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 Chuck Schaeffer The Best CRM Software for Retailers

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Comparing the Best Retail CRM Software Applications


  • Four CRM software systems are the market share leaders in the retail industry.

  • These four systems go beyond generic CRM processes to deliver industry specific capabilities such as consumer insights, consumer segmentation, a 360 degree consumer view, retail marketing, retail selling, Customer Experience (CX) management, loyalty programs, omni-channel engagement and consumer-based customer service.

  • Each of the top CRM software systems for retailers has different strengths, weaknesses and value propositions, discussed below.

In the prior post I shared the top industry specific capabilities offered by the best CRM retail software providers. This post will deliver comparison information among the top four Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems for retailers.

Best CRM Software for Retail

The Best Retail CRM Software Solutions

I’ve been comparing and implementing CRM software at retailers for more than three decades and the number one question I get is, "What is the best CRM software for retailers?"

The easy answer is to say, well, that depends. So, I'm not going to say the easy answer. Instead, I will suggest to answer the question you start by considering market share, market growth and the industry specific requirements that make CRM software for retailers different than generic CRM software.

CRM Software Market Share in the Retail Industry

So, I'll start with market share. The Big 4 CRM software solutions across all industries are Salesforce, SAP CRM, Oracle CX and Microsoft Dynamics.

CRM Software Market Share

The Big 4 CRM software solutions are also the leaders in the retail industry. Not because retailers have the same requirements; they don't. But because these vendors deliver CRM software capabilities needed by retail companies, things like deep consumer insights, dynamic consumer segmentation, a 360 degree consumer view, retail marketing, retail selling, Customer Experience (CX) management, loyalty programs, omni-channel engagement and consumer-based customer service.

Platform versus Best of Breed Solutions

There has been a shift in the top retail CRM software applications over the prior decade. Best of breed retail software solutions are small but focused applications. They do fewer things but do them well. The downside is that retailers must purchase other applications to accommodate other requirements. That means incurring software sprawl, system integration and often redundant data depositories that have to be synchronized or otherwise merged.

There was a time when best of breed retail CRM software solutions possessed significant market share. However, that time has passed. The broader and more holistic solutions have evolved to deliver retail software requirements and much broader platforms that bring additional benefits such as more sophisticated workflow automation, better mobility, low code/no code modification tools, AI and enterprise-wide retail execution. The top retail CRM software solutions are now broader platform solutions that accommodate end to end business process cycles.

The Top 4 CRM Software for Retailers

Selecting the best retail CRM software is a long-term decision that should be based on the many criteria that support your staff, customers and company priorities. Consider the following comparison points only as a starting point.

  1. Salesforce for Retail
    Salesforce is the market share leader – overall and for the retail industry. The company pioneered cloud CRM, social CRM and is a top innovator. That innovation has delivered advanced retail capabilities, digital commerce, Einstein AI, a broad platform and a deep AppExchange ecosystem.

    Salesforce for Retail strengths include:

    • The ability to manage one-on-one shopper journeys across channels, in real time and at scale
    • Intelligent, personalized, and connected customer experiences at each stage of the shopper journey from awareness to purchase, service, advocacy, and renewal
    • Conversion optimization with personalized offers based on browse activity, digital footprints and purchase history
    • Commerce Cloud and omni-channel commerce experiences that deliver a unified shopping experience across web, mobile and stores

    Salesforce is the only top CRM retail software solution that does not offer Point of Sale (POS), Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Supply Chain Management (SCM) or Human Capital management (HCM) applications. However, the company does offer packaged integration to SAP and a few other ERP systems.

    Consider Salesforce if you intend to transform your retail business. However, acquiring the market share leader comes with a price premium. If you leverage this application for digital or business transformation your investment will pay dividends. But if your goals are less ambitious or your growth path is more incremental or you do not leverage Salesforce's advanced capabilities, you will increase investment and total cost of ownership significantly without much payback.

  2. Oracle CX
    Oracle is especially strong in the retail industry. A few areas where Oracle CX stands out include the following:

    • It accommodates both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) CRM requirements. Many vendors suggest they do the same, but B2C is generally weaker. Oracle does both well.
    • Oracle CX and Retail Offer Optimization leverage rich functionality and AI to deliver the right offers to the right consumers on the right channel at the right time. This is no easy task.
    • Oracle Retail Campaign and Deal Management Cloud deliver rich consumer segmentation tools to target offers and maximize response rates. Campaigns can be created with a static targeting model for traditional catalog and direct marketing or a dynamic, event-triggered model for omni-channel campaigns.
    • The Oracle ATG Web Commerce integrates with CRM customer data to support cross channel transactions, products and services.
    • Oracle CRM store capabilities include handheld devices for store associates to provide customer experience services such as line-busting, clienteling and assisted sales services as well as back office capabilities such as managing physical inventories, and count, order, and transfer items.
    • Oracle CX is seamlessly integrated with broader Oracle Retail applications to manage retail merchandising and supply chain management. The merchandising and planning capabilities support promotions, trade fund deals, price optimization and price execution. The SCM applications manage forecasting, logistics and replenishment.
    • Oracle's primary strength is supporting enterprise-wide retail execution with a single vendor, fully integrated business application. That suite includes POS, ERP, SCM, HCM and BI. A vendor-managed integration that automates enterprise-wide transaction processes is a big deal to many retailers who want to avoid complex and costly system integration.

    Consider Oracle CX if you are a midsize or larger retailer seeking enterprise-wide, integrated systems and support for retailers' and wholesalers' cross-functional processes.

  3. SAP CRM
    SAP is the ERP software market share leader. The company's CRM software does not possess the same market credibility. However, its CRM software for retail does possess some novel capabilities not found elsewhere.

    For example, the SAP Sales Cloud solution for Retail Execution is designed for sales teams and merchandisers selling consumer products into retail stores. Achieving the perfect store requires perfect execution at the shelf, and that means having the right product, in stock, at the right time and at the right price.

    The SAP CRM software supports store execution with a mobile app that plans, schedules, routes and executes store visits, and once on site, displays a 360 degree store view, checks planograms based on image recognition, applies data to support decisions on product placement, pricing, packaging, and promotion, and verifies compliance with product placement agreements and POG (Planogram).

    This cross functional CRM technology directly improves retail execution such as distribution levels and consistent merchandising practices. And most importantly, it improves the consumer experience.

    Other SAP CRM retail capabilities include the following:

    • With its enterprise-wide applications, it delivers an especially deep unified customer profile from every data source across the retailer.
    • SAP marketing and sales software apply deep customer insights to deliver hyper-personalized promotions, offers and experiences. That translates to increased conversions and improved consumer experiences.
    • The Business Intelligence (BI) tools are especially good at understanding consumer profiles, journeys and intent.
    • The CRM and ERP integration supports broader retail requirements such as loyalty systems, trade promotion management, pricing optimization, order-to-cash and enterprise performance management.

    Consider SAP CRM if you are a large retailer evaluating SAP ERP software, or you are an existing SAP customer.

  4. Microsoft Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement
    The Microsoft CRM value proposition is similar to SAP, in that the CRM software is part of a holistic, enterprise-wide retail solution. However, where SAP dominates the largest companies, Microsoft is the ERP software market share leader among midmarket companies. The combined Microsoft retail solution includes ERP, SCM, HCM, POS, eCommerce, BI and CRM.

    Focusing on just the CRM software for retail, benefits of this solution include the following:

    • Native integration with Outlook. And it's really more than just contacts and email integration. Microsoft replicates the CRM application within Outlook so that salespeople and executives can perform their CRM activities without leaving Outlook. I've implemented Dynamics CRM for a long time and this is often the most appreciated benefit by users.
    • The Microsoft CRM software is a cloud native, browser-based application that permits very flexible configuration. Other CRM systems also permit configurations, but once made you are unlikely or unable to change. Microsoft's tools and constructs are more flexible and show that becoming standardized does not mean becoming inflexible.
    • Microsoft is ahead of most competitors in business process automation capabilities. The application offers multiple workflow types (i.e. background or real-time workflows, Dialogues, Actions and Business Process Flows) and the Windows Workflow Foundation platform can extend workflow creation and customization.
    • Microsoft's Power Platform tools are low code/no code tools that permit CRM software modifications by non-programmers and without over-customizing the application. That means a higher fit application with less CRM maintenance and much easier upgrades.
    • Microsoft CRM software is a global application that delivers localized functionality in about 40 regions with 42 languages. The application covers all the "multi's", such as multiple company, multiple currency, multiple languages and multiple time zones.
    • Microsoft CRM software is the least expensive cloud application among the Big 4.
    • CRM market share growth shows Microsoft gunning for the number 2 position. Although Salesforce continues to extend its lead, Microsoft has challenged Oracle CX and SAP CRM for the runner up spot.

    Consider Microsoft Dynamics CE if you are small or midsize retailer looking for least cost CRM software or seeking cross-functional or enterprise-wide retail execution systems.

And one more special mention

Adobe is also a market share leader in the retail industry. However, is not a CRM solution. At the minimum, CRM software must include integrated marketing, sales and customer service. Adobe does not offer Sales Force Automation or customer service apps. However, I would be remiss if I didn't share that the company is the leader in marketing automation or what are often called marketing clouds. It's not unusual to see Adobe purchased as a third party marketing app with each of the Big 4 CRM solutions. In fact, Microsoft and Adobe have a strategic alliance where Microsoft leads with Adobe as their integrated marketing cloud for large retailers. End

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The Big 4 CRM software solutions lead in the retail industry because they deliver the unique CRM software capabilities most needed by retailers.


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