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Sales

The 5 CRM Trends To Watch in 2021

If you feel like new CRM solutions pop up overnight… every night, you’re not alone. The space seemingly changes in the blink of an eye, making it more crucial than ever to stay ahead of the curve and maintain a leg up over your fiercest competitors. In an ever-changing space, there’s a lot of noise. So, which CRM trends should you pay attention to and which aren’t worth a second thought? Let’s find out!

1. Mobility and Accessability from Anywhere

Mobility and accessibility have long been an ongoing trend in just about every software space, CRM not excluded.

The 2020 pandemic underscored the need for accessibility from anywhere, at any time. Most companies were forced to adapt overnight across the world, and a significant number of them struggled because of the lack of mobility of highly complex tools, like CRM software.

The good news is that the weaknesses of mobile CRM systems are now well-known, and the move to greater accessibility from anywhere can advance much faster knowing what we know now.

So, in practical terms, what are we talking about in the CRM space?

We’re already seeing a big shift to universal apps that work seamlessly across platforms, operating systems, and screen sizes. These apps let sales managers transition between an online and offline environment without hindrance to their work. They can also seamlessly switch between devices.

However, we expect the future to look even brighter with the ease of switching between devices, sharing information across your team, and working from anywhere being huge points of focus.

Mobile CRM solutions can also benefit from enhanced forms of security and intuitive interfaces thanks to cloud deployments. Upgrades in those areas are very appealing to both newly remote teams and businesses spread across the globe. Many tools have already paved the way, and we expect these UI updates to make their way into the CRM world in the near future.

Customers themselves are no longer tied to their computers and expect access to data on the go via their phones and tablets. So, sales teams need to join them and move to mobile CRM software backed by cloud computing.

There are many benefits to mobile CRM, including accessing dashboards on the go, dialing into meetings or phone calls with click-to-call, plus opening and sharing files wherever you are–not to mention the ability to respond to customer service cases and automatic updates that are universal across platforms.

Of course, there is some risk of security issues with more mobile flexibility, but this can easily be mitigated and/or prevented with technology such as multi-factor authentication and VPNs.

One area that has slowed mobile CRM development down in the past is redownloading CRM apps with each new update on every device. For small teams, it’s a small task. But for enterprises and large companies, it’s insurmountable. We expect the future of CRMs to be apps that automatically update without any manual work required.

2. AI + Automations for Better or for Worse?

The rise of AI, which was predicted for years, is here, and luckily it doesn’t seem to be the end of the world just yet. A recent Salesforce report indicated that marketers using artificial intelligence shot up, from 29% in 2018 to 84% in 2020.

What does that mean for your CRM and the way you use it?

The first impact is a rise of predictive analytics to bring unprecedented types of data to the forefront, making it easier than ever to learn about our customers and predict future buying trends.

For example, we’ll see the segmentation of different types of customers based on their unique factors. AI can be extremely efficient at identifying patterns we’d otherwise never be able to pinpoint thus giving us more insight into how our audience buys.

We’re talking about real-time insights that factor in demographics, customer preferences, feelings, world-views, and sentiments. Businesses can analyze deals won vs. lost and detect trends for future leads.

As a result, you can spend more time on those that are more likely to purchase and save yourself the trouble of spending resources on audience members who probably won’t turn into customers. All with unprecedented accuracy.

Another area of CRM evolution will be AI powering the growth of automation features. Here, we’ll see time-consuming tasks, even tedious ones that usually take days, automated. The result is spending less time on administrative and repetitive tasks, with more capacity to focus on other things.

There is a limit to how far automation can answer customer questions, so this is something we’ll still see in a basic form. Where AI is today, there’s still a need for humans behind the scenes—AI-driven live chat and phone trees have a long way to go before that day comes.

Nevertheless, cutting out inquiries for common questions and automating repetitive tasks will allow marketing, sales, and support reps to answer more customer questions and spend more time delivering high-quality experiences.

Another area we see AI automation being useful is in predicting customer questions before they even ask them. This will allow sales teams to prepare beforehand and gain valuable insight into what a potential customer is thinking without having to ask.

The final area of AI to watch that ties in with automation is conversational tools. These are tools such as voice assistants and chatbots that help customers find what they’re looking for and direct them to the right place.

It’s expected the functionality here will only improve, with chatbots in the future using language processing to understand more deeply what a customer is asking.

Breaking it down specifically, this will include things like determining which customer request should be dealt with first, analyzing their emails to understand them, and sorting through requests automatically so CRM managers can respond more quickly and efficiently.

Voice assistants continue to be popular too. Here we’ll see voice assistant functionality inside the CRM software, allowing users to talk to the software rather than manually typing things out. Other uses include creating transcripts and recording voice meetings.

Again, this is a developing piece of tech, and while improvements are progressing quickly, we’re still some way off from a voice assistant being the only way of doing business. Still, it’s a trend to keep in mind this year.

3. Customers are Using Their Voices Online Now More than Ever

The customer experience (CX) is an increasingly important area in the world of CRM—at its core, that’s what CRM is for.

In a sea of department stores, big-box chains, and Amazon, customers care more than ever about the shopping, buying, and unboxing experience. They want a personal, authentic connection to the brands they buy from. Because of that—and the rise of social media—customers are sharing those experiences with anyone who’s willing to listen.

Because of social media’s natural tendency towards human connection and giving everyone a platform, many brands see it as a potential threat.

But the better way to think about it is as an effective form of personalized marketing. Consumers are looking for ways to connect on a human level. What better place than social media?

Social media is actually a key ROI driver, resulting in massive investments in social media marketing campaigns on a global level. In a world where three in four marketers are investing in social media marketing, your competitors may quickly rise above you if you’re not joining in.

Because of this explosive trend, we expect many CRM platforms to start heavily incorporating social media channels and behavior tracking tools to help businesses learn more about how customers interact with them online.

CRM platforms will incorporate social media channels within their platforms, allowing sales teams to stay up to date with their customers in one unified location.

A good example of this would be CRM software that integrates Twitter, Facebook, and other social media platforms, making it easy to track mentions, handle interactions faster than ever, and keep track of public communications over the long term.

Rather than implementing new, innovative tools, the idea is that CRM software will tie in all customer interactions from every channel into one platform.

In doing so, you can build upon relationships and make more sense of the social media data you have. From there, you can take a closer look at how customers interact with your business in an entirely new way.

4. One Software to Rule Them All

We’ve spoken about social media integration within a CRM platform, but there’s a broader integration that’s expected this year in the CRM space.

Specifically, we expect to see solutions appearing that integrate essential software into a single package. So, in other words, a collective bundle that works seamlessly together.

Right now, teams tend to jump around across multiple different pieces of software in the average day. Ultimately, this can slow down productivity and make attracting customers harder overall.

We’re talking about solutions that will integrate everything: customer service tools, email software, analytics, customer data platforms, and marketing automation. The dream is that there wouldn’t be a need to leave the CRM system once an individual signs into it.

It’s an end to the problematic juggling act sales teams have to perform right now.

The internet of things (IoT: a system of interrelated, internet-connected objects) will be a big part of making this happen.

IoT-connected devices can send out data about maintenance and product updates, along with the ability to feed more data into a CRM system. There are expected to be more than 64 billion IoT devices worldwide by 2025.

For example, IoT devices used by customers could supply data to a company about any product errors or problems that occur. This will allow the business to improve the customer experience with much greater awareness, and therefore, the customer satisfaction levels.

It also opens up more personalized opportunities for marketing campaigns that can target the customer more effectively.

Of course, it’s always worth thinking about which integrations would be the most important for your company. Current strategies here include data import tools and software like Zapier, which uses workflows to automate web applications together.

This is just an idea of what a fully integrated future could look like, and there’s no doubt it could completely change the CRM landscape. 

5. Augmented and Virtual Reality

If you’ve ever been on a VR (virtual reality) headset, then you’ll realize how far the tech has come. It’s no longer something in its infancy—it can be a completely immersive experience for the user.

The same is true with AR (augmented reality) tech, which augments our reality around us and makes the real-world more interactive.

Marketers are increasingly aware of this tech’s potential, allowing them to reach customers quite like never before. As marketing experiments in the VR and AR industry grow, so does the chance of them being a part of your CRM strategy in the future.

The first signs appeared in the retail sector, allowing customers to browse stores using VR to “look at products” from their living room as if they were there. This lets customers take as long as they like and minimizes the need for long queues. It’s getting cheaper to manufacture VR tech, too, thereby driving higher adoption rates.

It’s a staggering prospect that seems the stuff of science fiction, but it’s here, it’s real, and doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.

CRM platforms that integrate this tech will have more advanced tools for reaching customers and increase their chances of a sale due to the enhanced buying experience.

For example, a customer service representative won’t need to ask a customer to describe a problem. Instead, they will be able to view it themselves directly via virtual reality, speeding up the process and removing confusion from the scenario.

Not convinced by AR? Well, 61% of customers now prefer online stores that offer interactive augmented reality experiences. Shopify has also stated that the conversion rate of products with AR content is 94% higher than products without—this is hard to ignore.

Augmented reality is also useful for CRM sales training and can provide real-time information to employees. Trainees can even benefit from remote assistance from experts where appropriate. In fact, better collaboration is one of the top outcomes of using AR technology within a company.

Both VR and AR show huge signs of promise then, and where the customers go, businesses need to follow.

If you still haven’t looked into either of them, now’s the time to do so.

Summary

CRM dominates the software market, and the growth is only increasing.

Keeping in mind the latest CRM trends will allow you to pick the right software this year.

Whether it’s superior mobility, artificial intelligence, IoT integration, or VR/AR, customers expect the best possible experience.

Knowing these trends provides you with insight into customer thinking, so be sure to adapt your strategy to stay relevant.


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