Each year, IBM publishes “The Next 5 in 5,” in which they predict the five technologies that will change the way we work, play and live in the next five years. Some of their predictions this year seem plausible: systems will use your unique biological identity to protect your information, eliminating the need for passwords. Others border on sci-fi: scientists will create technology that links your brain waves to your devices, allowing you to control them with your mind.
I wanted to follow IBM’s lead and ask, “Where will CRM be five years from now?” To answer that, I reached out to some of the foremost thought leaders in the field:
- Ray Wang, Principal Analyst & CEO at Constellation Research
- Brent Leary, Owner at CRM Essentials
- Esteban Kolsky, Principal & Founder at ThinkJar LLC
- Denis Pombriant, CEO at Beagle Research Group, LLC
- Paul Greenberg, Owner at The 56 Group, LLC
- Brian Solis, Principal at Altimeter Group
Without further ado, I present the five technologies that will change CRM in the next five years.
Context Services Will Provide a Clearer Picture of Customers
A key benefit of CRM is that it aggregates information about current and prospective customers, collectively painting a picture of the person or organization a company is dealing with. Context services, with data originating from social media, location-based services and mobile devices, contribute additional context (location, relationships, behavior, etc.) to that information. The result is a far richer customer profile. These services provide the foundation for intuitive offers, which are promotions or up-sell opportunities based on customer interactions and behaviors.
Ray Wang suggests that in the next five years, we will see tremendous growth in context services and the data they provide. A key source of this context data will be from mobile devices. Gartner predicts that by 2015, 1.8 billion people will have smartphones. Of those, they estimate 40 percent will opt-in to context services that track their activities. By 2017, these numbers will increase and, based on current growth, likely double. This could fuel an entirely new mobile CRM industry.
Real-time Customer Intelligence Will Become a Reality
The variety and sources of customer data is exploding, and companies understandably want to leverage it in their sales cycles, marketing campaigns and other customer-facing processes as quickly as possible. Before they can do that, however, they need systems with substantial processing power that can analyze vast amounts of customer data and make actionable recommendations based on it in real-time. This is something that even current data warehouse technologies struggle with. Esteban Kolsky explains…
“We still don't have the analytical tools to make sure we can deliver value in the instances described,” says Kolsky “We need to build the infrastructure to make sure there is value in the technology. Analytics and Cloud are leading the charge there.”
In the next five years, more powerful mobile and Cloud-based analytics applications will become available, with compute cycles unrestrained given the near-infinite computing resources of the Cloud. Paul Greenberg also predicts that we’ll see more technologies like SAP HANA, Hadoop and other in-memory and distributed technologies deliver radically faster information processing capabilities. Real-time customer intelligence will become a reality.
TV Will Become the Next Big Channel in Customer Engagement
Though it’s been around for decades, the popularity of television isn’t declining relative to newer social and mobile marketing channels. In fact, its prevalence and importance is increasing. According to the Nielsen 2011 Consumer Usage Report:
- 115 million U.S. households have at least one television—and 36 million have four or more.
- Worldwide, 35% already own HDTVs, with another 23% expecting to buy one.
- Worldwide, 6% already own 3D TVs, with an incredible 23% expecting to buy one.
In the next five years, CRM integration with television will be developed, with Apple, Google and Microsoft leading the charge. Brent Leary predicts that the TV will be added to the mix of channels used to engage customers. Much like companies expanded to social in order to improve the customer experience, five years from now, companies will interact with customers through their Internet-connected TVs, leveraging their large-screen, high-definition, 3D capabilities.
“When people are at home with access to a big screen, they will want to leverage that for their interactions and rich content experiences,” says Leary. “Companies that begin developing engagement strategies with this in mind should be in line to see some competitive advantage in terms of customer engagement.”
Over the next five years, CRM software vendors will respond by creating technology to enable this. CRM systems will allow users to engage customers through a television and to create, manage and track the success of those interactions.
Virtual Meetings Will Change the Way People Do Business
For years, companies have attempted to scale back travel budgets in the face of escalating airline ticket prices and instead conduct business by WebEx, Skype, video conferences and similar means. In the next five years, this trend will likely continue with the growth of unified communications (UC) and the integration of multichannel capabilities with location services and even social media tools. According to Greenberg, “Technologies around unified communications will be not only hot, but game changers.”
There are interesting opportunities for UC to gain traction across CRM processes. For example, while customers today interact with service agents over the phone, by email or using live chat, within five years they might be able to jump into a fully-interactive virtual meeting with one or more service agents, or even with other customers with similar questions or problems. We might also see new forms of virtual conferences and tradeshows emerge that facilitate much richer interactions between companies and prospects.
These new forms of interaction will both generate content and require content, and that content will need to be managed. Denis Pombriant suggests that this will increase the need for enhanced content management systems, as well as spur demand for video production tools that lightly-trained people can use to create animations and conventional “talking head” broadcasts. We will also probably see CRM systems evolve to track these virtual interactions.
Gamification Will Go from Buzz to Business Strategy
Gamification was mostly a buzzword in 2011, but in five years, we’ll see it becoming a pivotal business strategy within the enterprise. To date, gamification has been relegated mostly to the marketing sphere, and companies such as Dell, Samsung, Deloitte and NBC are getting on board. Brian Solis explains what we can expect:
“In five years, we will see gamification extend beyond marketing to improve loyalty through integrated social rewards programs, social graph data, and a more community-focused effort on expanding the company's reach through influence and advocacy programs.”
The data from these games will provide companies with more insight into customer behavior, which will be used to enhance and personalize the customer experience.
What are your thoughts? Did we hit the nail on the head or completely miss the mark? Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.
A very special thanks to the experts who lent their time, knowledge and informed opinions to this piece.