Digital Strategy

From CMO to CXO – The data-driven journey towards building a deeper understanding of consumers

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Our industry is not only changing, but converging. This year’s CMO Study by IBM reveals that as part of an effort to secure their customers, 63 per cent of CMOs state that delivering deeper, richer customer experiences is the top marketing priority in 2016. But how can we shift from this act of recognition to a position where marketers can act on an even deeper understanding of their consumers?

We are at a turning point where technological advances continue to disrupt the status quo and autonomy is increasingly in the hands of the consumer. Industry convergence is growing as these disruptive technologies such as Cognitive, Internet of Things and Cloud are removing the barriers between formerly distinct industries. As these boundaries diminish, marketing organisations are challenged with the requirement to continually shift and adapt to market changes and in doing so reevaluate their value chain, separating demand and supply to deliver the consumer need in an even more abstract sense.

This new digital landscape also means that we have moved beyond the singular, inspirational moment – it is now about being able to market at the speed of expectation. Crucially, these expectations are being created by moments outside of our traditional industry boundaries by new and disruptive companies because it is no longer the ‘what’ that defines these experiences, it is the ‘how’.

Similarly, the internet of things is creating rafts of data about consumers which marketers can tap into. By 2020, 1.7MB of new information will be created every second for every human being on the planet. This presents a huge opportunity to glean insights on customers and stakeholders on a completely different level. Many of the insights highlighted in this year’s CMO Study bring us back to this ‘how’ element. How can we personalise customer experience in an individual context and ensure that it is relevant and also replicated across the enterprise?

Arguably, CMOs are enriching this arc of engagement by forging even more integrated customer experiences where consumers pay a key part in that design.

Today’s consumers, whether B2B or B2C, have become content co-creators and I think this poses an important issue around brand strategy. As the consumer journey becomes more digital, brands have had to become content creators in order to engage with consumers on a completely new level.

Thanks to the explosion of social media channels, CMOs also recognise that they have a growing opportunity to listen to their customers and then incorporate these views into the creation of new products and services. In addition there is a growing opportunity to foster trust, in proving to those consumers that the brand understands them.

The key here is data. Unlocking insight behind the data generated through millions of devices, interactions, transactions and touchpoints can provide the opportunity to develop an even more granular understanding of consumer behaviour, sentiment and requirement. The output of this is the customer experience which has become a key competitive differentiator in the marketing arena. As the consumer journey becomes more convoluted, the remit of the marketing function widens. Leading marketers are now drawing in all elements of the business from customer service to fulfillment to front-end interactions in order to be able to adhere to the demands of immediacy and responsiveness cultivated by the modern consumer. We are in a society with a reduced attention span where custom can be lost within seconds. As such, the customer is driven by expectation.

And just as customer expectations are changing, so the pace of that change is accelerating. And now with the advent of the cognitive era, digital and real world experiences will undergo even more fundamental change. Cognitive systems are able to understand all the world’s data. They will reason and learn from every interaction. The cognitive era offers marketers and designers the possibility of ever-deeper human engagement.

This shift matters and for companies to adapt and lead that shift, the facets of design, experience and moments are key. Experience is the North Star that guides everything that marketers do and understand through the lens of the consumer. Organisations now need to redefine themselves in digital terms and how they engage with customers, orchestrating an ecosystem around them in order to recreate that brand affinity on a new level of data-driven trust.


This post was first published in The Drum on February 19, 2016.

Vice President & European Leader, IBM iX

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