It’s that time of the year where firms (operating on a fiscal year of January to December) evaluate their 2017 results and set 2018 objectives and the strategies to achieve them. As in years past, there is no shortage of recommendations outlining the top trends, strategies, and technologies companies must use to succeed in 2018. And therein lies the problem. Following inaccurate guidance could significantly cost your business, resulting in wasted time and resources, unhappy customers, and poor performance results affecting performance evaluations.

The ease of access to publishing online articles allows virtually anyone with an internet connection to publish content suggesting what to do in 2018. This content is often generated based on:

  • Hearsay
  • Pure opinion
  • Observations based on what worked for a handful firms (at most)
  • Marketplace data

Unfortunately, it’s hard to analyze every article on CX trends and best practices to classify them based on the above criteria. However, my observation over the past several years has been that a significant portion of year-end guidance can be classified to fall into the first two categories above.

With ease of access to a wealth of information on CX, it’s easy to pick up the latest buzzwords and recommend that companies focus on them. Take for example big data and digital transformation. By 2012, big data was everywhere. It was presented as the latest “must-have” technology trend. In essence, big data wasn’t a new technology. It wasn’t a revolutionary concept that companies could use to disrupt competition. The term refers to the continuously growing volume of data companies capture and generate.

In 2016 and 2017, digital transformation took over. Just like big data, digital transformation is simply referring to the obvious trend that digital technologies are playing an increasing role in both consumer and business activities. Consumers have been using websites such as Yelp!, Angie’s List, and to make more educated buying decisions. Businesses have also been digitally transforming for decades. The first inter-city fax was transmitted in 1907. The first telephone pager was patented in 1949 in New York. Email was invented in the 1970s, and during the 1990s it has become a common form of communication across many businesses. Thus, digital transformation is not a new concept or trend. It’s also not a new technology. It’s merely a process where companies have been continuously evolving by adding new communication channels and digital tools to their existing activities.

Both big data and digital transformation were positioned among the top trends CX leaders must follow over the past several years. The problem is that, as outlined above, they are not new trends or technologies. To cut through this hype, CX leaders must seek content outlining what their peers are currently doing and planning to do. This will help replicate the success of Best-in-Class firms and avoid the failures of those that observe poor results.

Content outlining the success and failure of certain firms is helpful. It helps CX leaders learn how their peers facing similar problems overcome their challenges. However, there’s an important factor to consider. Take for example an article highlighting how Amazon increased efficiency in its warehouse operations by using robots. A smaller e-commerce firm can learn a lot from reading Amazon’s success, however, it’s highly unlikely that they have the resources to replicate it. The problem therefore with articles recommending all companies in the same industry follow the same method is that not every firm is the same. As such, not all CX leaders can act on activities or technologies that worked for a handful of their peers.

The way to overcome this challenge is looking at the overall marketplace. Specifically, gathering insights on how CX leaders across companies of all sizes and industries succeed (or fail). Creating these articles is not easy – it requires more than just one’s opinion, tuning into latest social media conversations for trending technologies, or speaking with one or two CX leaders and recommending their path as the one that all companies must follow. Instead, CX leaders across companies of all sizes and verticals must be surveyed to learn what works for companies overall. That’s what helps firms avoid failure in setting their 2018 CX strategy.

The data-driven approach described above is also how we do our research at Aberdeen. We regularly survey CX leaders to determine the actual best practices and trends that help practitioners succeed. To this point, over the next several weeks, we’ll run a series of articles sharing data on which technologies CX leaders are planning to adopt and how they’re planning to use them. Please visit CMO Essentials regularly to access these articles that will help you cut through the hype and learn what your peers are planning for 2018.

To learn the 4 building blocks that Best-in-Class companies establish to deliver top-notch omni-channel experiences, check out this latest research report.

Read more: There is Nothing Magical About 95% Statistical Significance