CMOs talk digital delivery part 1: The Co-op's Greg Smith

In this new series looking into what three marketing and digital chiefs think about key trends influencing the marketing space, we ask: Should CMOs own digital strategy and delivery?

If a host of recent reports can be believed, the era of the chief digital officer is upon us. According to a new survey undertaken by CA Technologies, the CDO is set to invade Australian organisations, with 45 per cent claiming to have someone in the role already. In addition, 14 per cent of the c-level executives surveyed expecting someone to be appointed to the role in the next few years.

So is CDO a hot new title and a must for organisations, or is the concept of a chief digital officer something CMOs should actually be taking on themselves?

In the first of CMO’s new series looking into what three marketing and digital chiefs think about a key topic or trend influencing their business performance, we ask Greg Smith, the CMO of Australian book retailer, The Co-op to comment on the following question :

Q: Should CMOs own digital strategy and delivery?

Greg Smith, CMO
The Co-op:

Yes, CMOs should own digital strategy. CMOs must have insights into IT, digital and the customer, and if we are going to implement and use smart decision making, then we need to have smart data, smart systems and smart teams.

What we have recently done at The Co-op is merged IT, digital and marketing into an integrated ‘customer innovations team’ (CIT). We want to innovate the customer’s experience, and by creating an overarching CIT brand, we can bring together these existing functions as a holistic team focused entirely on the internal and external customer.

The CMO role sits across the top of CIT and has three direct reports for each function – head of digital, head of marketing services, and head of CRM. We have never had a CIO, but what we have done is brought in a head of platforms to look after the IT team and our ERP, Web and new Magento ecommerce platform layers. This role reports into the head of digital, who oversees front-end development, social, SEO, revenue generation and positioning our products as well as the quality of our website. All of these depend on the interplay between platforms.

The head of CRM then works alongside our digital chief to drive customer decision engines. The success of our omni-channel business comes down to making intelligence choices that improve the user experience. Since making this change, we have seen conversation rates of nearly 7 per cent. My other direct report is head of marketing support, who looks after local area marketing, overarching campaign alignment, and messaging.

The CIT team is pivotal in driving automation and our customer services strategy. Ultimately it’s about making it easy for customers to complete a sale, whether it’s in-store, on a tablet or on their desktop.

Each of these areas – digital, marketing, CRM – has specific skill sets. Digital for example has a good understanding of social works, how you build the online experience to get people to buy more often, and search. CRM encompasses 16 analytics professionals daily delivering intelligence on social, transaction and Web data.

The CMO role needs both digital and IT reports because they need to cover all functions underneath. Every business is different, but this is what fits at this stage of our evolution. The buying paradigm has changed, and we have to be adept at how we affect that customer journey.

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