The SaaS guide for 2021: the trends, tools & stats shaping tech this year

Two women looking at a SaaS app on a laptop screen

Over the last decade, businesses have continued to move their sales, marketing and operations further into the cloud. With constantly evolving SaaS products, it's never been simpler to power a business from anywhere.

Overall SaaS spend per company is up 50% in 2020 compared to 2018, according to Blissfully's SaaS Trends Report.

Even the smallest businesses are using SaaS products without giving much thought to it, be it a CRM, email marketing tool or automation software. And for larger enterprises, SaaS is a no-brainer for keeping your teams on track, both individually and collaboratively.

The surge of SaaS in recent years has been the perfect primer for 2020's work from home boom, with at least 30% of employees predicted to remain remote after the pandemic is over.

As we continue into the new decade, here are the SaaS trends, tools and best practices to know about in 2021 and beyond.

 


What is SaaS?

Software as a Service (SaaS) is a software distribution model giving customers access to applications over the internet rather than requiring a physical media and custom installation. As the software is centrally hosted and maintained by a provider, updates are automatic and instant. You don't need to download anything to use a SaaS product and can log in via web and mobile browsers.

 

Defining key SaaS terms

Vertical SaaS solutions are created for a specific industry's needs, goals and pain points, such as tourism, retail or agencies. One example is Veeva, a cloud-computing company focused on pharmaceutical and life sciences.

Horizontal SaaS products are used across all industries rather than niches, catering to a general business need. For example, QuickBooks for accounting software.

Packaged SaaS products are designed for certain business goals and processes, such as boosting marketing results or improving customer satisfaction. An example is HubSpot's all-in-one software solutions for sales, marketing and service.

Collaborative SaaS applications help teams work together more effectively, such as by offering video conferencing or collaborative documents. Examples are Slack for communication and Teamwork for project management.


Types of SaaS products to include in your stack

The growth in SaaS spans every department, and it's no longer IT's job to select and implement technology. SaaS has become so accessible that anyone in a company can choose, subscribe to, and implement new apps. Cisco estimates that 75% of workloads will be SaaS-only by 2021.

To create the most well-rounded SaaS stack, here are the types of SaaS products that are worth investing in for most types of businesses:

  • Marketing – including tools for email marketing, design, social media, lead generation and marketing automation
  • Sales – including tools for prospecting, nurturing and closing deals
  • Customer relationship management, or CRM
  • Customer service
  • Development
  • Proposals and contracts
  • Finance, billing and invoicing
  • Data collection and contact enrichment
  • Analytics
  • Operations
  • Communication and VoIP
  • Project management
  • Ecommerce
  • Events

Many SaaS tools are multi-purpose and can tick many of these boxes, so you certainly don't need a tool for each one. Whether you have a few apps or a ton of them, it's important to sync your apps to avoid data silos and errors.


20 of the best SaaS products for 2021

Which SaaS tools should your business try in 2021? Here are some of the most popular SaaS products according to popular review sites.

 

  1. Slack – Collaboration software to centralize your team's conversations.

  2. Mailchimp – The top email marketing software according to user satisfaction on G2.

  3. Shopify – The ecommerce platform with everything you need to sell online, on social media or in person.

  4. SurveyMonkey – The popular survey creation and sharing tool.

  5. HubSpot – One of the most popular CRMs with a fantastic free plan that scales to advanced software for sales, marketing and support.

  6. ActiveCampaign – A top-rated marketing automation software for user satisfaction that streamlines your workflows and email sequences.

  7. LastPass – The app that remembers all your passwords so you don't have to.

  8. Zoom – Software for online meetings, webinars and conference rooms that's exploded in popularity during the surge of remote work in 2020.

  9. G Suite – Collaboration and productivity apps for business from Google, including Drive and Calendar.

  10. Jira – For agile teams to plan, track and release great software.

  11. Tableau – Connect to almost any database, drag and drop to create visualizations, and share with a click.

  12. DocuSign – An easy and fast way to get your documents signed.

  13. Canva – Create beautiful designs with a few clicks, whether you're a beginner or expert, team or individual.

  14. RingCentral – An easy-to-use and powerful phone system with many extra features.

  15. Freshdesk – Intuitive, feature-rich, affordable customer support software trusted by over 150,000 businesses of all sizes.

  16. Wootric – Customer experience (CX) management software to collect feedback via tools like NPS and CSAT.

  17. Xero – Beautiful business and accounting software.

  18. Buffer – Plan and schedule your social media calendar in one place; pivot your strategy with engagement insights.

  19. Trello – By far one of the easiest task and project management tools to get started with.

  20. Pipedrive – A sales CRM built for minimum input and maximum output.


What's changing in SaaS in 2021? And what's worth investing your budget in? Here's our round-up of some of the most important SaaS trends for 2021...

 

1. Analytics is taking center stage

Over the last few years, data and analytics have become a growing focus point in SaaS. Businesses are investing more and more in SaaS applications for business intelligence, and Gartner predicts that user spending on such apps will grow by 23.3% between 2017 and 2022.

This means that, in 2021, more businesses are likely to adopt specialized analytics tools like Chartio and Tableau. For businesses that have long struggled to trust the data at their fingertips, now is the time to adopt new SaaS solutions that deliver reliable numbers.

 

2. Focus on SaaS stacks as a whole

More companies than ever are thinking about their overall tech stacks: the tools they're using to power their operations and get the job done.

Sites like Stackshare give businesses a way to show off their stacks and get inspired by some of their brand idols, offering ideas of new tools and tweaks that can boost their performance.

There's also the MarTech Stackies awards, where marketing teams can show off their tech ecosystem. Here's Philips' entry for the 2020 awards showing the range of apps the company relies on:

Philips MarTech Stackies entry 2020

 

In 2021, more businesses will think about how their stack can play more nicely together. This can include making the most of native integrations between apps and especially two-way syncing using iPaaS, or Integration Platforms as a Service.

 

3. More automation

Annual spending for marketing automation tools is expected to reach $25.1 billion by 2023. Marketers say that the biggest benefit of automation is saving time, and other teams are quickly figuring this out too.

As automation keeps marking its territory in sales and marketing playbooks, SaaS users are expecting automation features across their tech stacks, from their email marketing tool to their accounting system and CRM.

More businesses are automating processes for customer satisfaction and retention, and they're often using their CRM to achieve this. In 2021, customer relationship management and automation will become even more synonymous.

 

4. Micro-SaaS

Think SaaS, but smaller. Micro-SaaS is targeted towards niche markets and small but dedicated user bases. Micro-SaaS can also be an add-on to a bigger SaaS product, like Boomerang for Gmail or Grammarly for Google Docs.

Micro-SaaS often has no or little outside funding and are run by a small team or, increasingly, solopreneurs.

With more digital nomads and companies of one looking to productize their business and generate passive income, we anticipate more micro-SaaS products coming to the market in 2021.

 

5. Vertical SaaS

Vertical SaaS describes a cloud computing solution that is made for a specific industry, such as retail, agencies or tourism. It provides tailored software solutions for small niches that may not have been catered to before, but now make up a valuable share of the market. We expect to see more SaaS products honed to specific industries and niche requirements as a SaaS trend for 2021.

 

6. Improved customer experience for SaaS users

According to Salesforce, 84% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, which means that if a user isn't happy, they will move to a competitor. Consumers have never had more freedom and choice than now.

In 2021, SaaS providers will need to continue improving their customer experience to win long-term loyalty and recommendations. The top-rated SaaS products won't necessarily be the ones with the best product, but the best combination of product and customer service.

 

7. SaaS companies offering additional services and know-how

As SaaS companies are pushed to provide the best customer experience in their market, they're looking for new ways to go above and beyond.

Right now, almost 19% of cloud budgets are spent on services such as cloud consulting, implementation, migration and managed services. Gartner expects that this will increase to 28% by 2022.

As a growing SaaS trend for 2021, we predict that more SaaS companies will follow in the footsteps of tech giants who offer more than just a product. Salesforce, for instance, offers a huge range of advisory, adoption and success services to help you make the most Salesforce – at a cost.

Another example is HubSpot's inbound marketing methodology that infuses all of their additional resources and offers, from their blog to paid training sessions and tickets to their INBOUND conference for customers.

 

8. Higher security using SaaS products

All the talk of GDPR has toned down since 2018, but the pressure to tighten up privacy and security is higher than ever. Users expect SaaS providers to keep their data secure and respect their privacy preferences. If SaaS brands ignore that, they could face damaging backlash on social media and review sites - not to mention hefty fines.

One way to reduce security risks is consolidating SaaS stacks. Some businesses are realizing that the diversity of a huge SaaS stack isn't worth the increased risk that comes with every new app. This is fuelling the ever-growing demand for multi-purpose and highly-secure SaaS platforms.

 

9. Increased SaaS spending

Between 2019 to 2023, IDC estimates public SaaS spending will soar from $229bn to nearly $500bn, making it the largest category of cloud computing, followed by IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service).


How to make the most of SaaS in 2021

 

Think about your overall SaaS stack

To get the highest benefits from SaaS products in 2021, first think about your overall app stack. How do your tools fit together and complement one another? Are they properly integrated?

One best practice for sales and marketing stacks is to centralize customer and prospect data with a CRM tool and sync insights from other apps to enrich the database.

 

Don't put up with a bad fit

If you're using a SaaS tool that you can't get your head around, causes complications, or offers poor customer experience, you don't need to grin and bear it. There are plenty of other options out there. Start your search by checking a user-friendly SaaS comparison site like G2, Capterra, or Crozdesk.

 

Follow SaaS influencers

To stay on top of what's going on in SaaS, we love following...

  • Noah Kagan – Chief Sumo at Sumo, blogger at OkDork.com, and employee #30 at Facebook.
  • SaaStr – The world’s largest community of SaaS executives, founders and entrepreneurs.
  • Hiten Shah – Founder of Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and Quick Sprout.

 

Automate and sync

Make use of your SaaS tools' automation features to save time, eliminate mundane tasks and improve data accuracy. Here's our summary of the best ways to automate your business processes, from sales to marketing and support.


How to sync your SaaS apps to enrich data everywhere

PieSync is an iPaaS (Integration Platform as a Service) designed to help your SaaS apps play nicely together. Simply put, you choose the apps you want to connect and determine how customer data should flow between them.

You could sync new customer data from Zendesk to your CRM so your sales team can stay on top of updates. Or you might sync unsubscribes from your email marketing app with your other communication tools to avoid frustrating prospects with unwanted messages.

PieSync is different from built-in integrations and trigger-action automations because it enables two-way syncing for the latest, most reliable data everywhere.

That means more power from every SaaS app. The data you sync, and whether to sync it in one direction or two, is up to you.

 

Try PieSync for free for 14 days to start syncing your customer data two ways between apps. Enable enriched, reliable and up-to-date insights everywhere.

About Lucy Fuggle

Lucy Fuggle writes for PieSync, the two-way contact sync tool for hundreds of apps. She also works with her clients to make their brand matter with a content-rich marketing strategy.