Will CX trump marketing in 2018?

Frank predictions from global consultancy Forrester suggest big changes for brand leaders.

Forrester pulled no punches when it named its new CMO predictions report “A year of reckoning.”

The consultancy and research firm says 2018 will be a year where brands’ lackluster efforts in shifting consumer arenas will take a toll on their welfare. Its authors predict the role of CMO will continue shift in scope and authority as brands look to adjust.

In short, it foresees far more emphasis placed on improving customer experience and reducing churn than spending on more traditional advertising.

The report lists a number of pitfall issues are harrying brand leaders: disconnected customer experiences, digital disruption, empowered consumers and a flattening ad market. It bases its conclusions on results from its research conducted throughout 2017 (including its C-Suite Tech Purchasing Patterns report and US Customer Experience Index).

For example, based on a survey of 118,000 Americans for its customer experience index, the report says 30% of companies “will see further declines in CX [customer experience] quality”.” It predicts slowing overall growth after companies were slow to invest in long-term CX plans and “tackled low-hanging fruit to put early points on the board, and most CX initiatives had too little clout to force meaningful operational change.”

Furthermore, Forrester asserts that “20% of CEOs will fail to act on digital transformation and put their firms at risk,” in-step with findings of other C-suite surveys.

That, plus a tech-empowered customer base that is increasingly effective at blocking or circumventing advertising, led Keith Johnston, VP and research director at Forrester, to write “executives are scrambling to serve ambiguous expectations. This will intensify the pressure on CMOs in the new year to prove their merits as catalysts for change or suffer the effects of organizational complacency.”

Unfortunately for overworked c-suite marketers, Forrester’s predictions indicate more pressure to drive growth with less focus on traditional marketing spending. It predicts ad budgets will shift to technology and CX investments, and that chief growth officers will “usurp” the CMO role at several multinational brands over the coming year (pointing to recent moves at Coca-Cola, which dissolved its CMO position March).

“The emergence of this role is not new, with several CPG companies like Hershey’s and Kellogg’s having appointed CGOs in the past few years,” the report says. “Expect eight more Fortune 100 brands to do this in 2018 as high CMO attrition continues and CEOs use the change to create roles with a broader remit.”