Trends for 2019: Brands stop talking about being customer-centric

Brands often talk about being customer-centric but in reality, most businesses are still not set up with customers at their core. Simply installing a chief customer officer and hoping the rest will fall into place will not cut it in 2019.


Research conducted by Marketing Week in partnership with MiQ earlier this year showed that while 42.4% of marketers think their organisation should be structured around the customer (the largest proportion of respondents), currently just 5.8% of business are actually set up this way. The majority of marketing departments are either product-centric or structured around marketing disciplines.

Perhaps more concerning is the fact marketers rate themselves just 3.1 out of five when it comes to achieving customer-led objectives and being driven by customer insights, and just 2.8 on their ability to capture a single customer view.

In order to drive customer-led thinking, CMOs are increasingly being replaced by chief customer officers (CCOs). Research by recruitment consultancy Talecco shows the number of CCOs at UK companies rose from 14 to 90 between 2014 and 2017, with 46% of those introduced in the previous 12 months. But doing this alone will only paper over the cracks.

Marketers have always been ‘the voice of the customer’ but for them to truly serve that purpose businesses must be structured in a way that enables collaboration across all functions – whether a CMO or CCO is at the heart of that shouldn’t matter.

Consumer demands are evolving at a rapid rate, so organisations have got to be structured in a way that enables them to respond and adapt quickly. Having disparate teams that don’t talk to each other, or are set up around different objectives, will not enable that to happen.

And there are signs it is becoming a problem. The latest Customer Experience Excellence study by KPMG Nunwood shows a distinct lack of improvement in brands’ customer experience over the past year, partly because businesses are not set up internally to respond to the rapidly changing environment they’re operating in.

The average score across the top 100 brands rose just 0.7% from the previous year to 7.13 out of 10. But this growth isn’t coming from the brands at the top of the table, where scores remain flat, it is being driven by the organisations at the lower end, which are pushing up the average.

Marketers’ intense focus on customer experience shows no sign of abating, but if brands truly want to meet consumers’ expectations they need to get much closer to customers so they can not only react to but anticipate what they want. The brands that don’t focus on this in 2019 will very quickly be overtaken.

To read more of Marketing Week’s trends for 2019, sponsored by Salesforce, head here.