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Big Data. The Internet of Things. Artificial intelligence. Marketing automation. In today’s environment, marketers have a glut of tools and data at their disposal. Never before has it been so easy to learn so much about customers, to reach them directly in so many ways – and to measure so much of your activity.
Evidence over intuition
Because we have access to vast amounts of data, we’re now in a strong position to take subjectivity out of marketing. This has been a challenge for decades – after hours of work on a campaign, the CEO feeds back with: “Can we change the colour to blue, because I like that better than orange?”
Data gives us the power to get concrete answers to what had been a matter of opinion. AI-driven tools can now statistically detect which design will be more successful. Keyword analysis can determine which headlines will elicit the highest engagement. Heat mapping shows which areas of your website receive the most eyeball time, and therefore where your call-to-action buttons will be most effective.
And then there’s A/B testing. Although this has been around for years – going back to traditional direct mail – we’re now equipped with tools that let us run complex tests with real-time feedback, so you know which customer segments respond most favourably to specific messaging and channels.
With all these this at our fingertips, “I like it better” can no longer drive marketing spend – there has to be solid evidence backing up gut feelings and opinions.
The ever-expanding CMO remit
Chief Marketing Officers have traditionally overseen communications, brand, advertising and campaigns.
And they still do – but with a twist. In today’s data-driven environment, they must also be customer experience experts, which extends their remit across data analysis, UX and customer service, among others. According to The Gartner CMO Spend Survey 2016-2017, in over 30% of organisations, at least some aspects of sales, IT and customer experience now report to the CMO.
This is because, to be effective, and to be able to demonstrate ROI, CMOs need to have a holistic understanding of the customer journey – every touchpoint within it, what technology influences it, and what data derives from it. This change in ownership and accountability, is reflected by the shift in marketing spend. The same Gartner survey, highlighted that marketing leaders now allocate up to 27% of their expense budget to technology, an increase from previous years. If a growing percentage of your budget is allocated to technology, then it’s ever more important to have your finger on the pulse of emerging trends affecting each touchpoint, so you can stay ahead of the competition and continue to optimise the experience your brand delivers. Failing to do so can lead to disastrous consequences.
Traditional High Street retailers offers a prime example of this. Every week, it seems like we hear the death knell of a well-known High Street brand. The likes of Toys R Us and Maplin plunging into administration, New Look announced that it was shutting 60 stores, while investors and shoppers are also fretting for the future of chains like Moss Bros, Carpetright and Mothercare. Why? Because they were unable to react quickly enough to the increasingly competitive market where new digital entrants look to steal market share with digital-first offerings and subscription-based models. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, traditional businesses are finally getting to grips with transforming their in-store offerings, to compete with online, which continues to outperform the rest of the market. And more importantly, what’s creating the biggest differentiator is a greater focus on customer experience above price and product.
The lesson is clear: use data and technology to add value to your customer experience
It’s clear, CMOs are now responsible for more areas of the business than ever before and with that, larger budgets to spend on the right technology. We’re finding that the customer data gathered by various technologies at numerous touchpoints is actually helping to bring alignment between departments. Technology and data are eradicating opinions from the Board Room so that stakeholders can make informed, data-driven decisions that are right for their customers. The biggest concern is that these decisions may be taking too long to make.