In December 2018, we predicted that digital transformation would go pragmatic in 2019. Has that happened? Yes! In the past year, we have witnessed many businesses laying more durable and powerful foundations for their digital transformations. Leaders have invested in operational transformation, cloud migration, and data management projects to enable future customer-led and tech-driven innovation.

Turbulence and uncertainty in 2019 added to firms’ challenges. Social and political unrest, trade wars, recessionary fears, and climate change have filled the year with doom and gloom. Will this gloom extend into 2020? While uncertainties remain, we believe that the key to weathering the potential storms in 2020 is to recognize, understand, and most importantly harness the energy sources that drive positive outcomes for consumers and businesses.

Consumer energy will be a vital resource as consumers become more values-based, constructing personal ecosystems and forcing firms to take sides on social issues. Security energy will grow as industrial and nation-state cyber-risks surge and emerge. Finally, technology energy will have a more profound impact as automation, AI, and robotics move deeper into the organization. At our recent Singapore 2020 Predictions event, held on November 19 and attended by over 300 business and technology leaders, Dane Anderson, Tom Mouhsian, Xiaofeng Wang, Paul Dolan, Achim Granzen, and I shared our key predictions for 2020. Some of the highlights:

  • Trust and value will help CX pros tackle profound challenges in 2020. Customer experience (CX) professionals who cannot demonstrate the return on investment of their activities are losing support from senior execs. Forrester predicts that in 2020, 25% of CX pros will lose their jobs. But we also predict that the CX role will become more influential as the number of CX execs in senior roles expands by 25%, as those with a proven track record get a chance to lead. Successful CX pros will learn to harness the energy from customers’ trust and turn it into measurable value, helping them to propel the status of CX to higher ground.
  • Leading brands will differentiate with ethical marketing to build long-term value. Firms that prioritize short-term results and fall into dark patterns will lose long-term brand value and customer loyalty. Instead, brands should nudge customers by encouraging beneficial behaviors through ethical marketing. The Ant Forest program launched by Alibaba is a case in point: It rewards consumers with green energy points to redeem virtual trees in the Alipay app when they reduce carbon emissions, such as by recycling shopping boxes, walking instead of driving, and enrolling in paperless billing. For each virtual tree, Alibaba donated a real tree to be planted in the desert of northwestern China. Within three years, 500 million consumers participated and 100 million trees were planted, turning deserts into forests. We will see more leading brands leverage ethical marketing in 2020 as Asian consumers become increasingly values-based.
  • B2B CMOs must convert corporate vision into marketing strategy. Sixty percent of Asia Pacific B2B CMOs are transforming their organizations by introducing a new business model; 78% are introducing a new go-to-market approach. These are lofty business transformation goals, and we will see more CMOs drive such changes in 2020. To succeed, they will have to better align with their sales and product counterparts to create a cascade effect across the revenue engine, tightening the connection to the business and crystallizing marketing strategy.
  • CIOs will make EX their top strategic initiative. CX remains a top CIO priority, but the employee experience (EX) is sometimes not considered as critical. But this will change in 2020. The future of work means that employees will be challenged in an environment of continuous corporate transformation and increasing perceived threat from automation. Given the many automation initiatives directly happening in the IT function, leading CIOs will make EX a strategic initiative. They will put as much time and energy into developing their people as they do into developing new technologies. This will not only increase employee engagement, but also improve CX and produce more growth and profits for shareholders.
  • AI will show good, ugly, and scary faces. A significant increase in AI implementations across Asia will drive unintended consequences. AI technologies like natural language generation and generative adversarial networks will be used to generate fake audio and video designed to fool users. These deepfakes alone will cost businesses over a quarter of a billion dollars globally. Faced with the challenges, leaders will make earning trust their strategic objective, turn it into a competitive edge, and put AI ethics at the core of their digital transformation.

To learn more about Forrester’s 2020 predictions, please visit this website. You can also engage our analysts through inquiries to learn how to convert the potential consumer, security, and technology energy and accelerate your digital transformations in 2020.

(Nancy Lin [] coauthored this blog post.)