Mumbrella360 Asia session preview – a view from Accenture Interactive on the ‘connected customer experience’

Ahead of her keynote session at the Mumbrella360 Asia conference in Singapore this November (5-7), Accenture Interactive Operations global president Nikki Mendonça says CEOs are expecting more from their CMOs – and so, this calls for pioneering marketers with an unrelenting focus on the 'connected customer experience'

In the pre-digital heyday of Madison Avenue, marketing was accepted as something of a ‘dark art’. A wide degree of autonomy was given to ‘spray and pray’ tactics, often with impact being felt — not measured. These days, however, marketing has largely become a trackable science. It’s not to say that it has lost its creative edge, but that ingenuity is now being directed toward sustaining business growth. 

Only in recent years has a mandate of business growth been directed toward marketing. For example, nearly a third (31%) of the CEOs we recently surveyed had strong expectations for CMOs to identify new sources of growth this year (up from 25% in 2016). And with marketing commanding a significant portion of the business budget — roughly 12% on average, according to Gartner — there is an even greater demand on CMOs to demonstrate positive returns.

Here are three areas that need focus and attention.

Own the experience

Marketing has a unique opportunity to power growth by activating holistic experiences that attract, retain and endear current and future customers. With the customer experience being a proven driver of competitive advantage, CMOs fill a key role in the end-to-end experience and control many of the digital levers contributing to growth. The customer experience is both the marketer’s biggest opportunity and challenge. 

The opportunity: CMOs doing it right stand to gain 11% higher shareholder returns than those of their industry peers. 

The challenge: The ability to deliver a cohesive customer experience remains elusive, with only 17% of CMOs knowing how to do so today. 

Talent, the pace of innovation, technology and capabilities make it a challenge for a company to run themselves or to operate experiences with the speed, scale and agility needed to grow their business. It calls for effective internal teaming and the right operating model to drive at scale.

Be customer-led

There’s no such thing as a ‘one size fits all’ approach, but one key fundamental is having an organisational structure that centres around the customer experience lifecycle, ensuring critical journey moments are linked. Today, only 25% of marketers focus on the holistic customer experience, according to Forrester, meaning there’s more work to be done on this front.

This also pertains to budget. It’s essential to align marketing budgets around paid, earned and owned marketing activity so all customer touchpoints are seamless, coordinated and visible to all parties. Siloed channel strategies, in which marketing activities happen in a vacuum – without regard for impact on other aspects of the business – is one of the biggest barriers to experience activation. It also leads to wasted budget.

Additionally, the CMOs will need the authority and support required to drive the customer-first mentality across the entire company. As a result, some companies, such as Hershey and Coca-Cola, have chosen to rebrand the role altogether to reflect the broader growth remit with titles such as chief growth officer and chief experience officer. The idea being a better connection of all customer touchpoints—not just those within the immediate purview of marketing.

Keep technology at the core

Accenture found that more than 90% of organisations believe that data can lead to ‘groundbreaking’ customer insights and can inform real-time, hyper-personalised interactions. Getting there requires that the marketing function employs data as its life-blood and has a marketing technology stack that is fit-for-purpose.

A data-centric marketing function strives for real-time insights and a single view of the customer. That means data must be captured, curated, centralised, enriched and deployed across first-party sources —namely all digital (email, website) and physical (store) touchpoints — to ensure baseline customer intelligence.

Connected data also makes it easier for marketers to create more commercially driven target segments; for example, cohorts that directly link to growth objectives. Companies that can get ahead of the influx of data and use it to their advantage will be poised for success.

With a data strategy in place, the marketing function should focus on a balanced approach to technology. The two most common traps are: too strong an attachment to legacy investments and unrealistic expectations for technology as a ‘cure-all’. Regularly evaluate the company’s marketing technology stack to ensure it is fit-for-purpose and there is connectivity across the front office (marketing, sales and support) and customer-relevant platforms (CRM, commerce, inventory and order management).

Be willing to acknowledge sunk costs and retire any outdated technology that fails to meet business objectives. Also, recognise that the biggest opportunity for technology’s impact lies in coupling it with the appropriate operating models, business process transformation and change management to achieve end-to-end executional excellence.

Unlocking the growth that CEOs demand today is a heady challenge for even the savviest CMOs. With a breadth of opportunities to choose from, it’s all too easy to get distracted by shiny objects and fads hyped up to look like silver bullets. A more effective approach is through focused execution of the proven basics of experience activation.

With a focus on experience activation, CMOs can be an organisational superpower, charting critical initiatives to bring end-to-end customer experiences to life. Brands and organisations that get serious about growth, and are willing to embark on the exciting but demanding journey of execution, will be positioned for sizeable gains in customer engagement and healthy spikes in the top and bottom lines.

Nikki Mendonça is Accenture Interactive Operations global president, based in New York – and will deliver a global keynote address on ‘connected customer experience’ at the Mumbrella360 Asia conference in Singapore on November 5-7 – buy your tickets here 


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