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This post was most recently updated on May 3rd, 2018

Traditionally CRM has been all about making the process of gaining new customers and keeping their business as simple and cost effective as possible. Key goals include reducing the time taken in the sales cycle, increasing sales and improving customer insights.

Over the years, CRM systems have become increasingly focused on the customer experience. Now boasting an industry worth over $37bn, Gartner projects that by 2020 CRM will have overtaken data management as the largest software market in the world.

2017 saw several interesting developments across the sector, including a notable shift towards omnichannel capabilities and real-time targeting. As the industry continues to grow, more changes and new dynamics are expected in 2018. Here are five of the most exciting trends to watch for this year.

AI

While CRM AI developments in 2017 were geared towards identifying new leads and using AI bots to identify and engage with marketing prospects, 2018 will move in a new direction. AI capabilities will be deployed in a more personalised way, creating ‘intelligent virtual assistants’ to engage with customers and even take over some of the more repetitive parts of the cycle such as appointment creation and knowledge retrieval. Here are some ways chatbots will improve customer service.

Security

With new European Union regulations coming into force this year, companies are asking how they can adapt to ensure that their data security and processes are up to scratch. This year will see CX and CRM developments that reflect the new emphasis on privacy and data management. AI comes into play here as well, with bots being used to check privacy notice compliance and country regulations as well as identify and deal with breaches.

Optimising the Customer Journey

Your customers want to get from point A to point B as quickly and comfortably as possible. With developments in the field of CX technology, patterns in buying behaviour are becoming easier to track and understand. Access to this data makes it possible for companies to shorten each individual step of the customer journey, from start to finish. Companies are demonstrating a heightened interest in reimagining journey mapping to meet modern consumer expectations.

Integrate CRM with Digital Marketing Solutions

Digital Marketing and CRM solutions often assume different forms, particularly in relation to large companies. However, organisations are discovering the benefits of integrating these approaches, bridging the gap between sales and marketing teams. For instance, a marketing automation tool can pinpoint lead scoring models, sending the information to CRM where it is assessed by a salesperson. Compiling this data allows for a more personalised customer experience and a stronger approach to customer relations. Get started with our ‘5 essential marketing automation campaigns for your toolkit‘.

Personalisation as a Driver of Customer Loyalty

Cross-channel personalisation, tracking preferences to create intelligent mechanisms, monitoring customer data and behaviour; these are just some of the ways companies are driving loyalty by enhancing the overall customer experience.

As companies gain more access to information about their customers’ habits and behaviour, the need for a more personalised approach to customer care increases. Today’s consumer is searching for a brand that doesn’t just meet their expectations, but goes above and beyond in their commitment to outstanding customer service.

This year will undoubtedly see the CRM industry reach new heights. In addition to a number of technological enhancements and exciting innovations, 2018 will be a year for growth across the sector, clearing a path for further advancements in the years to come.