Bigin by Zoho CRM is a solid pipeline-based CRM solution for small business that is equally effective on PCs and on mobile devices.
Bigin by Zoho CRM (Bigin), which starts at $7 per user per month on an annual plan, aims to fill the void between SMBs using spreadsheets for their CRM needs, and more complex and expensive SMB-focused customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. The latter are watered-down versions of enterprise tiers, and exclude features and functionality to keep the price affordable. Zoho’s approach with Bigin is the opposite of a product like Salesforce Essentials, because it isn’t looking to give away the crown jewels of its Editors’ Choice-winning Zoho CRM product. Instead, it’s making some of the more vaunted functionality easily available within a framework that’s easily accessible to even the smallest businesses.
Understanding that the needs of small business, especially those just starting their sales journey, may not be reflected in the deep feature set available through Zoho CRM, the company wanted to focus on its smaller customers. Instead of simply offering a stripped-down version of its core CRM platform as many of its competitors do, Zoho decided to create an all-new small to midsized business (SMB)-focused solution from the ground up. The objective is a product that’s aimed specifically at small businesses and is also mobile-native, meaning it’s optimized to run effectively on tablets and smartphones.
Zoho also focused on integrations with Bigin, key among them with Microsoft Office 365 and Google G-Suite. With these, Bigin tightly integrates email and scheduling so you don’t need to leave Bigin to ferret out an email trail or schedule your follow-up calls. Bigin does contain access to some Zoho CRM-level tools, like automation by way of a configurable workflow system and even a convenient telephony integration option though neither of these features is required for customers that don’t want to use them.
On the mobile side, Bigin offers some of the tightest integration with Apple’s iOS we’ve seen on any CRM solution so far. Knowing that many of its small business customers are using iPads and iPhones, Bigin works hard to integrate well with the very latest features of Apple’s mobile platform. This includes specific widgets and notifications for tablets and phones, alerts on Apple Watch, and even the ability to use Apple Pencil to scribble responses on the iPad.
Starting at $7 per user per month on an annual plan, Bigin is the most affordable CRM solution we’ve tested so it compares very well against the competition. Consider that Apptivo starts at $8 per user per month, while Freshsales’ Blossom plan starts at $12 per user per month and even small-business-focused Pipedrive CRM starts at $12.50 per user per month. Bigin also offers a free tier, though this is for single users and is limited to 500 records, a single pipeline, three workflows, and one web form, though it also includes access to telephony as well as the Android and iOS mobile apps.
The $7 tier comes with built-in telephony, 50,000 records, 25 workflows. five web forms, IMAP-based email, multiple pipelines, mass email and insights reporting, customizable dashboards, and free phone support, many of which are features lacking from even the more expensive players. Zoho took a careful look at what the competition offered for a similar price and aimed to offer a wider range of features for less. That means the only question potential customers need answer is whether that feature range is enough to run their business.
Comparisons to the cheapest tier of Zoho CRM are inevitable, so here’s the difference. Zoho CRM starts at $12 per user per month on an annual plan. It provides email sync via IMAP/POP. SalesSignals, and a a wider range of custom field limits are available in Zoho CRM, but not in Bigin.
Setting up Bigin is very similar to many of Zoho’s web-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. Simply key in your username and password and you’re presented with Bigin’s clear and attractive user interface. There are how-to videos that serve as a setup walkthrough as well as a sizeable knowledge base to get you started. Zoho’s challenge was to create a CRM that could be set up and running in under 30 minutes. We got set up in under 15 minutes but our contact list for testing was quite small with fewer than 50 entries. Larger lists or those whose fields may need to be adjusted or reformatted could take longer to import.
Bigin’s navigation is hinged on the left row where Deals, Contacts, Companies, Products, Activities, and Dashboards make up the main sections. These six sections are really all most small businesses need from a CRM and Bigin does a great job of compartmentalizing all the various aspects of interacting with the CRM through them. We figured out Bigin’s user interface quickly and were delighted by how straightforward its controls are.
Bigin compares nicely to the newer entrants in the SMB CRM space, products like Zendesk Sell, which are similarly easy on the eyes. It places Dashboard, Leads, Contacts, Deals, Calendar, Tasks, Communication, and Reports front and center. Bigin also manages to organize a lot of information on screen and only Insightly CRM has managed to add a wider range of dashboards and visualizations; however Insightly CRM’s higher price makes it less attractive to smaller businesses.
The very top column consists of a universal search field followed by a reminder of how many days you have left on the 14-day update period. Tiny icons for Notifications, Signals, Create New Record, Settings, and User Menu are always accessible in case you get lost. Once you’ve set up your contacts and deals, you start to receive emails from Zoho regarding opportunities in your pipeline as well as next steps to possibly take to close a sale.
The Deals section is given prominence and is the first section which fits well with Bigin’s pipeline-focused approach to CRM. The Deals view gives an updated overview of all the deals in the pipeline as well as their current status and the financial information.
Below that, we have the Contact section where you can add, manage, or edit contacts. We were able to import an Excel .CSV contact file with just a few simple steps. Post import, we also had the opportunity to fix any fields and arrange the data to our preferences. Zoho has built-in a lot of contextual information, so understanding what tools and fields are for is easy. The bottom of the page gives you the total number of contacts, contacts with open deals, without deals, and untouched. This is very useful information to have on hand, and something we’ve not found in competing CRMs.
Below Contacts is Companies, which simply lists all the companies in the pipeline as well as contact and website information along with the company owner. Next is Products, which is a list of things your team is selling. This section makes it possible to import product lists from spreadsheets or create a product listing that includes key information, like the name, product code, category, unit price, description, and whether the product is active.
The Activities section serves as a calendar of sorts and outlines tasks, events, and calls as these are generally the three most actionable components of a CRM. The Activities section makes it easy to jump into the nitty gritty of specific deals in the pipeline. It’s very convenient to have the contact information, timeline, access to emails and any corresponding files. Managers can use the Activities section as a basic collaboration and communication space, leaving notes or tasks to team members.
For businesses that take advantage of the telephony integrations, they can perform a sales call and have all the information on the contact and the deal on hand. Again, this is seriously convenient and something that many larger competitors can only do via third-party integration. The benefit of built-in telephony is that you won’t have to manually update call records as these are added automatically.
Bigin also offers the option for adding a business email, sending mass email, and even provides basic email insights to gauge campaign effectiveness.
Another characteristic that sets Bigin apart from most of its competition is that it has been designed as a mobile-first solution. We expect to see more of this from other vendors in the future, but Zoho is out in front with Bigin. This means that iOS and Android devices will be at feature parity with PCs. Zoho’s put in the extra work to be one of the first vendors to offer compatibility with Apple’s iOS 14 and macOS Big Sur operating systems. Understanding that SMBs may prefer to use iPads or iPhones as conduits for their business apps, Bigin has baked in a lot of native functionality for the latest release versions of Apple’s operating systems.
Apple’s iOS 14 now supports widgets and with Bigin, it’s possible to set reminders on device home screens which serve as post-it notes. Bigin’s widgets display tasks, events, and calls while allowing you to create new activities. For business owners that prefer to use voice assistants, they can use the Siri shortcuts feature on iOS 14 to call, schedule, create tasks or events, and even take notes via dictation.
A Wind Down Shortcut feature gives a glimpse into the next day’s activities plus the Pipeline view is easy to view and customize on an iPhone or iPad screen. iPad users now also have the functionality of being able to use the Apple Pencil to scribble on any text field and convert their handwriting into text. As with most handwriting recognition software, your mileage may vary depending on how clear your penmanship is and how well the software can parse your writing.
Bigin even provides an Apple Watch hook, which is a widget that enables shortcuts to be invoked from the wearable. This includes calling, scheduling a task, and creating events all from the Apple Watch. Many of these are conveniences and not breakthrough features, but they do show Zoho’s initiative in making Bigin more personal to users, at least those who’ve invested in Apple’s ecosystem.
Where many competitors drive CRM processes from the customer record, Bigin looks to do so from a sales perspective. Once contacts are imported, it’s easy to attach deals to specific contacts. The Deals section within the contact information page allows you to Create Deals. This is where you input necessary information including the Deal Name, The Company Name, The Stage of the deal (Qualification, Needs Analysis, Proposal/Price Quote. Negotiation Review, Closed Won or Closed Lost. You can also see or add the amount, the closing date and the description. The ability to quickly access the sales pipeline, be it from the desktop app, or from mobile devices, is convenient for managers that need to quickly reference their CRM tools during calls.
Organizing a CRM to optimize sales pipelines is a clever approach that will serve a business well provided they are happy working with a limited number of pipelines. This isn’t a very big issue with startups or small business that probably have only one pipeline to consider, and that’s where Bigin really shines. More traditional CRM users may take some time to get accustomed to this approach, but these aren’t really Bigin’s intended customers anyway. Bigin is designed so anyone regardless of their CRM experience can dive right in and manage contacts and sales pipelines. One thing about the pipeline view for CRM is that the data presented always feels actionable and not static. The psychological effect is one of wanting to push towards negotiations and closings.
Workflows are powerful automations that can be used to track deal updates, set up email alerts, or notify team members when tasks are created. Being able to automate rote tasks is surprisingly freeing, even for smaller businesses. But what happens to these bespoke automations once a business outgrows what Bigin has to offer? The good news is that it is possible to import all data into Zoho CRM, which is better suited for growth-stage or mature businesses. Importing Bigin’s data into other CRM solutions, however, may not be as easy, though it should be manageable via REST APIs.
For those interested in early-stage analytics, Bigin offers various segmentation options for rearranging data. We were able to create a view that showed all our contacts from a particular city, or based on potential earnings, or even on the longest engagement time.
On the downside, users can only create a limited number of custom fields. Additionally, while Bigin supports email sendings, it lacks email templates and creating your own templates is surprisingly cumbersome. We also would have liked a simple lead scoring option.
Overall, Zoho’s intent with Bigin seems to have been to provide small businesses that might still be using spreadsheets for their contact list with a full-features CRM designed to help them close deals quickly. That means Zoho had to straddle the line between simplicity and functionality, and overall, we think Bigin manages this trade-off very well.
Bigin is an innovative SMB-focused approach to CRM that should satisfy the requirements of even the smallest businesses while providing a cohesive pipeline-based layout and workflow. Bigin’s fresh and intuitive user interface is a delight to use, and its pricing along with its easy upgrade path to the rest of the Zoho ecosystem make it an exceptional value.
Sign up for What’s New Now to get our top stories delivered to your inbox every morning
PCMag.com is a leading authority on technology, delivering Labs-based, independent reviews of the latest products and services. Our expert industry analysis and practical solutions help you make better buying decisions and get more from technology.
PCMag, PCMag.com and PC Magazine are among the federally registered trademarks of Ziff Davis, LLC and may not be used by third parties without explicit permission. The display of third-party trademarks and trade names on this site does not necessarily indicate any affiliation or the endorsement of PCMag. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product or service, we may be paid a fee by that merchant.
Customer relationship management, Zoho, Salesforce
World news – GB – Bigin by Zoho CRM Review