Digital Technology and the CMO: Strange Bedfellows No More

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By: Esther Shein|

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With the rapid pace of change in technology today, it’s not easy being a chief marketing officer. Digital disruption is impacting every industry, and CMOs are under pressure to keep up in order to provide personalized customer experiences.

CMOs also have more organizational responsibility: In at least 30 percent of organizations, some sales, IT and customer experience functions now report into marketing, according to Gartner. Many marketing leaders are responding, devoting increasingly large portions of their department’s spend on websites, online commerce and digital advertising. This trend underscores that investments in digital technology for marketing play an integral role in improving customer experiences.

CMOs must learn about the technology in their organization to keep customer engagement relevant and consistent, Henri Dura, CEO of GMC Software and chief operating officer of its parent company Neopost, told CMO. This will enable their business partners to have better insights as they communicate and interact with prospects and customers.

With the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT), CMOs also need to become “technically adept engineers of big data” and learn how they can derive real business value from IoT, Dura added.

Digital Technology for Better Decision-Making

Forward-thinking CMOs will develop a deeper understanding of data and technology, using predictive and prescriptive analytics and cognitive computing to build stronger digital customer experiences. Organizations can use cognitive systems to quickly interpret unstructured data and turn digital intelligence into a competitive advantage.

Because cognitive systems can form hypotheses and prioritize recommendations, they help marketers make better decisions. Data analytics and customer relationship management tools can provide insights on what customers like, what gets them engaged and what prompts them to act. These insights can help marketers forge one-on-one relationships with customers.

Partner, Collaborate and Embrace Change

There are several other steps CMOs can take to become more tech-savvy. Although CMOs have become adept at listening to what customers want, these users may not always know what new capabilities digital channels can offer them, observes Jeff Jacobs, chief information security officer at AIG Group.

It’s critical that CMOs and CIOs work together so all parties can become fluent in each other’s wheelhouses — this is what digital disruptors do, Jacobs points out. The formation of joint teams can serve both departments and help the organization display that it’s innovative, agile and in touch with consumers.

Go Beyond Data

Customer journey mapping — the process of laying out a map of the touch points that different types customers go through during their purchase life cycle — is now a business imperative, observes digital marketing executive Ruth Young. The method can help CMOs better understand their user base.

Marketers can create customer personas by using data they already have or have acquired through research. Young also advises taking advantage of data from sales and customer service teams. Customer journey mapping goes deeper than just data, she notes: It explores motivations, feelings and questions at every touch point.

Jim Berra, CMO of Royal Caribbean International, echoes the same sentiment, telling Forbes the world is now driven by an experience-led economy. Digital technology, supported by a robust IT infrastructure, enables organizations to provide a satisfying customer experience. But CMOs can’t lose sight of the fact that their brands are interacting with real individuals.

The lesson: Expand your perspective, and don’t be afraid to experiment and test — or even reinvent your marketing organization. If you don’t react and use digital technology to your advantage, your competitors will.

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About The Author

Esther Shein

Freelance Writer

Esther Shein is a freelance writer and editor specializing in technology, business and education. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications, including Inc., Computerworld, NetworkComputing, InformationWeek, BYTE, CIO, CMO.com and The Boston Globe. She has written thought leadership whitepapers, customer case studies and marketing materials in addition to news and feature articles. Prior to going freelance she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, an online enterprise technology magazine. She was also a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week) and worked at The Associated Press.

Articles by Esther Shein
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