Forrester’s been writing about customer obsession for nearly half a decade, but until recently, most companies merely paid lip service to it. What’s changing? Marketers’ jobs security: CMOs have the shortest tenure in the C-suite and some companies like Coca-Cola are eliminating their CMO functions altogether in favor of chief growth or customers officers.

We predict in our 2018 B2C marketing predictions that more marketers will embrace an expanded role in 2018 — focused not only on customer communications but also crafting customer experiences that deliver on brand promises everywhere — for two key reasons:

  • Consumers demand it. Consumers already exercise their ever-increasing position of power not just when comparing product features and prices, but also when making purchase decisions based on if a brand aligns with their own personal belief systems. In 2018, the enforcement of Europe’s new privacy law will extend consumers’ power to their personal data as well. Brands that fail to earn their customer’s trust because of poorly-executed brand experiences risk losing their precious targeting capabilities when consumers block access to their data.
  • Competition demands it. Not all categories felt the same pressure to pivot to customer obsession. But, recent disruptions in the retail space — think Amazon acquiring Whole Foods or IKEA buying Task Rabbit — are raising the bar for other industries like health care and telcos that have been slow to embrace better customer experiences. As consumers translate expectations across categories, we predict more categories will see first-movers emerge who fully embrace customer obsession, setting a new bar for their entire category.  Competitive chaos will ensue, as laggards scramble to catch-up mindsets, never mind processes, organization, and technology.

What can be done in 2018 to join the ranks of the progressive marketers who are going all-in on customer obsession to lead their category?

  • Break out of the day to day grind. Fifty-four percent of global B2C marketing decision makers say that improving the experience of their customers is a critical business priority over the next year. But, the activities marketers are most accustomed to doing — like managing day-to-day operations, driving incremental transactions, managing campaigns — don’t necessarily contribute to that goal. Instead, marketers will need to expand their definition of customer journeys beyond path to purchase, make decisions about emerging technology based on their CX merits, and invest in human expertise to monitor the output of algorithms and marketing automation.
  • Get more from your existing resources. Marketers caught between the new and old marketing models aren’t guaranteed more budget to accomplish their expanded goals. To do more with the same, or less, Forrester predicts that marketers will optimize their talent investments and embrace AI’s potential to enhance existing marketing use cases like personalization and targeting. Organizations will need to revisit their marketing resource management strategy because of this – especially as it relates to collaboration and performance management – and consider emerging talent marketplaces for typically hard-to-fill digital, analytics, or developer positions.
  • Re-evaluate vendor relationships. 2017 marked significant convergence, consolidation, and change for martech, adtech, and agencies alike. As vendors continue adapt to marketing’s evolution, marketers must take advantage of new options for marketing technology and service needs. For example, consultancies will increasingly grapple with agencies for digital transformation projects, new classes of niche providers will pop as alternatives to the broad enterprise marketing software suite offerings, and major martech vendors will straddle the line between pure technology and data provider.

As brands prepare for the New Year, marketers must truly embrace customer obsession now or they’ll be left behind competitively.

2018 is the year that a select set of forward-looking marketers will begin the hard work of aligning their brand promise and their customer experience, changing the game for all.  Most marketers risk realizing too late what the future of marketing is all about.