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Today I’m pleased to share a guest post by Robi Ganguly, CEO of Apptentive.

We’re one month into 2015, and it’s already apparent that Customer Experience is on everyone’s agenda – or at least on those of the 95% of retailers surveyed by Boston Retail Partners,who identified customer experience as a top-three priority in the new year.

As both an outsider and an insider in the Customer Experience movement, I wanted to share (and weigh in on) three CX predictions made manifest through firsthand conversations with hundreds of companies leading the way in customer experience and engagement.

#1 Customer Experience will become the major differentiator
In the news: According to Deloitte, 82% of brands perceive customer experience as a competitive differentiator. And this number is only rising.

By 2016, 89% of companies surveyed by Gartner plan to compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. And by 2020, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product when it comes to differentiating a brand.

My take: Customer experience is absolutely a powerful differentiator. However, I’d caution that in order to create sustainable value, your CX strategy must be intertwined into your entire business and not simply a function of marketing.

For the long term win, Customer Experience Management needs to be a continuous process of collecting – and acting on – customer insights. It needs to be a comprehensive strategy with engineering, analytics, sales, marketing, and all job functions sharing the same appreciation for the customer and aligned with the same objectives.

#2 Customer Experience Management will become a designated job function
In the news: The number of openings in CX Design has skyrocketed, and CX as a priority is permeating every part of an organization – from marketing to engineering to the C-Suite. According to AT&T’s Office of the Customer, “CX knowledge will be required at higher levels in every position in the organization. This will come in the form of education, skills training, support, enhanced data, expanded partnerships, and a new focus on innovative design skills and talent.”

At the highest level, we’ve seen the rise of the Chief Customer Officer (CCO), an executive with the authority and visibility to create a culture of customer-centricity. While there were fewer than 20 CCOs in 2003, the Chief Customer Officer Council today recognizes over 500 CCOs across the world – including 22% of the Fortune 100.

My take: The numbers here are hard to deny. Even in companies that don’t take the CCO route, I  expect to see a breakdown of silos between CMOs and CIOs. I anticipate marketers and information analysts honing in on the same metrics and digging for the same customer insights in the pursuit of an exceptional customer experience.

#3 Customer experience will be realized as a major revenue driver
In the news: Customer experience has traditionally been a touchy subject for many executives. Yes, it’s important. But how important?

Creating a customer-centric culture can be a big investment and, if not done right, can take a lot of guesswork about what your customers actually want. Customer experience is all too often seen as a discretionary cost and not a revenue driver. In 2015, that’s all subject to change – and rightfully so.

In addition to building a brand, creating customer loyalty, and providing opportunities for differentiation, we’re seeing customer engagement fueling sales. Consumers are not only influenced by engagement, they desire engagement. A Moxie study revealed that 72% of consumers want to be engaged by their favorite brands – and are happy to spend more if engaged.

My take: We’re expecting to see investments in customer experience offer up a tangible and measurable impact on the bottom line. Advances in marketing analytics will shed much-needed light on the increased spending, lifetime value, and the power of referrals from happy customers.

Investments in customer experience will be seen not as another cost to incur but as a way to cut costs. Given continued increases in acquisition costs, particularly in a space as crowded as the app stores, I’m expecting brands to place a renewed emphasis on retention marketing. I’m anticipating a shift in priorities and a focus on reducing churn by doing more to delight current customers through loyalty and CX programs.

Furthermore, the smarter brands get about collecting actionable insights, the better prepared they are to design actionable objectives – aligned with measurable goals – around their customer experience strategy.

It won’t be easy meeting these three predictions in the next 11 months, but we’re excited to see what’s in store for the customer experience and are already witnessing CX pioneers pave the way for customer success.

About the Author: Robi Ganguly is the CEO of Apptentive, the easiest way for every company with an app to talk with their customers. Robi is a frequent writer and speaker on topics related to customer experience, retention, and lifetime value. When he’s not at the office, you can find him running, reading, cooking, spending time with friends, or hanging out on Twitter.