2016 marks the year that the CMO will take control of the customer experience — or risk facing significant coordination challenges (and potential headaches) with some other fledgling executive who sees the opportunity to own it.

Savvy CMOs will lead the charge to convert superior experiences to growth. This includes driving change above and below the visibility line: from aligning experiences with the brand promise to transforming operations to deliver high-value, personalized experiences.

Customers' expectations around personalization will continue to grow in 2016, but most companies still won’t be ready to truly deliver one-to-one experiences. That’s OK: Customers don’t necessarily need perfect personalization; they just want their needs to be met in a way that delights them. Smart companies will use batch processing and segmentation to “fake it ‘til they make it” in 2016, but they will increase internal capabilities for more robust future delivery.

Here are three things leading that CMOs will do in 2016:

  • Lead customer advocacy — or be led. Smart CMOs will use the extensive knowledge that they have of the customer to seize control of the customer experience and customer advocacy programs.
  • Prepare for experience-driven communications. Thanks to hyperadoption — the unprecedented uptake of new devices and services — your customers will soon own devices that enable significantly more engaging marketing experiences that transcend a single, static moment. Savvy CMOs in 2016 will recognize the fundamental interconnectedness of communications and begin to use design thinking to build differentiated brand experiences that link engagement across the full customer life cycle.
  • Buddy up with HR leaders. Culture has quickly moved from a perceived luxury to the critical path for customer-obsessed operations. How quickly and how well companies move to a customer-obsessed operating model ultimately determines the extent to which they can deliver differentiated experiences, drive growth, and win. Leaders are quickly initiating culture efforts that transform operations and gain new levels of business agility. Laggards that avoid or defer culture change will stall the overall shift to customer obsession. This shift in the business — and your role in it — makes a strong partnership with your HR head a necessity.

Leading in these areas will require CMOs to move beyond traditional customer acquisition strategies and implement approaches that bring the brand promise to life across the full customer life cycle. Although a customer-obsessed enterprise can't emerge overnight, CMOs will jump-start the initiative by reorienting the business strategy to the customer's point of view and begin testing new vehicles for experience delivery. Those that prosper will merge brand, marketing, and companywide functional interactions into a unified, forward-looking customer experience strategy.

Read more about our CMO predictions for 2016 and stay tuned for more here on learnings from Forrester’s Age Of The Customer Executive Summit.