CMOs and marketing managers are preparing for a digital era

05 June 2019 6 min. read

Data analysis and digitalisation are going to have a huge impact on the Chief Marketing Officer role at many companies, according to a new white paper released by nextcontinent. More than half of all CMOs believe the value of data and digital to their work will triple in the coming years.

Thanks to the force of digital innovation, every business function across the industrial gamut is facing a rapidly changing landscape. Marketing is no different, with the pace at which innovations are having a bigger impact on marketing only increasing. These changes are even accelerating at such a rate that, rather than performing extensive studies to look before leaping, company governance is often deployed to facilitate a ‘fail fast’ start-up culture, to foster agility over risk control ruling boardroom decision-making.

At the same time, thanks to digital disruption, today’s Chief Marketing Officers have a host of new topics to tackle, spanning from higher customer expectations to digitisation, competition from new players and technological advances that are changing at an ever quicker pace. In a bid to promote the best practices that can help marketers prepare for the next wave of tech-led change, a group of management consultants from nextcontinent – a global consulting network – interviewed nearly 20 Chief Marketing Officers and other leaders in the Consumer Products & Retail industries across Europe.

CMOs and marketing managers are preparing for a digital era

The researchers found that the sector broadly expects digital and data to be of huge importance to its future. 56% of respondents said that the value of data and digital will have tripled in the coming years compared to today, while 31% said it would double. At the same time, not a single respondent said value of data and digitisation would decrease, or even stagnate, looking forward. Building on the discussions with the leaders in the field, the consultants distilled a set of seven commonalities which surfaced from all/most interviews.

“Data is vital for brands if they are to be – and stay – relevant to consumers. In order to pursue this strategy, investment is needed – investment in technology, but also in the people. This truly is the era of the data rush,” summarised Kristian Majer, the study’s author.

From one-to-many to personalised marketing

According to Majer, as stated above, the common opinion is that the importance of data will grow exponentially, as it presents a valuable insight into customer behaviour, which has become increasingly erratic in the digital age. However, while they agree on its importance, companies differ in their position on this growth curve.

Some score themselves moderate to good on data performance and experiment with innovative solutions such as chatbots, robotics, facial recognition, and so on. Others consider themselves less advanced in this area and refer only to the move from TV ads to online advertising. Across the board, there remains a long way to go in terms of maturity. 25% of the respondents believe their current capabilities in data and digitisation are ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’, while 56% said ‘low’ or ‘acceptable’, showing that advancement is needed.

This is because leveraging data to provide personalised marketing is easier said than done. It often invokes high costs, meaning it only appears viable when applied on a large scale. However, even though it is no silver bullet, if a company can pull off the balancing act of monitoring the profitability of its actions appropriately, it can deliver impressive results via personalisation.

One example of how digital technology could be used to better know a client comes from China. For clients in the emerging market, it is important to use and master social media, such as WeChat and Weibo, to promote offers. With China’s consumer goods market booming, it is just one tactic which seems to be paying off for marketing officers involved in the region.

Breaking down silos

Perhaps the most important factor in the success of utilising data and digitalisation is to avoid silos. All too often in large organisations, employees don’t fully understand the levers they can pull to help a company becomes as profitable as possible. By walking them through the business model or running commercial awareness exercises, it’s possible to help them see past the departmental silos, and instead, view the business through a more holistic lens. In doing so, they will have more clarity around the wider challenges in the business and understand those areas that have commercial impact. It can get them thinking about efficiencies, how they can make an impact, and importantly, how digital can be used to improve them.

Majer stated; “Perhaps the most compelling statement is that data is becoming the responsibility of the entire organisation. Useful data are to be collected at each stage of a customer journey and at each stage of internal processes. Those same data are to be utilised throughout the entire customer journey. This way, bad data quality has a larger negative impact than ever.”

The marketing function of an organisation itself will also change, according to the findings. Most interviewees mentioned to researchers that the merging of marketing and technology has taken place, or that marketing specialists have some expertise in IT and vice versa. Data scientists, who understand business stakes and needs, will certainly become the most wanted experts on the labour market, closely followed by neuroscientists.

This was echoed by interviewee Dennis van den Hoek, of Akzo Nobel, who said that “as a marketer, most projects I manage are, de facto, IT projects as well.” Fellow respondent Sylvie Collombet, Customer Marketing Director of Manutan France, agreed, adding that in the future this trend will see the marketing director “be complementary to the Chief Digital Officer”, who needs to ensure the global transformation of the firm, while data will play a “central role in the marketing director’s life”, acting to get closer to the final user of products a company sells.

While the power of data has great potential to change business for the better, it also brings with it the same potential to lose sight of what is real as any other source of income. Concluding, Majer explained that it is important not to forget the people behind the data.

“Consumers’ needs are the real driving force behind successful innovations. Personalisation still requires a human touch in order to be effective and efficient. Robots and algorithms cannot take over all human work. It’s the data scientist, the neuromarketeer, and the ‘new’ marketer who will determine how to satisfy the consumer’s ever-changing needs. The most important characteristic of the future workforce is and will be intrinsically human: it’s the ambition to explore new territories. It’s a people business!”