Originally Published in CMO.com.
Gone are the days when a marketing executive could rise to be CMO purely as a brand expert. Technology, specifically the rise of digital and cognitive intelligence, has drastically changed the way that people interact with brands and organisations. Today’s CMOs have become the biggest purchasers of IT and strategic integrators of marketing technology, constantly striving to re-engineer the entire customer experience—from front to back, from design to analytics, and everything in-between.
Traditional organisational operations are fast being replaced with new end-to-end technologies that connect the front, middle, and back offices. This means that every area of a business—from accounting, to production, to distribution, etc.—is now an integral part of the customer experience. Customers hold more power than ever before, and CMOs are responsible for responding to their heightened expectations, such as exceptional customer service, rapid product delivery, and communications that are more tailored—and less obtrusive.
Today’s CMO must act as a multi-headed powerhouse, taking responsibilities that go beyond traditional “marketing”—even dabbling into areas like engineering and strategic design to improve customer and worker experience and drive growth. While many forces are driving the reincarnation of the CMO, most changes boil down to these three key side effects of the digital revolution:
First—Customer Experience Is King
Digital technology—particularly the impact of mobile and availability of data—has changed how customers interact with brands, retailers, and service providers. The moment of purchase is no longer an organisation’s sole interaction with their customer. Customers are taking advantage of the digitally connected world to not only transact, but to reach customer service, rate products, and interact with other existing and potential customers. Customers also engage with brands via social channels and newsletters long before and after the previously isolated point of sale.
These digital interactions generate copious amounts of data, which has exponential potential to provide insights into customer behaviour and trends that will inform marketing strategies, improve customer service tools, and more. It’s critical for the CMO to understand the value of such data, and implement technologies (like NLP platforms) that will help collect and analyse multiple sources of information to create a cycle of innovation that keeps pace with evolving customer expectations. CMOs also need to ensure that their teams know how to use data in their individual roles, removing existing silos within marketing teams.
Second—Competition Is Mounting
The rise of digital has led to increased competition. Industry incumbents are no longer just competing with each other—the playing field has all but leveled to give startups and nimble underdogs the opportunity to snag the share of voice and market.
Digital technologies make it easy to check out competitors’ pricing, service levels, and product ratings—meaning that competing companies can instantly glean insights about their competitor’s new products and services. As a result, comparable products and services can be rolled out in less time than ever before. Additionally, the digital economy means that companies can scale and tap into new markets without the need to build vast networks of local offices and agents, resulting in lower costs of expansion.
The effect of the digital revolution on the competitive landscape means that CMOs—as well as other leaders—need to be thinking three steps ahead of not just the competitor’s next actions, but their own company’s. To stay competitive, it’s crucial to innovate and disrupt from within, and CMOs need to prioritise identifying digital trends and emerging technologies in order to adopt early.
Finally—Commerce Is Changing
Digital technologies are also drastically changing how businesses sell their products and services. E-commerce is the most significant example of this. As digital technologies continue to evolve, e-commerce continues to grow. In 2017 alone, online retail is expected to grow between 8% and 12% compared to brick-and-mortar sales, which are expected to grow at a mere 2.8%.
To respond to this shift, CMOs are rightfully placing a higher importance on digital marketing efforts. But this goes far beyond advertising to encompass all aspects of the customer experience, including customer service, relationship, loyalty management, website navigation, and even social media interactions with customers and competitors.
As such, CMOs must have a pulse not only on direct interactions with customers, but also the operations of the websites and other digital channels. This requires that the CMO should think like an engineer, play a role in purchasing—and implementing—the technology required to create a seamless customer experience across multiple touch points, starting with the moment of purchase and weaving all the way to back-office fulfilment. CMOs must now embed themselves at the level of detail required to ensure brand experiences are flawless.
To deliver meaningful improvements to the customer experience, the most effective CMOs are also intertwining world-class strategic design with agile-minded engineering—specifically, purchasing and implementing technologies that are not only flashy, but also easy to use. It’s now the job of the CMO to ensure that human needs are being addressed. For example, chatbots are expected to power 85% of customer service interactions by 2020. Though these AI-powered chatbots have the potential to reduce human error and increase problem-resolution times, easy-to-use design is essential to avoid further frustrating customers.
Chatbots aren’t the only example of artificial or cognitive intelligence platforms becoming part of the CMO’s knowledge base in the future. Any task currently performed more than once by a marketer today may be completed by an AI platform in the future. For example, AI and cognitive intelligence have the potential to disrupt standard marketing workflows such as email marketing, wireframe development, or even A/B testing.
The role of the CMO will continue to evolve as the digital revolution continues to move forward with unprecedented speed. CMOs will inevitably take on responsibilities that will blur the lines of traditional C-suite roles. Just like the organisations they work for, CMOs of today must be ready to innovate, break into new territory, and embrace the digital world.