The SaaS industry’s seen exponential growth in a really short period of time; according to Forbes, in 2019 SaaS revenue was projected at $171 billion and by 2024 the forecast is set to be $369 billion, an astronomical increase of $200 billion in just five years!

Revolutionary in nature, SaaS has had a huge impact on how we do just about everything since its inception, and it continues to impact our workflow as we learn to navigate life through a global pandemic.  

We’ve seen such strident leaps already that it’s difficult to imagine the innovation that lies on the horizon of the next year, and while we don’t have a crystal ball we do have a community of specialist SaaS practitioners who lent us their expertise to forecast the year ahead.

We asked the community three very important questions:

  1. What’s your SaaS prediction?
  2. What do you think will be the main SaaS trend over the next 12 months?
  3. What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

From the strategies that promise to grow your product to the cutting-edge technology that’s due to take the industry by storm, dive in as our SaaS experts reveal the trends set to shape SaaS in 2021 and beyond.

1. Product-led growth will be essential

Rodrigo Stoqui, Growth Manager for Customer Success at Pipedrive is a regular public speaker at SaaS events, discussing topics such as product-led growth and actionable strategies that deliver results.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

Analytics is taking center stage more than ever, so working with AI is almost mandatory.

I also expect tech stacks to power operations and get the job done. Something like white labeling in SaaS. Automations, connections, and integrations will be more relevant. It’s not a matter of in-app integration between platforms, but also building add-ons, migration to PaaS, and the unbundling of SaaS.

Small SaaS companies will target niche markets, small but dedicated user bases, improving customer experience, and delivering professional services, helping customers to get the most out of that specific solution. With a mobile-first approach.

I bet on product-led growth, especially for SaaS. As you adopt a product-led outlook, you can also incorporate real-time, in-product customer behavioral data to create meaningful engagement across multiple channels and devices.

Everything you do - customer, market, product, and channels - should be optimized to create repeatable and scalable strategies. Product data will empower your team to focus on the best leads and opportunities.

2. Buyers will invest in an inferior solution for a better experience

Calum Morrison, community builder at Recruitment Mentors is a SaaS marketer who specializes in working with recruitment providers to provide SaaS solutions.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

Customer experience is everything and our buyers’ expectations have become almost unattainable from everyday use of the likes of Amazon and Netflix.

Buyers will invest in an inferior solution for a better experience. To level the field in the war for experience we’re seeing SaaS companies offer lighter commitment, better personalization, and greater customization. Think unbundling, APIs, white labeling, and freemium tailored experiences. Show value and let people realize it themselves.

A lot of SaaS companies have spent the last nine months focusing on their existing customer base and pausing the hunt for new revenue. Hopefully, we’ve learned a lot about why our customers

choose us, why they stay with us and can capitalize on that for the better.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

COVID shifted the lens introspectively onto tech stacks and for the solutions that provide a myriad of things, we might see two scenarios.

Either the cannibalizing of smaller players to grow into a platform, or, the narrowing into a vertical or single solution to secure a foothold against the bigger players.

3. Data is the new trend for companies looking to get ahead

Peter Martin, Co-Founder, and Director of ALTR, specializes in data security as aservice platform.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

It’s been said for a little while now that data is the new trend for companies looking to get ahead.

Businesses have been working to make more data available to more people so they can capitalize on the “Time value of data” (to take a term from Frank Slootman, although I’m sure heborrowed it too!). While that’s true, I think we were sitting on the edges waiting for the last trend (cloud) to really be settled before the next one could take off in earnest.

With last year’s mass migration to the cloud—if you’re not in the cloud, you’re behind— and Snowflake’s massive IPO, everything changed. Now that the cloud conversation is behind us, we get to move on to the next phase: leveraging and sharing data to build a better business, faster. For SaaS companies (and all businesses IMO), that means data is a powerful, if vulnerable, friend.

Understanding data is really powerful and can be a key driver in building better products, getting an edge on the competition, and having happier customers.

While using data internally has always been a goal, I’m not sure all SaaS companies really dothat well. To succeed as we move forward, you have to not only understand your data yourself, there’s value if you can make it easier for customers to gain insights from their own data in yourplatform as well. I added vulnerability as if you don’t protect your data, you’re in for a roughride over the next year and decade, and forever until you solve that problem. I’d go a bit further to say it’s a combination of both increasing privacy regulations and increasing attacks that makeit an obligation for any company that collects sensitive data to also ensure that data is protected from unauthorized access.

4. Expect a huge influx in new home working tech

Darin Reffitt, Group Director at Guidewire Software currently manages the platform for insurers so they can engage, innovate, and grow efficiently using digital, analytics, and AI to provide customer solutions.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

With COVID-19 forcing so many tech workers into a remote work mode, I expect to see a huge influx of new technologies that improve the experience of those who work from home.

We all saw Zoom take off in March 2020 with the need for video conferencing.

If you look back at the origins of tools like Gmail, Google Docs, etc. you find those were originally developed as internal tools to make developers’ lives easier and the deployment as external products to the market came later.

I’m sure there are thousands of developers working on new programs and apps designed to

solve all the minor headaches those of us who worked from home pre-COVID have dealt withfor years. Those tools are, probably, going to be packaged, monetized, and marketed as better solutions than the tools we have now. So I wouldn’t be surprised to see both new SaaS categories and new competitors to current tools like Zoom and Slack hitting the market in 2021.

5. There’ll be a rise in tools connecting each other

Abby Barsky, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Cord has experience as a marketing and partnerships manager for a wide range of tech companies in the US, including PayPal and Dapper Labs.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

In the past decade, our teams have become more collaborative and cross-functional.

Brainstorms, honest feedback, all that good stuff.

This year I think we’ll see a rise in horizontal collaboration, we’ll see tools connecting to each other in new ways, and team members working together inside these tools.

The founders of Cord, a SaaS startup pioneering horizontal collaboration saw how beneficial the connective tissue between tools can be during their tenure at FAANG companies.

“Our solution is simple - let’s add the intuitive collaboration tools we love from the Figmas and Google Docs of the world to all of our tools, without having a dozen inboxes to check for notifications,” says Nimrod Priell, CEO, and co-founder of Cord.

We’ll keep using all of our favorite tools, but no longer in isolation, best-in-class commenting, tagging, and annotating across all your tools. One team directory, plus, automations and integrations that’ll take you to SaaS-wizard status without enrolling in Hogwarts. For our teams to do their magic.

6. Increasing competition will lead to greater customization

Ankita Asthana, Product Marketing Manager at Larsen & Toubro Infotech is a creative SaaS practitioner who has worked with some of India’s top SaaS businesses.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

Survival of the stickiest. With increasing competition in SaaS, enterprises will demand more customized versions that talk to their business, and SaaS players will need to have more engaging and sticky retention strategies.

From software to platform play, platform unbundling will be a major trend where SaaScompanies will offer solutions packaged in the form of an API rather than a typical full-featured platform.

7. Security is an enterprise must-have

Mark McDermott is CEO and Co-Founder of ScreenCloud, a digital signage platform that helps businesses communicate through digital signage screens.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

With employees spending so much time at home there is no way we will be going back to the old ways of working. Companies no longer have a choice on this as the best talent will vote with their feet if they do. My prediction is that we will settle on a remote-friendly hybrid scenario.

Deep work and focus from home with more collaborative efforts in the office in person. This means that your work needs to be mobile whilst also friendly to those not physically around you. All this points to even greater cloud software adoption. The race to cloud just sped up!

Security is now an enterprise must-have. Consider independent accreditation, such as SOC II, to be a critical feature, no longer a nice to have. In this upcoming tough economic environment, we will all be expected to do more with less. Every company has certain unique needs, especially as they now rely on software to a greater degree. There is no way that your roadmap will cover all angles, so having a fully documented and extensive API for custom integrations will be table stakes.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

Look out for unbundling of generic usage software. So for example Zoom has been used for a vast array of purposes in 2020 - and they have held up well! But it is clear that the solution alone is not ideal for teaching children, holding conferences, teaching fitness classes, performing medical consultations, etc. This is just an example of one stack. Expect to see startups nailing new niches left, right, and center.

8. Customer retention will be a differentiator

Christian Vijn, is Head of Benelux at Planhat, he also works across customer success, retention, and sales.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

Customer retention will be a differentiator. As SaaS becomes more comparable and companies are less loyal to a brand or vendor (also a prediction) so it’ll determine which companies are more successful. Customers will expect more out-of-the-box integrations and the SaaS vendors to take care of the ‘technical’ part. Your SaaS should be plug-and-play and the customer shouldn’t have to allocate too many technical resources to make your software work.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

AI, automation, and personalization. As more (personal) information is coming online, we’ll be able to buy personal information and let AI use this to automate certain processes.

9. There’ll be more mega acquisitions

Rav Dhaliwal is an investor and a former software executive. His expertise lies in building and leading startups.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

Enterprise SaaS will continue to go from strength to strength and there will be more mega acquisitions as incumbents consolidate by picking up smaller SaaS players.

An increased focus on using data to deliver business value with the increasing use of machine learning and AI in applications. What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021? More purpose tech built specifically for customer-facing teams. In particular, customer success which is largely underserved.

10. Finding what you need to solve your problem will have never been easier

Lucy Woolfenden is the founder of Part-Time CMO. A growth marketer with 18 years of experience helping to launch startups—as well as to scale them up. She’s also worked for Skype, Starling Bank, and Yolt.

With the increased use of SaaS across all sectors combined with an ongoing hybrid working model, the efficient management of these tools will become ever more important. We are all looking for speed and ease in our everyday and work lives. Multiple tools can become a headache so, instead, we will look to see how we can manage all of these as simply as possible. Tools such as Cledarra, a SaaS purchase, and management platform, will give an overview of our tool use and ensure efficiency and minimal waste across businesses.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

Personalization. The customer-centric principles of the service industry continue to drive change across all sectors. The nature of SaaS means that it is becoming easier for companies to create vertical SaaS products (specialized variants per market segment) and micro SaaS (small, mainly solopreneur-driven services). Finding what you need to solve your exact problem will have never been easier.

11. Hyper experiences and kinetic automations

Joseph Abraham is a founder and CEO at SaaS Network. He specializes in building communities and serves as the COO at steps, a global Millennial technology community.

Hyper experiences: The more seamless the experience, the better the adoption. In this trend, a customer’s evolution from a single point of interaction includes multisensory and multi-touchpoint interfaces like wearables and advanced computer sensors.

Kinetic Automations: Kinetic automation deals with the real-time application of better technologies, including AI and machine learning (ML), to bring about smart automation processes and augment humans. Kinetic automation extends across various tools that can be automated and refer to the automation’s length and breadth—identify, build, automate, assess, track, rebuild.

Technology homogeneity: Technology homogeneity provides customers with tools and expertise akin to real experts. This is specific to application development, data, and analytics, design, and knowledge. For example, technology homogeneity makes it easy for founders to generate complex data models without formal data science training with artificial intelligence and machine learning.

Open trust culture: Technology today has a debt of trust. Customers are empowered and aware of how data is collected and used, causing a severe liability. On the other hand, AI and ML are at the forefront of many applications, including conversational marketing instead of humans, which widens the trust gap. AI governance is still mainly unregulated, and in the coming days, we will see regulations in place because customers are seeking it.

Immersive Remote Operations: Remote operations model will be pivotal for businesses to do business post COVID era, with the threat of new viruses still being a reality. At its core, this immersive operating model allows enterprises to deliver and transact value anywhere—where employees and partners operate in physically remote environments. The model for anywhere operations is digital-first.

12. Digitalization and process automation of everything everywhere

Martin Lepka is Head of Customer Success and Operations at Keboola. He’s responsible for the company enterprise side.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

Digitalization and process automation of everything and everywhere. A rapid increase in integrability of systems (true customer 360 new baseline).

Metadata management will become mainstream. The data lineage, data quality, and data discovery tools will merge into a unified data management platform. Data Mesh principles will be adopted more and drive a unified data management platform.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

In the data world, a new generation of platforms (after Alteryx and Unformatica) with a true “no-code” approach for business users to work with data seamlessly. They are already emerging in the seed stage and getting pretty interesting investments even without any customer base.

13. SaaS can help retailers to transform raw data into usable information

Pini Mandel is co-founder and CEO at QuickLizard. He’s a technology industry executive with over 15 years experience.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

It’s very clear SaaS adoptions will continue to increase. I have no doubt about that. One retail vertical where we’re seeing SaaS adoption is in grocery chains. Traditionally, retail is an industry to embrace change last of all. For that vertical to start embracing that technology really speaks for itself. This is a very good example for the revolution of SaaS. We’ll see dynamic solutions such as dynamic pricing being used in the fight against food waste. And helping low-margin retailers to increase their margin by more than just 1% or 2%. Ultimately, SaaS can help retailers to transform raw data into usable information.

I believe we’ll see a lot more usage of real-time data. In all kinds of SaaS deployment. There’s so much data being transmitted these days and I think SaaS will need to continually evolve to make sure AI tools analyze the data. We’re expecting to see more hybrid offerings. For example, retailers such as in the electronics industry will complement their activities with our SaaS dynamic pricing solution.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

AI tools. That’s definitely something we’ll see more of. I believe we’ll see some predictive analysis as well. And we’re looking at new technologies such as ESLs (electronic shelf labels) which allows stores to maximize the full potential of dynamic pricing. This is by enabling automatic price changes as needed.

14. Changing and improving people’s habits before trying to sell them anything

Dekker Fraser is VP of Marketing at Talkatoo. He’s the author of two books on modern marketing techniques, including The SaaS Marketing Playbook 2021: More Demos, Trials, and Buyers.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

This year will be about changing and improving people’s habits before trying to sell them anything. I predict:

• More usage-based trials (rather than time-based).

• Way less gating of content and demo experiences.

• Increased focus on word-of-mouth marketing.

• Product-led growth.

• vertical-specific SaaS.

• Voice recognition.

• Emphasis on psychology rather than analytics.

• The rise of customer success.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

• Vertical-specific variants of SaaS that already exist.

• Beta versions of voice commands.

• Gamification tools.

15. Personalization of internal tools could lead to an increased sense of belonging to organizations

Elena Sergiampietri is the Customer Success Manager at etonec GmbH. She’s Currently diving into product management, design thinking, and everything related to delivering valuable products worth building.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

I believe there will be great developments. Now customers’ needs are clearer and companies have more insights on what customer experience should look like.

Company engagement has definitely become one of the main pain points in the last year as most of us had to abandon offices and work from home.

An increase in personalization and customization of internal tools could lead to an increased sense of belonging to an organization. For this reason, I see a great opportunity in white-label SaaS products like mobile applications and email marketing software, as their implementation makes businesses more efficient quickly, and they do not have to waste time reinventing the wheel. Moreover, collaboration tools have been and will continue to be extremely significant.

Miro, MURAL, Slack, and Wonder are just a few examples of what it means to make employees’ lives easier and promote and improve teamwork at its best.

Another huge impact will be no-code SaaS and its way of hiding complexity and making development available to a broader audience. Especially during the past year, many had to reinvent themselves and no-code services have turned out to be just the right magical tool to use in testing ideas.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

Talking about the new SaaS tech stack, frameworks like React will play a major role in making frontend development more efficient as time-to-market is crucial. And making code reliable for distributed systems languages like Golang and Rust creates a great impact on how SaaS services will be developed. I expect data privacy and trust protection are going to be solved with decentralized technology like blockchain and self-sovereign identity, which have become very mainstream.

16. Continued growth in new areas and industries

Jason Noble is Vice President of Global Customer Success at Vinli Inc and a recognized industry leader in customer success and SaaS.

What’s your SaaS prediction?

Huge continued growth in new areas and industries, and perhaps what people wouldn't normally think of as traditional SaaS. More and more consumer services are being powered by SaaS technologies and this is only going to grow. We'll also see growth in data-driven services with more and more automation with the right level of human interaction when needed.

What do you think will be the main SaaS trend over the next 12 months?

Growth and a big push on automation and more cloud-native services.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

AI and data mining services. With the growth in SaaS and other technology areas, the amount of data businesses have is growing exponentially. There are some very exciting companies building services that are going to help us understand much better what the data is telling us and what actionable insights we can get from it.

17. Remote leadership tools which support necessary changes in mindset

Sarah-Luisa Hübner is the User Experience Designer at Sawayo, an AI-powered automation, experience, and compliance platform.

What do you think will be the main SaaS trend over the next 12 months?

The Pandemic has uncovered our systems’ greatest weaknesses. From a German perspective, the fundamental deficiencies in digitization in Europe’s largest economy have been mercilessly exposed. The public sector and administrations, as well as wide parts of the business economy, struggled with their lack of digital approaches. A mindset of “escaping digitization as long as possible” led to blatant inefficiencies. Crucial processes showed massive vulnerabilities to external shocks like the current pandemic situation. Large parts of the office workforce are now faced with remote work and digital tools for the first time, because of the previous reluctance to change a long-outdated status quo.

However, this crisis can also be seen as an opportunity to close these weak spots and finally advance digitization in the country. Processes will need reorganization. Leadership will change its focus to being an enabler for self-responsible teams. The understanding of work itself will change, at least in parts of the economy. Above all, communication within teams will need close monitoring and continuous improvement in order to keep teams productive. Whatever was discussed in coffee kitchens before, will now need to find its representation in the digital space. Therefore, a key component for leaders in 2021 will be the ability to drive behavior, well-being, motivation, and productivity of distributed teams.

Therefore, SaaS trends to expect for 2021 are “remote leadership tools”, which support the necessary changes in mindset and processes among management and employees. This is more than just productivity tools. Software that helps introduce and implement best practices of good remote team management will help to overcome reluctance to change, as it supports everyone to get comfortable with the new reality of work. These tools shall be intuitive, easy to learn, and convenient - designed for easy adoption.

18. Higher churn rates for 'nice to have' tools

Edward Keelan is the Investment Director at Octopus, he has a passion for entrepreneurship and helping to mentor small businesses.

What’s your SaaS prediction?

Companies are going to start to realize they have too many SaaS subscriptions and there’s going to be pressure on internal sponsors within companies to demonstrate real ROI. Those SaaS businesses that are not truly integrated into a company’s ways of working, and those which are not measuring customer engagement and success will start to churn as customers start to look at ways of reducing their annual SaaS spend. The knock-on impact may be higher rates of churn for those “nice to have” tools which may also impact SaaS valuations in the mid to long term.

19. SaaS companies will get smarter about customer needs

Ali Good is Director of Product Marketing at Renaissance Learning. She writes stories for customers, helping to increase customer success as a market-leading learning provider.

SaaS companies will begin to be able to draw smarter and better conclusions about customer needs and customer success from the wealth of data they have. We will see exponential improvement in UX as a result.

Apps will grow much smarter and more useful, creating more space for more technology in our everyday lives both personally and professionally.

What sort of new SaaS tech can we expect in 2021?

Perhaps it’s time for a universal API that disrupts the walls between applications, allowing them all to work together. Personal hope—I don’t think we’ll see a new writing space emerge in 2021, but I can hope for one, right? A writing space on screen that is not shaped like paper, but like a screen, without margins? That finally kills the old File/Edit/View toolbars and gives me something more 2021? One can dream.

20. Organizations must invest in a multi-layered security model

Leia Schultz is a Product Manager at Jumpcloud, she’s an expert in full-funnel marketing, content strategy, and go-to-market success.

What are your SaaS predictions for 2021?

Think back just a few years and “Digital transformation” was the go-to buzz phrase for the C-level. The future of B2B SaaS in 2021 and beyond will be shaped by the impact of the increasing number of cloud-native companies. To win, these companies must not only have a multi-channel, digital presence to stand out in their market, but the digital experience they deliver has to be excellent.

One of the main SaaS trends in 2021 will be security. Organizations of all sizes must invest in a multilayered security model and prioritize keeping their data safe. It’s not a matter of if your business will be targeted by cyber attackers, it’s a matter of when. The threat is real: Hackers are more sophisticated than we’ve ever dealt with, as we witnessed in December 2020 with the compromised SolarWinds software (please do Google “SolarWinds” if you haven’t heard about what occurred). Security can’t be a siloed consideration to protect sensitive data.

Rather, it’s the responsibility of the entire organization, that starts with companies guarding employees from attacks. Employee credentials are hackers’ most exploited weak link, and your people need to be trained on things like spotting email- and webbased phishing attacks. They need to know how to use a TOTP for 2FA (or, a Time-based One-time Password for two-factor authentication) to verify their identity and access work resources. Don’t feel intimidated by the acronyms: they’re actually pretty simple ways to add security layers, starting with human resources.