A look back at our 2023 customer marketing predictions

At the beginning of last year, we predicted the top 10 customer marketing trends for 2023. Were we right?

Amanda Groth, 

2 January 2024

Every year, marketing pundits (ourselves included) dust off their metaphorical crystal balls to predict the top trends. But are they ever really accurate?

If any of these trends strike a chord, get in touch. Plinc offers transformational solutions and services that will ensure your customer marketing stays ahead of the curve.

Hybrid CX optimisation becomes table stakes

Our first prediction was definitely a key talking point in 2023, and we don’t think it’s going anywhere anytime soon. As brands compete for a greater share of consumers’ discretionary spend, customer experience is a key battleground. The pandemic changed the way people now browse, buy and engage with brands, breaking the traditional brick-and-mortar shopping routine for many. Plus, Gen Z’s buying power continues to grow, so brands need to adapt to their desires and expectations in order to stay relevant.

Trendy tech like smart mirrors and AR (augmented reality) may come and go, but solid omnichannel foundations have major staying power. Pragmatic and impactful hybrid CX strategies are key elements in successful retailers’ arsenals, such as:

  • Buy (or Reserve) Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS)
  • Buy Online, Return In-Store (BORIS)
  • Real-time stock checking, including in-store stock availability and triggered “low stock” and “back in stock” communications
  • Personalised omnichannel offers
  • Optimised product/category recommendations based on in-store and online behaviour

When it comes down to it, what do marketers need to make all of these happen? Say it with us: real-time data activation! Without capturing behaviour and intent in real time, marketers won’t be able to create seamless hybrid experiences that consumers have come to expect. So, marketers need to find smart, pragmatic ways of making it happen.

Tech consolidation

The jury is still out on this one.

When we selected tech consolidation as a key trend, the average marketer had 21 point solutions in their martech stack, according to Salesforce. Aggregated over time, teams have ended up with a clunky mishmash of overlapping or ill-fitting parts.

It’s too early to tell whether there has been a measurable push toward tech consolidation, and we imagine that the advances in generative AI will slow this effort right down. Marketers famously love a shiny new toy, but our original thought process behind this trend is still true: marketers need to optimise their tech stacks, eliminating redundancies and inefficiencies to cut costs and rationalise spend.

Optimising data assets, use case by use case

Anecdotally, we can confirm this was a key trend for 2023, and like hybrid CX, it will continue to be an important strategy in 2024.

Martech has become more agile and accessible over the past few years, enabling marketers to identify and address specific holes within their customer marketing strategy. A full replatforming can be costly and tedious – use case-focused data optimisation is a way to see a faster time to value.

It’s becoming increasingly common for savvy marketers to optimise their data based on specific use cases and scale up their data strategies as they go. Still, our latest research shows that many marketers are still struggling to access their customer data, and without this, marketers will continue to struggle to optimise their programs.

Better understanding value(s)

This trend pointed to our belief that businesses can increase profitability and grow market share by fostering trust and demonstrating brand values through their CRM programs. This objective goes hand-in-hand with the notion of “customer first,” which has taken its place as the new North Star in customer marketing this year.

A customer-first strategy puts the customer at the epicentre of all business decisions, emphasising customer needs and desires over all. Similar to “demonstrating values,” a customer-first approach avoids product- or vertical-led thinking, ensuring customers are spoken to in a more personalised and human way. A successful brand will understand that their own values should reflect the values of their target audience and will tailor their marketing and CRM programs accordingly.

More mature KPIs

More than likely, you report on vanity metrics every week (CTOR, CTR, CLV, ROAS…SMH). And to a certain extent, they are valuable indicators of campaign performance. But we hypothesised that marketers would be under more pressure this year to go beyond campaign metrics to report on commercial KPIs (key performance indicators) to prove their value to the business.

As it turns out, we were right. In our latest research, we found that the #1 concern for senior customer marketers today is their ability (or perhaps more accurately, their inability) to prove the value of customer marketing to protect and increase their budget.

To do this effectively, marketers need to overcome many hurdles. They’ll need to adjust their measurement capabilities to capture longer-term effects on changing customer behaviour. They’ll need accessible reporting that shows KPIs like incremental revenue, margin, uptake, acquisition costs, churn, retention rates and more, in real time. And they’ll need to turn all of these insights into action.

Self-serve insights

With increased pressure on analysts, data teams and budgets overall, CRM and marketing professionals need to be more self-sufficient with analysis and optimisation than ever before. As part of this measurement revolution, we have seen marketing teams shift toward self-serve reporting and analytics tools. Not only has this enabled increased agility to capture and respond to changing customer behaviours, it’s also paved the way toward true data-democratisation, which is a cornerstone of customer-first strategies.

It’s been a long road to get here, but Google has finally confirmed their third-party cookie phaseout plans, which are set to begin in earnest in January. With developments made to Privacy Sandbox throughout this year, customer marketers continued grappling with the deprecation (and indeed, pending death) of third-party cookies.

We were right about this “trend,” but perhaps we were wrong to refer to it as a “trend” at all. In reality, an increased focus on privacy and reliance on first-party data will inevitably play a big role in customer marketers’ lives for years to come.

Managing “silent churn”

At the time of writing these predictions, “quiet quitting” was a big topic of conversation. We noticed that similar principles could be applied to the concept of churn.

Defining churn can be complex and varies between businesses and industries. Many brands expect long periods of time to pass between transactions, making it all the more difficult to get a precise picture of why a particular customer has churned, or if they’ve even churned at all.

When we drafted our 2023 predictions, it was clear that customers were becoming more fickle. The pandemic and economic uncertainties at that time triggered a shift toward brand promiscuity, and many traditional churn signals were becoming irrelevant as technology and customer behaviours changed. As a result, we felt marketers needed to get better at identifying more nuanced pre-churn behaviours and creating engaging campaigns to combat them.

Indeed, churn prevention, customer retention and loyalty were all big topics for customer marketers this year, and many marketing and CRM teams became interesting in discovering new ways to drive loyalty.

Economic conditions vs. sustainability

Sustainability has been a major player in the consumer zeitgeist for the past decade, and from a customer marketing perspective, but with tumultuous economic conditions worrying many at the beginning of the year, we expected to see tension between business’ need for growth and their desire for sustainability.

Hearteningly, we’ve seen a rise in resale and circular economy initiatives this year, although many brands’ plans were likely stymied due to the economic downturn. Regardless, a resale revolution is taking shape, and major brands are continuing to factor sustainability into their growth plans.

New agency relationships

With economic constraints weighing heavily on CRM and marketing teams’ shoulders, we predicted that outsourcing specialised tasks or retaining agency partners for consultative analysis and guidance would become more commonplace. Anecdotally, we’ve seen this come to fruition. Many brands are leaning on specialised service providers (like ourselves) to bolster their programs without blowing their budgets.

Want to see our customer marketing predictions for 2024? Watch the 2024 Customer Marketing Trend Predictions webinar on demand here.

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