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Gartner Surveys Confirm Customer Experience Is the New Battlefield.

Every year, my colleague Laura McLellan looks into marketers’ pockets. How they spend their money, she’s likely to tell you, reveals what’s on their minds. Here, truth isn’t subject to the distortions of interpretation, politics or spin that, as industry analysts, we occasionally negotiate.

Here, what you see is what you get—and what you get is a clear picture of what really matters.

Laura’s soon-to-be-released findings from the 2015 Marketing Spending Survey follow the marketer’s money trail.

Customer experience is the most pressing mandate for marketers, the top area of marketing technology investment in 2014, and it will lead innovation spending for 2015.

These findings tell an interesting story. Here’s what caught my eye:

Marketing budgets themselves account for, on average, a healthy 10.2% of revenue and forecasts for spending next year are stronger still—up over 10% for those planning increases. Marketers are increasingly taking on bona fide P&L responsibility, particularly as business models and revenue streams go digital. Fully half of marketers report that they either have P&L responsibility today or expect to have it in the next 24 months. Customer experience is the most pressing mandate for marketers, the top area of marketing technology investment in 2014, and it will lead innovation spending for 2015.

89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago.

This last part, in particular, should cause you to sit up straight. Why? Because, as competition and buyer empowerment compounds, customer experience itself is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage. A recent Gartner survey (available to Gartner for Marketing Leaders clients here) on the role of marketing in customer experience found that, by 2016, 89% of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, versus 36% four years ago.

Fewer than half of companies see their customer experience capabilities as superior to their peers

According to the same Gartner research, fewer than half of companies see their customer experience capabilities as superior to their peers—but two-thirds expect these capabilities to be industry leading or much more successful than their peers within five years.

Wishful thinking? Perhaps. But what it does reveal is a punctuated shift in emphasis and spending as marketers recognize that customer experience is fast becoming the new battlefield.

In fact, one of the top 10 Gartner predictions this year puts a fine point on that assertion:

By 2017, 50% of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations.

Customer experience is the new marketing.

Maybe Mercedes Benz USA President and CEO Steve Cannon put it best. “Customer experience,” he says in Loyalty360, “is the new marketing.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

By: Jake Sorofman

This post originally appeared on Gartner