From April 9 to 11, the Zoholics conference took place in Austin, Texas. Close to 2,000 people were in attendance to learn about the latest updates and see the new features Zoho had to offer. Solocom, an authorised Zoho partner, was there. Here is what you should know.

A new marketing management tool

What attracted our attention the most is a brand new tool: Marketing Hub. This tool allows you to centralise several promotional activities, via a website or by email, such as prospects generation. You can also set up marketing automations based on specific internal triggers (e.g., an unread email from your last e-blast) or external factors (e.g., sending additional information when a particular element is clicked on). This suite includes many features found in similar tools.

Where MarketingHub stands out is, obviously, by the seamless integration with existing tools such as Zoho CRM. The planner also seems to offer better budget management features for short and long term expenses. We’ll need more time to explore that feature and have an opinion on its efficiency.

Let’s point out one last interesting aspect of the tool. MarketingHub can be paired with existing forms to collect information. You simply have to link the current field to the corresponding one and select the send button (the detection is based on jQuery selectors). It is thus possible to start using the tool without a complete overhaul of an existing site. It connects very easily with Google Tag Manager.

An ever-evolving CRM

The most common Zoho software is without a doubt their CRM. It is rapidly spreading in more and more businesses. Although no major changes were announced at this conference, it is interesting to mention that Zoho is constantly making improvements to the bi-directional integrations between tools. For example, Zoho CRM Plus, which combines customer relationship management, online chat and social media management, allows information sharing and a combined overview of all these tools in real time.

Note however that, as intuitive as this tool may seem, some might find it harder than others to implement within their business. This will be especially true if a majority of your employees are not familiar with using a CRM. More often than not, the selection of a CRM comes after the free trial of several software; and the choice is made not based on company needs but on what the decision makers feel more comfortable with. This can be a trap since Zoho CRM allows for a lot of customisation that are only available in the Enterprise version. This customisation ranges from adding single fields to the complete overhaul of menu items based on usage. Despite the initial set-up cost and the need for a Zoho partner expertise, such customisation offers many possibilities for any enterprise.

The flagship product: Zoho One

Zoho’s approach has always been to offer new digital tools at competitive prices. With constant upgrades year after year, clients willing to garnish their toolbox saw their monthly bill rise significantly. As many felt the pricing structure had become less competitive, Zoho adapted by offering a bundle of around 40 apps for a unique price.

This constitutes a full ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) suite covering customer relationship management, invoicing, project management, tickets monitoring and much more. Although implementing such a system, with so many tools, may seem overwhelming at first, it has the benefit of allowing for simple management of access/authorisation levels.

A more inclusive customisation

This is where Zoho Creator takes all its meaning. This app allows you to create customised forms (for internal or external use), process data in a simple programming language (Deluge script), and add/adjust that data in any Zoho tool. By the end of this year, this tool should be compatible with the all Zoho apps.

Zoho’s strength lies in its fantastic capacity of adaptation. One of the main principles of Industry 4.0 is to rely as much as possible on machine protocol to execute predictable and repetitive tasks. This frees your employees to focus on value-added work for your business. If a connection is missing (e.g., an order for Product X in your CRM automatically creates a task in Projects), Creator can help you set it up.

AI drives analytics

This past Zoholics conference covered analytics tools, the graphical interface of which had gotten a major facelift during the last year. Although not as powerful for data processing as some other apps, the graphical interface and the number of connectors allow to gather an impressive amount of data in a single place.

But the big news is ZIA – Zoho’s Artificial Intelligence system – imbedded into their analytics tool. In a few weeks, you’ll be able to create a table by typing the request and see it being created in real time. The system will also give suggestions as you type (à la search engine) and allow you to create on-demand tables without having to place a request to a data specialist. An interesting add-on for managers who often have unusual needs.

From order to delivery

Zoho also offers a Finance suite, which covers invoicing, account monitoring, payables and receivables, and bank reconciliation. Zoho also announced the launch of Expense 2.0, an employee expense managing tool. On top of the new interface, it now uses native smart phone functionalities for an improved mobile experience. The suite also includes an inventory app as well as a packaging optimisation for product delivery. Every module of every app can be personalised. This allows you to control your supply chain from A to Z (e.g., replenish your inventory at the right time based on needs).

Finally, Zoho introduced a Payroll application to manage just that. For now, it is limited to 3 locations (California, Texas and India), but the company aims to expand its geographical range soon. To be continued…

As you can see, Zoho is in growth mode and expanding to several markets. Clearly, it aspires to become a force to be reckoned with on the world stage – to the same extent as SalesForce or Hubspot – and seems to have the means to do so. Keep a close eye on Zoho!