The Evolving Role of the CMO: Digital Tools and Data-Driven Decisions

engagehubChief Marketing Officers (CMOs) have traditionally overseen communications, brand management, advertising and campaigns – and they still do. However, ongoing technical advancements and, in turn, data-driven environments have meant that their remit is constantly expanding and their role, continuously evolving.

There is now a plethora of ways for marketers to understand their customers. Big data, IoT, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and marketing automation are just a few examples of the tools and methods on offer to help marketing teams become customer experience experts. And to drive this expertise, CMOs are required to take on data analysis, customer service and user experience (UX).

Marketing represents a huge portion of customer interaction and is often the first touchpoint between customers and brands. Because of this, CMOs are now responsible for more areas of the business than ever before and are provided with larger budgets to spend on the right technology. Therefore, their challenge is ensuring their teams are up-to-date on the variety of digital marketing tools on offer and that they fully understand how to use data in an ethical and effective way.

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Who is responsible for customer experience?

Providing a high standard of customer service is imperative for business growth. In fact, a massive 71% of organizations regard it as a key competitive differentiator. The reason? Organizations simply cannot afford to deliver poor customer service — illustrated by 42% of consumers stating they’d turn away from a brand after just two negative experiences.

Transforming the customer experience involves digital, organizational and cultural change. Before embarking on these projects, many organizations focus on assigning a departmental owner — and popular choices typically include sales, customer services or marketing. Interestingly, a recent report by Marketo found that 90% of CMOs believe that they will be responsible for the whole customer experience by 2020. However, while it is certainly positive that marketing is taking the initiative, in order to deliver the most effective customer experience the answer is not as clear-cut as assigning a departmental ‘owner’.

Given the increasing overlap across teams, there is actually a high chance that an organization risks missing out on customer experience opportunities if the task is not shared across departments. This inter-departmental approach may seem more challenging initially. But with the correct data orchestration technology, organizations will reap the rewards from the heightened improvements to customer experience.

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The CMO’s expanding remit

To drive and demonstrate ROI, CMOs need to possess a rounded knowledge of the customer journey. This includes understanding every touchpoint within it, the data derived from it, as well as the technology that influences it. Analyzing marketing spend demonstrates this shift in a CMO’s responsibility. The Gartner Spend Survey 2016-2017 found that marketing leaders now allocate up to 27% of their expense budget to technology — an increase from previous years. To ensure these budgets are spent in the most effective way and to stay ahead of the competition, CMOs need to ensure they have a finger on the pulse of the emerging trends affecting each stage of the customer journey.

After all, they don’t need to look far to find examples of companies that have failed to react quickly to digital trends. House of Fraser, Toys R Us and Maplin have all recently paid the price of not keeping up with the technological curve. Yet, it’s not all doom and gloom. Traditional businesses such as Zara are finally transforming in-store offerings to compete with online brands.

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Data analysis: Taking the subjectivity out of decision making

In order to develop a holistic understanding of the customer journey, CMOs are largely accountable for analyzing data and using it to enhance the customer experience across the business. The vast amount of data available has meant that subjective decisions can no longer drive marketing spend. In data-driven environments, solid evidence is required to justify gut feelings and opinions.

Imagine, for example, a marketing team has spent hours working on a campaign, only for their CEO to feedback with “can we change the headline because the current one isn’t working for me.” AI-driven tools can now statistically detect which designs will be the most successful and keyword analysis can determine which headlines will drive the highest engagement. Therefore, the team would be able to validate their choice based on data analysis and customer preference.

Additionally, tools such as heat-mapping can illustrate which areas of a website receive the most eyeball time. And A/B testing, with real-time feedback, can ascertain which customer segments respond most favorably to specific messaging and channels allowing marketers to personalize the customer journey. Data has, therefore, led the shift away from subjective decision making in marketing and providing concrete answers to questions that had once been a matter of opinion.

Responsible for more areas of the business than ever before, CMOs are now equipped with bigger budgets to spend on technology. With digital tools and data-driven processes, there is no excuse for marketing teams not to become customer experts. By utilizing technology and data, CMOs can deliver the most effective results and ensure that key stakeholders are making informed decisions about their customers.

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