Covid-19 has resulted in significant shifts in workforces, business practices and job functions, and increased the need for businesses to embrace technology to facilitate effective remote work. While technological innovation has been a key measure of business success for several years, uptake and investment in technology will go on to define the success of organisations in 2021, according to Forrester's Asia Pacific 2021 Predictions report.
Adoption of technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence and 5G will skyrocket in 2021, as technology will fuel experiences, operations, products, and ecosystems, Forrester predicts. It will also drive changes to the functions of chief marketing officers and business structures.
The report, released today, provides 12 key predictions for APAC business and technology leaders in 2021.
Included in the key predictions is that chief marketing officers will shift from leading ad buying and campaigns to taking control of the full customer lifecycle. "Successful CMOs" will reinvent themselves, their teams, and the marketing function in 2021 to integrate marketing and customer experience, the firm said. Loyalty programmes will be re-emphasised and media money will shift into retention methods such as email and customer service. As a result, spend on loyalty and retention marketing will increase by 30% in 2021, Forrester posed.
As marketers increasingly put the customer at the heart of all their business functions, customer experience (CX) capabilities will improve. While Forrester predicts that firms will cut CX technology spend in 2021, the capabilities "will actually improve". Organisations will move to one voice-of-the-customer program, leading to consolidation of CX tools and technologies. This move will save organisations hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars, the firm said, and will help them realise the value of the technologies that remain.
Elsewhere, competition among platforms in APAC will intensify in 2021. In India, the focus will be on Amazon, Jio Platforms, Flipkart and Paytm. In China, competition will intensify between Alibaba, JD.com, and Pinduoduo in China, and in Southeast Asia between Gojek, Grab, and Shopee. A quarter (25%) of firms will shift from experimenting to pragmatically connecting the ecosystems essential to their customers in 2021, such as healthcare, consumer goods, and manufacturing, while pulling investment from nonessential areas like travel.
One adverse effect that Covid-19 will have on businesses in 2021 is a drop in innovation, Forrester predicts, as the physical, mental, and economic challenges that employees had to contend with in the pandemic extend into 2021. One-quarter (25%) of firms will experience a drop in business innovation, it predicts, as a result of muted workplace engagement that lowers productivity and discretionary efforts. Businesses will need to review workforce policies and HR functions to inspire and empower employees in remote working.
Technology investments will be required to support a new workplace in 2021. Nearly half (48%) of APAC managers anticipate a permanently higher rate of full-time, remote employees. Technologies such as conversational artificial intelligence, machine learning, and hardware advances are expected to grow to help employees adjust. Forrester forecasts that by the end of 2021, one out of every four remote workers will be supported by new forms of automation, either directly or indirectly.
The economic and practical value of cloud computing was proven during 2020 (see Zoom's meteoric rise as an example) and its application will spike in 2021, Forrester predicts. Many businesses flocked to public cloud services during Covid-19 to deal with spikes in customer engagement and launch new apps. Forrester had previously predicted that the public cloud infrastructure market would grow 28% to reach $113.1 billion in 2021, but now it predicts that the global public cloud infrastructure market will grow 35% to $120 billion in 2021. Furthermore, it predicts that Alibaba Cloud will take the number three revenue spot globally, after AWS and Microsoft Azure.
China is expected to drive 5G tests and innovative business models in 2021, with initiatives in major verticals such as healthcare, manufacturing, retail and smart cities.
Beyond technology, Forrester predicts that having strong values at the heart of a business will become more of a commercial imperative for companies in 2021. Economic and social issues have been brought to the fore during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many consumers in APAC already making purchase decisions based on values such as environmental protection and a commitment to consumers’ data privacy, Forrester said. In 2021, more will vote with their wallets and engage with brands that commit to ethical practices that support the local community and businesses.