Our 2019 B2C Marketing predictions hone in on the impact of rising customer power. Forrester has been evangelizing the age of the customer for a decade, but the message is approaching a crescendo. This year, we called that consumer desire for better data control, better experiences (especially in social), and better connections to their values will force marketer change. One quarter in, and we are already seeing movement in these areas.

Privacy Issues Fuel Ecosystem Action

Misuse of consumer data hasn’t let up in 2019. What feels like daily news legitimizes concerns around consumer data privacy and is prompting action across the ecosystem. Breach of the day: Facebook “unintentionally uploaded” 1.5 million email contacts without consent. Our bet of increased interest in zero-party data is coming to fruition. Scott McNealy, cofounder of Sun Microsystems, wrote an op-ed in USA Today citing zero-party data as a solution to the toxic data ecosystem we’re in today. Our team has almost doubled the number of client questions on preference and zero-party data compared to 2017. And providers are stepping in to help. Zero-party platform Jebbit just got $12 million in its Series B round of funding. We’re not surprised, since customer-centric privacy programs, including access to better zero-party data, can drive a positive ROI.

Note: None of this can really happen unless the underlying tech better melds martech and customer experience (CX). As we predicted, every major marketing cloud has announced (or will soon) major upgrades to data management, profiles development, and intelligence layer systems, with capabilities similar to customer data platforms (CDPs) to help brands manage and activate customer data.

Community (Re-)Emerges, But What’s New?

Our call that social media fatigue will move brands to apparently safer zones of “community” is playing out. In March, retailers at 2019’s Shoptalk conference discussed new marketing tactics that focus less on conversions and more on building a brand community. In April, Lush announced that it was pulling out of social in the UK with the cryptic “We want social to be placed back in the hands of our communities” rationale. The reality is that communities aren’t a new brand tactic. We offered clients a community management checklist nine years ago, but our latest direct-to-consumer (DTC) research does show that “the desire to form a bond with fellow shoppers around a certain brand is one of the strongest drivers of consumer interest in DTC brands.” We’ll be unpacking the rising tide of community to see what, if anything, is different today.

Values Tempt

These signals show movement in the right direction. Unfortunately, we also predicted some negative activity, and that also came true. We anticipated that marketers would get tied up in brand crisis, trying to court customers based on their values, aiming to mimic a Patagonia or Nike. Gillette fumbled with an ambivalent commitment to gender equality and poor execution. Now Apple is making a brand play into privacy to separate from the rest of FAANG/big tech. As tech journalists draw attention to privacy, the pressure will be on Apple to deliver fully on the privacy promises they are making.

Emotional Measurement Is Nascent But Attractive

One area that we are still watching is emotional measurement. We are receiving a number of client questions. This area of measurement remains promising but nascent. We did hear loyalty technology vendors promise emotional impact in our latest Forrester Wave™ on loyalty technology platforms — just as long as they do it, and measure it, in a privacy-safe way.

Three more quarters to go.

The following analysts contributed to Forrester’s 2019 B2C marketing predictions: Jessica Liu, Emily Collins, Fatemeh Khatibloo, Stephanie Liu, Tina Moffett, Jim Nail, Joe Stanhope, and Rusty Warner.