5 Predictions for Marketing in 2016

By Laura McLellan | December 12, 2014 | 0 Comments

No, that’s not a typo in the title – these are predictions for marketing in 2016. There are plenty of articles and blogs predicting what will happen in marketing in 2015. Wading through them and gleaning the valuable predictions from the self-serving or just plain silly ones is at least a day’s effort for you. I‘m bypassing 2015 entirely and going right to 2016.

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“Does she have a crystal ball?” you may ask. No, something much better. In six research surveys done with marketers in companies with revenue over $500M in 2014, we’ve asked questions about their plans for two years from now.

Here are five themes for the future which resonated across multiple surveys and form the basis for these predictions. Remember, they are made specifically for large and extra-large companies.

1. Customer Experience Will Be the Battleground Marketers Are Fighting Over

Consumers now enjoy abundant choice and transparency thanks to search tools and social networks. As this erodes traditional product-based competitive advantages, marketers must look to new sources of differentiation. Most companies expect to compete primarily on customer experience in the next two years.

In 2016 customer experience will garner the highest level of marketing investment; it is one of three areas in which CEO’s expectations of CMOs will increase the most; and bleeding-edge technologies to improve it will be the top innovation project marketers undertake. Marketers will lead the customer experience cross-functionally across all touch points in the majority of companies by 2016.  My colleague Jake Sorofman has some great blog posts and Gartner research on this topic.

2.  How Marketers Use Customer Data Will Determine their Level of Success

Ask progressive companies about their use of data and analytics in marketing and an unmistakable theme emerges: These companies value data more than their less progressive competitors. This isn’t just “lip service.” They spend much more money than others acquiring and analyzing data, and they derive more value from it, both directly (by selling it) and indirectly (by distributing it throughout the organization and acting on it).

Managing, collecting and making use of internal and external data was the second highest area of CEO’s increased expectations for CMOs. Marketers will analyze data less and synthesize it more, leading to better and more actionable conclusions. Distribution of the data to decentralized groups such as brands or business units will occur to allow for informed recommendations/decisions about what action to take. Outsourcing the data analysis to top-notch analytics business process outsourcers will be more prevalent.  My colleagues Martin Kihn and Andrew Frank have written blogs and Gartner research about this.

3.  Digital Commerce Will be Inextricably Linked with Marketing

Leading and supporting digital commerce was called out as the second highest priority for CMO investment over the next two years, after customer experience, in a recent survey Gartner undertook with The CMO Club. Recent research with several hundred marketers tested this hypothesis -“As companies transition from operationally focused e-commerce to customer-centric digital commerce, greater marketing investment is required to create digital offerings and design compelling involvement at all touchpoints in the customer buying journey.”

We found that in 25% of organizations, marketing has total responsibility for digital commerce, and in 46% of companies, marketing owns a digital commerce P&L now.  Whether you lead or support your company’s digital commerce efforts, plan for higher investment and a greater role in crafting compelling commerce experiences.  My colleague Jennifer Polk has published extensively on social, mobile and digital commerce.

4.  Marketing Will Set the Strategy for Not Just Marketing Technology, But for All Customer-facing Technology

This may seem like a bit of a stretch, but listen to my reasoning. Almost 50% of marketers are now responsible for all of the traditional “4 P’s” of marketing – product, price, place and promotion; and for a significant role in strategic planning and major investment decisions that shape company business strategy and results, as well as in digital business transformation. That number has been increasing every year.

No one knows customers better than marketing. Marketing will be intensely involved in all technology that touches the customer as it works on improving the customer experience with customer service, sales and operations. It already sets the strategy and develops the roadmap for marketing technology in over 90% of companies. In a growing number of companies it is moving into different elements of revenue management, including former sales systems. By the end of 2016, customer-facing technology strategy and roadmaps will be led by marketing in at least one quarter of companies.

For reference, see a Harvard Business Review webinar I recently did with Mayur Gupta, the chief marketing technologist at Kimberly-Clark and Scott Brinker’s excellent blog, ChiefMarTec.

5.  Marketing Innovation Will Come Out of the Closet

For the second year in a row we found that marketers are setting aside more than 9% of their budget for innovation. Leading a culture of change and company-wide innovation was the third highest ranked increased CEO expectation of CMOs. More marketing executives have innovation in their title.  An increasing number of CMOs manage product development as well as product management. Digital business transformation is causing many industries to shift their business model and offerings to digital vs. physical; putting marketing squarely in the middle of such innovation.  GE’s CMO, Beth Comstock, explains in an HBR blog “Part of marketing’s mandate at GE is to find ways the company has not thought of before to promote ongoing innovation.”

Then there are innovation technologies. Recent research found more than half of marketers have already deployed or are piloting and implementing bleeding edge emerging technologies such as automatic content recognition, artificial intelligence for marketing, and the use of virtual assistants for marketing purposes. If your company seeks competitive differentiation, you won’t find it in off-the-shelf technologies – that will get you to competitive parity at best. Over one third of companies currently have an incubation fund to invest in emerging marketing technologies, and we expect that to increase by 2016.

Predictions Are Always Risky…

because they won’t apply to all companies equally.  The ones you read here were put together for large and very large companies.  But as an ex-strategic planner and inveterate “data junkie”, I’d rather read them and judge for myself how they might impact my company, and whether I should build them into my planning. 

This week and the following week, Gartner for Marketing Leaders is featuring a recap of our 2014 research survey results for clients.  The third annual marketing spending survey slides – CMO Spend 2015: Eye on the Buyer – are available as free research at http://gtnr.it/1E8xZJI

Best wishes for a successful 2015!