By Ganesh Iyer, Managing Partner of FLC Group.
Yes, you read it right. The CMO position is dying, welcome the new CXO. Marketing is no more only about the 5Ps we learnt in business schools. Consumers have evolved and so has the sales and marketing process.
When The Coca-Cola Company initiated its Global Innovation Group in 1995, their focus was to find ways to grow within the existing non-alcoholic beverage category. A major part of the R&D commercialisation was done internally and with established strategic suppliers. This was typical of how innovation was done at Fortune 1,000 companies back in the day.
The pattern of marketing has changed too over the years. It has moved from a hard selling concept which involved selling goods to consumer benefits approach, to a more ‘Consumer Experience’ driven approach. Today, it is not just about pull or push, but more about building a relationship and delivering on that. The role of the CMO is not confined to creating communication to attract customers, it is now about creating stories to stay relevant to customers and deliver a brand experience.
This ‘experiential’ consumption is driven by the millennial generation. They tend to define themselves by what they experience rather than by what they own. This has created opportunities for the brand to be ‘customer-centric’. This is where the newly defined role of the CMO comes in.
The role needs to be redefined as ‘Chief Consumer Experience Officer – the CXO’, because their major goal would be to analyse the consumer journey and deliver a ‘wow’ worthy experience. Memorable storytelling, excellent knowledge of the brand and communicating the same to the consumer in-store, enhancing the experience through digital and employing omni-channel strategies are new ways to reach today’s customers.
PWC’s latest report released this year states that 82 per cent of the top-performing companies pay attention to the human experience surrounding digital tech. Also, 42 per cent of executives see IoT as disruptive to their business model. In today’s multi-touchpoint, multichannel, always-on, hyper-connected consumer markets, there has been an explosion of potential customer interaction points – across new channels, devices, applications, making the consistency of service and experience across channels impossible.
This is where digital enhances these interaction points. Modern technology offers many opportunities to enrich the experience even further, especially since it is developing at breakneck speed.
Customer experience is said to overtake price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020 and 89 per cent of companies will compete on customer experience. According to research by Accenture, 87 per cent of the consumer surveyed stated that brands need to create a more consistent ‘omnichannel’ experience across all touch points.
Key customer experience trends that will transform the future of marketing:
There’s already a trend of using ‘voice enabled’ assistance – digital assistants are on the rise and grew in 2016, with Siri, Alexa and Google Assistant. Even though these assistants will evolve in the future, the human touch will be omnipotent to offer more advanced forms of services while robots take care of basic customer care. Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced during his Google I/O 2016 keynote that 20 per cent of mobile queries are voice searches and the ratio of voice search is growing faster than type search.
Seamless digital strategy
Digital will no more be a division under marketing; it will run across the organisation. All consumer touchpoints will need to deliver the same brand experience; it is no more only marketing’s role.
Social media marketing
Connecting with the consumers over social media has become a basic necessity for brands and businesses. Millennials are changing the digital advertising world; with incredible purchasing power and specific interests, this generation is much more likely to communicate their ideas and feelings over social media platforms.
Research shows that the impact of traditional advertising had dropped. When trying to figure out whether something is worth buying, millennials will go to their friends and social networks to see what people think. This can be used as an opportunity for your next targeted campaign for them.
Using storytelling is key for enhanced customer experience. Most marketers understand that online videos have the full potential to help improve their reach and engagement with customers. And as a result, increasing their investment in the digital video space.
According to Cisco, video will account for 69 per cent of all consumer traffic. Video, as many believe, is the future of content marketing. This is the quickest way of satisfying one’s information/entertainment needs. Youtube receives 1 billion unique visitors every month, this is more than any other channel besides Facebook. One can now upload videos longer that 15 minutes on Youtube.
With the introduction of Facebook Live and Instagram videos, live video marketing is fast becoming popular among brands too. This gives customers and fans/followers real-time access to brands and companies, creating more transparency and authentic engagement.
E-commerce will help gather more information about the consumer. The National Retail Federation predicts that online retail will grow from eight to 12 per cent, compared to brick-and-mortar retail, which is expected to grow at just 2.8 per cent. Stores and brands will increasingly collect customer data in 2020. Detailed profiles based on purchases in the past important lessons about consumer behaviour from IoT will help equip brands better.
Augmented reality and virtual reality
AR and VR are enhancing and transforming the shopping experience as we know it. A recent demonstration of AR technology by startup Magic Leap showed how a user could superimpose virtual models of lamps and other room décor atop a real-world dresser, with the digital objects shown to scale, to help the user determine how those items might look within the space. They can explore the brick-and-mortar store from the comfort of their couches. It’s not far from when AR and VR will reach your living room and be on your handheld devices.
Drones will make delivery easier and even returning packages will be much easier in the future than it is now.
IBM’s Watson is already analysing ‘unstructured’ data, including social media posts, videos and images, which are among the largest and fastest-growing forms of consumer communication. This offers marketers a closer look at the consumer mindset, including how and when consumers want to engage with brands. Accenture research on the impact of AI in 12 developed economies reveals that AI could double annual economic growth rates in 2035 by increasing labour productivity by up to 40 per cent and enable people to make more efficient use of their time.
Big Data is said to dominate marketing in a few years and we have access to tools that are helping us to move beyond big data, to aggregate and process data at a faster pace, in real time, across a broader set of touchpoints.
In order to understand the customer journey – which is inherently seamless – you need to be able to see trends and the cause and effect across data sets. This means you need to bring all your data together in one platform, and link up fields where they are similar – such as ‘campaign name’ or ‘country’. For a true view of your customers, budgets and campaigns, you need to harmonise your data.
Thus, the fact is the CMO role is no more about marketing. It’s more about delivering the brand experience to consumers. Long live the consumer. Welcome the new CXO.
The views expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent those of Gulf Marketing Review. The article appeared in the Sep 2017 issue of GMR.