Five years into the age of the customer and it's clear that we're just getting started. More technology is coming — Amazon Echo, anyone? — and that doesn't even begin to touch on the stuff that will hit closer to 2020 and beyond: virtual reality, augmented reality, self-driving cars, and robot assistants.
I'm pleased to introduce my latest report: "Leadership in the Age of the Customer." This project is the result of months of work to update our view of the age of the customer, a 20-year business cycle in which power is shifting from businesses and institutions to end consumers. Technology, information, and connectivity are combining to instill in people a belief that they can have what they want, when, where, and how they want it.
The key to emerging triumphant through all of this will be customer obsession. Organizations that put the customer at the center of their process, policies, and practices will successfully develop and deliver the experiences that hyperadoptive customers are ready to embrace. That will mean changing the operating model of the organization to be more customer-obsessed. It will also require that executives consciously lead the organization to customer obsession.
Your customers' digital experiences with other suppliers already shape their perceptions of value. Today, your customer assess the value of your services based in part on your ability to integrate into their digital world. The future belongs to companies able to harness digital to create new sources of customer value - these companies are destined to become digital predators, swallowing up lesser digital prey.
As a business leader, do you get the feeling that you're no longer playing the same game that you once were? It's not you; the world has changed. The things that used to set companies apart — such as economies of scale, distribution strength, and brand — are far less potent than they used to be. Why? Because digital technology has fundamentally changed two things: the dynamics of the markets in which you operate and the speed needed to remain competitive.
The latest report in our series on digital business – Unleash Your Digital Predator – updates our thinking on digital transformation and includes analysis of data from our latest executive research study on digital, conducted in partnership with executive search firm Odgers Berndtson.
Many firms proudly point to their mobile app and proclaim "Hey, we're digital!" While they may be driving incremental revenue, all they have done is bolt another digital touchpoint onto the existing business. Digital transformation goes much further, fundamentally reshaping the way you create value for your customers and drive revenue growth. Achieving this requires that firms approach digital business from the outside in, pursuing two dimensions of digital in parallel: digital customer experience(DCX) and digital operational excellence (DOX).
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?
Title got your attention? It should. In a report I just published this week, I use our Forrester Consumer Technographics® data to identify the 7% of adults who are digital cord-nevers — measured as people who have never paid for TV and who are under age 32. This is the worrisome group whose arrival TV-industry pros have nervously anticipated. As we show in the report, they are officially now larger than the entire adult population of cord cutters, who come in at 6% of all adults. Put them together, and you have 15% of adults who are not paying for TV while still getting all the TV value they need from a combination of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other tools.
Don't jump out of any Times Square windows just yet. TV is still massively popular and will continue to be. I wrote that report earlier this year, and Forrester clients can read it here. These defector groups are going to grow over time, true. And as the title of this post suggests, if we model this behavior out over the next 10 years, we expect that 50% of adults under age 32 will not pay for TV, at least not the way we think of it today. That compares to 35% of that age group that doesn't pay for TV today. (That's right, a third of them are already out of the pay TV game.)
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.
Retail CIOs have always had a tough job, but digital makes it tougher. Emerging digital technologies threaten to transform retail experiences both in stores and at home. Without a good business case, CIOs at large retailers will find it hard to prepare their business to compete with small, nimble startups. My latest report highlights the potential of today's digital technologies to radically disrupt the retail industry once more. It serves as a call to CIOs to begin shaping their strategy to digitize the end-to-end customer experience and start proving the business case in time to make the investments needed.
Specialty fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff is creating a truly differentiated in-store customer experience by combining RFID tags with new technologies like digital mirrors in the changing room connected to employee mobile devices. At the NYC Rebecca Minkoff store, customers can select products from racks or a digital fashion wall and head to the dressing room, where they meet their personal fashion consultant. Once in the dressing room, a digital mirror displays all the products and sizes the customer has in the room. The customer can easily request a new size by selecting it on the mirror. The consultant delivers the new sizes to the dressing room without the customer having to redress or wander the store half-undressed. By extending what Rebecca Minkoff has already achieved, we get a glimpse of a future in-store experience that helps each customer quickly find more products that satisfy their desires.
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: