CMOs Now Stand at the Precarious Intersection of Technology and Marketing

Investing in the right technology – to meet customer demands and deliver the best digital customer experiences – is the priority facing all CMOs today
Dayle Hall

I’ve said this one thousand times during customer and prospect meetings: every single person within a business is responsible for delivering a consistent and cohesive customer experience across all touch points. Digital is where brands have the biggest opportunity today to create something unique.

In fact, brands and marketers have started to turn a keen eye towards marketing technology. Why? Because the digital customer experience is much bigger than marketing or technology alone. Delivering a brilliant digital customer experience requires both marketing and technology working together seamlessly.

I’ve been hearing for years that marketers would soon become the biggest spenders on technology. My initial reaction to that had always been, “yeah, right.” However, have we now reached the tipping point? Perhaps. Back in 2012, Gartner predicted that CMOs would outspend their CIO counterparts on technology by 2017. Fast-forward to the present day: Gartner’s latest CMO spend survey is quickly proving this prediction is coming into fruition.

So, why have CMOs become the newfound stewards of technology in so many companies today? First, more often than not, the marketing organisation is tapped to lead, fund, and execute on digital customer experience initiatives. As we all know, the way to do that these days is through digital; and to do digital, you need technology. So, it’s no surprise that nearly 90 percent of companies have said they plan to compete primarily on the basis of digital customer experience alone – at a time when over half of consumers place more value on a positive brand experience than on the product or service purchased!  I wouldn’t be surprised if that number rises closer to 100 percent in the next year. After all, digital customer experience is a marketer’s playing field and, as such, marketers have no choice but to harness the power of technology to win both the attention and, more importantly, the loyalty of today’s digital-first consumers.

We also need to keep in mind that marketing has fundamentally changed since Gartner first published its spend prediction in 2012. The debate between traditional vs. digital marketing is over. The outcome of that debate was an embrace of multi-channel marketing, even if there was an initial reluctance to it. In spite of digital’s rapid ascent to dominate advertising budgets, non-digital marketing tactics still played an important part in creating a cohesive brand story and experience – and, therefore, still provided tremendous value to marketers in driving the end-to-end customer experience.

The difference today is that we must look at marketing through the lens of digital. Simply stated, digital media is the de facto canvas for marketing today; how that canvas can be molded to create unique digital customer experiences is both an opportunity and a challenge for brands. This is further compounded by the fact that we know customers spend a lot of time transacting in various ways on digital media. Based on recent Lithium research, about one-third of consumers will visit a brand’s website, blog, or social channels first to engage with the brand, ask questions, learn more, or research specific products and services. This basically means that a brand’s digital presence is a lot more important now than ever before – and it goes way beyond your own .com site. The initial experience consumers have with that digital presence can be a “make or break” moment.

Consumers are somewhat impatient (perhaps an understatement?) – even more so when transacting via their mobile devices. They want answers, and they want them, fast. Think of it like this: your digital channels have to do the heavy lifting for you. If they don’t address what a consumer is looking for – or, at the very least, give them a direct way to contact you to get more information – you might as well just hold their hand all the way to your nearest competitor. But it goes beyond that. Consumers also want the option to engage with brands directly and on the channel of their preference. This is an example of approaching marketing through the lens of digital. You have to put yourself in a consumer’s shoes. What do they want from you? What will likely be their most frequently asked questions? What unique value does your brand offer to them? The list goes on. Think about what they want, need, and expect from you and then deliver an outstanding experience that delivers on those expectations.

Since we all are now thinking in a digital-first mode, technology becomes almost by default the heart of marketing. The primary goal of marketing technology is to automate (to a certain extent) and streamline the go-to-market process. From media buying to publishing to audience analytics, the wide array of technologies within the marketing ecosystem exist to help brands get closer to consumers, create and publish relevant content effortlessly, measure performance in real-time, and drive internal efficiency at every step along the online and offline consumer journey. Technology is, therefore, a big part of running a well-oiled marketing machines. CMOs know that implementing these technologies in their organizations makes their their teams smarter, savvier, and stronger. For them, driving marketing efficiency is just as important as creating stellar digital customer experiences. (Hint: you can’t drive a great experience without being buttoned up internally!)

The truth is, anything less than stellar is subpar. The numbers speak for themselves. About 41 percent of consumers say they would buy what they consider to be an inferior product from a brand they love (instead of a better product from a brand with which they’ve potentially had a bad experience). Not to mention, people who’ve had a positive experience with a brand tend to spend 140 percent more on products and services whereas 83 percent would stop using a brand after having only one negative experience. The key takeaway: if you thought digital customer experiences didn’t have a significant impact on your business’s bottom line, think again.

So, coming full circle, are we really surprised that CMOs are almost outpacing CIOs in their technology investment? No, we shouldn’t be. As consumers embody more digital-first tendencies, as marketers it’s our responsibility to put our customers at the center of every business decision we make. Doing so means we need to start embracing those digital-first tendencies, too – which, of course, requires technology. Fortunately, the benefits far outweigh any learning curves you might face along the way. Not only does marketing technology make our teams more efficient and effective, but it also helps close the gap between brands and consumers. CMOs understand that investing in the right digital technologies now will help ensure that every interaction consumers have with your brand on digital in the future is a good one. Not only do consumers expect it, but it’s always the only way to differentiate your brand in a big way in the future.