Types of CRM software for B2C—How to Choose the Right Fit

Category: CRM Software

CRM software comes in various shapes and sizes, which makes it critical to understand how CRM software types differ from each other before reading review comparisons. This guidance article will help upcoming users to see the big picture of how B2C CRM products compete, and, hopefully, get the best product on the best available price:

  • Users who plan to use CRM software for the first time
  • Users who are confused or frustrated about their current CRM software
  • Users who plan to expand their existing CRM

Generally, we can categorize the CRM types depending on: your business priorities; size of your business; and CRM technical features. We can also consider recent technological adaptations in CRM as well, but we believe those are more relevant to experienced users than first-time buyers. For now let’s focus on the current and past technological impacts on CRM software.

How to choose a perfect CRM

CRM software based on your priorities

Ask yourself first: in which way will your business benefit from CRM software? Only then classify CRM products by—not only what you need—but by their priorities.

In fact, most CRM software has overlapping types, but if you know your priority, that’s where you should scrutinize the software more intensely. So, which of these areas do you need the CRM most?

Marketing and sales CRMs helps you measure campaigns across multiple channels, such as social media, website visits and email clicks. This CRM type is helpful to calculate return-on-investment (ROI) on your promotions so you can budget for the most effective campaign.

Customer service-oriented CRM like call center CRM ranges from managing before- and after-sales customer queries, payment processes, track and store customer data (personal information, buying activities, conversion rates…), and mine these data to get insights for possible sales funneling (upsell, repeat sales). Don’t mistake customer service for CRM. They are intertwined but still different; or like how Social Media Today puts it, customer service is just a part of the much broader CRM.

Appointment CRM schedules time and date to reply or communicate with you customers. It’s more than just a calendar; it includes actions to be taken, and the status and stage of your communication with each customer.

CRM software by business size

After identifying your priorities, put these in the context of your business size, which will further help you shortlist the right CRM software.

A small business has different priorities than a large enterprise. For example, both small and large companies may handle customer engagement, but using a very different approach. An independent pizza restaurant will likely focus more on handling customer data on a personal level (sending out birthday greetings to its neighborhood customers); while a clothing chain will delve more on mining its huge customer database to create social media campaigns that are aptly crafted to its customers’ preferences.

Generally, all CRM software is considered to be an enterprise solution, but the apps can be classified as small business CRM and enterprise CRM (for large enterprises) based on the software’s capabilities, pricing, and support.

Think of small business CRM as the lightweight version of enterprise solutions (with less capabilities and they are often web-based or online), such as: smaller amount of data handling; less paperwork; or limited number of simultaneous users. Small business CRM can also have less features. For instance, it has a Customer Service CRM module but not a Marketing and Sales CRM module.

As it can be expected, small business CRM is cheaper, but it also has limited help and support, which the vendor may offer as a separate service. On the other hand, an enterprise CRM comes with a full technical support team and a hefty price tag, too.

Here’s a tip: if you’re unsure whether your company is a “big” small business or a “small” large business, it’s best to treat it as the latter. Get an enterprise solution to anticipate your further growth, and you won’t regret it.

CRM software by technical features

Many review articles classify CRMs by their technical features. The specifications are helpful, but only after you’ve seen the forest before the trees; that is, you understand what these systems are for in relation to your business, to truly appreciate their uses. Hence, understanding the different CRM types by their nature only comes third in our priorities.

Operational CRM consolidates various customer data—contact information, purchases, clicks, likes, queries, email, previous communication—into a user profile that can be easily pulled out as needed the better to serve or profile that customer. This CRM system often comes with sub-databases, such as, contact list, mailing list, names profile, sales reports, etc., that are weaved together by a middleware to churn out reports per customer.

This CRM is very helpful to upsell to customers or encourage repeat buys. If you want to get a deeper understanding of your customer in situations like which products to upsell who, or which email reminders or offers to send to which set of customers, this CRM provides vital support to your marketing, sales and customer service departments.

Sales force automation, on the other hand, tracks the whole range of a sales process, from shortlisting prospects to scheduling appointments (via phone reminders or email autoresponder, for example), to tracking purchases and endorsements to the help and support team.

This CRM focuses on managing customer conversions, that is, customers who are buying or have recently bought from you. It ensures smooth sailing in the customers’ buying experience.

Meanwhile, Analytical CRM uses data mining by pulling out data from different databases and systems to check for patterns or trends. For example, it can pull sales report from the Sales force automation CRM and match it with customer profiles in the Operational CRM to check for specific factors like gender, age and locations that may be dominating your business.

This CRM is critical for creating long-term marketing strategies and even business development using a solid foundation based on your customers’ preferences.

Campaign management CRM focuses on storing, tracking and analyzing campaigns. This CRM combines Operational and Analytical CRMs. In some instances, it is bundled with either of the two types.

Lastly, Collaborative CRM integrates customer communications and data from different departments to allow team members to share files and best practices to further the company’s service or business performance. This CRM helps to keep your product stay competitive or expand its line with new versions.

It’s like crowdsourcing ideas in your department without forcing your staff to brainstorm regularly. For example, the CRM mines complaints from the customer service team like a bug in a video game, and matches this data with an ongoing software development to fix the bug.

CRM types by technological adaptations

Innovations in mobile technology, social media, and big data are disrupting many products including CRM software.  When buying for a CRM solution, remember to anticipate these future trends that are changing the CRM industry.

Brian Solis, a renowned digital specialist and best-selling author of The End of Business as Usual, Engage!, even predicts the end of CRM as we know it, coining the term CJM (customer journey management) instead to illustrate the changing CRM landscape caused by these disruptive trends:

Social data CRM uses curated data and open social network APIs to collate information from customers’ social networks.

Social media offers a treasure chest of customer data that traditional CRM software can only dream of. Imagine knowing your customers’ movie and book preferences, his or her similar-minded friends and family connections and even opinions about certain issues. From a marketers’ point-of-view, these are exciting data that you can use to fine tune your customer interactions. But privacy issues and lack of coordination and transparency among social media companies impede this type of CRM, or maybe not for long.

Third-party companies like Social CRM and Nimble already allow automated social profiles of your contacts and feed their latest posts and tweets into the CRM newsfeed. Another company, NextPrinciples, has already started developing a patented “social data cleansing” technology that it says will separate junk from valuable data in open social APIs.

On the other hand, Crowdsource CRM takes off from the success of crowdsourcing ideas to their incubation, financial support and, finally, fulfillment. Websites like Kickstarter, Indiegogo and Crowdfunder have had helped startup businesses by pulling resourced from the online “crowd.”

The same crowdsource appeal is making its way to CRM by encouraging customers to participate in improving products and services by directly feeding their ideas, suggestions and even actual work to the company’s decision makers.

Another future for CRM is in the Natural Language Understanding (NLU) technology front. It’s the engine behind Siri, although at this stage she can be unreliable to perform specific tasks that we really want.

Currently, mobile CRM can be cumbersome, requiring difficult finger taps to key in data, not the least, the smaller screen of tablets and smartphones than desktop PCs and Macs discourage users of mobile CRMs. Further improvements in NLU will put mobile CRM in the mainstream.

Having a clear picture of the different CRM types categorized in different ways means you’ve taken the first step to getting the right CRM solution.

Our Top 5 All-in-One CRM suggestions

1. bpm’online CRM


If you are looking for a process-driven coordination CRM for your sales, marketing, and service department, bpm’online has you covered. It is distinguished as one of the top performers in our CRM software category, right because our experts believe it is scalable enough to respond to the needs of all teams and companies. At the same time, bpm’online looks good and offers an intuitive and friendly environment for novice users, performs impeccably on all devices, and deploys in cloud to prevent users from undergoing complex installations and maintenance processes. In order to obtain the full picture of how bpm’online CRM can help your team, visit their website and sign up for free trial.

The distinctive advantages of bpm’online CRM: What makes bpm’online CRM really special is that it combines CRM and BPM in a single product, and delivers in such way unsurpassed accuracy in forecasting sales plan. The system monitors and evaluates visitor behavior to distinguish between hot and second-thought leads, supervises and processes customer information in a way that suits your business logic. Once the customer is on board, bpm’online will ensure you miss no step of his journey. Plus, there are not that many systems that offer the same customization power, and which use Silverlight technology to smooth the UI process and analyze critical metrics. If you’re operating in a large software ecosystem, bpm’online is a again a suitable open-configuration system with extensive API triggered to connect it to more than 500 applications.

The downsides and potential issues of bpm’online CRM: Following and rating customer satisfaction, our team agreed there aren’t that many drawbacks that could make you reconsider your decision to purchase bpm’online CRM. Novice users, nevertheless, are recommended to ask for technical help when implementing the system, and familiarize with the search patterns before they’ve started using it. Large companies may experience bulk editing issues, as once customized, this system requires the admin to make individual changes for each team.

2. Pipedrive


Pipedrive is another role-model example of standardized CRM capacity which nevertheless specializes in serving small and medium business teams. At first sight, the beautiful interface and friendly navigation remind of how bpm’online CRM manages relationships, but the deeper below the surface you scratch, the more differences you will discover. Pipedrive, for instance, is an absolute leader among analytic CRMs, but focuses only on sales teams and how they generate leads, instead of how they’re managing them.

The distinctive advantages of Pipedrive: What you will certainly like about this system is the complete overview of your sales processes and effective opportunity tracking methodology. Where Pipedrive shines the most is definitely statistics, as you can use it to measure individual performance and deal value, customize your reports, or follow updates on the Live Dashboard while they are happening. Pipedrive is also packed with lead collection and collaboration features, well-integrated with third-party providers, and full mobile optimized.

The downsides and potential issues of Pipedrive: As we mentioned even before, Pipedrive responds perfectly to the expectations of small sales teams, but large and complex corporations with several departments should definitely compare it to other systems. While it is one of the best pipeline management solutions introduced so far, it happens to frustrate users with minor bugs and annoying warnings and notifications.

3. Insightly


Here comes another top performer in our CRM category open to all industries rather than specified audiences. We are huge fans of Insightly because it is shockingly easy to personalize, follows customers at every stage of their engagement, and works with a variety of external systems and applications to make business management easier. The same as bpm’online and Pipedrive, Insightly has won some of our most prominent awards, and shares many similarities with them such as flexible pricing and easy navigation.

The distinctive advantages of Insightly: If the question of ‘Why to use Insightly’ could be answered with a single sentence, we’d probably praise it for incorporating high-power project management tools into a handy CRM. With Insightly in their kit, users have access to milestones, projects, and task assignment, employee and performance administration, contact forms, and event reports, which explains how there are companies that manage their entire workflows using only this product. If driven by the need to customize operations and bring in your business logic, Insightly is just as customizable and mobile optimized as Pipedrive and bpm’online CRM are.

The downsides and potential issues of Insightly: We’re returning to the same logic of whether your future CRM platform will be applicable company-wide or in a specific department. Unless you’re really into customizing fields and designing templates for each sector, you may find it difficult to apply Insightly out of the sales department. For some users, on the other hand, Insightly may appear way too trendy to follow leads the traditional way.

4. LeadSquared

LeadSquared is an efficient solution for customer acquisition that accelerates leads down your sales funnel. This app is designed for SMB and enterprises, and it speeds up the lead capture process with responsive landing pages, automation, and smooth lead gathering from multiple sources. These sources include lead generation websites, chat, phone calls, incoming messages and others. What is more, the distinct advantage is that you can set your whole process within LeadSquared. The software also offers a range of sales and marketing features including marketing insights, behavioral insights, sales funnel, segmentation, and drip marketing.

The distinctive advantages of LeadSquared:

We recommend LeadSquared as an ideal app to manage your marketing landing pages. Plus, it offers great metrics. It allows you to automate your most of your lead generation processes from lead capture, nurture, management, and closure.

Most of the reports are pre-configured; therefore the reporting feature can be made more flexible and customizable if you need to. There is also a custom report builder included.

You can customize the features for your specific needs. If you need assistance, you can contact the expert support agents via phone, email, or tickets to get prompt responses for your queries. In short, LeadSquared is an affordable yet scalable product that can streamline your inbound sales process. A major advantage is you can use the excellent API documentation to keep customer info updated in all your software systems. 

The downsides and potential issues of LeadSquared:

Our review team is highly impressed with LeadSquared’s features and capabilities. However, the vendor could work on a few areas to improve the product. They could update the system and make it more modern. The templates can be improved as you cannot edit some manual codes in a landing page template. Plus, the vendor can add a journey map, workflows, and pop-up options to make the software more effective. Finally, most of the reports are pre-configured; therefore the reporting feature can be made more flexible and customizable.

5. Freshsales


The product is backed up by Freshdesk’s productivity suite reputation, but that’s not the only reason why more and more high-velocity teams are choosing Freshsales for their CRM activities. Regardless of the short time it has been on the market, Freshsales proved itslef applicable in diverse corporate environments, relying foremost on a powerful analytic suite. It combines legacy CRM with sales pipeline management, and empowers managers to control and track thousands of leads with a single click. Its leading feature is lead capturing, which is why we also recommend it to startups and growing companies.

The distinctive advantages of Freshsales: Freshsales is very affordable and meets the needs of teams with limited budgets, which means that you get to nurture, score, divide, and verify leads and do complex matrix reporting at a fraction of what you’d usually pay. Fully integrated and easily customized, Freshsales will blend easily in every software architecture, and allow you to manage operations out of the office using your mobile device.

The downsides and potential issues of Freshsales: The positive sides of Freshsales definitely outnumber the negative ones, but users should still know that this system will require them to convert leads into deals manually. According to some users, there are tasks such as bulk entries that can’t be performed on mobile devices.

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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