Want to know what’s next in software-as-a-service? A good person to ask is Gordon Ritter, one of the founders of Emergence Capital Partners, a venture firm whose early investments include DoubleClick, Ask Jeeves and aQuantive (which each had successful IPOs). Ritter led the investment in one of Emergence’s most high-profile successes, Salesforce, a customer relationship management and enterprise platform company that recently teamed up with Google.

Dean Takahashi and I met with Ritter last week, and beginning with a discussion of Salesforce, he gave us a peek at his vision of where SaaS is going. In short: It’s all about SaaS companies that collect and make smart use of data about their customers, so don’t just look for the flashiest tools. He explains what he means, and how this approach is like shopping at Nordsrom’s, in this mobile post.

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