The Future of CRM 

Business & tech

If you could peek into a time machine and see the future of CRM (customer relationship management), what would it look like? Let’s explore this topic!

It’s hard to imagine running a successful business without a CRM, and the data supports this line of thought. While it’s not surprising that large, fortune 500 businesses and enterprises use a CRM, you might be interested in knowing that even small businesses are on board, with 26% of SMBs using one, according to the 2024 annual report of the state of adoption of CRMs. That same report showed that 83% of those small businesses that use a CRM reported that their spending on a CRM resulted in a positive return on investment (ROI). 

An enterprise will have a different use case for a CRM vs. a small business. For example, a small business may use a CRM as the single source of truth customer database and also a place to document notes about customer interactions and discussions on relationships with customers. A more sophisticated or larger business will use the CRM to automate sales processes, keep the larger sales team engaged, and document customer experiences that can feed into a loop back to a product development team. An even larger company may integrate marketing efforts and marketing teams into the CRM, and even connect social media channels for marketing campaigns. (Implementation of a marketing automation platform may occur at this time.) As a business grows into an enterprise, it may have a data analysis role or team and begin to gain even more valuable insights from the CRM to drive data-driven decisions. 

As you can see, a CRM delivers different types of value for various sizes and stages of businesses. 

That is why, according to Market.US, the CRM Software Market size is expected to be worth around USD $248.2 billion by 2033, from USD $75.1 billion in 2023, growing at a CAGR of 12.7% during the forecast period from 2024 to 2033. 

In short, this market shows no signs of slowing down. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t ripe for change and innovation, however. Here are some key areas where CRM will change in the near and distant future.

AI and machine learning in CRM

The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is already having an impact on CRM. You see it in suggestions for email subject lines, tips and walkthroughs in self-service portals, and help with writing code for calculated fields using conversational language. These features are the direct result of customer feedback where the CRM industry is responding to the pain points of users and harnessing AI to address them. 

These early applications of AI will make way for more in the future. For example, can you add a contact’s business email address into the CRM and have the CRM use AI to complete the remaining fields? Can the AI bot use logic to understand the first.last email pattern of the business, search for the person’s LinkedIn profile to find their location, add firmographic data to the record, and more? 

Can AI help you create personalized experiences for leads as they move through the customer journey? AI and machine learning will soon infer preferences from a prospect’s behavior and recommend language in emails or messaging that will fit that person’s industry, role, and intent. 

Can you use human language to ask AI to analyze data in the CRM? In the future, you can ask your CRM about your best customers based on close rate and deal velocity. Or based on deal size and renewal potential. Right now, these queries require programming and a knowledgeable data analyst. AI will remove those barriers quickly. 

Mobile-friendly CRMs

In the early CRM days, a mobile app was a pipedream. Then it became a ‘nice to have’ with select functionality available in the app. In today’s on-the-go workplace, it’s a given that a modern CRM will have a full-featured mobile app companion. Today’s reps want to be able to advance deals through the pipeline, make notes, and change opportunity details using the convenience of a mobile interface. Being able to make deal changes on the fly keeps sales leaders up to date and makes the up-to-the-minute nature of dashboards and reports more accurate. 

Sales reps are always looking for ways to add contacts to the CRM with ease. A business card scanner is a typical add on to a CRM. Some CRMs have one that is available as a mobile app at no charge. (Psst…this is the case for Insightly CRM.) Others will interface with a business card scanner app that may have a separate monthly fee. AI takes this feature to the next level. The app should use AI and machine learning to accurately transcribe business cards in less than a minute. It should recognize and correctly map contact titles and roles, categorizing and importing all the relevant information from a business card without human intervention.

Conversational Commands via vocal UI

One of the biggest complaints about CRM, and really all of SaaS, is about user interfaces. The volume of data a CRM must collect makes it difficult to make page layouts that are simple, and that often precludes them from being easy to use. 

While many CRMs are making strides in UI and UX, others are looking to the future of AI and voice technology. In recent years, voice-activated assistants like Siri and Alexa have become ubiquitous in personal use, so the leap to more business use is inevitable. 

CRM is an area that can be disrupted in the future by voice technology. Enabling users to interact with an app while using natural language will make UX concerns disappear. Imagine telling your CRM, “Add Jennifer Smith from Powell Technologies as a new contact.” Your CRM responds by creating the record. Then, you ask your CRM to enhance the listing using AI. Your CRM accesses Google, LinkedIn and more to attempt to complete the record with title, web address, phone number, LinkedIn profile, email address, and firmographics like employee count and annual revenue. Suddenly, you have a great deal of detail about Jennifer. Your CRM prompts you to check for accuracy and then continues by suggesting you add Jennifer to lists and campaigns that fit with the data. In just minutes, you’ve gone from a couple of details to a fully marketable record. 

Self-guided CRM purchases

The buyer’s journey for all of SaaS has become increasingly self-guided. According to a 2024 report by 6sense, B2B buyers refrain from engaging sellers directly until they’re approximately 70% through their buying process. A staggering 78% of buyers have already established their requirements before initiating contact, with buyers taking the lead 83% of the time.

Because CRM is a mature technology that nearly all buyers have used before, the self-guided nature of a CRM purchase is even more prevalent than other forms of SaaS. In fact, it spills over into a self-guided purchasing process for micro businesses, start-ups and SMBs. CRMs that provide a salesperson-free purchasing option where a buyer can select a plan, choose a number of seats, and checkout online with a credit card, are poised to win market share at a steady pace.

Certainly a more complex sale that involves integrations and add-ons such as marketing automation and a customer service app will require assistance from a sales professional, but that may occur after an initial, self-serve CRM sale has occurred. In this ‘land and expand’ method, a user purchases a CRM to get started, and adds on more aspects of the platform as the business grows. But providing the no-hassle initial self-guided sale is the key. 

AI = the demise of vertical-specific CRMs

On paper, a vertical-specific CRM sounds like a great option. The appeal of such systems centers around the reduced need to customize fields and objects since the software is already familiar with the unique data points that you’ll need to capture. Salespeople from the platform ‘speak your language,’ giving you, the buyer, comfort during the purchase process. Further, pricing is typically structured to adjust for business size and specific tiers of service. 

However the knock on these types of systems stems from the economics of the market. The fact is that they are almost always less profitable as broad-market CRMs. Which in turn means fewer updates, technology lagging, and the threat of the platform dying on the vine. 

Today’s CRMs that use AI are eliminating the market for vertical-specific CRMs. This is because it is increasingly easy to work from a generic, AI-enabled CRM and customize the system to your needs. This way, the initial set-up is enabled by AI so the creation of fields and objects is simplified. Then you also get the benefits of a CRM that is used by tens of thousands of businesses and therefore is employing cutting edge technology and regularly posting updates. 

Price points for start-ups and micro businesses

As technology advances, CRMs become more and more user friendly. Whereas in the past, you might wait until you had a sales leader and/or a sales team to move forward with a CRM (instead subsisting on free spreadsheet software), today’s start-ups and those of the future will jump right in with a CRM on day one. This is because there are many low-cost CRM plans and free CRMs available today. In addition, the technology has become much more approachable and easy to use, so there’s no reason to not start your business off the right way with a CRM in place. 

Even more automation

Just when you thought CRMs could not automate any more processes, here they come with improvements. Many businesses start off with a CRM due to the desire to have a single source of truth for their business. Once they implement it, however, they begin to see the true benefit around CRM is about workflow and process automation. Not having to rely on humans to do simple, repetitive tasks keeps them free to work on more profitable endeavors while also increasing the accuracy and timeliness of those tasks. For instance, once a lead is entered into the system, you may have 4 tasks that kick off. In future iterations of CRM, you could have several sets of tasks and use AI to determine which tasks to kick off based on firmographics, demographics, notes and more. AI will take automation to a new level of personalization. 

Create your own CRM future with Insightly

Ready to use a CRM to thrust your business into the future? Put Insightly on your list. You can watch a demo on demand at your convenience, start a free trial, or request a personalized walk through with a member of the team.