In the 1980s, CRM technology often took the form of a marketing database in which customer data was collected and analyzed manually using statistical modeling. Companies stored this information in a file cabinet, or for those which had the resources, a database. The stored data was used to develop customized marketing programs for specific audiences. The information was collected in survey form and informed businesses about their customers: what they bought regularly, what they spent, and how they spent their time.
Around 1986 contact management software was introduced. It enabled sales people to digitally store and organize their customer information. In the early 1990s, the first true customer relationship management systems became available.
The first CRM systems were sales force automation (SFA) tools that offered database marketing, inventory control, and sales tracking. In 1995 the first enterprise resource management (ERP) and software as a service (SaaS) solutions emerged in the marketplace, offering businesses even more ways to manage their customer relationship tasks like order tracking, demographics research, and sales predictions. These early CRM solutions were all on–premise solutions installed on employee’s computers or on larger servers in the back office.
In the early 2000s, the proliferation of web–based solutions changed the paradigm of how a sales force automation tools should work. As companies became more comfortable with storing, accessing and reviewing information through a browser, the adoption of these web–based solutions “crossed–the–chasm”. Today, the vast majority of business are readily adopting cloud–based solutions for all of their business functions. The need for cloud–based CRM has likewise followed suit.
Now more than ever, businesses have adopted a maniacal focus on the customer as a pillar in their strategy to improve business performance over the competition. The CRM solution they adopt is a key tool enabling their sustainable competitive advantage. Current solutions take advantage of the power of the Internet to provide cloud– and web–based systems which can be accessible from any connected device. In 2014, the CRM industry is projected to be a $23.8 billion dollar market opportunity, according to Gartner Inc.
Depending on how you look at CRM, as a software, data storage or relationship–management solution, the combination of these elements in support of business requirements are what will drive demand well into the future.