The Top 5 CRM Trends of 2024

Innovation, disruption, transformation and a highly competitive marketplace can make the Customer Relationship Management industry appear fluid and unpredictable. However, research data shows a trajectory of where this technology is heading.

To measure the most influential trends we analyzed the last three years of CRM Benchmark Reports. The data was weighted so that more recent years received slightly higher impact.

Here are the 5 CRM Trends that stood above all others.

CRM Trends

See the 5 CRM Trends that stood above all others in 2024.

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Increasing ROI

Technology ROI is on the rise. There are three underlying factors driving the increased payback. First, the number of firms starting with a CRM strategy has nearly doubled over the prior three years. While only about one in four companies create a technology strategy before implementing technology, these companies are growing ROI by double digits.

Second, user adoption is on the rise. More software implementors are putting increased focus on the users. And third is an increase in companies targeting specific business outcomes. There's an increased recognition that simply installing software is neither a business outcome nor by itself is going to deliver much of a payback.


A Shift Toward Customer Relationships

This may sound odd but there's a small but measurable shift among the number of companies using Customer Relationship Management software to grow customer relationships. Despite the name of "Customer Relationship Management", over the prior two decades the software has been used almost entirely to improve internal operations, such as tracking user activities and getting the sales pipeline report.

Most companies define CRM from the inside-out, and craft customer facing processes to be low cost and efficient or achieve other goals that benefit only the company. Fewer companies also consider an outside-in perspective, to understand what customers want in order to build relationships with brands. But an undeniable customer driven market movement is underway and causing companies to refocus.

Customers are more connected, informed, empowered and demanding and that has forever changed the balance in power from vendors to customers. Smart vendors recognize customer relationships are a sustainable competitive advantage because they are not easily copied by competitors or displaced by new technologies.

Smart vendors are responding by placing new emphasis on growing customer relationships. Companies are beginning to ask the question, 'how are my customers better off after my CRM software implementation?' Companies are beginning to transition from what we call "CDM" (Customer Data Management) to the original promise of Customer Relationship Management.


From an Application to a Platform

CRM software continues to advance from the three pillars of sales, marketing and customer service to an enterprise platform that offers ecosystems of on-demand applications and services that integrate the application throughout the business. The software will continue to advance and modularize extensible services such business process automation (workflow automation), robotic process automation (RPA), data transformation, integration services such as enterprise service bus (ESB) and analytics that include AI and machine learning. A broader platform with more work streams will shift the application from a departmental solution to an enterprise program that aids enterprise-wide data sharing, process automation and information reporting.


AI Crosses the Chasm

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has finally transitioned from unbounded hyperbole to something that is getting used by salespeople, marketers and customer service reps. The software publishers are accelerating AI adoption by delivering basic but extensible AI capabilities. Some of the most common AI use cases from Salesforce include algorithms for lead management, sales acceleration, pipeline velocity, price optimization and client attrition.

AI use cases form Microsoft for Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement include predictive lead and opportunity scoring, relationship analytics, insights from LinkedIn InMail, talking points (recommended insights), who knows whom (recommended connections) and Notes analysis. Microsoft also delivers role-based AI use cases. For example, AI capabilities for sales managers include sales performance scorecards, team performance analytics, sales data Q&A, lead prioritization, pipeline analysis with relationship health and conversion intelligence.

Many vendors offer AI as an add-on to their CRM software. However, as companies realize that information is their most valuable asset, they also recognize predictive analytics must be a core system, not an add-on to a single business application. Companies replace their applications, but their information is lasting. More publishers are moving from AI as an bolt-on to embedded AI or otherwise tightly integrating this technology with their underlying infrastructure.

As AI crosses the user adoption chasm, expect CRM software to evolve from a customer data repository to a predictor of customer behaviors, creator of customer insights and facilitator of customer and company objectives. This marks a profound shift from putting data into a system to getting value out of it. AI and CRM are more than a convergence of customer data and analytics processing. They are a synergistic relationship which shifts organizational response to customers from reactive to proactive and elevates data from a byproduct to an asset.


Fewer Failed Implementations

For this trend, we pulled data from the prior three years of the CRM Failure Report. To be candid, nearly half of all implementations fail to achieve their objectives or just fail outright. But on the upside, failures have declined 8 percent over the prior three years.

Several factors are contributing to improved success. First, more implementations are starting with CRM strategy and clear goals. An interesting finding is that the Best-in-Class archetypes define fewer but much more meaningful business goals. They recognize that business value should be driven from a strategy, supported with use cases, facilitated by technology and measured in terms of user, customer and business outcomes. Design Thinking is used by more than half of the Best-in-Class archetypes to define their most important goals.

Second, implementors are applying more rigorous governance, program management, risk management and change management during the implementation.

Looking Forward to What's Next

To count as a CRM trend, we follow a simple guideline. Something that occurs once is happenstance, twice is a coincidence and three times is a trend. Two findings that stood out in the prior two benchmark reports and will become the next trends if their trajectories continue include a shift away from out of the box (OOB) CRM software and toward business transformation.

The shift away from OOB software is being driven in large part by two factors. First, many companies realize they must customize their application to capitalize on their unique value proposition and differentiation. Many also seek achieve the elusive goal of improving customer relationships and reaping the downstream benefits. Standardization works well for back-office processes, but customer facing processes often benefit from unmatched services. Second, the rise of low code/no code tools such as Salesforce Lightning and Microsoft's Power Platform has eased and democratized the ability to perform software modifications.

The prior three years of Benchmark Reports show the Best-in-Class archetypes consistently apply technology for business transformation. The data also show transformation is beginning to incur broader adoption.

Business transformation is often a response to a market movement, such as more empowered customers, disruptive competitors or accelerated commoditization. Technology by itself isn't going to allay any of these movements. But technology coupled with business transformation methods will.

More companies are recognizing that if there's no meaningful difference in the way you design or make products, service your customers or do whatever it is you do, then you are further implanting yourself into a commodity market. Forward thinking executives seek business transformation because their market is changing, their customers are changing, product commoditization is accelerating, and they need to transform how they do business to stay relevant and competitive.