Most Companies Expect CMO to Lead Digital Transformation

More Than Half of Companies Say Marketing Drives Push For Unified Digital Customer Experience

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A world where marketing, sales, account management and finance all coordinate their interactions with the customer -- sharing notes and data to provide a unified experience -- is still far off for most businesses. But with the help of new digital tools, nearly every company is aiming to get there via a "digital transformation," according to new research from the Altimeter Group.

Eighty eight percent of companies said they are going through a formal digital transformation effort this year, according to the report. The trend is one marketers should pay attention to, as 54% of companies surveyed by Altimeter said the mandate to lead the digital transformation is driven by the CMO. CEOs, the report found, champion digital transformation 42% of the time, with CIOs coming in at 29%. Respondents were asked to select all that apply.

Brian Solis
Brian Solis

"The role of marketing is bigger than just awareness and discovery, it's about the relationship," said Brian Solis, principal analyst at Altimeter Group and author of the report.

The report comes at a time when many companies are implementing new technology across the board. Marketers are investing in social media management tools, marketing automation platforms and mobile friendly redesigns. Sales and customer service are quickly adopting customer relationship management (CRM) software. And the list goes on.

Much of this software is cloud based, so the different pieces can more easily connect with each other.

From Mr. Solis' perspective though, companies are at a disadvantage if they implement the technology without thinking about how the specific interactions customers have with that technology connect to every other interaction they have with the company. For most organizations -- a full 75%, according to the report -- a map of how the customer makes their way through every point of their relationship with the company still doesn't exist. This "mapping" is necessary for corporations looking to most effectively engage with customers over the course of their relationship.

"A lot of businesses are suffering from shiny object syndrome: Get the new technology, go social, go mobile," Mr. Solis said. "The smarter companies are looking at how does experience [and] behavior align with our technology investments so that we can make better technology investments and optimize."

Mr. Solis cited an example of one large insurance company which provides its best customers with the worst customer experience because their business is spread across the company, and the different departments and functions don't share a unified customer view.

This is where marketers can step in. As the department that is often the first to interact with the customer, it can see the benefit of sharing information with other departments, such as sales and account management when the responsibility for the customer moves to them.

"The CMO was somebody who recognized that when you start to understand how to better reach your customer and to use technology to do it, you start to realize that that's just one part of the customer lifecycle," Mr. Solis said.