Customer experience has long been seen as a key part of a marketers’ remit, but its importance appears set to decline, according to a new survey of CMOs.
The research, conducted by Dentsu Aegis, questioned more than 1,000 CMOs globally, and found more than half (53%) of CMOs say customer experience is one of their top three priorities this year. But its importance is set to decline over the next two to three years, with 47% expecting it to be one of their top three priorities by 2022.
Understanding consumer and market trends is also expected to drop down the priority list, with 53% citing it as one of their top three priorities in 2018 but just 47% expect it to still be in the top three in two to three years’ time.
While the data suggests customer experience and understanding consumer trends might be becoming less important to marketers, there is a counter argument that it actually shows marketers simply have more priorities.
For example, delivering business transformation and leading disruptive innovation are both expected to rise up marketers’ agendas.
“[Customer experience] is still absolutely critical, but it’s more to do with the fact that things like innovation and business transformation are growing in importance, and better customer experience requires better transformation,” says Tim Cooper, head of strategic communications at Denstu Aegis.
Nevertheless, the research does suggest CMOs increasingly need to be working across departments, with marketing alone not responsible for the customer experience. Rather, CMOs must increasingly fuse together different agendas behind a broader movement for change.
“There is a challenge in how they mobilise the rest of the organisation to deliver better customer experience. One of the key themes we try to emphasise is that the CMO is an integrator of many other agendas, some of which they may not be formally responsible, or even accountable, for,” Cooper explains.
The marketing skills gap
When thinking about the skills marketers will need if they are to work to their priorities, the data shows there is a significant gap between what is believed be important and the ability to execute.
The survey found that while 83% of CMOs say delivering customer experience and commerce that is seamless and consistent across all channels is key to future business success, only 60% believe they’re delivering it well today.
This disparity repeats itself across almost all areas of marketing. For example, 84% say delivering data collection and managing analytics to drive consumer insight is essential to business growth but just 49% believe they deliver it well, while developing entertaining content that attracts consumers to the brand is important by 76% of CMOs, but delivered well by just 50% of those surveyed.
Katie Howe, Dentsu Aegis’ UK executive director of creative and commerce, explains that CMOs are simply starting to recognise “the gaps are quite acute” and they won’t get closed by taking a “business as usual approach”.
“CMOs are increasingly seeing that they need to transform their business and not just optimise what they’ve got today,” she says.
“We’ve seen this big shift to short-termism and activation in the moment to deliver to short-term results, and now we’re seeing that pendulum swing back again where marketers are realising the longer-term investment in brand building and overall customer experience is critical if you’re going to have a competitive advantage.”
However, closing the performance gap isn’t going to be easy.
“That gap is almost indicative of how difficult it is [in the current landscape] and how it’s not going to happen through incremental improvements,” Howe adds.
“[Closing the performance gap] is a dual challenge. It’s difficult to do therefore it needs investment, but the focus in recent times has been on short-term returns so securing investment for focus on innovations is very challenging if you’re not delivering short-term results.”