Salesforce take note: Mobile CRM apps are nipping at your heels

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Salesforce has talked a lot about its mobile strategy. It started talking about being “mobile first” last year and an executive recently emphasized to me how central mobile is to the company’s thinking. It also recently issued new tools to help customers build mobile Salesforce apps.

But judging by the activity in the mobile CRM space, it looks like Salesforce isn’t meeting customer needs.

A couple weeks ago, two former Salesforce executives launched a new take on CRM with AppMesh, which puts the mobility of sales people at the center of the app. I suggested the app had some shortcomings but its launch signals a need in the market.

And last week Gartner predicted “significant shifts” in the CRM market. Researchers there say they expect a whopping 1,200 mobile CRM apps to be available next year, compared to 200 last year.

Gartner also reported that Salesforce became the number one CRM vendor by revenue in 2012. Yet if it can’t execute on mobile, it risks losing its lead.

Today, mobile backend-as-a-service provider Kinvey launched a Salesforce CRM app that can pull in data from other apps as well including Microsoft Dynamics or Oracle products. In an interview with the Next Web, Kinvey’s CEO criticized the Salesforce mobile app as being a replica of its browser app which isn’t meeting the needs of customers.

I talked to Kinvey a couple months ago and found it was ahead of some of the other BaaS providers in that it was building hooks into traditional enterprise apps to make it somewhat easier for businesses to develop mobile apps that pull in that data. Kinvey said it initially built the Salesforce app to demonstrate how that technology works but that “immediate demand led the company to productize the solution,” according to the news release.

The front end of the app is customizable so businesses can give it their own branding. And according to the story in the Next Web about the app, businesses can also customize the app to draw in data from other existing enterprise apps.

I’m not suggesting that any one app is poised to eat Salesforce's lunch. But if businesses are turning to third parties for their Salesforce mobile apps, it builds a barrier between Salesforce and the customer and opens the door for other types of enterprise data to become equally important. And as more apps come out that were designed with mobile in mind first, like AppMesh, the new services might chip away at Salesforce's lead.

I’m skeptical of the 1,200 apps that Gartner predicts but I’m definitely hearing about more and more mobile CRM apps. Salesforce should take note.

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