The transfer of power from companies to the customer is driving a wide variety of changes: some small and targeted and some that are far-reaching and fundamentally change the trajectory of companies (and careers I may add).
I had the pleasure of moderating a video webinar last week that explored the customer dynamic, specifically looking at how it will play out in 2016. We also looked at how companies sense and respond to this dynamic change: how well companies are reading the tea leaves and taking action, and what actions seem to matter to compete and win in a customer-led market.
I had a blast moderating this panel with Sharyn Leaver, Michelle Moorehead, and Harley Manning. If you saw it live or on-demand, I hope you had a blast as well and took something away that can make a difference for your company and yourself.
We captured the webinar through a thought-illustration that provides an artistic touch to a great conversation.
It’s complex, right? There are a lot of moving pieces, big ideas, and really big decisions; so, let’s break it down:
When it comes to digital, we are at a pivot point. Digitizing your business isn’t about technology: it’s about customer obsession - and in 2016, it will be among your ten critical business success factors helping position your firm for success in the Age of the Customer. In fact, next year will be a year of consequence: those firms that “get digital” will begin to pull ahead, and those firms that don’t will begin to look increasingly archaic, facing the risk of extinction.
The preliminary results from our recent digital business survey are telling. An increasing number of firms are reporting that they have a coherent and comprehensive digital strategy. While this is good news, these firms are still the minority. The vast majority of firms report that their approach to digital is limited at best, and non-existent at worst. But the consistently bleak picture is that most executives think the wrong people are in charge of their digital activities and few (very few) think they have the capabilities to deliver.
But there are some shining lights.
Leading firms like John Deere are pathing the path to digital mastery, demonstrating revenue and share price growth that outpaces less digitally savvy competitors. Executive committees are taking note. Innovation spend is on the rise, digital skills are in hot demand, and a new breed of digitally savvy senior leaders is finally emerging.
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.
We’ve been telling you that you need to transition from strictly managing an IT Agenda to owning a BT Agenda, too. 2016 is the year that needs to happen: your CEO will be looking for you to drive digital in your company — and increasingly digital is becoming your business.
Winners in the age of the customer will embed digital into all parts of the business, harmonize virtual and in-store experiences, and be able to rapidly shift to meet the hyperadoption/hyperabandonment behavior of customers.
The scary news? Only a quarter of businesses have a coherent digital strategy to create customer value as a digital business. The onus is on you to deliver that strategy. As CIO, you need to offer a holistic view on the digital transformation that encompasses not just how your firm can harness emerging technology to create customer value, but how your team can help drive synergies across the customer experience ecosystem. We believe the only way to achieve this is a customer-obsessed operating model that will permeate throughout your business and focus on six elements: structure, talent, culture, metrics, processes, and technology.
Here are three things you can do in 2016 to win at driving digital:
In the coming weeks Forrester will publish its annual set of predictions for our major roles, industries, and research themes — more than 35 in total. These predictions for 2016 will feature our calls on how firms will execute in the Age of the Customer, a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.
In 2016, the gap between customer-obsessed leaders and laggards will widen. Leaders will tackle the hard work of shifting to a customer-obsessed operating model; laggards will aimlessly push forward with flawed digital priorities and disjointed operations. It will require strong leadership to win, and we believe that in 2016 CMOs will step up to lead customer experience efforts. They face a massive challenge: Years of uncoordinated technology adoption across call centers, marketing teams, and product lines make a single view of the customer an expensive and near-impossible endeavor. As a result, in 2016 companies will be limited to fixing their customer journeys.
CMOs will have good partners, though. As they continue to break free of IT gravity and invest in business technology, CIOs will be at their sides. 2016 is the year that a new breed of customer-obsessed CIOs will become the norm. Fast-cycle strategy and governance will be more common throughout technology management and CIOs will push hard on departmental leaders to let go of their confined systems to make room for a simpler, unified, agile portfolio.
As CIOs, we all know digital disruption is happening at a rampant rate. The challenge we face is moving it from theory to reality. An executive at a client company recently posed the following questions to me: “How do you actually innovate and defend against this digital disruption without blowing up the budget? How do you really do that?”
For me, there are definitely a few steps that take this often discussed CIO requirement from the abstract to the concrete:
Are you close to your customers?
Everyone has customers of some kind, including B2B. Do you know where the pain points are in your customer experience? Where the opportunities are to innovate? You’ve got to understand this dynamic and the best way to start that is with customer journey mapping. Follow it up by keeping this “conversation” going by leading or staying involved in a regular customer testing and feedback effort or program. Above all, get out and talk to customers!
Can you innovate on your own mainstream platforms, quick and dirty?
If you can’t innovate easily on your major internal platforms — weeks or days, not months for moderately/small-sized innovations — digital disruptors and likely your direct competitors both have a significant leg up on you. This year alone, we’ve launched 35 small-to-medium, innovative improvements to our business by taking advantage of our SaaS platform. Business moves too fast to wait for months.
Do you use the same tools that startups use to go fast?
It’s not news that the digitally empowered customer is changing our world. What is news is 1) the pace needed to catch up to an extremely dynamic and impatient customer and 2) the magnitude of real change needed to meet the challenges (and opportunities) of a customer-led market.
The magnitude and pace of change driven by customers, competitors, and innovation can be dizzying:
As loyalty structures erode, customers are conditioned to rapidly adopt and abandon services.
There is a fundamental division at the heart of the digital economy. Digital tools make it possible for any company to build a direct relationship with its customers. At the same time, new digital intermediaries can use the same digital tools to create unprecedented intermediary roles. Torn between two lovers, anyone?
We’re in the age of the customer, a period during which end consumers have more access to the basic economic resources that help them make more rational and empowered decisions. The theory of perfect competition dictates that market economies flourish best on a foundation of perfect information that enables perfectly rational actors. The digital technologies we all carry in our pockets — not to mention, have surrounding us in our cars, our homes, and even strapped to our bodies — have initiated a chain reaction, unleashing an unprecedented level of information, which has enabled us — if we choose to accept our mission — to behave like much more rational actors than ever before. (Caveat lector, I didn’t say “perfectly rational” for a reason. See our research on how humans make choices to understand more.)
The more those technologies spread, the more buyers and sellers enter the system, the more innovation there is — at lower cost, thanks to the economics of digital disruption – and the spiral feeds itself.
Earlier this year Forrester analyzed recent economic and survey data and reviewed the practices of over a dozen companies that have made customer-focused transformations. We found that customers are now more mobile, consume more reviews, and buy more online than ever before.
So do B2B buyers.
Business buying habits have followed closely in the footsteps of B2C counterparts because, outside of "9 to 5", business buyers are consumers too.
To better address the changing expectations and omnichannel appetites of these empowered business buyers, B2B marketers need to think about spending their marketing budgets, energy, and resources in different ways. With budgeting season upon us, it's time to make sure your 2016 plans will keep you thriving in the digital age, not striving to keep up.
In recent research, Forrester's B2B marketing research team points out the four big bets B2B marketers need to make. In this digital age where customer demands and experiences take precedence over all other ways to achieve and maintain competitive advantage, it's time for you to:
Presenting today with Marketo's CMO, Sanjay Dholakia, gave us the opportunity to talk about what CMOs (both B2B and B2C) need to do to transform marketing into a growth engine. Here's a little retrospective on our conversation in case you missed it.
In 2010, Forrester introduced our "age of the customer"(AOTC) research and defined four investment imperatives needed to better win, serve, and retain customers in this digital age.
Marketo focuses here, not just as a marketing technology provider, but as a practitioner as well. They've been talking about Engagement Marketing - the evolution from mass marketing to transactional to customer engagement -- for more than a year, and practicing it for much longer. Now their advice is as easy as ... well ... learning your alphabet.
Forrester's research shows that technological change reduces competitive barriers. Building and sustaining customer relationships is the exception. In some ways, technology actually enhances relationship creation and maintenance. Top firms recognize this and get customer-obsessed to beat their competition. By investing strategy, budget, and energy in the following four areas, they: