Why the chief information officer is becoming the marketer's best friend

By Surjit Chana

February 25, 2013 | 6 min read

More and more, chief marketing officers are spending their working days looking at big data analytics. After all, the marketer’s job is to know the customer - and knowing the customer in today’s digital era means understanding and applying analytics.

Surjit Chana

Analytics now provides the platform for marketers to make sense of the avalanche of digital cues consumers are sharing about themselves, each 'Tweet', each 'Like', each mobile purchase. In a world defined by digital actions, analytics turns data into insights.

Yet, analytics have previously been regarded as some secret science understood only by technologists. This is quickly changing as Chief Information Officers and Chief Marketing Officers are increasingly working together to put technology in the hands of the C-suite executive who knows best how to manage the brand and connect with clients and consumers – the CMO.

Marketing has always been based on a few core principles: understanding customers, meeting their needs, and doing so in a way that builds trust. In the age of the digitally empowered customer, marketers still face the same questions of how to accomplish these goals. They are simply answering them through the use of analytics.

And because so many new insights that can be gleaned from analytics, the CMO's role is evolving and a closer relationship being established with CIOs. CMOs are now being held accountable for business results tied to technology investments, and for driving long-term growth beyond near-term marketing campaigns. As more marketing campaigns embrace social, digital and mobile channels, interaction with technology is far greater than ever before, meaning that the CMO and CIO can no longer afford to act in isolation.

Marketers are also becoming involved in everything from product design and supply chain through to client experience. The marketer’s job is no longer "just marketing". It is understanding customers and ensuring that their experience – including what kinds of products and services offered, how they are promoted, where and when they are available – all meet consumers’ expectations in line with the brand experience.

Analytics helps marketers meet their new responsibilities in a variety of ways:

Create systems of engagement to shape and predict desire

Now that marketers can engage customers on an individual level, they need to become ever more sophisticated about what to offer and how to serve them best. By tailoring content, promotions and new experiences to customers, marketing becomes more of a welcomed service. Analytics helps on a massive scale personalising and automating communications to each customer depending on their tastes, habits and desires.

For instance, Carrefour, the second-largest retailer in the world, created a sophisticated coupon and promotion system that uses a customer purchase history to craft exactly the right offer at the right time for that customer. To encourage an in-store shopper who buys organic food to try out some organic beauty products, the system can use the shopper’s history to determine whether they respond more to coupons for current or future use, or alternatively, customer loyalty points.

Harness data to paint a predictive picture of each customer

Companies used to develop products, run stores, and market based on broad demographics. Now, businesses can use the insights gleaned from customers across millions of different interactions to paint a picture of each customer as an individual and determine the mix of offerings to create, sell and promote. Analytics helps businesses pull together and make sense of information from social networks, store transactions, mobile apps, suppliers and call centers to generate the right ideas about whom to serve and how best to serve them. By making the most of this data, marketers can help reshape almost every strategic operation within their organization.

Consider the supply chain. A shoe retailer, for instance, could load a ship full of products based on spreadsheets of forecasted demand. But, by plugging real-time data about how different styles are selling in various areas -- and what people are saying online as the new lines of shoes hit the shelves -- the retailer can begin allocating which items go to which stores in what regions and decide whether to manufacture more, essentially creating a virtual warehouse.

Ensure company culture is in synch with brand promise

Customers know more about companies and track them more closely than ever before. This is why marketers have a new corporate responsibility. In the past, the strength of a brand was based on product image and reputation. Now, it is embedded in the culture of the company itself. Nothing escapes notice and comment, whether it is sustainability policy or employee comment online.

Helping build an internal culture that is in synch with the brand is now part of a marketer’s portfolio; and analytics is one of the key tools that will help them do that. Through analytics, marketers can listen to and make sense of what customers are saying about the company on a massive scale to intelligently engage with consumers. Analytics also helps companies monitor their own internal behavior as well as that of partners and compare it to customer expectations.

Evidently, digitally empowered consumers are expecting ever more out of companies. To make sure a company’s operations can deliver, CMOs need to work ever closer with CIOs and be able to seamlessly blend the art of marketing and the science of technology.

Surjit Chana is CMO at IBM Europe


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +