Why 2016 will be the year of the customer

The next 12 months will prove critical for companies looking to bridge the divide between digitally savvy and empowered customers.

As the new year rapidly approaches, Forrester has put its top predictions on the line and says 2016 will a year driven by complex, high-stakes customer-obsessed strategies.

Year of the customer
In 2016, business leaders will shift toward a customer-obsessed operating model, while laggards will aimlessly push forward with flawed digital priorities and disjointed operations.

The new benchmark for brand management
Few companies recognize that managing your brand is all about managing your customers' experiences, but in 2016, smart CMOs will change that — reshaping their teams, delivering connected brand experiences, and leading the race to true personalization — and the best CMOs will be tapped to become CEOs.

Innovative B2C: Cracking the contextual code
Marketers will face a hypercompetitive 2016 with one more year of digital experience under their belts, easier access to contextual insights, and improved technology. These factors will stimulate more and more mature contextual marketing efforts, which will change media buying, extend the role of marketing automation, and introduce new measurement practices.

B2B: The mandate for lifetime engagement
B2B buying has changed. Buyers prefer to do research themselves rather than rely on vendors' sales reps. The result: a dramatic shift in the role and focus of B2B marketing organizations in four realms: go-to-customer strategy, the accelerating shift from art to science, tech investments, and B2B messaging.

Social value
Both consumers and marketers love to use social media — but brands still struggle to get value from the big social networks. In 2016, social marketers won't just refocus their efforts on tactics that have been proven to work; they're also going to call in colleagues from other parts of the business who can get more value from social platforms than they can.

Media unbundling accelerates
The year 2016 will see the process of digitization of the media ecosystem continue apace and addressability will cut across all types of media, accelerating the unbundling of media offering and bringing even more to the fore the strategic importance of first-party data. The relentless digitization of the media ecosystem will reshape advertisers' and publishers' priorities, re-allocate advertising budgets, unbundle media packages, and challenge or extend existing digital platforms' reach.

Spotlight on customer experience
Customer experience (CX) has become the top priority for business and technology leaders for good reason — few things drive customers' loyalty more than CX. With competition intensifying and executives' ambitions aimed high, CX pros will see growing interest in their nascent discipline from all corners of the enterprise. But they'll soon find that not all attention is good attention.

From data to action
The ballooning scale and diversity of customer data in 2016 will provide rich new sources of insight, equipping firms to engage with customers in novel ways and disrupt entire industries. But customer insights (CI) pros and other marketers and strategists have only scratched the surface when it comes to using insights to drive transformational customer experiences. The seven hottest CI areas: data management, big data, analytics, business intelligence, insights services, data monetization, and systems of insight.

New mobile mindset
As the mobile mind shift speeds up even more in 2016, consumers' expectations will soar, pressuring you to do better at tapping contextual data to serve them better. More companies will treat mobile as core to the whole customer experience — not just as a channel — and an ocean of vendors eager to capitalize on this frenzy will teem with new players emerging as existing ones join forces or die off.

Digital: A widening gap?
As CEOs wake up to the fact that their firms need to take digital business seriously, the gap between those with the ability to execute and those left on the starting blocks will widen. As the leaders begin to pull away, a lack of skills and knowledge will leave many firms knowing they need to act, but unable to set a positive course. eBusiness leaders who can bridge the gap between business strategy and technology delivery will be in high demand in 2016. Techniques like journey mapping will be more critical than ever to help cut through the increasing complexity.

Right to privacy
In 2016, short-sighted firms will make the mistake of thinking that privacy is only about meeting compliance and regulatory requirements at the lowest possible cost. Enlightened ones will recognize it's actually a way to build better customer relationships — built on trust. Customer insights (CI) professionals who get this right will help drive business growth, win new customers, and build deeper customer relationships.

eCommerce: Now-or-never
The next 12 months present B2B and B2C ecommerce firms with a now-or-never choice: Either outpace the pack by responding effectively to six important trends — or fall permanently behind in the customer obsession race. From Amazon's continued growth, mobile's ongoing effect on how consumers research and buy both online and offline. to incorporating self-service in B2B.

Digital retailers
eBusiness and technology management leaders are about to reap real benefits from some digital initiatives — but not all. Trying to engage shoppers via digital store experiments like beacons that alert a shopper based on her location in an aisle have been disappointing so far, whereas digital operations improvements like real-time task management have showed early, but real, results. In 2016, these improved operational foundations will begin to transform systems of record into systems of engagement.

New retail roadmap
In 2016, online retail executives will face stronger competitors, rising labor costs, and the prospect of damaging customer data breaches. Investments in six areas will dominate the retail agenda: omnichannel, personalization, mobile, scientific merchandising, connecting labor planning and store analytics, and US consumers' shift to chip cards.

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