In the past, life was relatively straightforward for an IT vendor – we spoke to the CIO, convinced him or her of the business value of our proposition, they would agree the investment spend with the CFO and we signed a contract. Done. Everyone knew their place.

But as we know, things look very different today; because in addition to the CIO, there is the Chief Digital Officer, the Chief Customer Officer and of course – the Chief Marketing Officer. Each and every one of them has a stake but in the case of the CMO this is an ever expanding, ever more critical role. The omnipresent nature of the internet and the access it affords to consumers means that marketers are now pivotal to the success of the business. And in this context, business = brand. More than ever before it is all about how the brand is perceived (think Tesco vs Aldi / Lidl) as, in this world of the super connected, digital consumer, everything is just a click away. And information and insight about brands and products is constantly at our fingertips.

The consumer journey now involves extensive research, product assessment, consumer reviews, peer recommendations etc etc and in all this the key to unlocking the insight which is so desperately required is: data. Lots of it, mountains of it – and we know this as Big Data. And Big Data and Analytics = Consumer Insight and competitive advantage for our CMO. With this and the ability to turn all this data into actionable insight comes the unlocking of the Holy Grail: Personalisation.
Personalisation has been on the agenda for many years now, however, when we look back in years to come, in this context we will view 2016 as we now view VHS and cassette players of the 1980’s; antiquated, immature and downright clunky. Remember, there are millions of current internet users (and spenders) who have never known a world without digital commerce.

So, to return to our CMO for a moment and to understand how and why they hold the key for many IT vendors in this digital age. According to a recent McKinsey report, “Consumers knowledgeable about and comfortable with online research and sales will make many companies change their business models”. And in this context, as the CMO’s role broadens, so does their sphere of control and influence and, of course, their budget.

In November last year, Gartner reported that 2015 saw marketing budgets increase 10 percent to 11 percent of revenue, and two-thirds of marketers expected their budgets to grow in 2016. Areas of focus being social marketing, analytics, customer experience and digital commerce.

So it is increasingly to the CMO that CEO’s are now turning in order to drive the business forward. The CIO’s role becoming one more of a guardian of the data and the internal supplier to the CMO in as much as providing the means by which they can steer the organisation in the face of the torrent of consumer engagement and knowledge. According to the same Gartner report; “Digital marketing was one of the highest ranked areas of marketing technology investment for 2015 and a full 20 percent of marketers said digital commerce was the highest priority on their list.”

What can we conclude from all this?

In today’s data driven digital retail world, it is imperative that IT vendors understand two things:

1. Digital – be it commerce, mobile, social etc

2. The language and agenda of the CMO

In the new normal digital world, just as a retailer must interact with their customers in a way which is engaging, contextual and above all relevant; so too must IT vendors engage with retail businesses in a similar fashion and this means stepping outside the traditional comfort zone of the CIO’s domain. And above all it means having the ability to be able to work with a retailer to unlock the potential of all that data.

About the Author

Andrew Busby is Retail Business Head at Zensar Technologies

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