Aligning Retail Marketing Priorities With Chief Digital Officers: Defeating the Digital Frankenstein
Large retailers need a chief digital officer (CDO), or someone with the same charter, to drive holistic and consistent digital experiences across an entire brand. If you're not convinced, I suggest you go back to Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Trends, understand why Deloitte gave the title a “superpower,” or try to comprehend the idea of 100 billion connected devices or that 1 billion digital natives will join the workforce in the next seven years. We as marketers don't need to fear the CDO as some have suggested, but I will concede that it's not going to be an evergreen title. It’s just that the priorities driving digital transformation have gotten so vast that neither the chief marketing officer nor the chief information officer can traffic it all. Most retailers don't have the resources necessary to either retrain all existing CMOs or hire new IT-conversant CMOs across all retailer verticals (I'm not sure if there are enough anyway).
Honestly, we’re past the point of validating the role of a CDO. Someone needs to be wholly responsible for the entire digital experience, and it's time to align their priorities with digital marketing. It’s an intimidating [digital] world out there.
In the next series of posts, I will outline three digital marketing priorities that retailers should be facing head on with their CDOs.
The first priority for CDOs is breaking down silos to attain a 360-degree view of the customer journey, not a collection of “optimized” touchpoints and experiences. A recent Economist Intelligence Unit report found that 86 percent of senior marketing executives thought that they would own the end-to-end customer journey by 2020, yet also found that increasing marketing complexity challenges that assumption. This is where a CDO is particularly useful, because meeting that challenge poses an interesting question: How many people within a retail organization have a stake in – and therefore are tinkering with – the digital ways customers connect with the brand?
Any large retailer is going to have teams, not just individuals, trying to “optimize” everything digital, including email marketing, organic search, social media, paid search, web marketing, digital content, UX/UI, merchandising, loyalty programs and more. That means that each will have a variety of strategies, approaches and software that require integration, training and management. Layer on top of that the fact that many retailers have multiple business groups, URLs, regional operations, etc. In the end, most will end up with a bloated digital experience with thousands of centipede-like codes creeping and crawling across their brand’s digital properties. Each is pulling from different subsets of data, making “informed” decisions, and delivering a customer experience that supposedly moves them toward a desired outcome — all in silos marketing to individuals.
Imagine if this happened in the physical world. Would a sales executive want every one of his 100 salespeople selling each customer the same thing in their own way, without knowing what they other one said? Isn’t that exactly what this marketing technology monstrosity creates for retailers?
And it is a monster, because a retailer’s channel-by-channel optimization strategy ends up creating the digital version of Frankenstein. IT already understands this reality, and has cringed over the security threats and performance risks each disparate solution presents. It’s why marketing often circumvents IT. Marketing’s need for speed in an ever-changing world is often faster than IT innovation cycles.
A CDO has to face this Frankenstein on day one because customers only see your brand. They don’t think, “Now I’m visiting on my phone. Now I’m coming from a search engine. Now I’m clicking through from Facebook.” They’re just visiting. Brands are under the gun to determine the single source of truth for a customer and deliver a 360-degree view of the customer.
The bottom line is that the current approach to customer journey optimization is often flawed. For CDOs at retail companies, their charter is to look thoughtfully at technologies and strategies that stitch the experience together in an open and intelligent way, from in-store to online.
In my next post, I'll discuss why CDOs are essential to deal with that ever-present “it” movement of the moment: artificial intelligence.
Madeline Ng is the director of marketing at BloomReach, a company that helps online retailers personalize buying experiences using data and algorithms.
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