Empowering CMOs to accelerate digital value creation

Driving value through digital change is an ambition that ranks highly among many chief marketing officers. But to get there, businesses will need to transform processes, act on insights and establish powerful C-suite partnerships
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Digital sales and customer experiences - whether online, in-app, on social media platforms or even in the metaverse - have become top priorities for chief marketing officers worldwide. And for the many businesses that have been transforming digitally for decades, the accelerated pace of change catalysed by the coronavirus pandemic significantly raised the stakes for their marketing leaders.

While organisations should remain agile to contend with uncertainty, the shifts in the habits of business clients and consumers have proven to be remarkably enduring, as have new efficiencies in ways of working. Digital transformations in customer journeys and brand experience are on track to accelerate across all platforms, according to Gonzalo Garcia Villanueva, CMO at the market intelligence firm GfK.

“Business leaders have continued to witness post-Covid the unprecedented speed in digital transformation in their industry, and they know they have to match or exceed it. This is essential to surviving, and it also opens up new opportunities to innovate and grow,” says Garcia Villanueva.

Chief executives and company shareholders alike now demand high-velocity transformations across all marketing and sales channels. “CMOs need to make sure they offer outstanding customer experiences and sell on an ever-growing array of outlets,” Garcia Villanueva explains. “This omnichannel reality ultimately creates additional routes and opportunities to generate revenue, but only when all these places offer seamless, consistent experiences that delight.”

Analysing buyer behaviour

Delivering these experiences requires CMOs to overcome several challenges. The first is developing an understanding of each customer’s entire journey. Some shoppers allow their decisions to be shaped through social media before taking the plunge and buying on a website or in-app. Others form opinions in shops before committing to a digital purchase or vice versa. And these trends vary largely by region and consumer demographics.

When attempting to deliver relevant omnichannel experiences to these buyers, marketing organisations may struggle with extracting the necessary actionable analysis from such a plethora of information. Garcia Villanueva continues: “Not being able to make sense of billions of data points across these channels is a major problem.” Alarmingly, only 38% of marketers are highly confident in their analytics and insights systems, according to research by GfK and the CMO Council. Smarter technology, faster processes and higher data quality are all needed to enhance trust in insights.

In other companies, the problem is more fundamental. Often, key personnel cannot access the pertinent data directly. Some 46% of marketers warn that their ability to view customer and market information is variable or unpredictable. “Companies need to be agile, making decisions frequently and rapidly. But having tight bottlenecks around information, with data stuck in teams such as market research or e-commerce, prevents this agility,” says Garcia Villanueva. “Businesses must democratise staff access to relevant information and break down silos.”

Whatever the amount of data that marketers are presented with, having the right staff capabilities and culture is essential to using information optimally; he adds: “Companies should assess their skills gaps around information because many people are not used to directly accessing data in the decision-making process. CMOs need to focus on staff development and hiring people with analytical skills while connecting workflows across teams.”

Executive partnerships that deliver change

Given the unprecedented change requirements around technology, workflows, cultures and skillsets, marketing leaders are wise to avoid attempting to deliver holistic transformation on their own. Ben Jones, chief technology officer at GfK, notes that marketers’ partnerships with tech leaders are now essential to company success. “Transformation is a continuous journey and key to driving brand loyalty and sales. Aligning the goals of the CTO and CMO is more critical than ever to rapid and consistent value creation,” he says.

It has never been more important for CMOs and CTOs to work in close partnership, as key creators of value

Evolving the CMO-CTO partnership will be pivotal in understanding customer behaviour and acting quickly to drive relevant experiences in response. Working together, marketing and technology teams can transform the entire customer lifecycle, backed by powerful ways of working and smart, secure systems. “CMOs and CTOs alike have a laser focus on the business’ long-term value creation, and so collaboration here can bring big results,” Jones notes. “The smartest executives have recognised that this partnership means business objectives are achieved consistently and effectively.”

Crucially, this partnership is also influential when breaking down projects into smaller chunks, with technology departments highly mature in agile and iterative development. “A common problem for CMOs is their digital transformation requirements start off very broad, and they can risk ‘boiling the ocean’, leading to an expensive failure,” adds Jones. “The CMO-CTO partnership unlocks the ability to create powerful change momentum by learning early and delivering regular wins quickly.” Dividing projects into small chunks on a timeline with ‘sprint’ or interim goals is an effective method.

New insights at the heart of success

Smart insights are at the heart of such project plans. Used well, they can reveal who a company’s consumers are and how they behave and are likely to act. Furthermore, marketers can harness data to evaluate how these factors compare with competitors. This lays the groundwork for the iterative development of excellent experiences and products. Four in ten top performers in these contexts can rapidly move from gathering data to creating actionable analysis.

Companies across industries rely on deep, relevant insights from GfK to derive clear signals from the sea of data. Whether through GfK’s always-on platform, research reports or consulting services, these firms are moving from descriptive analytics to predictive insights and prescriptive actions.

They include the computing company HP, which uses the cloud-based gfknewron platform to build strategic initiatives in Spain, informing market knowledge, assessing competitors and shaping retailer conversations. Meanwhile, the online electrical retailer AO applies GfK market intelligence to rapid and long-term decision-making, with ongoing analysis of emerging opportunities as well as demand forecasting. And the healthcare firm Philips relies on GfK intelligence to inform strategies, campaigns, pricing and products for its Middle East and North Africa personal care sales.

For marketing chiefs, now is the time to act on powerful digital value transformation. “The CMOs leading successful digital transformations are able to jump into opportunities much more quickly, helping drive better long-term profitability as well as retention of top talent,” Garcia Villanueva concludes. “By being agile and disruptors in their sector, they’re hedging risk, driving growth, and continually optimising brand and consumer experience.”

To learn more about data-driven decisions that drive sustainable growth, visit gfk.com/cmo