CRM vs. CMS: The differences and how to choose

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CRM vs. CMS — what is the difference, and how do you choose which is right for your ecommerce business?

CRM and CMS software may sound similar, but they are very different. Determining the benefits of each and whether your ecommerce business needs just one or both can save you time, money, and frustration.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Content Management Systems (CMS) are software solutions that serve two very different purposes.  CRM helps you manage your customers and clients through your sales funnel. CMS helps you manage your website, marketing, online store, and digital assets.

CMS and CRM software are central to the success of many online brands.

How do you choose which is right for your ecommerce business? In this article we explore the trade-offs between CRM vs. CMS. Let’s dig in.

What is a CRM?

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system helps your ecommerce business to manage the sales process at every stage.

CRM is a software tool that helps you to keep track of all of your leads and customers by recording and reporting their interactions with your website. Your company uses CRM software to track how your customers interact with your ecommerce business.

A CRM helps to improve your sales processes and increase your ecommerce business’s efficiency.

While it’s possible to keep track of your leads, contacts, and customer interactions on a spreadsheet, using CRM software can dramatically increase your efficiency if your customer base extends beyond a handful of clients.  In fact, 91% of companies with ten or more employees use a CRM to manage their sales, marketing, and customer service activities.

CRM software can increase your business’s revenue by helping you to spot trends in your ecommerce business, optimizing your sales team’s performance, and automating some repetitive tasks.

CRM software stores your contacts and relevant customer information including, name, company name, and contact information, as well as additional customer insight such as contact preferences, history, and other important details. 

Popular CRM software options include Hubspot CRM, Salesforce, Zendesk, Pipedrive, Sugar CRM, Zoho CRM, and Microsoft Dynamics.

Benefits of using a CRM

With important client information logged on a single CRM platform, your sales team can get a clear picture of the overall customer journey and where each customer is individually in the sales pipeline.

CRM software records the relationship between sales representatives and your customers. Each customer interaction including, emails, meetings, and calls, is logged in the CRM so your sales representatives can easily stay on top of when they need to follow up with each prospect.

If your business is looking to find and capitalize on more sales opportunities, improve your customer engagement, and close more deals, CRM software can be an effective solution.

What to look for in a CRM

Your CRM should track how your leads and customers interact with your ecommerce business. To make the most of your CRM software, you’ll want to look for a solution that includes:

Reports and dashboards

Your CRM should aggregate all of your sales data into usable reports so that you and your sales team can easily spot trends and insights. Reporting also helps your sales team to stay on track with sales goals and other objectives. Most CRM’s can generate reports on contacts, specific sales segments, or your ecommerce business as a whole over a particular specific period of time.

Content repository

One of the most useful tools a CRM offers is the ability to create a content repository containing templates for all your prospect communications including, emails, forms, FAQs, and common responses. This streamlines and standardizes your sales process and saves time that would otherwise be spent writing individual communications.

Deal tracking

As each customer moves through the sales process, your CRM tracks the buyer’s journey and stores it in your contact’s record. This allows for a better customer experience and helps your sales representative stay on top of each client’s needs.

Email, phone, chat, and call center integration

Your CRM will log every contact with your customer into the database automatically. This makes it easy to see the progress of your customer relationship at a glance. 


CRM software automates many tasks and may use artificial intelligence AI to streamline the process and help your team avoid wasting time on redundant tasks.

Sales analytics for better decision-making

Another key advantage of CRM software is analyzing your business data to discover customer behavioral patterns and sales trends. 

This valuable information helps your business to anticipate your customers’ needs and take action at the right time. These insights can also provide you with an overview of your most effective sales tactics and areas to improve your sales process.

For example, your CRM report can help you to determine your ecommerce business’s most effective number of touchpoints and how long your team should wait between each client outreach.

Insights for marketing outreach

CRM software helps your team determine your best leads and prospects so you can focus on marketing campaigns that give you the biggest return on your investment.

By utilizing the records of your sales interactions with clients and leads, your sales and marketing teams can gain better insight to create more targeted content.

Lead management for differentiating lead quality

In-depth customer data allows your sales team to differentiate lead quality and manage leads effectively.

Your team can create a personalized experience to anticipate customer needs and help prospects move through the sales funnel by using rich customer data, including pricing concerns, personal interests, and preferred communication channels.

When considering a CRM software solution, your ecommerce business should look for:

  • Sales team and customer opportunity management
  • Notifications on customers’ activities on your site
  • Data including customers, sales, service, and more
  • Customizable tags, groups, fields
  • Mobile access via phone, tablets, or other devices 
  • Phone integration so you can call straight from the contact file
  • Search functionality
  • Workflow and approvals
  • Territory management
  • File syncing, saving, sharing
  • Role-based views
  • Social media management integration
  • Connection to external accounts such as SNS
  • Integration with billing, including digital invoicing, and 
  • Advanced features such as business card scanning, lead opportunity management, and internal messaging

What is a CMS?

A Content Management System (CMS) Is a tool used to create, update, and manage your ecommerce company’s website. 

Your CMS is one of the first tools you will need when setting up your website and acts as a central hub for all of the content and digital assets you need to manage your business.

A CMS provides templates to simplify the set-up of your website and a feature-rich content editor that allows you to update your website and post or schedule content without needing coding skills.

CMS software makes it easy to set up and run your ecommerce business website, and many software solutions offer tailor-made features to help your online business thrive.

Most CMS software offers flexibility by using add-on plug-ins and widgets, which allows you to increase your website’s features and functionality.

Your CMS provides both a content management back-end and a content publishing front-end.

In addition, your CMS back-end stores and organizes your digital assets and provides an interface for you to browse, access, and manipulate your content easily.

Popular CMS platforms include WordPress, Squarespace, Weebly, Joomla, and Shopify.

Benefits of using a CMS

There are multiple benefits to using a CMS for your ecommerce business. 

Your CMS will provide you with a variety of responsive, mobile-friendly themes and templates that change layouts based on different screen sizes.

In addition to content publishing, a CMS should also provide analytics or integrate with a third-party tool such as Google Analytics. These metrics should track key performance indicators, including page views, traffic sources, bounce rates, locations, and more.

This allows you to stay on top of the performance and effectiveness of your website.

Users can use a CMS to manage and publish content across various types of ecommerce websites and applications, including blogs and ecommerce sites.

What to look for in a CMS

What should you look for in a CMS? One of the most important features your CMS can provide is a mobile-friendly site. 

Google prioritizes mobile-friendly sites in search engines rankings. As more people use mobile devices to access the internet, you’ll want to make sure your ecommerce site is optimized for mobile traffic to take full advantage of this upward trend.

Depending on whether your ecommerce business is a start-up or an established online brand, there are several CMS platforms ranging from free, open-source solutions to paid, proprietary platforms to meet your needs.

Some platforms are designed for flexibility, allowing you a broad range of practical applications. Other CMS platforms are designed for specific business applications, such as blogs and ecommerce stores.

Typical CMS platforms allow you to:

  • Easily change your branding and the look of your website with templates
  • Add custom domain names and sub-domains
  • Host your website
  • Create an online store
  • Control your site’s content and security
  • Utilize SEO tools
  • Allow you to build and manage your website without hiring a developer
  • Utilize tools and templates for blogging and/or ecommerce stores
  • Create search functionality across your website and online store
  • Add products and integrate a payment portal for your online store
  • Provide role-based user access
  • Make it easier for you to implement your SEO objectives
  • Get insight into your web traffic, and
  • Boost your website functionality with widgets and plug-ins

CRM vs. CMS: how are they alike?

Both CRMs and CMSs are tools to help you effectively manage critical aspects of your ecommerce business. 

They can also help you leverage the aspects of your business you are already doing well and provide you with insight into how to improve.

CRM vs. CMS: how are they different?

Your CRM is focused primarily on sales. This tool is designed to improve your organization’s efficiency and sales processes. Your CMS can influence your sales approach by using lead-generating tools such as content marketing, but it is your CRM that leads your customers through the sales funnel. 

Your ecommerce business’s CMS focuses on the branding and marketing of your business. Your CMS helps your company efficiently and effectively produce content to attract new customers to visit your site and buy from your business.

How do I choose which is right for my business?

Many ecommerce businesses need both CMS and CRM solutions. Ideally, these tools should work in conjunction with each other.

If you are starting your ecommerce business, a CMS software solution will help you get it off the ground.Additionally, if your business relies primarily on inbound marketing to drive sales, you’ll want to start with a CMS.

This is especially important if you have multiple content creators. Your CMS provide essential benefits to small business sites, including:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO)
  • Drag and drop content editor
  • Content planning tools, and
  • Website design

However, if your business relies primarily on outbound sales, you’ll want to implement your CRM software first.

A CRM can help your business to grow no matter what size. CRM software organizes your sales leads, provides valuable insights, and streamlines the sales process. 

The more customers and clients your ecommerce business has, the more challenging it will be to keep track of them without a CRM solution.

As you grow and scale your ecommerce business, you will likely need to implement both types of software solutions.

An effective CMS-CRM integration allows you to funnel all activity on your ecommerce website into your CRM for reporting, analysis, and actionable insights.

This allows you to see your customer’s journey from the first piece of content that they interact with on your site, all the way through the entire sales funnel, on their way to becoming an evangelist for your brand.

The more you understand how your customers interact with your business, the easier it is to solve their pain points, target your marketing efforts, communicate with your customers effectively, and address their concerns.

This allows you to eliminate and refine strategies and tactics that are not meeting your goals and double down on your most effective marketing efforts.

A CMS-CRM integration also allows you to see how your website performs against your other online channels, providing you with additional insight and solutions for your sales and marketing strategy.

Final thoughts

Both CRM and CMS solutions can provide you with tools and insights to grow your ecommerce business.

A CRM can help your ecommerce business organize your customer data, streamline the sales process, and personalize communication with your clients. This helps you to understand your customers better, nurture client relationships, and increase your sales and profitability.

A CMS helps you store your digital assets, and manage, schedule, and publish your online content to most effectively meet the needs of your ecommerce business.

Together, these tools give your business greater insights into your customers and allow you to scale your business and grow your bottom line effectively.