviews on our website. The solution also made it easy for the agents to look up past issue resolutions and apply them to similar cases.

Agents addressing a message from Twitter in LiveAgent

Agents addressing a message from Twitter in LiveAgent (Source: LiveAgent)

 OUR RECOMMENDATION:  Social CRM is still evolving, so search for well-regarded vendors that specialize in software which integrates with your current CRM solution.

While you’re shopping for the ideal solution, also research which social media networks your customers are more likely to use. In addition to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, you can also explore Snapchat and Instagram.

Some of the FrontRunners in CRM software that offer social CRM features are Marketo, Act-On, Less Annoying CRM and Gold-Vision CRM.

Conclusion and Next Steps

Many of Gartner’s predictions about the CRM market have come true. Some companies are aggressively adopting these technologies, while others are being cautious, depending on their needs and respective markets. Whatever your organization chooses, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Assess your capabilities: Check whether your business can afford the deployment costs, additional labor and extra time to search for and implement these technologies. Then analyze which trend you need urgently. Prioritize the trend that’s most likely to address your immediate business needs.
  • Keep costs low for greater ROI: Many software products allow you to choose from tiers of specific features rather than forcing you to buy the whole suite, which can save you money.
  • Identify your most needed features: Your business may not need all the available features at once. That’s why it’s essential to add on to your system as you grow. “The Essential CRM Features Your Small Business Needs” article breaks down the features small businesses absolutely need to start with.

To get a better understanding of CRM software functionality and features, we recommend you read our buyer’s guide. If you’re looking to get a comparison of tools, give us a call at (844) 852-3639 for free consultation with a software adviser.

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