UpShot.com has upped the ante in the increasingly competitive Web-hosting market by offering what they claim is the most affordable deal yet: sales force automation functionality online for one dollar a day per user. This offer is the latest of increasingly competitive Web-hosting offerings that finds per-seat prices plummeting.
But while low user fees like Upshot.com's may sound affordable on the front end, will customers get enough bang for their buck, or will small fees deliver only limited CRM functionality?
"A dollar a day does seem like a small price to pay," says Judy Hodges, program director at International Data Corp. But she predicts UpShot will soon begin charging additional fees for a slew of add-on services. Currently, synchronization with Palm devices and Microsoft Outlook costs an additional $4.95 per month, for example. And, reminds Hodges, UpShot Online actually ends up costing about $365 a year. "When you think about it that way, the service costs more than GoldMine, for example," she says.
According to Kris Olson, UpShot's vice president of marketing, the real difference between the UpShot service and those of other hosting competitors is that UpShot Online was built for the Web from the beginning. "We don't have the expense of converting from a client/server architecture," she says.
"It's very viable for single users, but I'm not convinced high-end customers will embrace it."
So, what do you get for a dollar a day? UpShot Online offers standard SFA functions, such as deal and pipeline management, calendars, to-do lists and report generation. A unique feature called "What's Up?" notifies sales people of changes to any part of their database since last use. The feature can also be set to monitor prospects' and competitors' Web sites for breaking news. With the built-in customer communications system, users can send batch e-mail, fax and mail communications to customers and sales teams. The "Radar Screen" feature offers the sales team and their managers a quick overview of which deals are most valuable.
What you don't get is travel and expense reporting, marketing applications or customer service. "UpShot Online doesn't have the full spectrum of customer relationship management functions," says Hodges. "It's very viable for single users, but I'm not convinced high-end customers will embrace it." Although the low-end market is UpShot Online's primary target, some large companies are also interested, counters UpShot's Olson. But, she admits, most large companies use the Internet service as a test bed. Once they decide they like it, they usually opt to bring the software in-house by buying the intranet version, UpShot Sales.
To hedge its bets in the application service provider (ASP) arena, UpShot has also partnered with back office system vendor Intuit to provide the 2.5 million users of Intuit's popular Quickbooks system with the UpShot.com SFA package. With sales force automation migrating to the Web, this partnership may be a good strategic move, Hodges says, because Intuit skillfully exploited the opportunities of the Web early on. "But time is of the essence," she says. "The big players will need to expand their spread of coverage. Market saturation at the high end will come, although it's still a ways out. When the high-end reaches saturation, the Siebels of this world will move down. It's common sense."
Partnering with a company with financial expertise may also be wise. "Today we're seeing the convergence of back-office financial systems with front-office customer relationship functions," says Hodges. She holds up market-leader Siebel as a prime example of an SFA vendor that has recognized the opportunities for convergence. "Siebel didn't have financial expertise so it recently formed partnerships with Great Plains Software and J.D. Edwards, two financial powerhouses." The UpShot/Intuit partnership could really get interesting, according to Hodges, if UpShot starts taking advantage of some of Intuit's financial expertise to offer new services such as obtaining credit histories or delivering billing and collections functions.