The SaaS guide: the tools & trends shaping tech in 2020

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October 24, 2019

saas guide software stack

73% of enterprises will run almost entirely on SaaS by 2020, according to a BetterCloud report.

Over the last decade, businesses have continued to move their sales, marketing and operations further into the cloud. With constantly evolving SaaS products, they can power their business from anywhere.

As a small-medium business, you're almost certainly using some SaaS products, be it a CRM, email marketing tool or automation software. And for larger enterprises, SaaS is a no-brainer for keeping your team on track – both individually and collaboratively.

As we head into a new decade, here are the SaaS trends, tools and best practices to know about in 2020 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.

Horizontal SaaS products are used across all industries rather than niches, catering to a general business need.

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 app stack

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

  • 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 tools to avoid data silos and errors.

20 essential SaaS products for 2020

  1. Slack (internal communication) – Collaboration software to centralize your team's conversations.
  2. Mailchimp (email marketing) – The top email marketing software according to user satisfaction on G2 Crowd.
  3. Shopify (ecommerce) – The ecommerce platform with everything you need to sell online, on social media or in person. 4.SurveyMonkey (data collection) – The popular survey creation and sharing tool.
  4. HubSpot (CRM) – The CRM with the highest user satisfaction right now on G2 Crowd.
  5. ActiveCampaign (marketing automation) – The highest-rated marketing automation software for user satisfaction on G2 Crowd.
  6. LastPass (operations) – Remembers all your passwords so you don't have to.
  7. Zoom (internal & external communication) – Software for online meetings, webinars and conference rooms rated 4.5 out of 5 on G2 Crowd.
  8. G Suite – Collaboration and productivity apps for business from Google, including Drive and Calendar.
  9. Jira (development) – For agile teams to plan, track and release great software.
  10. Tableau (analytics) – Connect to almost any database, drag and drop to create visualizations, and share with a click.
  11. DocuSign (proposals & contracts) – An easy and fast way to get your documents signed.
  12. Canva (design) – Create beautiful designs with a few clicks, whether you're a beginner or expert, team or individual.
  13. RingCentral (communication & VoIP) – An easy-to-use and powerful phone system with many extra features.
  14. Freshdesk (customer service) – Intuitive, feature-rich, affordable customer support software trusted by over 150,000 businesses of all sizes.
  15. Wootric (data collection) – Customer experience (CX) management software to collect feedback via tools like NPS and CSAT.
  16. Xero (finance, billing & invoicing) – Beautiful business and accounting software.
  17. Buffer (social media) – Plan and schedule your social media calendar in one place; pivot your strategy with engagement insights.
  18. Trello (project management) – By far one of the easiest task and project management tools to get started with.
  19. Pipedrive (sales CRM) – A sales CRM built for minimum input and maximum output.

What's changing in SaaS in 2020? And what's worth investing in? Here's our round-up of some of the most important SaaS trends for 2020...

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 on SaaS applications for business intelligence - Gartner predicts that user spending on such apps will grow by 23.3% between 2017 and 2022.

This means that in 2020, more businesses are likely to adopt specialized analytics tools like 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 sales and marketing stacks as a whole

More companies than ever are thinking about their overall sales and marketing 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.

In 2020, more businesses will think about how their stack can play more nicely together. This can involve adopting new apps but also adding native integrations between apps and two-way contact syncs.

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 people are 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 2020, 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 are focused on a small but dedicated user base. Micro-SaaS can also be an add-on to a bigger SaaS product, like Boomerang for Gmail or Grammarly. They likely have no outside funding and are run by a small team or, increasingly, a solopreneur.

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 2020.

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.

6. Improved customer experience for SaaS users

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. Customers have never had more freedom and choice than now.

In 2020, 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 2020, 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

The talk of GDPR has toned down a little since 2018, but the pressure to tighten up privacy is still on. Users are expecting 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.

9. Increased SaaS spending

Between 2019 to 2023, SaaS will account for more than half of all public cloud spending, making it the largest category of cloud computing, followed by IaaS (infrastructure as a service) and PaaS (platform as a service).

By 2023, public cloud spending is expected to soar to nearly $500bn, up from $229 billion in 2019.

How to make the most of SaaS

Think about your overall SaaS stack

To get the highest benefits from SaaS products in 2020, first think about your overall app stack. How do your tools fit together and complement one another? Are they properly integrated?

Don't put up with a bad fit

If you're using a SaaS tool that you can't get your head around, that causes complications or that 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 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, and employee #30 at Facebook and #4 and Mint.
  • SaaStr – The world’s largest community of SaaS executives, founders and entrepreneurs.
  • Hiten Shah – Founder of Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics and Quick Sprout.

Automate & sync

Make use of your SaaS tools' automation features to save time, eliminate many mundane tasks and improve data accuracy. For best results, automatically sync your customer data between tools to get your data in tip-top shape 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.