Several recent Forrester reports home in on what we call “The Age Of The Customer” in which firms must seek to become customer-obsessed to build differentiation and loyalty. Those firms that embrace this will ramp up investment in four priority areas: 1) real-time customer intelligence; 2) customer experience and customer service; 3) sales channels that deliver customer intelligence; and 4) useful content and interactive marketing. All these needs are technology-infused – wholly dependent on technology and in categories where technology is evolving rapidly. Underlying these investments is the need to master the flow of data about customers: capturing/collecting data about them, analyzing it, distributing to those points of engagement, and, finally, integrating the insights into the customer experience.
Companies can’t succeed at doing this without a close partnership between the business areas leading the charge and IT. The rate of change of your customers, markets, business opportunities, and technology is simply too fast. Forrester is exploring this theme in our first CIO/CMO joint forum.
The reality, though, is companies flounder at this marketing-IT partnership. They flounder because of:
More ideas than capacity. A plethora of desired initiatives are constantly being surfaced – beyond the limits of available budget and with no mechanism to sort them into an achievable plan that IT can deliver on.
Consider the following scenario: It’s a hot summer day and a prospective customer walks into your store to buy an air conditioner. He evaluates several models and then buys one — but not from you. It turns out your competitor located two miles away is offering the same model at a 20% discount. How did he know this? He scanned the product's bar code using the RedLaser app on his iPhone, which displayed several local retailers with lower prices than yours. If he had been willing to wait three days for shipping, he could have purchased the exact same model while standing in your store from an online retailer at a 30% discount.
This type of technology-fueled disruption is affecting all industries, not just retailers. Since the early 1900s, businesses relied on competitive barriers such as manufacturing strength, distribution power, and information mastery. But this is all changing in the age of the customer, where empowered buyers have information at their fingertips to check a price, read a product review, or ask for advice from a friend right from the screen of their smartphone.
To compete in the age of the customer, your business must become customer-obsessed. As Forrester’s Josh Bernoff (@jbernoff), SVP of Idea Development and author of Groundswelland Empowered, advocates in his latest research: “The only source of competitive advantage is the one that can survive technology-fueled disruption — an obsession with understanding, delighting, connecting with, and serving customers.”
Hello, everyone. As a new analyst on Forrester's Customer Intelligence team, I'm taking over coverage of enterprise marketing platforms. I'll range everywhere from cross-channel campaign management to interaction management to analytics and optimization tools.
I'm thrilled to join Forrester. We live in a time of extraordinary change in the way we conduct marketing. Businesses succeed and fail on how they bring the Customer Intelligence role to bear. I have the enviable task of following Suresh Vittal — who's since taken over the leadership of the CI role — as well as Dave Frankland, Zach Hofer-Shall, Fatemeh Khatibloo, Srividya Sridharan, and Joe Stanhope. As an aside, if we meet up, be sure to ask me the story of how Joe lured me to Forrester.
Extraordinary times imply that extraordinary challenges lurk underneath. CI professionals face the test of integrating data into a holistic view of customers. Recently in my report "CI Teams: Blocking and Tackling Is Not Enough," I dug into why data integration is such an omnipresent issue. As you might expect, a number of factors -- the explosion of touch points, the staggering amounts of data generated, budget, and skills -- contribute to the problem.