The prognosticating season is on us, so I will stop procrastinating and offer my predictions for customer relationship management (CRM) in 2018:
- The software leaders (Salesforce and Microsoft) will extend their leads. As in many other areas of technology, the top selling products tend to gain market share, and smaller players wither or are acquired. Salesforce is synonymous to CRM for most companies, especially when they are thinking of sales force automation and customer service. Microsoft will drive Dynamics 365 to buyers of Office 365 as it continues to gain momentum.
- Microsoft will ship a small business edition of Dynamics 365 for Marketing. This has been announced since over a year ago, but has seemingly slipped into 2018.
- Cloud deployment of CRM will continue to grow, compared to on premises deployment in corporate data centers. Security accreditation for cloud providers have boosted confidence and allowed even some government customers to adopt cloud deployments.
- Many will boast artificial intelligence, but few will deliver. AI is one of the hottest buzzwords, so it will be irresistible to marketers, but the features based on AI will not deliver meaningful business advantages in 2018. Just ask yourself whether you would prefer that your account territories or quotas be based on AI, or whether you would wish this on your competitors instead.
- Vertical CRM solutions geared toward the needs of a particular industry will gain ground. These solutions embody business rules that are important for a specific approach to sales, marketing, or customer service. These may drive buyers to the online marketplaces of CRM vendors to find solutions and service providers with the right industry experience.
The definition of CRM has continued to evolve each year, reflecting disruptions and business model innovations. Lines have blurred between some sales and marketing tactics, and customers will continue to demand and receive more information earlier in the sales process.