Sales are forecast to increase as vendors customise strategies for companies Asia's sluggish market for customer relationship management (CRM) software is poised to pick up this year as enterprises push to strengthen their marketing programmes, industry experts say. Software suppliers that help enterprises to establish a clear CRM strategy tailored to specific business needs are expected to see greater success rates, according to recent analysis by IT consultancy Frost & Sullivan. 'With vendors assessing internally the value proposition and experience they provide to customers, CRM is gradually being redefined as an enterprise-wide software solution with back-end integration, rather than just a stand-alone software module,' said Frost & Sullivan industry manager Moaiyad Hoosenally. CRM software helps an organisation to automate sales, marketing and customer service systems across the Web, at call centres, in the field, through reseller channels and via retail and dealer networks. Despite reports of failed projects, enterprises have continued to invest in CRM systems to streamline marketing campaigns, improve sales effectiveness and increase customer profitability. Research firm Gartner has predicted the worldwide market for CRM services will grow by an average of 16 per cent a year to US$47 billion by 2006. Frost & Sullivan, meanwhile, estimated that Asia-Pacific demand for CRM software would reach $406.8 million in 2009. Those projections could lift the spirits of top-shelf, multinational CRM software vendors, which have endured a long sales slump because of the economic downturn. Some players have had to shelve their regional expansion plans, close offices and lay off workers. CRM vendors are getting involved early in a client's sales strategy, putting a new focus on educating the client's customers. Through close interaction, vendors were customising CRM strategies to suit each company's structure, goals and operations, Frost & Sullivan said. 'Large enterprise customers are looking to consolidate a host of point solutions and upgrade CRM functions across multiple departments and channels,' Mr Hoosenally said. Frost & Sullivan also forecast that analytic CRM, known as 'business intelligence', would be the biggest value-addition for Asia Pacific enterprise users, allowing them to plan around targeted customer segments. Steven Parker, head of customer sales and service for consumer banking at Standard Chartered, has seen the bank benefit from its CRM programme - initially using Siebel System's Finance 7 software platform - to create a single, multi-channel view of customers. The bank has set up automated sales and marketing networks in Hong Kong and Singapore, where executives have managed to measure the results of the bank's e-business expansion strategy. Mr Parker said Standard Chartered made a big push for e-business in Hong Kong and Singapore in 2002 as it faced a number of challenges, including financial market deregulation, increased competition through mergers and acquisitions, aggressive pricing and higher customer expectations. Siebel helped Standard Chartered create a single interface and central repository for all customer data generated in 90 branches and call centres across the bank's Hong Kong and Singapore operations. 'With this information, we can respond faster to customer inquiries and avoid duplicating costly sales calls,' Mr Parker said. Frost & Sullivan claimed that Siebel has been leading CRM software sales in Asia Pacific despite a decline in the regional CRM market in the past few years and stiff competition from domestic enterprise application software suppliers.