​Predictions 2016: 7 trends set to drive the CMO role

We’ve spoken to marketing leaders, analysts and industry commentators about the key ingredients needed in marketing strategies in 2016

The role of CMO has been through significant change over the past two years and 2016 is shaping up to be no less transformative, according to industry experts. And if marketing leaders play their cards right, and get their customer and executive connections ducks in order, it should be an even bigger year for them in terms of corporate influence.

We’ve spoken to a raft of marketing leaders, analysts and industry commentators about the strategic focus required by marketing leaders in 2016. Here, we highlight 7 key trends predicted to drive the role of CMO in the New Year.

1. Customer-obsessed growth

The next 12 months will see the CMO and CIO working more closely together as predictions point to a widening in the customer obsession gap, according to Forrester.

In the analyst firm’s 2016 marketing predictions report, it claimed CIOs, CMOs and customer experience leaders will rally to achieve customer-obsessed growth by adopting human-centred design and data analytics to deliver exceptional experiences.

In addition, leaders will shift toward a customer-obsessed operating model, while laggards will aimlessly push forward with flawed digital priorities and disjointed operations.

2. Managing brand through collaboration

Forrester’s report suggests the number of companies that recognised brand management is all about managing customer experiences remained few in 2015. But smart CMOs are expected to change all that in 2016. The analyst firm predicts successful CMOs will be reshaping their teams, delivering connected brand experiences, and leading the race to true personalisation - with the best CMOs tapped to become CEOs.

“2016 will be a pivotal year for companies adapting to digitally savvy and empowered customers,” Forrester Research vice-president, research director and region manager for Asia Pacific, Dane Anderson, says. “Strong leadership is essential and collaboration is necessary between CMOs, who must step up and lead customer experience efforts, and CIOs, who must accelerate the business technology agenda.”

CMO of print on-demand company Redbubble, Faith Sedlin, agrees, adding that the CMO, chief product officer and chief technology officer increasingly need to work hand-in-hand.

“What happens onsite and offsite blur,” she tells CMO. “Getting CMOs, CPOs and CTOs to understand and embrace this sensibility is crucial. At Redbubble, we’ve spent considerable energy segmenting and understanding customers. This will holistically improve the customer experiences ranging from which marketing channels and messages to focus on, to which products and services to offer and how to excel in the delivery of customer support.”

Forrester senior analyst service B2C marketing professionals, Clement Teo, claims the CMO will need to build what the analyst firm calls a ‘digital command centre’, with multi-disciplinary teams working under the same roof to share data.

“CMOs will then break those silos down and to serve the customer better on their journey,” he explains. “Part of the strength of the digital command centre is that it doesn’t have to be permanent, but the idea there is that you are turning your data into actionable insights. At the same time, you are sharing that data across organisations and not just across the marketing team, but across parts of the organisation that deal with innovation, so that they can act on the same data with the same purpose.”

3. Getting even more tech-savvy

Experts agree technical and analytical skills top the most highly needed specialisations for CMOs in the next 12 months.

“A marketing tech officer or specialist will be someone in high demand as CMOs realise the power of tech and how it can play a part in driving forward,” Teo says. “You’ll start to see how you can build those technical skills internally or recruit them within the organisation.”

For CMO and co-founder of discount hotel provider HotelQuickly, Christian Mischler, automation of marketing has made the CMO position a lot more technical. As a result, and to be successful as a CMO, having an analytical and technical background is becoming increasingly important.

“The CMO is an important member of the executive board and has to work closely with the CFO, CTO, and CEO,” he says. “For traditional CMOs, it’s indispensable to get on top of topics such as performance marketing, business intelligence, marketing automation, and be able to perform basic SQL queries.”

According to global director of marketing automation company Squiz, Robin Marchant, CMOs are investing more time and resources into technology, and will soon have larger budgets than CIOs, if they don’t have already.

“Last year, 64 per cent of marketers planned to increase their technology spend and I think this perfectly mirrors the expansive marketing technology landscape we saw in 2015,” he comments. “Investment in technology is reaching new heights every year, and it’s all due to the new ways in which marketing teams are adopting technologies like CRM, CMS, marketing automation, search and social measurement tools.

“While the technology is there to complement and support existing marketing efforts, we are seeing the rate at which technology is evolving is also pushing CMOs to think, plan and engage with customers in new ways.”

4. A mobile-first mentality

Mobile innovations will fuel opportunities for improved customer experiences and mobile services investments are expected to continue into 2016 as customers demand a more seamless mobile-first, and fully digital experience. The Forrester predictions report noted this is also evident in the mobile payments space as digital wallets gain traction across the region, with players like Alipay and WeChat in China, along with tech giants Samsung and Apple, fighting for a larger share of the consumer’s wallet and expanding their ecosystem of brick-and-mortar merchants.

In the face of this fresh mobile onslaught, Teo says CMOs need to have a mobile-first mindset in order to be nimbler and more agile moving forward.

Moving away from traditional channels to a more digital front, marketers need to think about how they start engaging across multi-channels more effectively,” he says. “Serving customers on a mobile device is a lot harder, so the question should be: ‘Do we have a mobile first mindset? And can we serve the customer at each touch point along the customer journey?’ Then CMOs need to consider whether the company’s interactions are consistent enough to move the customer along on that journey.”

5. Refocus on the ecommerce journey

The Forrester report also predicts CMOs will embrace ecommerce initiatives as core responsibilities next year. It forecasts marketing professionals will be pressured to deliver measurable business outcomes, driving the need to formalise the customers’ path from digital marketing engagement to purchase.

This is already apparent in China, the report revealed, where the link between social media and ecommerce is much stronger.

As a result, marketers in the retail space will need to embrace omni-channel strategies if they want to face the challenges of these new behaviours, according to senior vice-president of sales of retail technology and software solutions provider, CitiXsys, Paula Da Silva.

“Using omni-channel strategies enables the design of ultra-personalised and effective loyalty programs, as well as targeted promotions that will increase sales,” she says. “There will be a strong need for marketers in the retail industry to employ substantial omni-channel and cross-channel solutions in order to meet the demands of the modern consumer. As expectations evolve when it comes to delivery - for example, the increasingly popular ‘click and collect’ option, and access to brands’ products everywhere and anytime - customers will be demanding more and more of the brands they shop at, including in the physical stores.

“As the market becomes more educated, the technology to match those expectations will have to be deployed to drive successful, targeted marketing strategies.”

To facilitate this, Da Silva says a stronger CMO and CIO relationship will be more pertinent for the retail and ecommerce space, as CMOs need to work closely with the IT teams if they want to make the most of the omni-channel tools available on the market, and analytics tools in particular.

“Strengthening the relationship with the CIO will become a fundamental part of the digital transformation journey, especially when it comes to unpacking data and making savvier marketing decisions,” she adds. “In-store, marketing retailers will find there are a plethora of new, innovative products and digital solutions to enhance the in-store experience. Only by choosing the right platform that will enable brands to create a full and seamless omni-channel experience for their customers, whether it is on mobile online or in-store, will drive true digital transformation.”

6. A more personalised approach

Chief Asia-Pacific strategist at enterprise software MuleSoft, Sumit Sharma, forecasts personalisation as continuing to be a key priority for CMOs in 2016.

“The marketer’s nirvana is being able to market exactly to the target customer,” he says. “This requires the unification of the data around the customer, including social media, transaction activity, website clicks, downloads and more. We already are seeing this happen in the more consumer-centric and retail industries.”

Sharma advises CMOs to look to implement an API strategy to be able to connect the data from various systems and create a unified view of the customer.

“APIs allow links to be established between existing and new systems quickly and effectively, without the need for expensive changes to the underlying architecture,” he claims.

7. Increased social engagement

With communications more fragmented across social channels than ever before, CMOs are setting up communication and social engagement as key priorities in the coming year.

“It’s important to have a multi-channel communication strategy to be able to optimise conversion across the board and to not treat social networks, emails, SMS, calls, and other channels in an isolated manner,” Mischler says. “I’m looking forward to exploring the new avenues that will be opened in 2016, and to remaining at the forefront of digital marketing by delivering innovative multi-channel campaigns.”

CMO of cosmetic and beauty subscription service bellabox, Stephanie Michel, says her priorities for 2016 are adapting her customer acquisition strategy to new channels like social advertising by tapping into cross-device behaviours.

“It’s about building a consistent and unique experience for the customer across any touchpoint and implementing strong data ecosystem to measure customer experience across the board,” she says. “Automation will also remain key to leveraging our teams’ strength and focusing them on high added-value tasks.”

Michel says bellabox is now engaging with customers using a much more personal and peer-led approach.

“Now they [customers] are teaching us more than we are trying to educate them,” she says. “This was a strong approach we implemented in 2015 and we will push it even more in 2016.

“It's a complex and challenging topic but I think CMOs can help bringing consistency and common vision while working closely to every department to implement a seamless and consistent experience.”

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