Digital Transformation challenges for CMOs

Mark Cameron

Mark is a world renowned thought leader in digital innovation, customer experience, social media strategy and service design. He is the digital strategy and customer experience columnist for BRW and has had well over 400 articles published in industry publications. Mark is also a regular speaker on customer experience, social media and digital strategy. Currently he is CEO of Melbourne-based customer experience innovation consultancy, Working Three.

New problems are rarely fixed by applying old thinking. In the last decade, a combination of circumstances has evolved that requires new thinking from marketers. This new thinking takes advantage of the digital environment and transforms business as we know it.

Three key factors are at play in this shift. The first is economic. We have lived through the biggest economic crisis of modern times and it has forced businesses to fundamentally re-evaluate the value they provide to their customers and how this links to shareholder value creation.

Second on the list is social. We have a rapidly expanding population that is putting a premium on unique experiences relative to mass produced goods. Thirdly, change is technological; technologies are evolving and maturing more rapidly across all industries than at any other time in history.

Many organisations are about to, or have started to, embark on a journey of digital transformation specifically to respond to these external pressures, meet their customer expectations and reduce costs. Many of the CEOs and CMOs we work with, from government organisations to private companies, are realising the potential gains digital transformation can bring to their organisation — and the potential threats if they do nothing.

Our experience working with companies, business leaders and marketing departments, who are focused on digital transformation, has revealed the four key challenges that need to be addressed to drive business transformation through digital means. These are outlined below.

1 – Do you understand your customer?

The expectations of the market have changed forever thanks to companies like Amazon, Uber, Airbnb and Google. The average consumer now expects brands to be able to understand their unique wants and needs and create a tailored experience to suit. Most business leaders understand this principle but often find themselves caught in a discussion about how technology can deliver this, instead of what their strategic approach to customers will be.

Customer focused digital transformation essentially involves understanding customers and where their expectations are heading — rather than a conversation about technology. If a business doesn’t bring this lens to a digital transformation programme and develop a strong internal narrative about the customer, then projects will inevitably become internally focused.

In my experience, the best marketing leaders ensure the success of a digital transformation project by encouraging their company to develop empathy with their customers - using research, journey mapping and data analysis.

2 – Is your business ready to be ‘always-on’?

Becoming a digitally driven business has many advantages but it also creates a new set of challenges. CMO’s need to think about new, possibly unconventional team structures, and acquiring resources with skill sets that have not yet been completely defined. But, one of the greatest challenges of undertaking a digital transformation project can be the reality of becoming an “always-on” business.

In many ways this ties in closely with altered customer expectations. As an organisation or brand becomes increasingly digital its customers will expect to be able to interact with that brand in any way they want, at any time they want. Many digital transformation projects have gone off track as the reality of delivering a service 24/7 becomes apparent.

It is critical that early on in the process, business leaders facilitate the discussion about what meeting customer’s service expectations really means — ideally before project teams form and work begins.

3 – Is your business model keeping pace?

Implementing new technologies does not equate to a digital strategy. Some organisations get confused about technology implementation and fail to define a clear and simple focus for digital transformation. Today’s environment is seeing business models evolve at an incredible pace. Businesses that are leveraging technology to address unmet customer needs are redesigning whole markets and disrupting the status quo.

When embarking on a journey of digital transformation, It is critical that business leaders keep the business model conversation very separate from the technology one. The two may be interlinked but the model needs to be anchored in a discussion about business strategy and competitive advantage. Technology is an enabler but alone it cannot transform the way you do business, or the way you connect with your customers.

Businesses that recognise where the market is heading, understand the opportunities that it presents and move quickly with sound strategic thinking, stand to profit most from digital transformation.

4 – Where does your ‘data dialogue’ focus?

Almost every company is now awash with data. When used properly it has the power to provide insights and actions that can transform businesses. The biggest issue is no longer about getting access to data, but knowing where to focus.

The best businesses develop a conversation about data that is focused on delivering a service to customers. Yes, it is possible to analyse all the data available and use it to create better segmentation and targeting. But that can be a costly and difficult place to start. The best approach is to ask “how do we find and use the few data points that will provide value to our customers?”.

Digital transformation is, by definition, the use of digital tools and techniques to transform business. That requires new thinking and working in new ways. The biggest digital transformation challenges are not about technology at all. For marketing leaders with their eye to the future, the biggest challenges are around leadership and communication.

Tags: digital strategy

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