Today, CMOs have begun to realise that marketing success is dependent upon the digital acumen of their organisations. A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit titled, ‘The rise of the marketer: Driving engagement, experience and revenue’, found marketers are aggressively prioritising digital, technology and operations over brand advertising and creative. This is hardly a surprise. Pervasive digital engagement platforms, mobility, social media, and the need for intelligent customer engagement, based on volumes of data, make it imperative for today’s CMOs to have practical experience at transforming marketing through new technologies.
The need for a CMTO
But how are they doing this? Today, organisations are elevating accountability for marketing technology by establishing a newly created position: the Chief Marketing Technology Officer (CMTO). The need for a CMTO is driven by consumer behaviour where technology-empowered customers now know more than many companies do about their brand’s products and services, pricing, and reputation.
In the past, this was not the case. Technology was of little help to the consumer and mostly used to empower brands and enterprises. Today, mobile, social and search technology empowers customers by giving them a realistic picture of the product they want to buy. For instance, today’s millennials will perform a Google search or seek feedback from friends on Facebook and Twitter before buying a smartphone. They will share their experience with hundreds of other people on social media. This is a change from a decade ago when a consumer might have asked only a friend or two via phone or in person, before walking into a nearby mobile phone store to check out the latest devices. And if someone had a bad experience, the news did not travel too far.
As technology is empowering more and more consumers, it has also become an important tool for marketers to influence and conduct business with their target audience. Over four-fifths of the report’s respondents believe now is the time to embark on change in the way they run marketing and that change requires digital, technology and operations skills. Creative is still needed, but it is no longer the focus.
So, we need to ask ourselves, what is the CMTO’s role in this changing market and how can he or she add value to the organisation? The responsibilities of a CMTO are not limited to establishing a company’s presence on digital channels and analysing consumer conversations. In today’s world, brands need to provide experiences to consumers across every brand-consumer touchpoint. Moreover, as responsibility for the customer experience shifts to marketing, marketers need to explore more technology enabled options. This requires an understanding of both the marketing and technology domains and the ability to bridge the gap between them. This is where CMTOs are relevant for future businesses and why the old CMO-CIO combo won’t work anymore.
Transforming the consumer’s experience
Earlier, the traditional purpose of the IT department in business organisations has been to improve operational efficiency. For example, a CIO in a typical Indian public sector bank will look for ways to reduce the turnaround time within existing operations. This could mean introducing a new accounts processing program or an update to the ERP system. On the other hand, a CMTO focuses on technology for transforming the customer experience, such as changing the CRM system and introducing targeted digital advertising to incorporate social media sentiments of existing as well as potential consumers. Kotak Mahindra Bank’s hashtag banking is a great example of implementations arrived at by bridging the gap between marketing and technology. A user can receive information on services about his existing account or open a new account with a tweet, in a reliable manner.
The CMTO here needs to focus on delivering superior experience, solving a consumer problem, and establishing a long term relationship with the consumer using the best marketing ideas and technology solutions. Another example is the Taj Group of Hotels, which offers a virtual tour of its various hotels in India. As a result, a potential guest can experience these properties without actually travelling to the hotel. In both these examples, the brands are building contextual experiences for their target customers instead of using yesterday’s unilateral communications.
The way forward
Business is in an exciting phase. As CMOs level up with connected consumer expectations, they must embrace technology capabilities to provide immersive, engaging and customised experiences. The gap between what marketers used to do 10 years ago and what they need to do now has never been greater. Consider the prediction made in 2012 by Gartner’s analysts, Laura McLellan and Michael Smith, that “by 2017, the CMO will spend more on IT than the CIO.” As we approach the date, their forecast seems less and less far-fetched. And this is ultimately why CMTOs are urgently needed, and they are here to stay.
The writer is the global chief technology officer, SapientNitro