Ecommerce Business Automation: the Ultimate Guide

The data-driven guide to eCommerce business automation

75% of existing companies could disappear, and consumers wouldn’t care, showed the latest Havas report. They surveyed 395,000 people worldwide and found out that the majority expects better customer relationships from brands.

 

There are many ways to achieve it. But they are all impossible without automation. So, how, why, and when to automate eCommerce business? In this article, you’ll get the answers to basic and advanced questions. We also provide you with the latest and authoritative statistics.

 

Let’s dive into the automation journey together!

Ecommerce business automation explained

61% of companies all around the world are using automation software and tools. 19% of businesses are planning to use it in the next 12 months, shows IBM’s research. What’s so special about automation?

 

Ecommerce automation is the use of technology that performs repetitive tasks. And today, it can deal with even some complex cases such as automated incident response. It makes your online store easier to run.

 

Suppose you’re bored of filling out the same purchase orders. And sometimes you make mistakes that cost the company money. That doesn’t make you a layperson. It proves that people aren’t ideal. So, they can enlist help.

 

Automation tools streamline all business processes. Finance, accounting, sales, onboarding, shipping – whatever you want. It spares time for more important things and improves customer experience (no more misdirected packages!).

The reasons why businesses are using automation tools.

And what about losing jobs and replacing humans with robots? Take a look at McKinsey’s study. It proves the contrary – technologies will change the global labor market, not destroy it. By 2030 analytics expect people to spend more time on technological and social skills than physical and manual. Automation and artificial intelligence will accelerate this shift.

Total hours worked in Europe and USA, 2016 vs 2030.

Use cases of eCommerce business automation

Some of the eCommerce business processes are more popular to automate than others. Skynova’s survey states that most small and midsize companies first automate email campaigns and social media marketing.

What to automate in a small business?

At Koroka Solutions, we help people to simplify business processes. Ready to accelerate your eCommerce business automation? Entrust the development process to experts.

 

Below are some use cases of applying technologies to gain more time, leads, and money.

Enterprise resource planning

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is itself a form of automation. It integrates and manages business processes, keeps all the necessary data in one place. Thanks to it, many departments complete their missions faster.

Enterprise resource planning automation includes HR, Big Data, Finance, and Supply chain automation.

Without ERP, your supply chain, finance accounting, and human resources disconnect. Then appear errors like data duplication, untraceable orders, or incorrect shipping data. So, customers receive their product with trouble.

 

Who benefits from ERP implementation?

 

ERP is profitable for large enterprises with a complex production process, a wide range of products, and an affiliate network. The company achieves future payback through better resource planning and accurate management.

 

For small and mid-market business implementation, ERP is a dilemma. It costs a lot, and the realization is complex. Such a decision could even slow down the process and result in losses. But if your business is starting to outgrow QuickBooks and Excel, ERP might be an option.

 

What is the best enterprise resource planning software?

 

It depends on the type and size of your enterprise. If it’s large, you should consider Oracle or SAP space. Also, there are dozens of ERP solutions on the market. And if one service isn’t enough, combine it with others. A lot of Fortune Global 500 corporations do that.

 

If the company is small or midsize, the best solution is to choose cloud-based ERP. They are cheaper because their host is a vendor. The vendor handles purchasing servers, database, maintenance, security, and backup.

 

How much does ERP cost?

 

Firstly, you have to spend money on ERP implementation. Costs for SMBs range from $75,000 to $750,000. For large companies – between $1 million and $10 million, as stated in the BetterBuys guide.

 

Secondly, buy a license. Experts from ERP Research claim that using Cloud ERP varies from $20 to $500. If you want your employees to have their permission to access ERP, you’ll pay from $20 to $250 per user per month. If you prefer them to use ERP simultaneously, the price varies from $50 to $500 per user per month.

 

In case if you decide to choose perpetual licensing and use your servers, you pay a fee once. The price depends on the number of users and the level of customization. Do not forget about additional payment for maintenance, support, and upgrades.

Workflow automation

Have you ever felt like you have so much work on your shoulders as Atlas? Then it’s time to think about which of your tasks are monotonous activities. Analytics from Asana concluded that the average worker spends 60% of his time on “work about work” – communicating about tasks and hunting down documents.

Workers spend the majority of their time on work about work.

If you want to increase time for the skilled craft, you have to think about which of your tasks are monotonous activities and then get rid of them.

 

Workflow automation uses technologies that launch a series of tasks without human intervention. You need only to establish the rules and logic first. Then, workflows will send emails, reminders and schedule tasks by themselves.

HR automation

Instead of hours of manual work, you can try HR automation software. It can enter all new hires’ personal information into payroll, expense, and insurance systems in minutes.

 

​​For example, it sends manuals to new employees when they’re assigned a company email address. Here are other HR processes that the system can automate:

 

  • applicant tracking
  • onboarding and offboarding
  • dealing with contracts
  • requests for remote working and sick days
  • sending emails to candidates that aren’t suitable
  • collecting employees’ feedback

 

Artificial intelligence and HR

In the past years, HR automation software has included artificial intelligence algorithms. According to the Gartner AI survey, 47% of companies will use AI-based solutions in HR by 2022. 17% have already done it. HR leaders admit that the main reasons to deploy AI were saving costs and improving employee experience.

 

Personalization in HR

 

Another feature we should cover is personalization in HR. It is a process of finding the right approach to workers based on all accessible information about them. The goal is to broaden the experience of the employees by customized learning and engagement between them.

 

Imagine, some of the workers in your company are fast learners, and others are not. During the courses, your mission is to improve the knowledge and skills of both of these groups. Unfortunately, you aren’t familiar with the other people’s abilities and consider gathering them in one group like in school. In the long run, you’ll note personal details. But what if you have 10 minutes for decision-making?

 

AI could do that for you. It could trace the preferences of all workers based on their previous learning experience. So, it discovers patterns and correlations in behavior among employees and then segments them. It helps to create different teams with the same learning features to make their performance better.

Finance automation

According to the McKinsey Global Institute, we can automate 42% of main finance processes with existing technologies.

What can you automate in your eCommerce business?

Here are some of the core finance processes to automate:

Bookkeeping

Automated bookkeeping is a process when accounting professionals carry out accounting processes via software with machine learning technology. They can apply accounting automation to capturing, reviewing, or interpreting data.

 

However, automation can’t replace a human bookkeeper. The bookkeeper decides if the level of detail for the chart of accounts is right or sets up rules to suit your specific revenue model. And sometimes people find computer errors, too.

Automated invoice processing

Automated invoicing is the process of moving data from received invoices to your ERP. So, users can make payments within seconds.

 

Invoicing automation software extracts the copies of invoices from emails, workflows, dedicated folders. The file should be in JPEG, PDF, EDI, or PNG format. Then the system will read the specific fields, verify the information, and add it into ERP. In the end, you have to complete the process with confirmation.

 

Before automating the invoice, pay attention to the features of the software you chose. How does it deal with different fonts, formats, multiple pages in PDF, and page breaks? The system can’t build an algorithm if the structure of the invoice fails.

 

How does invoice automation work?

 

Before the due date comes, the tool reminds your client about payment. It continues to send messages until you receive money. Why is it so important?

 

1 out of 10 SMBs receive late payments, reports Thomas Minarik, co-founder of brodmin. He adds that 10% of invoices aren’t covered at all. COVID-19 has only exacerbated pre-existing vulnerabilities.

 

54% of global businesses are currently expecting late payment of invoices. That means fees for companies who haven’t paid in time and lower budgets for all.

Tax compliance and reporting

According to the Gartner study, finance leaders think 89% of accounting activities can be automated. The first step in this direction is the standardization of reporting processes. It reminds us of standards on the internet. With it, life is more manageable.

 

One of the standards is extensible business reporting language (XBRL). It’s based on extensible markup language (XML syntax and related XML technologies). It regulates data exchange and supports the harmonization across reporting chains. Say your final words to the misunderstanding of definitions, manual interpretation, and re-keying.

 

Note, when you’ve automated several finance processes, make sure your software is sharing information. There’s no point in maintaining different services if they don’t interact.

Ecommerce marketing automation

Marketing automation uses software to simplify tasks like lead nurturing and improving customer experience. With the correct attitude, it customizes an experience for people based on their behavior.

 

For example, customer relationship management software tracks customer engagements across websites, emails, social, and sales channels. After that, marketing teams start personalized campaigns to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. That’s how you gain trust and build a loyal audience.

Six steps to automate your eCommerce marketing.

Personalized marketing

People love personalization. They associate it with empathy and a deep understanding of their needs. That’s why 52% of consumers always expect personalized offers, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer. And how many people do you think answered that companies have failed standards of engagement? 54%. There is a lot of hard though creative work for us.

 

Omnichannel marketing

Omnichannel marketing engages all your channels to create one unified experience for your customers. They use both physical and digital channels. Three examples of omnichannel marketing:

 

  1. You retarget someone on Instagram with the abandoned product from the website.
  2. You offer guests of your store a coupon with a discount for purchasing online.
  3. A client gets a brand’s printed brochure and scans a QR code to get free samples of your products.

As stated by Salesforce, 74% of consumers used multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. It also includes different gadgets. A person can be shopping online from several laptops or mobile devices, and the process will be seamless. 66% of users started and completed buying via multiple devices.

Top 10 preferred by customers channels for marketing.

Product recommendations on the website

I remember one interview with Kurt Cobain where he was so excited about picking up clothes in 90’s second hands. He had enjoyed how long it takes to find the fitting shirt. Even if Cobain had like-minded people then, he would be way lonelier now because modern people seek easy solutions. Times of long searches for clothing are gone.

 

The Salesforce study revealed that 56% of customers want to return to a site that offers product recommendations. Why? Because it’s an easy solution for busy people. And for marketers, it’s the result of complex decisions based on users’ interactions onsite and offsite called a recommendation engine.

 

What’s a recommendation engine?

 

It’s a machine that filters the information about a customer to propose the most relevant products. Thanks to it, you get predictions on what each individual will buy. They depend on sales data, trends, seasonality, and click history.

Adaptation

Your recommendation engine should learn fast. Make sure new products appear in a recommendation block. Check if it guarantees seasonality. There might be people who want to buy swimsuits in December. But their motivation is so strong you don’t need to support it with engines. Though, showing unrelated goods to the majority of clients can decrease sales.

Recommendations placement

According to the Clerk.io study, the most performing placement from a revenue point of view is the “Add-To-Cart-Step” section.

What is the best place for recommendations on the website?

Add to it sliders with several lines of products that might interest a visitor. They should include:

 

  • visitor recommendations
  • best cross-sell goods
  • best sellers
  • “on-sale”

The same rule applies to placements like the basket and the front page. Show the most popular items on category pages. On product pages, it’s better to propose “frequently purchased together” and alternative recommendations. If the visitor is going to leave the site, trigger an exit popup.

Popup windows

Exit popup

The problem is apparent. A prospect falls out of the process before completing the purchase and lefts items in the shopping cart. How can you decrease the shopping cart abandonment rate?

 

  • Propose to save the items in the basket via email and start to send abandoned cart messages later.
  • Offer a discount, free shipping, or other bonuses. Mention that your deal is time-limited. It’s always good to set up a deadline.

Example of a time-limited offer in marketing.

Ecommerce email campaigns

We’ve all received hundreds of emails from different companies. Can you remember a few that caught your attention? What are their features? Just like you analyze other companies’ marketing campaigns, you should look at yours.

 

Check if it facilitates user onboarding, lead nurturing, mailing list segmentation, re-engaging passive users, cross-selling and upselling. Otherwise, how can you sell a product if a person doesn’t believe it’ll improve her life? Below is the list of main stages in the email marketing campaign.

1. Welcome emails

You already know that people can join your mailing list via popups. Another mechanism is to give away free content that relates to your product. There’re such lead magnets as recipe guides, books, bonus lessons, and reports in PDF. Choose what fits you best and inform visitors about it on the website. So, they would be interested in leaving their email addresses.

Example of a limited offer in marketing.

When you’ve received an email, it’s time to say “Hi.” A welcome email motivates your new subscribers to come back to your store. It has an open rate of 91,43%, says Humanlytics.​​ The key rules of using welcome emails are:

 

  1. Personalize emails.
  2. Include a call to action with a link.
  3. Automate sending welcome emails just after the customer subscribed.
2. Mailing list segmentation

Email list segmentation divides visitors into smaller groups to send them targeted emails. According to Mailchimp, segmented campaigns get 100,95% more clicks than non-segmented ones. Here are six criteria for segmentation:

 

  • demographic data (country, age, gender, company position, income level, etc.)
  • email engagement (opened emails every time / haven’t opened in two months, etc.; apply tools for email tracking)
  • past purchases (beauty products / vitamins / tea, etc)
  • the amount of money spent
  • behavior on the website (what was a customer interested in?)
  • customer journey (awareness, consideration, decision, follow-up)

 

This information will tell you how you can reach out to a person.

3. Lead nurturing

Lead is a potential customer. Lead nurturing means building relationships with a person at every stage of the sales funnel. Implementing an effective lead nurturing strategy can increase revenue.

 

Let’s say you sell organic cruelty-free cosmetics without SLS, parabens, and other harmful chemicals. You know how PEG can damage health, but dozens of leads don’t. They need a little bit of education. Send them an email with research that shows the consequences of constantly using mass-market cosmetics. Explain what the alternative is and why it’s more expansive.

 

Treat leads as if you’re a teacher and they’re pupils. Bring to the table creative briefs and tell a story with facts, show that you’re a person with a background, too. Be aware of existing trends. And highlight how your product or service influences day-to-day life.

 

Participate in the leads’ life. Congratulate them on birthdays, new year, and Thanksgiving Day, offer presents and support the holiday mood. Run surveys to get to know your leads better. Monitor their reactions to updates or quality of service via automated emails.

4. Re-engaging lost leads

A lost lead is a potential customer who’s visited your site, tried free demos but hasn’t purchased the product or service. Why do you need to get back his attention? There’re competitors on the market who will fight for this lead. And you can’t afford to forget about 5000 passive leads, for example. Yes, some of them will never return. But if you can turn even 5% of those clients, you’ll get 250 consumers.

 

Use customer relationship management (CRM) to segment your lost leads and then start a recovering campaign. The first step is choosing the right CRM. Then goes collecting data about all your leads and automated delivery of personalized messages.

 

For example, someone visited your website two weeks ago. They viewed some items, downloaded an eBook, and then disappeared. CRM knows their email address, what pages they’ve opened, what Ebook they’ve received. The system is ready to send those users an email.

5. Cross-selling and upselling emails

Cross-selling and upselling emails play a huge role in customer retention. These strategies encourage people to buy more. Cross-selling aims to increase sales of complementary products. Like a smartphone and a cover. Upselling offers a more expensive or upgraded version of the product.

 

You can set up an automated campaign that will send personalized cross-selling and upselling emails to the leads.

Ecommerce Advertising Automation

Automated digital advertising puts info about your brand, product, or service into social media, search engines, websites, etc. The technology spares your time and allows your marketing department to focus on the creative side of their work. For example, marketers will generate ideas and test ads rather than seek places for publishing and copy-pasting.

Ecommerce retargeting ad campaigns

Let’s assume you’re scrolling through Instagram or reading an article. And then an ad appears. You see precisely that backpack you were going to buy at an online shop yesterday. That’s the result of retargeting. It uses personalized ads to win your audience back. Choose one or two social media platforms and follow the advice below.

 

5 Steps to run a successful retargeting campaign

 

  1. Set up tracking that will allow you to collect data on the site’s visitors.
  2. Segment your audience.
  3. Personalize your content for each audience segment.
  4. Set up omnichannel retargeting campaigns.
  5. Evaluate the results and repeat.

Ecommerce product inventory management

COVID-19 changed the way product inventory management operates. At the start of the epidemic, we’ve seen disrupted supply chains, changes in ordering volumes, and transportation issues. More and more companies started to automate their product inventory.

 

The starting point is the automation of a catalog of items. There are several standard operations:

 

  • adding item cards (description, attributes, categories)
  • enrichment of cards with data (updating information)
  • moderating the merchandise

 

A small business can conduct all these processes manually. One or two content managers are enough to fill in all the information. But when the company is scaling and the amount of goods increases, managers can’t avoid mistakes. That’s why automation of product inventory management might solve the problem.

 

What is an eCommerce inventory management system capable of?

 

  • reordering
  • goods delivery
  • inventory item fulfillment
  • inventory tracking
  • monitoring data 24/7

 

Automation of all these business processes saves your money on labor. According to ABI research, the cost of manual audits per year in small stores equals ​​$6,000. In midsize – the number might reach $40,000. In large companies, it’s close to $72,000.

Ecommerce automation software

Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Salesforce is great if you want to automate your eCommerce.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud (SFCC) had been called “Demandware” before Salesforce bought it. This platform primarily serves B2C companies. Though, you can apply it to B2B and B2B2C. It’s cloud-based and unifies customers’ experiences across mobile, social, web channels, and stores.

 

Commerce cloud connects with consumers via:

 

  • marketing
  • merchandising
  • content
  • promotions
  • customer service
  • predictive intelligence

SFCC probably is the most customized eCommerce business automation software. However, you’ll need to call for assistance because customization requires a high level of technical skills. At Koroka Solutions, we help businesses ​​with custom Salesforce development. Get in touch with us to learn more about our projects.

A unique quote about SFCC from our great SFCC Lead Andrew Nikolaichuk.

 

 

“SFCC is all about big commercial enterprise-level solutions. The platform is based on cloud technology. It allows you to run a site that will provide uninterrupted and fast access to a large number of users simultaneously worldwide. We are talking about corporations like Adidas, Nike, Loreal, LV, etc,” tells Andrew Nikolaichuk, Salesforce Commerce Cloud Lead at Koroka Solutions.

 

He adds that the commerce cloud is a part of the Salesforce ecosystem. That fact allows you to quickly and easily adjust the connection with the rest of the company’s products.

 

“Besides, there are more than 400 ready-made integrations of solutions conducted by third-party players. It could be payment processing services, loyalty and order management systems (OMS),” concludes Andrew.

HubSpot

Hubspot as a platform for eCommerce business automation.

HubSpot is a customer relationship management platform. It offers you:

  • Sales Hub – tools that track leads and qualify leads. They deal with emails, notifications, sales automation, and customizable reports.
  • Marketing Hub – a system that helps grow traffic and generate leads, customizes workflows and manages content.
  • Service Hub collects all your data and services in one place.CMS Hub aims to leverage the conversion of your website. It provides you with content creation, lead generation, and SEO tools.
  • Operations Hub connects your apps and cleans your customer data. Data automation, workflow extensions, team management, and permissions are available.
  • HubSpot CRM will fit small and midsize companies because it’s user-friendly. Some of its services are free. Hiring ​​developers is not necessary to integrate the software into your company’s website. You can do it by yourself.

 

Nonetheless, there are some drawbacks to using Hubspot. Free features are enough only for primary functions. Also, its custom options are limited. ​​If you can’t work with CSS, you won’t be able to change email templates.

Freshworks

Freshworks as a platform for eCommerce business automation.

Freshworks (formerly Freshsales) is a cloud-based CRM that helps with turning leads into customers. It offers software for email tracking, lead capturing, marketing analytics, contact management, and others. Consider working with this company if you are interested in eCommerce business automation.

 

Freshworks’ features are:

 

  • calendar of reminders
  • base for documents
  • email marketing
  • lead generation and qualification
  • workflow automation
  • SMM integration

 

A lot of Freshworks users say it makes selling, tracking, planning, and auditing processes comfortable.

The drawbacks of Freshworks

The drawbacks include tedious data analysis for large datasets, problems with reporting, a small email limit (which is 500 per user), a confusing interface.

Final Thoughts

The global market of eCommerce business automation tools is a prosperous place full of personalization and AI algorithms. It seems like everyone can find something here. Start with analyzing your goals and then consider building custom automation solutions that will help you reach your objectives. If you’re ready to accelerate your eCommerce business with customized automation software, our experts are here to help.

How to Choose a CRM System for Your B2B Company

Whether you already have some basic solution for customer relationship management, or it’s your first-time experience with CRM, you might be having a hard time choosing the system that fits your needs.

 

Is a basic CRM platform, like Zendesk, enough for your small business? Should you consider a more complex solution that’s based on Salesforce? Is your business ready for switching to a completely custom business automation solution? Read on to find the answers to these questions and finally choose a CRM system that fits your needs.

 

To share the most useful insights, we’ve talked to marketing directors and CEO’s of companies of different sizes and featured their opinions in the article.

 

What’s CRM?

Let’s start with the basics. What’s CRM at all?

 

CRM, or customer relationship management, is the process of managing and analyzing interactions with leads and customers with the goal of increasing conversions, customer loyalty, and retention.

 

The concept includes a wide range of actions that should be taken to build and strengthen your relationship with prospective and existing customers. It includes lead generation, lead qualification and nurturing, customer satisfaction analysis, nurturing campaigns creation and management, and more.

 

What do CRM systems do?

 

A CRM system is a tool or a toolkit helping you with CRM activities. It’s used for collecting customer data, analyzing it, and launching campaigns aimed at improving relationships with audiences.

 

It’s the fact that the solution is intended both for sales and marketing teams that makes the process of choosing the right CRM system so difficult. While aiming towards one final goal of increasing conversions and repeat customer rates, these two departments usually work with customers at different stages of their buyer journey. 

 

Moreover, in different companies, sales and marketing teams share responsibilities differently. Often, marketers do their job of building awareness and attracting leads while salespeople handle lead qualification and nurturing. On the other hand, it’s also common for marketers to do the qualification and nurturing part with salespeople primarily focusing on converting high-quality leads.

 

It means that there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to the question ‘what does a CRM system do?’ – for each specific company, there’s a unique list of features they expect their CRM software to have. But if we summarize the most common tasks CRM tools usually perform, we’ll end up with the following list:

 

  • Compile leads’ contact information into lists grouped by specific criteria (e.g. source, the buyer journey stage, industry, etc.).
  • Qualify and score leads.
  • Segment mailing lists.
  • Assist with managing and grouping the information on leads and customers.
  • Control and monitor the objectives of sales teams.
  • Export concise, digestible reports.
  • Set up email campaigns.
  • Create and enable automated workflows that are triggered by leads’ and customers’ behavior.
  • Streamline the relationship between marketing and sales teams.
  • Ensure fast and effective customer service.

 

Off-the-shell CRM software vs. Custom CRM solutions

 

Should you invest in off-the-shell CRM software or a custom CRM solution?

 

Off-the-shell CRM tools represent turnkey solutions supporting common functionality that you can’t adjust. The key advantage of these tools is that you don’t need to invest in supporting, fixing arising issues, and upgrading them.  

 

When you build a custom CRM solution, you get a system tailored to your business needs that’s either based on highly customizable software, like Salesforce, or built from scratch.

 

Developing a CRM solution has multiple benefits:

 

  • It includes a set of features other CRM systems don’t include.
  • It enables you to adjust or develop new features as your business grows.
  • It’s an all-in-one solution so you don’t need to worry about maintaining multiple integrations or managing tools that don’t connect to each other.
  • It allows you to access more granular customer segmentation and better customer management.
  • It can save your budget significantly. Although the development of a custom system is more expensive than the cost of a basic CRM tool, you won’t be paying for upgrades or buying additional tools every time you need extra limits or features.

 

Off-the-shelf CRM system vs. Custom solution

The major decision you make when choosing between these two options is whether you want to adjust your business processes to make them fit off-the-shelf software functionalities or make the custom software fit your business processes.

 

If you’re ready to discuss the development of a custom CRM solution for your business, drop us a few lines describing your project. Our team of software development professionals will get back to you and help you to build and maintain a CRM system that fits your needs.

 

8 things to consider when choosing the right CRM system

 

Salesforce or Hubspot? Zendesk or SuperOffice? Cloud-based or on-premise? The only way to make the right choice is to carefully examine your needs and priorities. The following eight points will help you to do so.

 

1. Know your goals

 

There are thousands of available solutions for managing customer relationships. Some of them do a better job of lead tracking others are stronger when it comes to organizing business operations. 

 

What are the major issues you’re trying to solve with a CRM tool? Make an ordered list of your marketing and sales goals to identify your priorities. These might include:

 

  • Track leads;
  • Create comprehensive customer profiles;
  • Track opportunities;
  • Build a sales pipeline;
  • Connect teams;
  • Create and manage nurturing campaigns;
  • Generate customized reports;
  • Automate business processes, etc.

 

Each off-the-shelf CRM solution has its strengths and weaknesses. If you aren’t ready to compromise any of the goals your CRM platform should be able to accomplish, this might be the first sign you need a powerful custom-built solution.

 

Brett Downes, Founder at Haro Helpers, says that nobody but you can perfectly understand your workflows: “How you run your to-do list and approach tasks is key to determining what CRM would work for you. Originally I used a variety of Google sheets to track sales, marketing, payroll etc. as I grew up using Microsoft Excel, but as I developed my business skills I found that Asana and Trello were more attuned to my natural instincts. Hence moving from sheets to HubSpot worked out for me.” 

 

2. Make a list of essential features

 

‘First, it’s important to know what features are necessary for you specifically.

 

Put together a list of what your company needs. This will help narrow down the list of CRM systems.

 

Make sure to include features that go beyond basic contact management such as Campaigns, Proposals, or Closing Deals tracking.

 

Once you’ve outlined all the features that are needed, have someone who is well-informed about CRMs check for any other potential contenders not on your initial list that might meet all your requirements.

 

One last thing: make sure you get quotes from multiple vendors based on price and the completeness of their solution so you’re confident in your investment with whichever vendor you choose,’ says Farzad Rashidi, Co-Founder at Respona.

 

“The first thing to consider is what you want the CRM system to accomplish for you. There are numerous quite sophisticated CRM options available, each with its own set of features. Most businesses, on the other hand, only use about a tenth of these features. 

 

Make sure the provided feature set suits your business demands before deciding on a CRM. Check to see if your sales process matches what you have in the system. Make a list of “must-haves” and “good to have,” and consider how you’ll utilize each feature and whether or not you’ll use it,” adds Brian Dean, Founder of Exploding Topics.

 

Steve Scott, CTO at Spreadsheet Planet recommends that you pay particular attention to the reporting functionalities of the platform of your choice: “Robust reporting options are critical to your sales and marketing plan. Detailed reports can reveal how your consumers perceive your products and services (for example, customer satisfaction surveys); which sales reps are top performers in which areas; and which marketing channels are the most efficient in terms of reach and customer interaction. Make sure your CRM offers the reporting features you’ll need for a thorough analysis of your business.” 

 

3. Consider your company size

 

“The number one tip I give to my clients is based on the size of their company. Many of our clients are solopreneurs, some have a few employees, and some have a lot of employees. 

 

When choosing a CRM, you might come across the option of having a cloud-based system or on-premise. There are pros and cons to both, and this is why I base the decision on how many employees your company has. 

 

For example, one of my clients is a wedding planner and she wanted to have an on-premise CRM. This means she has 24/7 access to her data, because she owns the software. The tool is expensive, but it pays off over time and that’s what she had in mind. 

 

However, she didn’t consider she would need an IT team dedicated to that software to make sure it runs efficiently, smoothly, and with no bugs or glitches. In the end, a cloud-based tool would be a better option for her, as the membership would still be less money than hiring someone to handle your CRM full time. However, If you are a business with an in-house IT staff, then a CRM tool on-premise might be a no-brainer,” shares Abby Herman, Director of Strategy at Snap Agency.

4. Who are the stakeholders?

 

Who is going to actively use the platform? Marketers? Sales? Customer support? All of them?

 

Take their opinions into consideration before making this decision. Talk to each team the tool will be useful for and ask about their routines and priorities. Are there any issues they’re experiencing most often?

 

A CRM system should help stakeholders solve their problems rather than impose new challenges.

5. To what extent do you rely on automation workflows?

 

“A top-of-the-line CRM should do more than simply make your sales team’s job simpler; it should also relieve them of some of their more boring tasks. A CRM platform that is coupled with (or contains) an email marketing system should be able to send the necessary email sequence to a customer who places an order on your e-commerce store automatically. Another example: a CRM platform with an integrated appointment calendar may send emails to your sales reps reminding them of impending meetings.

 

Of course, the forms of workflow automation that will benefit your company the most will differ. However, by implementing action triggers in your CRM platform, you may save your sales staff a lot of time and allow them to focus on activities that require ‘the human touch.’ Depending on the platform you use, some automation functions may be built-in, while others may be offered as an upgrade to your subscription plan.” – Eric Carrell, Chief Marketing Advisor at SurfShark.

 

6. Do you need a scalable solution?

 

Think of where you expect your business to be in a year. What is its growth dynamic? 

 

Small business owners make a common mistake of going after basic tools with standard, inflexible functionality that fits their needs here and now. In a few months, they realize the toolkit doesn’t solve their business problems anymore. Unfortunately, they already have too many processes being built based on the chosen platform, and they either lose their time and money invested to switch to a better solution or double their expenses and upgrade.

 

When you check pricing plans and features of different CRM solutions, consider what it’ll take you to access extended functionality. Maybe you don’t need a more expensive plan at the moment, but things will change soon.

 

You might think that you can switch any time, but that’s not the case. Each time you switch to a new CRM tool, you spend time and money to export all the data and adjust the business processes. That’s why you need to make sure that the CRM solution you choose can be easily upgraded to the next more sophisticated version.

 

7. Pay attention to the necessary integrations

 

“Anyone looking to adopt a CRM should validate that it will work with their existing software systems,” says Devin Ahern, Marketing Manager at Mid Florida Material Handling.

 

It’s most likely that your business operations already rely on quite a few tools and platforms. Make a list of all the marketing channels, accounting software, HR systems, lead generation tools, and other applications you use for your business needs. Make sure the CRM system of your choice integrates with them seamlessly or at least offers intuitive documentation for using APIs to build custom integrations.

 

8. Onboarding and support

 

It’s important that your vendor provides everything you need to help you make the most of the platform’s features. Ideally, they should offer a customer support team providing a smooth onboarding experience, on-demand workshops, a knowledge base, and a live chat that you can use to report any arising issues and get help promptly.

 

 “The software business or seller is equally as significant as the product itself. For as long as you use the software, you’ll be reliant on the corporation for customer care and assistance. As a result, the vendor must be trustworthy. It must have customer support and help desk staff available at all times via all available channels and means, such as tickets, phone, email, social media, live chat, mobile, and so on.” – Ryan Dalal, CEO & Founder of Word to PDF.

 

What do other companies choose?

 

Salesforce CRM

 

“CRM extends far beyond customers, allowing us to focus on your company’s interactions with a wide range of individuals, including employees, suppliers, and service users. A CRM system keeps track of client and prospect contact information in one place. For businesses of any size, a cloud-based CRM is the best option. Salesforce is my choice when it comes to selecting a specific solution. It’s as simple to use as the websites we use on a daily basis. With real-time dashboards, we can track and exceed our growth targets.” – Jacob Villa, Co-Founder and Marketing Director of School Authority.

 

“Salesforce is my go-to CRM system. With Salesforce, a business has one place to co-operate with their clients, other teams and to turn raw data into actionable business information.  

 

Thanks to Salesforce, I receive accurate sales forecasting based on past results in sales. This provides an accurate benchmark to measure our success against, which greatly helps in providing figures to management. Furthermore, the whole system operates on a web browser. For me, this means no more clunky crashing RAM-intensive programs, and more time spent with potential clients. 

 

Our marketing department is also greatly assisted through the use of Salesforce’s Customer 360. This has enabled us to realize potential clients’ needs and concerns through unique data-driven insights.  These insights are then integral to the planning of marketing campaigns and are heavily responsible for the number of co-operation proposals from other firms that we are receiving through E-mail and  LinkedIn.” – Tom Winter, CRO at Eye One.

 

Microsoft Dynamic 365

 

“In an increasingly complicated environment, I choose Microsoft Dynamic 365, a highly collaborative cloud-based CRM software that can assist our team to be more efficient. It assists us in analyzing our company’s performance to construct a successful marketing plan and establish a personalized customer-business relationship.” – Erin Zadoorian, CEO and Executive Editor at Ministry of Hemp.

 

“We use Microsoft Dynamics CRM and are loving the out of the box integrations with all of the Microsoft office 365 applications. Also our team are used to the UI and UX similar to the office products so the speed to use was better than learning a new system (very important when rolling the product out).” – John Elder, Marketing and Operations at CashD.

 

HubSpot CRM

 

“Our review team thoroughly examined HubSpot CRM, an all-in-one platform, and determined that it is the finest CRM system for businesses after extensive testing. We compared it against all other popular solutions based on its primary features, customer service quality, and software integrations. Because the application is free, there is no risk in testing it out to see how it works.

 

What are the benefits of using Hubspot CRM? The apparent response is that it is one of the greatest free CRM programs available. Second, it is linked to a variety of locations where most sales processes take place, including phone calls, emails, websites, social media, and more. Finally, the system integrates seamlessly into your workflow, and you won’t have to make any modifications. Your employees will be able to quickly and successfully learn how to utilize the app, allowing them to focus on selling and other key activities.” – Robert Johansson, CEO & Tech Expert at imgkits

 

“Over the years, we’ve encountered and integrated with a number of different CRMs, but the overwhelming favorite, across the board, has been HubSpot. 

 

Most B2Bs find it a helpful, user-friendly CRM that genuinely gives their sales team time back by streamlining the marketing and sales process. Our B2B clients tend to love the Sales Deal Pipeline, Meeting Scheduling, and Email Marketing tools because they make repeatable tasks easy, and save them tons of time in their day-to-day efforts.” – Mackenzie Deater, Director of Content Strategy for Evenbound.

 

“HubSpot may be the most obvious choice as it’s a behemoth of the CRM World, but for a  very good reason – it’s the best or at least strives to be.

 

The budget they have allows them to offer superb features – even for the free version, and it allowed me to check out how compatible it was with me and business without committing financially.”- Brett Downes, Founder at Haro Helpers.

 

“The CRM we use is HubSpot Sales Hub because it offers the best free, entry-level tier as well as premium tiers with more robust features. This way, budget-conscious businesses or those looking to try before they buy can still access HubSpot’s powerful platform. 

 

Then, for those who need to scale and grow, HubSpot offers some of the more advanced CRM features in their premium tiers. The best part is that because HubSpot is a sales and marketing platform, it offers a wealth of sales and marketing functionality perfect for a shared tool between teams that everyone can leverage and use to collaborate and share information.” – Evan Tarver, Co-founder and CEO of SellingSignals.com.

 

Freshworks CRM

 

“As a small business owner, I know how crucial the role of CRM software is in keeping and enhancing the business relationship with customers. Freshworks CRM is my favorite B2B CRM software. 

 

It’s the best CRM especially made for B2B startups simply because it is very user-friendly and it scales up as your company grows. Unlike other CRM that’s too complex and messy, Freshworks is a child’s play – anyone can navigate easily. I’ve tried using lots of CRM and it usually took us a week or two to completely onboard everyone, but with Freshworks, we’ve done it in less than a week.” – Rengie Wisper, Outreach Consultant at Indoor Champ.

 

Zendesk

 

“Zendesk is rich software that significantly improves customer satisfaction. There are options for email, SMS, and phone support which is very much appreciated by customers. Also, it comes in a variety of languages which is an important factor since our company employs people worldwide and our customers come from all parts of the world. Having in mind all of the benefits, Zendesk is quite affordable and a great value for the money.” – Malte Scholz, CEO and Co-Founder of Airfocus.

 

Groundhogg

 

“We use Groundhogg, a fairly new entry into the CRM arena as a WordPress-based offering. We build websites for small businesses and nonprofits designed to help them grow, and we’ve found Groundhogg to be a great choice for ourselves and our clients. With a full-featured free version and a professional version that rivals ActiveCampaign and Hubspot, we really like that the interface is not overwhelming for our clients. Groundhogg offers entry-level usability with premium power.

 

We use the funnel feature to build simple-to-complex marketing automations that deliver the right message to the right client or lead at the right time for maximum impact. Our favorite features and the two reasons we really love Groundhogg is because we are not locked into using their web form, and it’s built for WordPress. We can design our own stylish forms with our favorite builder, and we don’t have to worry about integration issues.” – Lisa Richardson, CEO at Main Street MarTech.

 

Method: CRM

 

“The biggest factor for us when choosing our CRM was integration with other software. We didn’t want to have to duplicate data entry or manage multiple systems. Ultimately, this meant we went with Method: CRM. 

 

This CRM integrates flawlessly with QuickBooks Enterprise, Office 365 and a slew of other products. It has all the standard features required of a CRM (lead tracking, contact tracking, scheduling, e-mailing, quoting and even invoicing) but works easily with our systems.” – Devin Ahern, Marketing Manager at Mid Florida Material Handling.

 

Zoho CRM

 

“Our decision to go with Zoho CRM was based on two things; the features and the deployment module.  Being a cloud-based CRM solution, Zoho allows our employees to access the platform from anywhere, at any time. This was a crucial consideration for us because we have a large number of remote employees.  The online productivity tools on the platform also went a long way in contributing to our decision. 

 

Cloud deployment aside, Zoho CRM packs a horde of features, which makes it an amazing option for a small business like ours. The live chat support, social media integration, and brand marketing options all played a role in our decision. Two years down, our decision has catapulted our business to amazing growth. That’s why I have to emphasize the need to critically look at the different CRM options before picking one.” – Alina Clark, Growth Manager and Co-Founder at CocoDoc.

 

Is there a tool that fits all your requirements?

Whether you represent a small business or an enterprise, you need a robust CRM solution. 

 

Even you feel you don’t need advanced functionalities for customer relationship management at the moment, consider your business growth dynamics when choosing the right solution for your company.

 

Ready to build a custom CRM system? We can build the one on Salesforce or develop an on-premise solution from scratch. Get in touch to get a quote.