Report: CMOs and CIOs should make a tandem leap into the hybrid future

Marketing and IT should align and collaborate for profit from a mix of physical and ecommerce, says Forrester's latest report

CMOs and chief technology officers must focus on hybrid customer experiences – physical and digital – to deliver growth, according to the latest report from Forrester Research. And the way to achieve this is to align their teams and collaborate on a united marketing and tech strategy. 

The CMO and CIO Partnership in Digital Transformation released this month acknowledged new digital marketing platforms have driven momentum pulling the CMO and CIO together. Digital acceleration during the pandemic has now made such alignment urgent.  

The relationship between the two roles has strengthened: In 2021, one third of B2C marketers told Forrester that CMOs and CIOs are strategic partners. Today, marketing’s value to the business, according to IT, has  increased because the number of marketers who think their team’s requests are low priority for IT about halved to 12 per cent. 

Relationship glitches

However Forrester's report also found that, in many cases, the two departments’ efforts on digital transformation highlighted or even “exacerbated” common misalignments between marketing and technology. Most of the 50-plus marketing and technology leaders responding to this point said cultural and communications gaps on both sides made it difficult for them to collaborate effectively. 

Many even described the relationships as painful, and less than one quarter considered their CMO-CIO relationship effective. CMOs’ shorter tenures and credibility are often on the line with some IT departments. And according to digital consultancy, Infosys, there’s a perception among half of IT executives that the CMO title will disappear in future.

However, Forrester found the CMO-CIO relationship paying business dividends when they buddy up to see, understand and service customers - the highest priority for any business.  

Rather than focusing on digital customer interfaces, Forrester advised tight marketing and IT collaboration should focus on a better end-to-end customer journey and therefore improving the bottom-line. It cited a former Infosys report that found 44 per cent of all top-tier companies expect CMO-CIO collaboration will boost profits by 5 per cent. 

Yet marketing and IT are nowhere near equally responsible for digital transformation today. Forrester surveyed 2655 digital transformation services decision makers in 2020 and found 47 per cent of digital change strategy managed by CIOs compared with only 23 per cent managed by CMOs. The same survey found execution was 40 per cent handled by tech leaders and 18 per cent by a leader from marketing. 

The report pointed to several reasons and ways to partner up. One is to get together over hybrid commerce experiences that drive growth as the line between digital and physical blurs with increasing combinations such as digital order and physical pick-up. 

“Hybrid commerce is the perfect way to ignite CMO/CIO collaboration,” the report stated. “It requires CMOs and CIOs to think more holistically about the end-to-end journey and to understand the impact of operations and back-end processes on the customer experience.” 

Read more: CMOs and CIOs invest in IT

For Forrester, closing the gap between CMOs and CIOs is a trend that will continue as it follows waves of consumers moving to digital shopping. But the two also need to unite on hybrid CX because bricks-and-mortar retail is here to stay. Companies that were digitally advanced ahead of the pandemic reaped benefits but, with a hybrid approach, they also do well out of physical stores. 

For example, Nike’s online B2C sales jumped by more than 50 per cent in the last quarter of 2021, bringing ecommerce up to more than one-fifth of total direct-to-consumer revenue. In response, the company is shifting to more sales through Nike Direct, led by enhanced data and analytics to optimise stock, boost full-price sales and lower digital fulfilment costs. 

Forrester’s report also advised martech to be re-thought to stay ahead of data depreciation as digital marketing transitions away from opaque consumer data collection and toward a choice-driven, transparent and more privacy-friendly future. Another reason is that the increasing value of customer insights will force marketers to bring data back in-house. It’s for good reason that one third of marketing organisations already have a dedicated tech team. 

Read more: CIOs and CMOs in pole position to lead business transformation

Another function to converge on is operations. Forrester suggested companies committing to environmental, social and governance (ESG) values and issues as part of the next transformation of business will pull marketing and tech leaders together as a team. For these organisations, both operations and marketing would rely on technology for management and transparency of marketing supply chain and logistics, for tracing and reducing carbon and other footprints, and supporting sustainable innovation. 

Shared agenda

Among the four ways Forrester suggested CMOs work with CIOs to drive transformation and commerce is through a shared agenda that pushes investment in technology that creates great outcomes for customers. This may require reconfiguration of the business, including the back-end, from the customer’s perspective.

In short, Forrester advised CMOs to help their CIO see the business reasons for marketing’s obsession with customers and to be agile in responding to them. To do this, CMOs and CIOs must share some goals and KPIs, especially regarding customer experience and lifetime value. Empathy is also required because CIOs are managing technology so that it works for the entire company, not just IT and marketing, Forrester said.  

Finally, Forrester suggested a joint marketing and technology governance model to accelerate decision making, budgeting and time to market.

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