“I get knocked down, but I get up again.” — Chumbawamba  

Halfway through the 20-year-long age of the customer, empowered consumers are more informed about their purchases, demand data privacy, and dictate the experiences that they want. Brands have been beaten down with every misstep, many of which snowballed into broad PR crises: United Airlines, Wells Fargo, Starbucks, Uber, Facebook, Ryanair — need we go on? But brands won’t stay down for long. In 2019, we predict that marketers will address consumer power head-on:

  • Companies seek data that meets customers’ approval. 2018 ushered in regulations to protect consumer data: Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California’s Consumer Privacy Act, and Vermont’s data broker registration law, to name a few. For brands, this means diminishing access to third-party data and an increased desire for zero-party data — data that customers own and willingly give to brands. To augment existing first-party and zero-party data, brands will experiment with emotion metrics gathered via psychological (stated satisfaction) and biological factors (eye-tracking) for improved customer understanding.
  • Brands will deliver better marketing experiences for existing customers. A company’s most valuable asset is its customers. To combat social media’s latest quality and privacy problems, social networks are prioritizing community: connections to friends and family. Marketers will follow suit and invigorate existing loyal customer communities and encourage social interaction, such as on Sephora’s Beauty Insider or TurboTax’s AnswerXchange. And on the tech side, marketing clouds will function as part of brands’ customer experience ecosystems in an effort to join together marketing, sales, service, and commerce.
  • But marketers will still try to generate buzzy headlines — and fail. Consumers want their purchases to reflect values, and brands will be tempted to take a stance on social and political issues à la Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign featuring Colin Kaepernick. Brand crisis will ensue; few brands have the same product and global diversification of Nike — or the brand history. Our advice: Stay true to your brand values. Consumers pushing brands to get off the sidelines will sniff out halfhearted and haphazard attempts.

2019 is the year that transformation goes pragmatic. To understand the 14 major dynamics that will impact firms next year, download Forrester’s Predictions 2019 guide.

Shout-out to Emily Collins, Fatemeh Khatibloo, Stephanie Liu, Tina Moffett, Jim Nail, Joe Stanhope, Rusty Warner, Brigitte Majewski, Arleen Chien, and Caitlin Wall for their insightful contributions to this report.