Effective chief marketing officers must learn how to bridge the digital divide, says Akamai Technologies’ Frederic Moraillon
Every executive in the contemporary business world requires an ability to adapt, innovate and cross boundaries. That is especially the case in senior marketing roles, where new technologies and evolving consumer trends are having a major impact on job specs and responsibilities.
In many organisations, this is prompting a review of the respective realms of the chief marketing officer (CMO) and chief information officer (CIO). The basic aim is to promote efficiency and improve results, but along the way all kinds of other considerations come into play. These range from integration, alignment and brand reputation to growth strategies and not ruffling too many feathers.
As a general rule, the first priority is to ensure good collaboration. As highlighted in a 2015 Deloitte Digital report on the CMO-CIO relationship, businesses which do best in this respect tend to be most successful in driving team performance and achieving targets.
However, it is also clear that bridging the CMO-CIO gap, redefining challenges and implementing new business models – even in organisations which pride themselves on a forward-looking approach – is often much easier said than done.
“With the greater utilisation of online systems to search and buy, the role of the CMO is evolving quite dramatically,” says Frederic Moraillon, vice president of marketing, Asia-Pacific Japan, at Akamai Technologies. The firm specialises in helping customers – including banks, broadcasters, gaming companies, e-commerce and e-travel firms – boost online transactions and revenue via services subscribed for on a monthly basis.
“If companies want to make money from the web, they have to understand the needs of B2B and B2C end users, and how social media and online retail are changing consumer behaviour. In the past, for example, people would talk to friends for advice before buying. Now they accept the views and recommendations of strangers and make increasing use of apps. Because of that, the focus of marketing interaction is shifting from trade shows, offline advertising and face-to-face contacts to online, which changes the ways you define consumer demand and how people are influenced.”
The shared challenge for marketing and IT teams is not simply the choice between one tool, or system, versus another. It is to understand and anticipate what digital customers want and how they will spend their money. From there, the next step may entail developing tailor-made apps, platforms, payment methods and social media links – all of which takes a degree and style of in-house collaboration that is still new to many organisations.
One obvious change is that the availability of online data makes it easier to see what customers actually buy, not just what they browse. This means that there is a diminishing need among marketing experts for traditional research tools, such as surveys and focus groups. Instead, their emphasis is switching to the interpretation of “live” data and behavioural analyses, provided by their own systems or wider industry sources.
“If you do an online test or campaign, you can do deep sub-segmentation based on age, title, buying behaviour and so on,” says Moraillon, who is based in Singapore. “But it is also a Catch-22 situation. The data is there, but it gets tougher to manage as the amount of traffic and information increases. The higher velocity of interactions and the greater weekly and daily intensity – even on just your own website – makes things easier and harder at the same time.”
For a CMO, this exponential growth of data has immediate consequences. Marketing plans must be more adaptable and kept under constant review in a world which keeps accelerating. Concepts like seasonality, particularly in the fashion sector, are fading; people shop online for what they want now, rather than waiting until it is in stores. And as e-commerce tools, together with the attendant flood of information, change the dynamics of so many markets, the pressure is greater than ever before to hit monthly and quarterly targets.
Therefore, to be effective, CMOs must be transformational change leaders, well aware of what they do and don’t need from their IT colleagues. Companies must gear up to sell to customers in different ways, especially where industry rules and benchmarks – be it in retail, travel, insurance, banking, taxis or hotels – are being fundamentally redefined by the latest e-commerce models. And they need to be on the alert for unexpected opportunities or threats.
“Individuals are creating companies which operate very differently from how certain industries have worked before,” Moraillon says. “We are seeing evolution in how people are using software and algorithms to adapt business to technology. They have a different starting point and are changing the way consumers buy everything, from movies and music to financial services.”
He adds that the growing tendency to use social media for marketing campaigns and customer-feedback platforms is understandable, but doesn’t hold all the answers.
“Social media is not a panacea for marketing,” Moraillon says. “You have to look at the revenue, not the activity. You may get a lot of ‘eyeballs’ or comments, but only a few leads and no deals.”
This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Bridging the divide.