7 Important CRM Trends in 2013 and beyond


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At the beginning of each New Year, I always take some time to reflect on what’s to come.  One of my sources of 2013 inspiration came from an industry competition – CRM Idol, started by Paul Greenberg in 2011. The focus on the competition is to discover the most promising new technologies that will influence the CRM market and if past finalists were any indication, CRM Idol is indeed becoming not only a place for great industry collaboration but also for discovering the next companies that will be acquired – like Crowd Factory, a 2011 finalist acquired by Marketo in 2012 or Assistly, now Desk.com, acquired by Salesforce.com

Last June, Kelly Craft, Director of Product and Business Development at Dash Digital Group, in the collaborative section of CRM Idol, posed the question ‘What do you see as the most significant trend to watch in CRM for the next 5 years?’ to contestants and those following the competition. Over 30 people responded. Here are six predictions that stood out for me –

  • CEOs will make responsive CRM strategies focused on the customer their top priority in 2013 – This is what Jeremy Cox, Principal Analyst focused on CRM at Ovum: “I think given the constantly accelerating rate of change and disruption endured by all, forward-thinking CEOs will grasp the CRM strategy nettle and realize that they need to make their firms far more adaptive to customers if they are to maintain their relevance and survive, let alone gain a sustainable advantage.
  • The integration of customer data from all data sources will be paramount
    • Alessandra Ceresa, Director of Marketing and Social Network Management, GreenRope: “The most significant trend to watch in CRM is integration of personal data and every possible connection point between a company and its customers.  Being able to collect and organize information about email, social media, events, projects, tickets, surveys, website visits, conversions, etc. is the holy grail of CRM – if you can do that, you provide salespeople with the information they need to close deals more effectively.”
    • This rings true for Dave Evans, Co-Founder and Vice President of Social Strategy at Lithium: “One word: Integration.” For social businesses to succeed, there needs to be a supportive ecosystem that links the customer data from business-critical apps, like billing, social influence and online-events, to the CRM. 
  • Expect to see CRM expansion into customer-facing departments: This is the prediction of Jon Ferrara, CEO of Nimble, “The most significant trend to watch for in CRM for the next 5 years will be that CRM will finally move beyond the beachhead of sales and marketing team adoption in businesses to the rest of the customer facing departments. The conversations occurring with a businesses constituency will need to be joined by the entire company. I say constituency because a company’s ecosystem is much more than its prospects and customers. Sales, marketing, customer service, product, accounting and especially the C-level executives will all need to be actively engaged in listening, engaging and collaborating about and with the community that empowers a company to succeed.”
  • CRM that predicts customer behavior could be on its way: The team at Sequentia Environics, led by Jen Evans, believes that “the next big trend in CRM is going to be understanding, mapping and aligning to customer digital behavior.” Jen’s team believes that “if you were able to have a complete picture of how a customer was interacting with your company or brand regardless of channel, an accurate record of their activities on an opt-in basis, updated real-time as they connect, communicate, consume content and converse,” you’d be much better able to serve them. Most importantly, she believes this is an achievable feat in the near-term.

My take on the biggest trend in CRM in 2013? I predict growth in hybrid environments. Although customer-facing systems such as CRM are increasingly migrating to the cloud, sensitive financial prospect and customer information, usually housed in ERP systems, will remain for the most on premise. This is why nimble data integration between cloud and on-premise systems will be a key IT trend in 2013.

Here’s to an integration-filled 2013!

Lou Guercia
As President and CEO for Scribe Software, Lou is responsible for Scribe's direction, continued growth as a leader in mid-market and enterprise integration as well as the company's entry into the cloud through integration-as-a-service (IaaS) offerings. He is a member of the SIIA Software Board of Directors and the MassTLC Cloud cluster.


  1. You are forgetting us! Gamification is a huge trend! 😛

    Probably the biggest challenge you are going to have with any CRM implementation is getting end users (like your salespeople) to actually use it. That’s why gamification is becoming so popular. It’s the perfect way to encourage user adoption. We, at CRMGamified, developed a solution for Microsoft Dynamics CRM but there are plenty other examples of this.

  2. We get so focused on the technology that we often forget to put it all in the human context – how do we use the data in ways that build customer relationships that last, how do we sell effectively without creeping people out with what we know about them, how do we interact with prospective customers in a way that complements and influences their buying behavior, and so on. I think a lot of the reason we see so many implementations go awry is that the “R” in the acronym is disregarded even as we gain new insights through technology into what customers are thinking and feeling. My most hoped-for trend is that CRM practitioners think before they act and invest – and that access to the data in CRM is made available to more people in the organization, so that everyone who interacts with the customer can do what’s best for building those relationships on a human level.

  3. Chris, I’m afraid your hope will not be realized. Providing more data or better tech won’t make people interact better with customers.

    Unless the culture rewards building “human” relationships, all the data in the world won’t make any difference.

    Yes, CRM should handle more data sources, including social, personal or whatever adds value. But this sounds a bit like the “360 degree view” of customers that was talked about 10 years ago or more. The theory was that if marketing/sales/service departments shared a common data store, the customer would be treated better, loyalty would increase, and ROI would follow.

    It didn’t work out that way then, and won’t in CRM 2.0 where there’s even more external data to manage. But it should sell a lot of technology.

  4. Chris, I agree that we should never lose site of the human aspect of the "why” behind CRM technology – hence why I continue to push our team at Scribe to think about how to best enable front line business people with full visibility into customer and prospect data. Data needs to lead to better insights, and insights need to be supported by the right incentives so this approach permeates the entire business culture.

  5. Hi Bob, as always your input is much appreciated. You're right that data alone won't mysteriously make business people better – but without the data, businesses can't make the right decisions on how to interact with their constituents.

    Let's face it – businesses are no longer in the driver's seat – the growth of social has changed the dynamic of the customer/brand relationship, giving more power to the buyer. In many cases, buyers not only expect to be known, they demand it – and they don't want to be sold to. This is where the power of data comes in – in the right culture and for those smart companies, data leads to insights, and insights lead to better servicing.

    That said, just having the data available doesn't mean a company will make that leap. The company must focus on making a cultural shift to service the customer better.

    Nowadays companies that successfully build the 'R' into CRM see tangible benefits, and it's critical to enable those companies to fully integrate data for easy visibility within the marketing/sales/business divisions.

  6. One trend that is not going anywhere is the uptake of mobile CRM, which looks likely to grow in leaps and bounds. While nothing can guarantee that practitioners will use the technology to forge genuinely personal relationships, the ability to access data while on the move and respond to developments as and when they occur will enable users of mobile CRM to spend more time with customers, and be in a position to respond to a customer's request instantly, which can only be a help in building such relationships.

    The reason I can't see mobile adoption going anywhere but up is that there is still so much room for growth. Research carried out by Maximizer in mid-2012 found that, of 1,400 SMEs surveyed in EMEA, only 46% had already upgraded to web-accessible platforms – roughly half the proportion predicted in a major report on the subject produced in 2009. It is a figure that can only be expected to rise as the year progresses.

    I would also agree that hybrid CRM will be an important trend in 2013, particularly since there are suppliers on the market which enable customers to switch easily between making use of a partner hosted solution and running the system on their own infrastructure. And unlike with many pure SaaS solutions, the customer will retain ultimate ownership of their data whichever option they choose.

    Matt Ranger, Head of Sales, EMEA, Maximizer Software


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