• September 17, 2021
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

Our CRM Industry Awards Turn 20 Amid a World of Change

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It’s hard to believe that this is the 20th anniversary of our CRM awards. Where has the time gone?

We at CRM magazine have made a lot of changes to our awards program over the years: We’ve consolidated two separate awards (the Service Leaders and the Market Leaders) into one set of awards now called the CRM Industry Awards. We’ve put into place new scoring procedures to determine the winners. We’ve added and subtracted product categories as demand, corporate priorities, market dynamics, and product road maps have shifted and technologies have come and gone.

Along the way, we’ve seen vendor consolidation in some product categories and the emergence of new vendors with niche solutions that have led to expansions in other categories.

All of this change was done with the goal of making our awards easier to understand and more useful to our readers. In a nutshell, our goal is to provide the five leading solutions, as determined by our pool of industry analysts and consultants, that should be on your radar if you are considering an initial purchase or technology upgrade in any of the 10 product categories covered. You’ll still need to do your due diligence before selecting the vendor and solution that is right for your company, but we hope to at least give you a few suggestions to get you started on your way.

In looking back over the past year as we put this issue together, it was hard not to notice that this year has seen an unusually high number of very significant mergers and acquisitions. In just the past few months alone, we’ve seen Salesforce acquire Slack for nearly $28 billion, Microsoft acquire Nuance Communications for nearly $20 billion, Zoom Video Communications buy Five9 for nearly $15 billion, Twilio acquire Segment for $3.2 billion, Facebook purchase Kustomer for about $1 billion, Qualtrics buy Clarabridge for slightly more than $1.1 billion, and dozens of other deals, both big and small. The increased M&A activity can be seen as a good sign for the entire CRM industry as vendors look to come out on the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic and shore up their product portfolios before the anticipated recovery kicks into high gear. (I am holding on to a sliver of guarded optimism in spite of the high inflation, unprecedented government spending, the prospect of a new round of COVID-related restrictions, and poor economic indicators that we are seeing in the United States right now.)

Quite a few of the recent acquisitions brought new companies to our Top Five vendor lists for the first time, while other deals brought a few long-standing technology providers into new product categories and market segments. And four of the six vendors we are recognizing as our 2021 Conversation Starters (formerly called the Rising Stars) made the list because of significant acquisitions they pulled off in the past 12 months.

I was also struck by the fact that industry analysts and research firms are predicting such robust growth in most of our technology segments. Based on current industry data, most categories are projected to record double-digit compound annual growth rates (CAGRs) for the next few years. Among the most impressive, and perhaps least surprising, is the customer data platforms market, which is expected to record a 34 percent CAGR. The contact center infrastructure market is poised for almost 21 percent CAGR, and the contact center analytics market is looking at 16.2 percent CAGR. The entire CRM market could reach $94.4 billion in just six years, recording a CAGR of 11.3 percent, according to some estimates.

All of that shows a CRM market that isn’t going away anytime soon. Vendors might come and go. New channels might emerge while others might fall out of favor. New data sources might become available, even as consumer privacy regulations come into effect around the world. But the industry remains strong, and CRM solutions are still vital to customer service, marketing, and sales operations.

Congratulations to all the winners this year. You continue to do us all proud, and we look forward to seeing what you will bring to market in the year to come.

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