The dawn of a new year often marks a spate of leadership changes within many companies and 2012 is no exception. This includes new marketing leaders that have popped up at Facebook (former Levi's CMO Rebecca Van Dyck), Kenneth Cole (former Anthropologie marketing chief Amy Choyne), Macy's (Martine Reardon has been promoted), and Gilt Groupe (Elizabeth Francis jumps from Intelligent Beauty). And while there are multiple factors that can drive changes in leadership changes (e.g. newly-appointed CEO brings in their own team; CXOs in search of new opportunities), it's safe to say that today's CMO has never faced a more challenging time.For starters, the digital landscape is having a dramatic affect on customer behavior. As consumer have become more empowered through their use of social networks and mobile devices, they're basing more and more of their purchasing decisions upon word of mouth recommendations made by family, friends, and even strangers. Customers are also doing a lot more product research on their own. According to a recent IBM CMO study which included responses from more than 1,000 salespeople, two-thirds of the respondents agree that consumers no longer rely on salespeople before they make a product purchase.
Given the amount of time consumers spend online and in social channels conducting product research, marketing leaders need to figure out ways to make it easier for consumers to find accurate information about their products--including pricing, styles/colors, availability, exchange policies, etc. Companies that make this kind of information transparent to customers also stand to gain financially. According to a separate study conducted by Accenture, comScore, and dunnhumbyUSA, people who visit the websites of consumer packaged goods companies end up purchasing 37 percent more worth of goods from the brand involved in physical retail stores than people who don't visit such websites.
Meanwhile, our own research underscores some of the additional the challenges being faced by CMOs across the digital landscape. In the current issue of Customer Strategist, we published the results of the 2011 Social Strategies survey conducted by Peppers & Rogers Group and Temkin Group. Among other findings, the study reveals that social strategies within many companies are relatively immature and that social media work is often done in isolation, "making it difficult to determine how it's impacting key business metrics," says Temkin Group managing partner Bruce Temkin. As such, if social media efforts aren't integrated with marketing strategies -or sales and customer support, for that matter--then the business impact of social will be extremely difficult to measure.
Taken together, marketing leaders are struggling to find effective ways to engage and attract increasingly discriminating customers--customers that are using a multitude of channels to interact with the companies they choose to do business with. On top of this, CMOs are also trying to make the connection between customer experience in these channels and business performance.
Whether you're a freshly-appointed marketing leader or not, those CMOs that make the effort to analyze this vast pool of unstructured (social and contact center) and structured (traditional feedback) customer data that's available can gain deeper insight into customer needs and preferences and then take the next best action to fulfill those requirements. Simply stated, CMOs that fail to keep pace with their competitors and use available customer data to identify and then meet customer needs and preferences will quickly become expendable.