2014: B2C CMOs embrace the post digital landscape

In 2014, the business-to-consumer (B2C) CMO will feel the pressure to innovate even faster, as empowered consumers shift their thinking from mobile as a channel to mobile as the channel, while maintaining their presence in digital or traditional environments. Each of the trends that marketers face requires stronger leadership of the business, prolific partnering with agencies and technology companies, and a tight bond with the chief information officer.

Here are our top five predictions for the B2C CMO to take note of:

1. Media decisions will focus on the intersection of audience and lifestyle targeting. Audiences are fragmenting across a broad array of media options and device types, finding the unique mix that yields them the most value and entertainment.

What it means: CMOs must partner with agencies and new media networks to identify the right lifestyle media hubs for their brands and then develop and pilot brand engagement models that resonate.

2. Customer experience needs C-level ownership. The verdict is in: Companies with better customer experiences have better financial performance than those that score poorly in this area. C-level execs need to blend marketing and customer experience leadership to ensure that the brand’s promise is expressed at all touchpoints.

What it means: In 2014, customer experience will dominate the agenda of online pure plays and multichannel incumbents, ranging from AmazonFresh to Safeway or leading-edge Tesla Motors to lagging Mercedes Benz. Expect to see this type of activity across industries, as the discipline of customer experience becomes the practice of business success.

3. Mobile will rise from project to primacy. Forrester’s Mobile Mind Shift Index shows that consumers’ expectations of their mobile experience are on the rise. CMOs will grab control of the mobile strategy, increase mobile budgets, and bring the broader perspective of mobile’s impact to the executive table.

What it means: By the end of 2014, CMOs will rethink mobile beyond the app, understanding that mobile affects and enables the entire customer experience. They will look to mobile developers like LeapFrog Enterprises or BreakfastNY, mobile platforms like Velti and Amobee, or point solutions like Vibes’ short message service (SMS) offering that will take mobile from a me-too discussion to a more embedded strategy.

4. New ways to fund projects will kick-start digital disruption. Consumers who spend more of their time with new non-ad-supported concepts like Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Netflix demand innovation. Sixty-two percent of marketers Forrester surveyed said that their biggest marketing innovation challenge was securing budgets to test new concepts, and only 15% said that they would increase innovation spending in 2014.

What it means:  Forward-thinking CMOs will enhance their innovation efforts through prolific partnering with innovation agencies, startup accelerators, technology companies, general startups, and universities. We will see more examples like Alaska Airlines’ partnerships with Possible, Microsoft, and Google and their investment in the innovation lab The Garage to redefine the airline travel experience.

5. A major shakeup in the social space will occur. For five years, CMOs have invested in the staff, content, and technology required to market through social networks. These investments have led to large fan bases for many brands. But CMOs tell us that Facebook engagement, in particular, has not proven to deliver brand engagement at the level necessary to increase investment. Combined with poorly performing ad products, CMOs will look elsewhere in 2014.

What it means: The social media space will change dramatically in 2014, as consumers’ lifestyles and participation rates allow brands to enter into a conversation in new and more meaningful ways. CMOs will disperse their social media budgets, moving to niche communities where they can create brand experiences that they can tie much closer to customers’ affinity.

The writer is Bert DuMars, VP, principal analyst serving CMO professionals.