In 2024, Don’t Let Modest Budgets Create Complacency
More than three-quarters (77 percent) of U.S. technology decision makers expect their firms to increase spending on customer-facing digital products and service in the coming year, and nearly 59 percent say their firms plan to increase spending on staffing, according to Forrester Research.
But Forrester urges them to spend it judiciously: The research firm urged leaders to invest their limited resources in digital skills, proactive customer engagement, and protecting innovation.
“Your firm’s success depends on investments in your digital team,” Forrester said. “In 2021, 59 percent of digital sales were digitally influenced. Competition for digital skills remains red-hot; over half of global digital leaders expect employee turnover on digital teams to rise.”
Companies should establish a common language and company focus to ensure that teams are moving in a common direction, Forrester advised. “Invest in the right tools and cloud technology to boost cross-functional collaboration to further break down silos, manage projects effectively, analyze data, and drive AI initiatives and design offerings.”
“The savviest business leaders will continually tune their B2C customer-obsessed growth engines by aligning themselves with their marketing and CX counterparts and by partnering with IT to craft their future-fit technology strategy,” Forrester said. “These leaders nurture a culture of quality digital experience projects, a continuous momentum of smart innovation and sustained investment to continually elevate the digital maturity of the entire firm.”
With consumers seeking convenience in all interactions, in 2024 companies should shift their primary engagement models from pull (telling customers to visit the website to find what’s needed) to push (proactively providing what customers want on demand) and natural language conversations.
“Every digital leader that we interviewed believes that anticipating the needs of their customers and serving them proactively will create a comprehensive advantage and customer value, but just 14 percent believe they can do so today,” Forrester adds.
Other advice Forrester offers in its planning guide for digital business and strategy includes the following:
• protect funding for emerging technology programs;
• decrease automatic commitments for legacy technology, service providers, and additional touchpoints; and
• experiment in reinforcement learning, extended reality (for some), and shared accountability.
On the marketing side, Forrester says the buzz around the metaverse has quieted and marketers should instead focus their spending on paid media channels with proven performance.
Marketing technology that reduces operational burdens should be another area of focus, according to the research firm. “Marketing technology plays a critical role in translating marketing strategy to live customer engagement.”
MARKETING IN 2024
Two-thirds of U.S. B2C technology decision makers are planning to increase their technology spending. However, as customer touchpoints grow, marketers need additional tools to help them manage multiple campaigns and promotions. At the same time, they need the flexibility to shift budgets and efforts based on evolving market conditions.
Marketing resource management will be one of the top technologies that U.S. B2C marketers plan to use in the next year.
But certainly the most impactful technology will be artificial intelligence automation, which Forrester expects to impact 1 million jobs, including 32,000 advertising positions. Companies, naturally, are curious, with executives looking to see how they can use AI to train and retain their most valuable employees.
In the new year, marketers should take extra precautions to protect their brands in the wake of generative AI. Companies will need to balance their investments in the technology, urges Pete Jacques, principal analyst for customer experience at Forrester. He recommends moving cautiously so that generative AI applications aren’t rolled out before they are fully tested.
AI or any other technology has to be tested to ensure that it improves rather than detracts from the customer experience, Jacques adds. “You have to be very selective and smart in how you’re applying your budget and think about the use cases that make the most sense for you right now.”
Most companies are following that approach with generative AI, turning it on for internal processes before rolling it out to external, customer-facing ones, according to Forrester.
B2C marketing executives should also spend more on strategies that stabilize future returns, Forrester advises. With privacy laws expanding and consumer preference for limits on data sharing rising, marketers need to rethink their customer data strategies to determine which data they want and how to use that data to benefit the business and its customers.
Forrester further recommends that B2C marketing executives transition marketing operations teams from content producers to vital business drivers, which will enable them to better adapt to increasingly complex marketing conditions.
With 64 percent of CX leaders expecting large budgets to help them improve their efforts, Forrester recommends in its CX planning guide that leaders invest their resources in customer-focused action, including technology to create and improve experiences, critical employee skills, unstructured feedback, and productive modeling. Twenty percent budget increases are expected by most, according to Jacques.
To free up additional capital for investment in these areas, Forrester recommends reducing spending on redundant technology, superfluous surveys, and rarely used skills.
In an environment where they are seeing declining CX quality, disruption from generative AI, and continued economic headwinds, CX leaders need to invest in customer-focused action that supports their organization’s goals, Jacques says.
He says that companies need to focus more on taking action on the data they already have rather than adding yet more surveys or other voice-of-the-customer data collection techniques.
Forrester strongly recommends that companies invest CX resources in tech audits to determine the customer data they are collecting and where holes exist that need to be filled.
Journey orchestration should be another focus of investment as should be employee training for improving the skills they use every day, according to Jacques.