Economist: Why it's time to re-think marketing in a customer-led economy

It's time to shake up the traditional marketing funnel in order to leverage technology and data insights

The Economist's Charles Ross reveals why marketers need to leverage technology to listen and respond to customers
The Economist's Charles Ross reveals why marketers need to leverage technology to listen and respond to customers

Customer experience runs through so many different touchpoints, it’s time marketers take charge of the breadth of view of the organisation and break up silos that might exist, according to senior editor of Asia-Pacific’s Intelligence Unit at the Economist, Charles Ross.

Speaking at Marketo’s Marketing Nation Roadshow 2015 in Sydney, Ross said it's not the CFO that should be taking care of the analytics, or the CEO taking care of the customer experience alone, it should be marketers.

“Marketers are in a better position to look after the whole customer experience, because they have the knowledge of the customer and the products and services,” he said. “It is up to the marketers to hold all of this together because you are in a central position to make the most of all of this information and data.”

In a recent report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Marketo, three quarters of respondents agreed the structure and design of their marketing organisation will need to change over the next three to five years.

The survey, conducted with 660 senior marketers and CMOs around the world, including 92 from Australia and New Zealand, revealed the significant shift towards driving customer experience and engagement.

“Technology has also created major shifts in the traditional marketing funnel, because the interactions customers have with the company are all scattered throughout the business,” Ross said. “Customers can find out everything about your products and services, they can price match, they can think carefully before feeding into that marketing funnel and sales channel.”

The report found increased engagement with customers will increasingly come from the use of data. While 42 per cent of A/NZ respondents said they weren’t using data to gain customer insights, less than a quarter expect that to be the case in the next few years.

“It really is a consumer-led economy,” Ross said. “Customers have the power to make the purchasing decisions, on their own time, in their own way, using mobile devices. They can research, talk to their friends, get product reviews, they can do all of this, on their own terms. So it is important to listen and respond.”

However, customers don’t have it all their own way, Ross said. What comes with a customer-led economy, the use of mobile devices and the way consumers use their products and services, provides data.

“This data can be captured and analysed to create actionable insights and can really drive strategy,” Ross said. “That’s where the real value is going to be and that’s where it’s going to be really exciting going forward."

The Economist’s worldwide survey also showed the extent to which technology is being used to engage customers in an ongoing conversation that builds advocacy and trust around a brand. Two-thirds of A/NZ marketers said they already use technology in this way, compared to 58 per cent in the rest of the world, with a further 18 per cent expecting to over the next three to five years.

“Technology has created so many valuable touchpoints that businesses can have with their customer and yet so many companies miss out on these opportunities,” Ross commented. “It’s really powerful the way customers with social media and word-of-mouth can now quickly amplify that missed opportunity, so it is important companies really do not miss out.

“Marketing spend is $1 trillion globally and a lot of that is spend on technology. But it’s not that surprising because as marketers you are investing in your future.”

CEOs don’t mind spending big on marketers, as long as you are accountable, Ross said, and recognise that the investment really works.

“They know it can really drive a company, because it has been shown companies with advanced revenue and marketing capabilities are 30 per cent greater than average,” he said.

CEOs also recognise investing in marketing is a key foundation for growth, Ross claimed, as you get a greater return on your investment than traditional investment in capital or factory equipment.

“A lot of the research points to the fat that investing in marketing, if you get it right, can provide real value and real growth,” he said.

But A/NZ marketers perhaps need to up their game on accountability, Ross said. “Only 17 per cent of local respondents said revenue impact was a primary marketing metric, compared to 27 per cent in the rest of the world,” he said. “A/NZ marketers will only increase their impact on a company’s approach if they accept revenue responsibility.”

Ross claimed many companies still don’t know how to restructure their organisation to really leverage their customer data insights.

“Like all new technologies, the challenge is finding how to best leverage it to gain better information and use it to better the company,” he said. “It’s not that straightforward.”

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