As an industry, we are constantly struggling to figure out “digital transformation,” because no matter what anyone tells you, no one’s really figured it out. But there’s a bigger problem with that: as we do that, we put ourselves at risk of forgetting the customer.
Faced with seemingly innumerable choices in the digital world, brands are aiming to blaze a sensible path through the siloed maze of web, social and mobile options. But instead of seeing digital marketing as one whole entity, many brands simply adapt to these new siloed channels first, adding on to their many layers of marketing technology (to reach consumers who are congregating there). Determining how to connect their customer experience strategy is almost always an afterthought — an interesting and dangerous paradox, given consumers’ overwhelming expectation that brand experiences be relevant and provide value.
There’s no shortage of data proving what consumers want from brands today. So CMOs leading these brands need to take a step back, think about customer experience first and then determine the channels, business processes, people and technology that will enable and support an experience that drives growth for their business. If marketing heads don’t figure out consumer expectations and drive business impact, they risk becoming caught in the ever-shortening tenure of the modern CMO.
A big part of what CMOs need to do to evolve their brand, and to keep their jobs, is to begin organizing and implementing a marketing technology strategy. The digital era has led to a surge in marketing technology budgets, and those marketers that are using their budget effectively to champion smart programs are seeing great returns.
Marriott, for example, has taken measured steps to remove silos that previously left multiple business units targeting the same traveler with little knowledge of what’s relevant, based on the individual’s travel stage. Now the brand has optimized cross-channel interactions through a centralized view of guests, a connected marketing technology ecosystem, and organizational alignment. As a result, Marriott can deliver personalized messaging across devices at scale for more than 120 global destinations and over 4,400 properties. According to predictions from Forrester Research’s Customer Experience Index Online Survey (CX index), their efforts will pay off. In the upscale hotel industry, a one-point improvement in the CX index can lead to a $65 million increase in revenue.
According to the State of Marketing Technology report by Walker Sands and Chiefmartec.com, 70% of marketers expected their companies’ marketing technology budgets to increase in 2017. Yet, only 3% of marketers get the most value out of their tools, likely because organizational silos still exist and few marketing applications are actually integrated, resulting in limited cross-channel visibility.
To drive strong customer experiences, CMOs should focus on leveraging data intelligence, technology integration and the right set of strategic services to reach consumers at moments of interest. Here are three key elements to shift your attention to that may help you achieve success
Identity Management: The concept of identity has changed dramatically. It’s no longer simply about identifying people, it’s about creating aggregated and centralized data sets to build rich customer profiles that are accurate and real-time ready. In order to be more personalized in every customer interaction, you must look at your customers persistently across devices, time and media. Marriott’s moves provide a good illustration.
Scale of cross-channel personalization: The processing power now exists for marketing communications to be automated at a much larger scale than once thought possible. This includes machine learning to determine customer audiences and adaptive response to ensure artificial intelligence is constantly optimizing the customer experience. This level of personalization requires the customer profiles cited above, but marketing technology implementation must also connect cross-channel applications to effectively reach consumers at scale. Again, look to what Marriott did as a guide to successfully leveraging tech to personalize.
Content Management: Data and decision-making must work across channels rather than within channels. Identity management and scale fuel this, but efforts will only be as good as the content a marketer is able to deliver to individual customers. Content management must be a central pillar driving the speed of content delivery, ensuring it is ready and able to find the consumer when they are most receptive to it.
Successfully navigating digital transformation isn’t about transforming to digital. It’s about aligning the business processes, people, and technology that will enable and support better customer experiences. Marketing technology is becoming a more critical tool for CMOs. When applied appropriately, it will without question help brands connect with consumers in very context-centric ways that elicit emotion and deepen their bonds.
Also read: Is All That Big Data Making Your Head Spin?