If you feel like new CRM solutions pop up overnight… every night, you’re not alone. The space is exponentially growing and seemingly changing in the blink of an eye, making it more crucial than ever to keep up, stay ahead of the curve, and maintain that leg up over your 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!
An evolving area before the pandemic, mobility was always going to be a trend to watch in the CRM space. If anything, the focus has only increased since people began staying—and working—at home.
The pandemic highlighted 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 mobility can now advance with the benefit of that acquired knowledge.
So, in practical terms, what are we talking about in the CRM space?
Well, we’re going to see a big focus on universal apps that work seamlessly across platforms. These will be apps that allow sales managers to transition between an online and offline environment without hindrance to their work.
Mobile CRM solutions benefit from enhanced forms of security and intuitive interfaces, and that will be very appealing to the new remote workforce. The post-pandemic world will need systems that can accommodate teams all over the world.
Customers themselves are no longer tied to their computers and expect to access data on the go via their phones and tablets. So sales teams will need to join them with a move to mobile CRM software backed up by cloud computing.
There are many benefits to mobile CRM, including accessing dashboards on the go, dialing into meetings with click-to-call, and 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 having to redownload a CRM mobile app with each new update. The future will be apps that automatically update without any manual updates required at all.
2. Artificial Intelligence
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.
So how does that relate to CRM? Well, in many ways.
The first is in the use of predictive analytics that brings new data to the fore. Imagine AI that can use the existing data stored in a CRM system to make authoritative predictions. These will be forecasts that can significantly improve business.
For example, we’ll see the segmentation of different types of customers based on their unique factors. AI can be extremely successful at identifying patterns in customer behavior, increasing the opportunity to sell to them.
We’re talking about real-time insights that factor in demographics, customer preferences, and sentiments. Businesses can analyze deals won vs. lost and detect trends for future leads.
Another area of CRM evolution will be AI powering the growth of automation features. Here we’ll see time-consuming tasks, even tedious ones, automated. The aim will be to save time that can be used elsewhere and boost productivity.
There is a limit to how far automation can answer customer questions, so this is something we’ll still see in a basic form. In other words, in-person contact from CRM managers and sales associates will still very much be needed.
Nevertheless, cutting out time-consuming tasks will allow these people to answer more customer questions in the first place.
Where AI automation is useful is in predicting customer questions before they even ask them. This will allow sales teams to prepare beforehand and increases their ability to answer the questions.
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. Social Media
The customer experience (CX) is an increasingly important area in the world of CRM. Customers care more than ever about the ‘experience’ a company gives them and will not hesitate to share their thoughts online.
One of the critical areas they do this is on social media platforms. As we know, these are public places, so a brand must solve problems without unnecessary hassle.
The pandemic has increased our use of social media, and they’re a natural place to share thoughts and feedback with the wider world. Some brands see this as a potential threat, but the right way to think about this is that it can be the most effective form of one-to-one marketing yet. This, in turn, attracts new customers after the social transaction is successful.
In fact, social media is one of the key drivers of ROI, which is why there’s been a massive investment in it—on a global level, three in four marketers are investing in social media marketing.
So how does all of this relate to CRM? 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 within the system. When a customer talks directly to the brand via this channel, the customer service representatives can get back to them faster than ever before.
In essence, it’s building upon relationships with these customers and only magnifies the existing data sitting inside the CRM software.
Of course, social media should never be the only platform you use to interact with customers—it’s about making sure a company has an omnichannel approach to strategy in a centralized place.
While this may not seem like a revolutionary trend, a company that embraces social CRM will be on the road to success far quicker than one that doesn’t. Staying informed on the latest trends here is critical.
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. AR and VR
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.
The pandemic has only amplified the hunger for this way of doing things too. Most speculate there won’t be a return to how we did things before, at least not quite in the same way.
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.
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.