The Future of CRM


We all know CRM’s story so far: its early promise, its hits and misses, and its broad adoption as an understanding of its role deepened.

But what about the future of CRM? And not just in the next year, but the decade to come?

These six trends are on the upswing in order from those in play today, to those further out.

1. Fewer winners, more losers?

Oracle is buying up smaller CRM providers, HubSpot is entering the space, LinkedIn is musing about it and Microsoft Dynamics CRM is taking CRM outwards into social media.

Whatever CRM system you adopt, make sure it’s infrastructural: general, extendable, and customizable, with throngs of third parties providing specialist plug-in apps for your business. Key to the future of CRM will be the role of consultants and resellers who can guide you through the mass of options.

2. The CRM ecosystem will deepen and broaden

Another sign of a mature market is a multi-tiered support ecosystem around it. Thousands of vendors, both in the cloud and standalone, have made a business from selling plug-in apps. This trend will be deepening within the future of CRM, with plug-ins for plug-ins–and perhaps even plug-ins for them!

It’s a good thing. While you’ll perhaps need outside help to configure your CRM’s infrastructure, it’s infinitely extensible once in place. You just need to ensure that you make the right choice at the outset.

Unfortunately, one area where the future of CRM won’t get any simpler is data protection. The EU has some swingeing new laws on the way. With many CRM vendors being American, how you store EU customer data will take careful thought.

CRM consultancies will be of increasing help here. They know a great deal about data protection law already.

4. An understanding that CRM is more than email campaigning

Industrial-strength CRMs like Microsoft Dynamics CRM – which scales to thousands of users without the rather high costs-per-seat of Salesforce – are capable of being your complete marketing communications system. Many customers have used it principally for email campaigns but that is now fading.

As Technology and Marketing departments come closer together, they are both beginning to learn new things. Technologies are deepening their understanding of the brand equity of good communications, while Marketing adopts the precise metrics used by the technology team. Both teams are using CRM to manage the entire customer relationship, from first ‘tickle’ to project engagement. That’s the way the future of CRM should be.

5. Event-driven triggers from social listening

The future of CRM is set to become a lot more social. With the rise of CRM (Social CRM), a leading CRM application can now “listen” to what your audience is talking about across social media. It can pull tweets and posts out of the clickstream for you to respond to.

Today, it’s mostly mentions of a brand name and associated positive or negative phrases. (Let’s face it, any tweet with “your name” and “incompetent” in it is something you want to know about.) But automatic responses to such red flags – even if they’re only an acknowledgment – is already common.

The next stage is for machine logic to not only respond, but decide what to do. In the next few years, CRM systems will respond intelligently to events they “hear” on social media – for example, sending out a reassuring email if a competitor has a data breach.

6. Artificially intelligent marcomms

There are signs that Artificial Intelligence will create our marketing in the future of CRM.

It’s not going to happen tomorrow (at least, marketing departments hope not) but services like Persado are already providing useful clues as to what’s next.

At the moment, such applications do little more than customize “hot buttons” like the Call to Action of a marketing email, but it’s certainly a trend to watch. Will the need for human writers go away?

Summing up, the future of CRM includes:

  • Broader and deeper market understanding of what CRM can do.
  • An increasingly complex legal environment around data.
  • Trigger-driven events and decision logic which will be used to automate marcomms.
  • A continuation of marketing and sales working together.