Business software is booming right now. With so many people now plying their trades online, even in industries that were previously less inclined to do so, the increase in demand for B2B software was perhaps an inevitability once the recent coronavirus pandemic reared its head.
And as the current issues persist, the popularity of business software, in a world moving increasingly online, doesn’t seem to be abating.
Three areas in particular are becoming increasingly crowded in the software space, and for good reason. When it comes to running a business that has moved so dominantly into the digital realm, team collaboration, data analytics and email marketing have become serious battlegrounds for many tech services looking to cash in, and in turn, create hugely useful services and platforms for the end-user.
Let’s take a look at what’s happening in each of these niches.
When it comes to collaboration tools, the surge in their importance has been driven into the stratosphere in recent months due to the coronavirus pandemic. With teams now often working remotely, having a tool available that allows multiple people to virtually work together on projects without compromising on productivity too much is extremely important.
While it can be tempting to think that 2020 was the year that remote working and team collaboration broke into the mainstream, it is worth remembering that this is a trend that has been escalating for some time. Early collaboration tools mainly concerned themselves with the sharing of files amongst multiple users within a company, but newer equivalents, such as Microsoft Teams, Slack and Trello pot more of an emphasis on free-flowing and easily organized communication.
Separating the wheat from the chaff in this particular category is difficult, as many of the services run in a similar fashion to each other, although some have at least one particular facet that shines. For Microsoft Teams, it’s the integration with the rest of the Office 365 suite that put it in a strong position for consideration, especially when many businesses are already paying for other Microsoft packages anyway.
Slack and Trello have always been looked at as the collaboration tools of choice for the slightly more “hip” crowd, but beyond their veneer are extremely powerful collaboration tools that set out information in easy to use, and manageable forms.
Having all your work-based communication in one place makes searching for conversations and files a breeze, but with so many options out there, choosing the right one often comes to down familiarity with the software, and pricing, as functionality in one is often replicated quickly in the rival’s offerings.
With more and more work, shopping and general life being played out in the digital space, it was pretty obvious that data analysis was going to be another area of tech that would see a surge in recent times. Data analysis tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes, with much of the differentiation coming from what integrations are available on each platform.
Looking at two of the biggest names in the industry as an example, while there are similarities, there are also many ways that Sisense and Qlik differentiate from one another. Whereas Sisense prides itself on being able to utilize highly complex data sets from different sources, Qlik, on the other hand, positions itself as a service that is capable of creating extremely visual representations of the gleaned data. Other platforms in this space include Power BI, Tableau and Google Data Studio.
Many of the ways that these software products differ from one another come down to highly esoteric specialties.
With this in mind, in a highly crowded market, the use of one data analytics platform over another will come down to what product suits the end user’s particular business model, with the size of data pools, integrations, support, and scalability all being taken into account.
Email is still the most widely used form of communication online. Whilst collaboration tools have taken over the working world in a lot of ways, it is still a common reality that email is the most ubiquitous form of online communication out there.
Everyone has an email address, it is available on pretty much every OS and device, and everyone still uses it to some degree or another. Because of this, email marketing is still a highly valuable way to get your message out and nurture relationships with your sales prospects.
Email marketing platforms have evolved from simple little services that sent out standard emails to multiple recipients, into highly customizable and data-valuable services. From Mailchimp to HubSpot, most of these services have one feature or another that stands out from the crowd. Some will point to their ease of use and template-driven email design aspects as the reason why they are the premier choice, whereas others will hold up their data-heavy analytics, as the reason to be chosen.
Again, in a similar fashion to the data analytics and team collaboration apps, the choice for most end-users will come down to their own use cases, and what element of these services is most important to them.
In the current climate, most of these services will continue to find their own niche in a landscape that is becoming increasingly packed full of similar services. One or two will stand out from the crowd, but in general, there is enough room for even the smaller platform providers to remain relatively successful. What the landscape will look like in a few years is anyone’s guess, but one premonition that looks to be a realistic one, is that more of these services will either expand their functionality to incorporate aspects of the other areas mentioned in this article, or they will merge.
To see how successful this approach can be, take a look at Microsoft Teams or Slack. Both are collaboration tools that initially concentrated on text-based chat, and now include audio and video calls as well. By the same token, email marketing, data analytics and even team collaboration are intrinsically linked to a degree that having all this functionality under one roof would be a major boon for the consumer.
With this in mind, the battle within B2B software categories is likely to get even feistier as the years roll on. Whatever happens, the battle, which often results in lower pricing and more polished services, is almost always good for the buyer.