What a year for technology! We’ve been watching the continued infiltration of technology systems into all parts of business, with new and more innovative tools to help company’s capture, track, engage and sell to their markets. The big players are:
- Marketing automation systems. Who is doing it well?
- Top-end of the market: Marketo, can anyone see an end to their development and acquisition team’s pace and ingenuity? We’ll mention Pardot here as well, after their purchase by Salesforce, the market is expecting big things from them. Last but not least, it would be remiss if we didn’t include Silverpop in this list, these guys are catching up fast to Marketo, another one to watch in 2014.
- Mid-market: HubSpot, who hasn’t heard the rumours about the great things these guys are doing. We think these guys are worth watching closely next year.
- Small-business: it’s hard to look passed InfusionSoft here, with their price point, friendly UI, in-built CRM, and great team of support, and sales and marketing consultants.
- CRM. The fight to beat Salesforce in the CRM market continues, and who isn’t surprised and tentatively excited at the huge change we’ve seen from Microsoft Dynamics? It will be interesting to hear the reports from users of their 2013 tool, and perhaps we might see a slight dent in Salesforce’s world domination (or maybe not!). One to watch, SugarCRM, great price point and has the functionality to service small to medium businesses.
- Mobile. Let’s face it, this isn’t new and those that have been resisting and excusing the need to become mobile friendly are now well behind the market. If you don’t have plans in place, make it a priority in 2014. For some holiday reading, download the Elcom Mobile best practices whitepaper for a really practical guide to get your started.
- Online learning management systems (LMS) – many companies are already there, but like intranets (see below), their attractiveness, usability and accessibility have been lagging other business technology tools. We’d say who are the big players, but of course the only answer is elcomCMS LMS.
- Social intranets. We’re pleased to see the upgrade of intranets from corporate information ‘dump-and-forgets’, to interactive social environments built to reinforce company culture through social tools, and create forums for global meetings, workflow and document management. Again, it’s great to see the focus of businesses on retaining and improving employee loyalty in ways that our ever transient Gen Yers can relate to.
- Of course how can we ignore the eCommerce system demand with online shopping making headlines consistently throughout the year as the preferred alternative to shopfront retail. We don’t need to go on here about the importance of digital tools that integrate for easy administration and provide the flexibility to give an amazing user experience.
We thought it worth noting a surprises at what didn’t take off as much as predicted:
- Gamification. Although we saw an increase in the implementation of gamification tools, we’re seeing the same issues seen by many forums and blogs. It’s the age old adage, “if you build it, they will come”, that continues to cause marketers, HR and social media experts a raging headache. Once you implement it, you need a whole other strategy (and the resource) to get people there, and then keep them using it. Despite the slower than expected start, we think this space is still one worth watching, and if you’ve got the budget (and the marketing automation and CRM tools to support it), then go forth and innovate in your industry, the opportunity to differentiate your company is still there with this tool in most industries.
What are we expecting in 2014
With the increasing number of tools, we think 2014 will be all about:
- Consolidation – Marketo and Salesforce are certainly leading the charge here, with their 2013 acquisitions, and we expect this to continue for many of the larger players
- We’ll certainly see a continued and more intense focus by tech companies to work on integration of tools, to make their shared customers lives easier, providing less administration for updating the plethora of tools they’re having to use, and also ensuring a holistic view of individuals and companies to continue to target them in more personalised and relevant ways
- Increased personalisation, and the automation of this. This is a big one, as it affects the user experience, as well as businesses through either increased investment in resource or technology.
The market expects online experiences to be personalised, easier, faster and more secure. This journey has already started with the expectation that dynamic content comes standard, and the increasing ability to automate delivery of relevant content based on previous behaviour/visits.
The scope here is huge and the benefits reward consumers and businesses alike. We think this space will grow, but businesses will face challenges as privacy laws start to catch-up to the pace of innovation (the trend for cookies on sites to be restricted is a big concern for many of these tools and businesses in general).
As our last post for 2013, wishing you all a happy and safe holiday season and may 2014 be your year to…Innovate. Automate. Consolidate. Integrate!