Tech is constantly evolving and changing, with new apps entering the market and other brands merging or being acquired by competitors. Amongst all this unpredictability, there’s one thing we know for sure: the $120 billion customer relationship management (CRM) space is the place to be right now – for both CRM tool providers and their users.
As 2020 approaches, some key CRM trends will shake up the industry as we know it. Here are some of our top predictions for CRM in the upcoming year, including rising CRM use from new markets, powerful features and integrations, and the impact of wider tech trends on CRM.
20 of the most innovative CRM trends for 2020
1. AI is becoming a key part of CRM systems
If there's one thing that's affecting all industries, it's artificial intelligence (AI). We're using a lot more AI than we might think in our daily lives, as are businesses.
Of 1,028 organizations worldwide, 28% said they have already adopted AI and another 41% said they will do so within two years.
AI associated with CRM activities will boost global business revenue by $1.1 trillion by the end of 2021((https://www.salesforce.com/content/dam/web/en_us/www/documents/white-papers/the-economic-impact-of-ai.pdf).
2. There are fewer barriers for first-time CRM users
Three-quarters of sales professionals (73%) use technology to close more deals and 97% consider sales technology “very important” or “important” (LinkedIn State of Sales, 2018).
However, that leaves one-quarter of sales professionals not using technology like CRMs to close more deals. Common barriers to adopting a CRM include reservations about cost and lacking the resources and tech knowledge to implement a CRM system.
But as CRMs continue on their trend of becoming cheaper, simpler to implement and easier to use, these objections are becoming irrelevant. We forecast a higher percentage of companies adopting CRMs for the first time in 2020.
3. Social CRM keeps rising
What is social CRM? Social CRM, or social customer relationship management, is the integration of social media channels into Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms.
By viewing social media and CRM together, companies gain a more powerful overview of what people are posting about them on social media, as well as a clearer understanding of brand sentiment.
If organizations can use social CRM to respond to comments quickly and thoughtfully, they can build stronger relationships with existing and potential customers and incorporate more user feedback into their roadmap.
4. There's an all-star line-up of CRMs to choose from
Even though Salesforce's share of the CRM market is over 19%, there's a huge range of tools competing for consumer attention.
Customers are choosing from a diverse market of over 383 CRM systems, with tools that cater for both generalized needs and specific niches and requirements.
- Less Annoying CRM
5. Businesses can condense their sales and marketing tech stacks
With the rise of sophisticated CRMs and core tech tools, sales and marketing teams can get away with using fewer tools than before.
As a tech trend for 2020, teams will increasingly wonder: why do we pay for X App when Y App can now tick that box and more?
For best results from their tech stack, teams will be creating more integrations and two-way syncs to ensure contact data is always updated across all apps.
6. Voice and conversational UI will start integrating with CRM
As we move into the 2020s, the growth of voice assistant usage and supporting hardware will likely come into play in marketing and operational processes – which means we may soon see some voice and conversational UI as part of CRMs.
7. Businesses are automating more processes using their CRM
To stay relevant to tech-savvy customers, top CRMs need to offer advanced automation features. Many of the top players have been investing heavily in automation in the last few years; including HubSpot, Salesforce and ActiveCampaign, which has placed automation front-and-center in their product and marketing. In 2020, we predict CRM will become more synonymous with automation.
More organizations are also likely to focus on process automation using their CRM in 2020. This could include using chatbots to communicate with customers and solve help tickets automatically, or using automated email workflows to nurture sales prospects down the funnel.
With automation, these companies can offer high-quality customer services while optimizing operational costs – something that an increasing number of businesses are realizing. It’s even better if automation features are already offered by a business's CRM, as many are.
8. CRM is becoming interwoven with IoT technologies
ABI Research predicts that there will be 30 billion IoT devices connecting to the internet by 2020.
This also applies to the corporate world: one estimate suggests that 42% of enterprises are spending an average of $3.1 million annually on IoT, with benefits including greater cost efficiencies, organizational capabilities and supply chain visibility.
Improving customer experience (70%) is the area where most enterprises are using data generated from IoT solutions. With IoT technologies, companies can monitor and service their clients in new and proactive ways that were previously unimaginable.
53% of enterprises expect data from IoT to assist in increasing revenues in the next year - and 51% expect it to help open up new markets (Forbes).
9. CRM: not just for customer-facing teams
CRMs have been traditionally thought of as tools for sales and customer success teams. Times have changed – and CRMs are now a crucial part of a company's wider tech stack.
Marketers can use CRMs to best understand the contacts in their pipeline and monitor how CTAs convert. Customer success teams can access a 360-degree view of the customer to provide the most personalized experience. And management can access valuable data on performance across the board.
In 2020, more organizations will realize how CRM benefits everything.
10. CRMs keep getting more sophisticated
The most requested CRM features are basics like contact management (94%), interaction tracking (88%) and schedule/reminder creation (85%). About a quarter of buyers want monitoring of the sales pipeline and funnel.
However, a fifth of CRM users want slightly more advanced functions: sales automation, a central database, email marketing, customization and reporting/analytics.
“Best-in-breed systems are rapidly appearing in the market, bringing increasing layers of sophistication and becoming extremely good at solving specialised needs,” shared Mike Richardson, managing director at Maximizer Software, with MyCustomer. “However, all of these different touchpoints with the customer need to be centralised into a single view of the customer experience, in a system of engagement."
11. A CRM's customer experience is as important as its features
84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.
Salesforce outlines several ways to meet the expectations of today's customer:
- Live chat
- Knowing what they'll need
- Not making them wait
- Knowing their business history
- Knowing who they are
- Near-instant replies
- Response tweets
- Callback options
As more organizations up their customer experience game, others must follow suit: 73% of customers say one extraordinary experience raises their expectations of other companies.
12. Consumers expect companies to know more about them
73% of customers expect companies to understand their needs and expectations, but only 51% say that companies actually do, says Salesforce.
To provide the best customer experience, a company needs to remember previous conversations with a customer and adjust communication accordingly: 78% of customers also expect consistent interactions across departments.
This means that a customer's preferences must be known across touchpoints and interactions, and any required information about transactions or inquiries must be quickly accessible. A business-to-customer relationship is becoming increasingly like any human relationship.
Having a CRM and connected tech stack is the best way to enable this, as it allows different team members to store customer data about all previous conversations and known preferences. 47% of CRM users said that their CRM had a significant impact on customer satisfaction and retention.
13. One of the top advantages of CRM? A high-def view of customers
74% of CRM users say that their system gave them improved access to customer data. By acting on these insights, organizations can provide an even better customer experience – and access more data to measure its current performance more accurately.
14. CRM growth will come from new markets
Over 50% of CRM buyers in 2019 have been in one of four markets: real estate, consulting, distribution and insurance.
As we head into the 2020s, a great deal of new CRM growth will come from other vertical markets. These include:
15. Younger generations are pushing for CRM use
28% of millennials think CRM applications are “extremely critical” to their success, compared to 18% of Generation X and 9% of Baby Boomers.
This CRM trend will grow as millennials continue to gain buying power and the next generations enter the workplace. In the decade ahead, more teams will become tech-centric and insist on maximizing performance through intelligent CRM technology.
16. A company of one is big enough for a CRM
How large does your business need to be to have a CRM? The answer for 2020: a company with one employee is big enough.
If you're managing contact details, juggling a busy pipeline and have customer data to keep track of, you can benefit from using a CRM. These are familiar pain points for freelancers.
Freelancers are providing a strong market segment for CRM platforms, and we won't be surprised to see freelancer tools like Cushion, Bonsai and AND CO releasing more CRM-esque functionality in 2020 onwards.
17. Self-service via CRM
As automation becomes more synonymous with CRM (see #7), bots are completing more contact management tasks and saving team members from having to lift a finger.
Chatbots offered by platforms like Drift, Intercom and HubSpot automatically guide prospects through marketing and sales pipelines – collecting data, asking questions and delivering more personalized content.
With self-service, customers get their questions answered faster with far less effort required from the provider. It's a win-win.
18. Analytics features need to be a CRM's strength
With sophisticated analytics at their fingertips, organizations are in the best position to identify problems, solutions and opportunities. Companies recognize this – and are increasingly looking for powerful analytics tools to process their data in real time.
Many of the top apps on G2 Crowd's Top 100 list for Best Software Products in 2019 are analytics platforms, including Tableau (enables you to drag and drop to analyze data in a few clicks) and Splunk (offering real-time operational intelligence).
However, CRMs must offer advanced analytics functionality too. Organizations want the most accurate data into how their sales pipeline is performing, how happy customers are and what's contributing to churn, for example.
Although not all organizations are ready for sophisticated stand-alone analytics platforms just yet, more SMEs are viewing CRM analytics as a must-have, not a nice-to-have.
19. XaaS - everything as a service
SaaS – software as a service – is well-known, but what's XaaS? Everything as a service takes the concept of SaaS and spreads it to encompass every form of product and service.
With XaaS, any IT function can be transformed into a service for enterprise consumption – from platform as a service (PaaS) to infrastructure as a service (IaaS) among many others. XaaS includes any computing service delivered via the internet and paid for via a subscription rather than an upfront cost.
As a tech trend for 2020, we predict XaaS will start becoming more mainstream, as more organizations seek cloud solutions for new corners of their business, whether as part of their CRM, a stand-alone system or a connected tool.
20. CRMs need to be connected to every other part of a business
As each year rolls by, more organizations are viewing their CRM as an essential organ for the wellbeing of their company. To make this happen and reap the benefits, a CRM has to be connected to all other tools and processes in your organization.
From your email marketing tool to your invoicing system, make sure to have two-way syncs set up between tools that store customer data and your CRM. With PieSync, you can get started with two-way syncs between hundreds of apps.
Keeping your data in sync is the best way to avoid human error, resolve pesky data silos, save time on manual input and paint the clearest picture of your business for every team. In 2020, you have no reason to distrust your customer data and wrestle with unending lists of duplicate emails and misleading data.
A bird's eye view of CRM trends for 2020
If we have to make one overall prediction for tech and CRM in 2020, it's that more businesses will be using technology to eradicate or automate what they don't want to deal with – while getting better results from their other tasks. The recipe for that is CRM, automation and a connected app stack.