The Best CRM for Retail

The Top 4 Retail CRM Systems Ranked


  • Four Customer Relationship Management systems are the market share leaders in the retail industry.
  • These four systems go beyond generic technology processes to deliver industry specific capabilities such as consumer insights, consumer segmentation, a 360-degree consumer view, B2C marketing, B2C selling, Customer Experience (CX) management, loyalty programs, omnichannel engagement and consumer-based customer service.
  • Each of these systems has different strengths, weaknesses and value propositions, discussed below.
Johnny Grow Revenue Growth Consulting

In the prior post I shared the top industry specific capabilities offered by the best CRM retail software providers. This post will deliver comparison information among the top four Customer Relationship Management systems for this industry.

CRM for Retail

The Best CRM for Retail Companies

I have been comparing and implementing CRM at retailers for more than three decades. A recurring question I get is, "What is the best CRM for retail companies?"

The easy answer is to say, well, that depends. So, I'm not going to say the easy answer. Instead, I will suggest to answer the question you start by considering market share, market growth and the industry specific requirements that make this technology unique for this industry.

Market Share

So, I'll start with market share. The Big 4 applications across all industries are Salesforce, SAP, Oracle and Microsoft Dynamics. The below bar chart shows market share estimates from two research firms.

CRM Market Share

The Big 4 leaders are also the leaders in this industry. Not because retailers have the same requirements; they don't. But because these vendors deliver technology capabilities needed in this industry. Things like deep consumer insights, dynamic consumer segmentation, a 360 degree consumer view, B2C marketing, B2C selling, Customer Experience (CX) management, loyalty programs, omni-channel engagement and consumer-based customer service.

Platform versus Best of Breed Solutions

There has been a shift in the top software applications over the prior decade. Best of breed solutions are small but focused applications. They do fewer things but do them very well. The downside is that companies must purchase other applications to accommodate other requirements. That means incurring software sprawl, system integration and often redundant data depositories that have to be synchronized or otherwise merged.

There was a time when best of breed solutions possessed significant market share. However, that time has passed. The broader and more holistic platform solutions have evolved to deliver industry requirements and bring additional benefits. Things like more sophisticated workflow automation, better mobility, low code/no code modification tools, AI and enterprise-wide execution. The best CRM for retail solutions are now broader platform solutions that accommodate end to end business process cycles.

The Top 4 CRM for Retail Solutions

Selecting the best CRM for retail is a long-term decision that should be based on the many criteria that support your staff, customers and company priorities. Consider the following comparisons as a starting point.


Salesforce Retail Cloud

Salesforce is the market share leader – overall and in this industry. The company pioneered cloud delivery, social engagement and is a top innovator.

That innovation has delivered advanced industry capabilities, digital commerce, Einstein AI, a broad platform and a deep AppExchange ecosystem.

Salesforce strengths include:

  • The ability to manage one-on-one shopper journeys across channels, in real time and at scale.
  • Intelligent, personalized, and connected customer experiences at each stage of the shopper journey from awareness to purchase, to service, to advocacy, and renewal.
  • Conversion optimization with personalized offers based on browse activity, digital footprints and purchase history.
  • Commerce Cloud and omni-channel commerce experiences that deliver a unified shopping experience across web, mobile, and stores.

Salesforce is the only solution on this list that does not offer Point of Sale (POS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM) or Human Capital management (HCM) applications. However, the company does offer packaged integration to these types of business systems.

Consider Salesforce if you intend to transform your business. But recognize that acquiring the market share leader may come with a price premium. If you leverage this application for digital or business transformation your investment will pay dividends. But if your goals are less ambitious or your growth path is more incremental or you do not leverage Salesforce's advanced capabilities, you may increase investment and total cost of ownership without much payback.


Oracle CX

Oracle is especially strong in this industry. A few areas where Oracle CX stands out include the following:

  • It accommodates both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) application requirements. Many vendors suggest they do the same, but B2C is generally weaker. Oracle does both well.
  • Oracle CX and Offer Optimization leverage rich functionality and AI to deliver the right offers to the right consumers on the right channel at the right time. This is no easy task.
  • Oracle Campaign and Deal Management Cloud deliver rich consumer segmentation tools to target offers and maximize response rates. Campaigns can be created with a static targeting model for traditional catalog and direct marketing or a dynamic, event-triggered model for omni-channel campaigns.
  • The Oracle ATG Web Commerce integrates with CX customer data to support cross channel transactions, products, and services.
  • Oracle store capabilities include handheld devices for store associates to provide customer experience services such as line-busting, clienteling and assisted sales services. They also deliver back office capabilities such as managing physical inventories, and count, order, and transfer items.
  • Oracle CX is seamlessly integrated with broader business applications to manage retail merchandising and supply chain management. The merchandising and planning capabilities support promotions, trade fund deals, price optimization and price execution. The SCM applications manage forecasting, logistics and replenishment.
  • Oracle’s primary strength is supporting enterprise-wide process execution from a single vendor, fully integrated business application. That suite includes POS, ERP, SCM, HCM and BI. A vendor-managed integration that automates enterprise-wide transaction processes is a big deal to many companies who want to avoid complex and costly system integration.

Consider Oracle CX if you are a midsize or larger company seeking enterprise-wide, integrated systems and support for cross-functional processes.



SAP is the ERP software market share leader. The company’s Customer Relationship Management software does not possess the same market credibility. However, it does possess some novel capabilities not found elsewhere.

For example, the SAP Sales Cloud is designed for sales teams and merchandisers selling consumer products into stores. Achieving the perfect store requires perfect execution at the shelf, and that means having the right product, in stock, at the right time and at the right price.

The SAP solution supports store execution with a mobile app that plans, schedules, routes and executes store visits. Once on site it displays a 360 degree store view and checks planograms based on image recognition. It can apply data to support decisions on product placement, pricing, packaging, and promotion. It can verify compliance with product placement agreements and POG (Planogram).

This cross functional technology directly improves execution such as distribution levels and consistent merchandising practices. And most importantly, it improves the consumer experience.

Other SAP capabilities include the following:

  • With its enterprise-wide applications, it delivers an especially deep unified customer profile from every data source across the company.
  • SAP marketing and sales software apply deep customer insights to deliver hyper-personalized promotions, offers and experiences. That translates to increased conversions and improved consumer experiences.
  • The retail analytics tools are especially good at understanding consumer profiles, journeys and intent.
  • The integration across business applications supports broader industry requirements such as loyalty systems, trade promotion management, pricing optimization, order-to-cash and enterprise performance management.

Consider SAP CRM if you are a large company evaluating the SAP ERP software, or you are an existing SAP customer.


Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement

The Microsoft value proposition is similar to SAP, in that the Customer Engagement (CE) software is part of a holistic, enterprise-wide business application suite. However, where SAP dominates the largest companies, Microsoft is the ERP market share leader among midmarket companies. The combined Microsoft solution includes ERP, SCM, HCM, POS, eCommerce, BI and CE.

Focusing on just the Dynamics 365 CE, benefits of this solution include the following:

  • Native integration with Outlook. And it's really more than just contacts and email integration. Microsoft replicates the CE application within Outlook so that salespeople and executives can perform their activities without leaving Outlook. I've implemented Dynamics CE for a long time and this is often the most appreciated benefit by users.
  • The Microsoft CE software is a cloud native browser-based application that permits very flexible configuration. Other systems also permit configurations, but once made you are unlikely or unable to change. Microsoft's tools and constructs are more flexible and show that becoming standardized does not mean becoming inflexible.
  • Microsoft is ahead of most competitors in business process automation capabilities. The application offers multiple workflow types (i.e. background or real-time workflows, Dialogues, Actions and Business Process Flows) and the Power Automation application can extend workflow creation and customization.
  • Microsoft's Power Platform tools are low code/no code tools that permit CE software customization by non-programmers and without over-customizing the application. That means a higher fit application with less maintenance and much easier upgrades.
  • Microsoft CE software is a global application that delivers localized functionality in about 40 regions with 42 languages. The application covers all the "multi's", such as multiple company, multiple currency, multiple languages and multiple time zones.
  • The CE software is the least expensive cloud application among the Big 4.
  • Market share growth shows Microsoft gunning for the number 2 position. Although Salesforce continues to extend its lead, Microsoft has challenged Oracle CX and SAP for the runner up spot.

Consider Microsoft Dynamics CE if you are small or midsize company looking for least cost software or seeking cross-functional or enterprise-wide business application systems.

And one more special mention

It's difficult to talk about the best CRM for retail and not mention Adobe.

Adobe is a market share leader in this industry. However, it is not a CRM for retail solution. At the minimum, Customer Relationship Management software must include integrated marketing, sales and customer service. Adobe does not offer Sales Force Automation or customer service apps.

However, I would be remiss if I didn't share that the company is the leader in marketing automation or what are often called marketing clouds. It's not unusual to see Adobe purchased as a third party app with each of the Big 4 solutions. In fact, Microsoft and Adobe have a strategic alliance where Microsoft leads with Adobe as their integrated marketing cloud for large companies.