By Beate Thomsen, Co-founder & Product Design - November 29, 2023
The way we promote and sell products and services is constantly evolving. As a consequence, marketing is an ever-changing discipline. So much, in fact, that it can be difficult for marketers around the world to keep up.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have been developed to assist and support marketing teams' efforts. More than any other software systems, CRM solutions must incorporate these new changes to deliver on their promises.
It can, however, be challenging to predict what the future CRM trends will be or what will be the next game-changing move in the marketing industry. Is Artificial Intelligence (AI) the next big thing for CRM?
What is the future of marketing and CRM? If you look at the features recently introduced by CRM vendors, there is no doubt that we have entered the era of intelligent, integrated CRM.
Small businesses and global enterprises alike must take a deeper, more customer-centric approach in order to transform their go-to-market strategies. But the key, in order to become more customer-centric is to use a CRM system that has evolved to provide greater precision and better predictions.
Looking ahead, the future of CRM will belong to the CRM providers that can allow companies to meet the ever-changing needs of their customers and their expectations as well as follow and sometimes foresee market trends.
It is important for any marketing professionals to stay updated with new trends, whether they are related to the Internet of Things (IoT), AI, AI-powered digital marketing, or machine learning, just to name a few. Customers expect organizations to know a lot about them. They want conversation-like experiences.
If you can collect and analyze precise marketing data, insights and customer-centric knowledge, you will be able to choose the most effective go-to-market strategies. Eventually, you will win the market because when marketing strategies are built on a solid foundation of customer intelligence and insight, customer experiences improve.
Great customer experiences build trust, they increase up and cross-sales, they create loyalty and lead to longer and more fruitful lifetime customer cycles.
Britannica.com defines AI as “the ability of a digital computer or computer-controlled robot to perform tasks commonly associated with intelligent beings.” This is very broad, and one might wonder what AI means in the CRM context. In the case of CRM, AI is a very powerful tool. Some might even say it is the strongest feature of modern marketing.
While various systems have specialized in collecting data (a lot of data), AI is providing a smart way to use it in order to guide customers to their next purchase. And it is much more than just what they have bought last. It is data ranging from historical sales statistics to job statistics, social activities and other interactions that define who they are as a potential buyer.
It is indeed a lot of data, more than a salesperson can comprehend, analyze, and make use of. AI can take over and make sense of the collected data to provide predictive lead scoring, forecasting, purchase recommendations, etc.
AI is simply changing the way CRM software solutions work.
There are many AI use cases in CRM. While most companies have become increasingly good at collecting customer data, only some of them are able to do the analysis, mining, and understanding that is required to make full use of this data.
AI fulfills this aspect in several ways, for example, by helping predict customer behavior, acting as an assistant for the sales reps, generating predictive lead scores, helping produce targeted content, or even automating service desk functions.
AI can help companies automate routine tasks, deliver fast customer responses, and provide accurate insights to sustain business growth.
AI in CRM can take the form of “bots” (computer programs that conduct a conversation via auditory or textual methods). Take for example Salesforce Einstein Bots. Using Einstein Bots to conduct automated service conversations with your customers will remove some of the load from your service agents.
These chatbots give customers a quick and accurate answer to a service question without having to wait for a human agent to become available.
With that said, AI does not just eliminate some of the manual efforts; it increases the efficiency of sales efforts by providing accurate guidance to sell more, faster. This is what many people refer to as AI-powered marketing, in other words, relying on AI to help understand and predict customers' behaviors.
Should sales reps fear for their jobs? Not according to this research by Salesforce showing that “79% of business buyers state that it's absolutely critical or very important to interact with a salesperson who is a trusted advisor”.
The human interaction is still highly valued and in no immediate danger to be removed – especially when sales reps can provide even better service as they are powered with higher intelligence from data.
As AI becomes a reality, marketing teams worldwide are armed to turn data into actions and decisions. The more data they can collect, the better for their AI-powered CRM software.
Therefore, Big Data and IoT are also playing an essential role in the future of CRM, as they both help companies collect more information about their customers.
IoT refers to devices that are connected to the internet and collect data. This could be for example jet engines that are now created with sensors collecting and transmitting data back to increase performance and avoid accidents.
It could be IoT data analytics that are used to determine trends and patterns by analyzing big and small data. IoT can also be used to track and monitor properties, control industrial devices, etc.
IoT is a game-changer for marketing because it collects useful data with the help of various existing technologies and it then automatically transfers this data to other devices and systems, for example, CRM.
With an effective CRM system, IoT can feed immense customer data into a CRM system, enhancing its capabilities.
The original term “Big Data” refers to the huge amount of data that businesses worldwide are collecting every day. As companies are fighting to collect information about their customers, for example, using IoT devices, the data flows have become larger and the data sets have become increasingly complex. Both the variety and velocity of data have increased.
Although technologies have been developed for data storage, such huge data volumes mean that traditional data processing systems have a hard time to keep up.
While the term “Big Data” was originally used to name a huge amount of data, today, people often refer to “Big Data” as predictive analytics, user behavior analytics, or other advanced data analytics methods that extract value from this complex set of data.
Today, IoT and other data sources feed companies with even more data. Armed with Big Data, companies can make better use of their AI-powered CRM system.
AI can hardly be considered the future of CRM because AI is already part of many CRM systems. In fact, one could argue that AI is more the present of CRM than its future.
Several CRM software providers started investing in AI decades ago, and some of them can now provide great AI-powered systems. However, even though these systems exist, many companies are reluctant to invest in the solutions – often because they do not truly understand them.
Questions such as “what is Salesforce Einstein?” or “How is AI used in Microsoft Dynamics 365?” show that these AI solutions are not yet well-known. Also, many decision-makers are not sure that these solutions are reliable yet.
Let's have a look at 4 AI-powered CRM solutions:
Since its first release, every upgrade has brought additional functionality to the users. Today, it is an impressive solution that can analyze historical data against set parameters and create data models to deliver personalized customer experience, get proactive recommendations for the next best actions, and automate routine tasks.
Its AI apps were launched in 2018 in Microsoft Dynamics 365 CRM. Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI apps include Microsoft Dynamics 365 AI for Sales Insights, Customer Insights, Customer Service Insights and Market Insights.
Microsoft Co-pilot for Dynamics 365: This is the world's first AI co-pilot natively built for CRM and ERP applications. More than 130,000 organizations have already experienced its capabilities within Microsoft Dynamics 365 and Microsoft Power Platform. The introduction of Microsoft Co-pilot demonstrates a significant step in the evolution of business applications, integrating AI at the core of CRM and ERP systems.
It can suggest macros based on CRM activities, detect anomalies in workflows, and suggest workflow rules, as well as help companies enrich their data.
No matter how clever an AI system such as Salesforce Einstein is, it can only perform optimally if it is fed with enough high-quality data. One way to feed your AI system with additional insight is to integrate it with other systems.
Salesforce has a powerful and robust integration framework (API), making it easy to load data into CRM, so you can easily create custom integrations if you have limited data to load.
If you want to feed ERP insight into Salesforce Einstein, you can use a simple data integration tool like Rapidi Data Integration Solutions to integrate Salesforce with your ERP solution.
For example, Rapidi offers standard pre-configured integrations between Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central (former NAV) Microsoft Dynamics 365 Finance (former Finance & Operations) and further data integration platform support the earlier versions of the Microsoft Dynamics product suite such as Microsoft Dynamics AX, Microsoft Dynamics GP and Microsoft Dynamics NAV.
One of the benefits of using a cloud integration platform like Rapidi is that it offers full support for both on-premise and cloud integrations on a single centrally managed data integration platform.
ERP insight (for example information about a client's invoice history, credit limit, or payment terms) could give Salesforce Einstein yet another data set to provide better reports and analytics as well as even more precise predictions.
There is no doubt that AI has become an essential tool in the marketing industry, and companies that do not want to lag behind should jump on the train now.
Waiting until AI is perfect to make a decision might be a risky move. AI is not risk-free but while risk can't be avoided entirely, it can be rationalized. According to SAS, “Organizations that wait for AI perfection tomorrow will invariably miss out on its great potential today.”
How does AI CRM enhance the sales process and sales opportunities?
AI CRM tools revolutionize the sales process by utilizing advanced analytics and natural language processing to identify and capitalize on sales opportunities. They analyze vast amounts of customer data to provide real-time insights and actionable insights, enabling sales teams to target potential customers more effectively. By automating repetitive tasks and refining the sales pipeline, these tools streamline the entire sales cycle, improving conversion rates and overall sales strategies.
In what ways do AI CRM tools impact customer interactions and business processes?
AI-powered CRM tools greatly enhance customer interactions by offering personalized experiences and understanding customer emotions through data-driven insights. This leads to higher customer satisfaction as businesses can respond to customer needs in real-time. In terms of business processes, these tools automate manual tasks, thus optimizing business operations and aligning them with core business goals. They also facilitate efficient management of business scenarios on a centralized platform.
How do AI CRM tools assist in sales forecasting and understanding customer behavior?
Utilizing generative AI and predictive analyses, AI CRM tools provide comprehensive insights into customer behavior and valuable sales insights. This helps in accurate sales forecasting and in making data-driven decisions. The insights gathered can be used to tailor marketing campaigns and sales strategies, ensuring they align with potential opportunities for revenue growth and the organization's specific business requirements.
Can AI CRM tools improve marketing campaigns and customer engagement?
Yes, AI-powered CRM tools play a crucial role in enhancing marketing campaigns by leveraging insights into customer behavior. They help in crafting personalized content, designing effective email campaigns, and deploying AI-powered chatbots for improved customer engagement. These tools ensure that marketing efforts are more targeted and resonate with the audience, ultimately leading to better conversion rates and customer retention.
What are AI CRM's advantages regarding business outcomes and operational efficiency?
AI-powered CRM tools significantly improve business outcomes by facilitating efficient business operations and providing real-time insights. They help automate a wide range of tasks, from follow-up emails to customer service inquiries, thereby enhancing overall operational efficiency. This automation leads to valuable sales insights, crucial for refining business strategies and achieving long-term business goals.
How do AI CRM tools cater to specific business requirements and technical expertise?
AI CRM tools are designed to be adaptable to various business requirements, offering custom reports and features that align with different business scenarios. They require minimal technical expertise to operate, as many of the complex processes are automated. This makes AI CRMs accessible to a wide range of businesses, regardless of their technical background or size.
What role do language models and AI-powered chatbots play in the CRM process?
Language models and AI-powered chatbots are integral components of the AI CRM process. They facilitate real-time, personalized customer interactions, providing answers to questions with a high degree of accuracy. These tools can interpret and respond to customer feelings, offering personalized experiences and improving the overall efficiency of the CRM process. Their ability to handle a high volume of interactions simultaneously makes them invaluable in managing customer relationships at scale.
Beate Thomsen, Co-founder & Product Design