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If you’re a CMO, you know better than anyone how your role has transformed over the past few years. CMOs are no longer an advertising cost center, isolated within their organizations with accountability for secondary digital projects.

Today, they are full-blown digital players, charged with profit and loss and caring for the entire customer lifecycle. If your company has a digital customer-facing project underway, it’s a sure bet that the buck stops with the CMO.

As customers increasingly interact with brands via digital touchpoints, new-age digital CMOs must focus on creating unforgettable digital experiences. Smart CMOs realize that the digital customer experience is both an urgent priority and a key factor in driving revenue.

If great digital experiences are so important, however, why aren’t more CMOs successful at delivering them? A recent survey by Forrester Consulting reveals a shocking reality: More than 60 percent of digital experience projects fail. Let me repeat that: The majority of digital experience projects — the very same projects CMOs are banking on to succeed -- “sometimes” or “often” fail.

Why is this happening? And more importantly, how can CMOs avoid the career-limiting result of project failure?

There are three primary reasons why a CMO’s digital project may fail to deliver the results they were hoping to achieve:

  1. The CMO believes that his/her organization’s existing legacy technology will be sufficient to power today’s and tomorrow’s digital experience projects
  2. The CMO isn’t putting the customer first, or doesn’t fully understand the Age of the Customer in which all businesses now operate
  3. The CMO, or other key stakeholders in an organization, lack the necessary “digital maturity” to deliver successful digital projects

Legacy Technology

Most companies large enough to have a CMO already use digital commerce and back-office enterprise technology. What Forrester found when it surveyed 102 executives across industries is that the greatest threat to successfully launching digital projects is relying on outdated technology and “hard wiring” old technology platforms to new customer-facing digital experiences.

Fifty-seven percent of respondents told Forrester Consulting that they currently drive their digital experiences by wiring them directly to legacy business platforms (of course, these are the same executives who said 60 percent of their digital projects fail). This pattern of direct integration does not bode well for digital delivery that is practical and cost-effective because:

  • Hardwiring digital touchpoints is not scalable. New touchpoints emerge quickly as new technology comes to market, such as the case of the Apple Watch. As a result, the traditional approach of integrating each digital project separately to multiple backend platforms is unsustainable.
  • It’s risky and expensive. Great digital experiences come from connecting multiple systems, such as CRM, CMS, analytics and e-commerce. Integrating each system into your digital project requires special technology skill. Nearly half of survey respondents felt that the lack of skilled resources hindered their ability to deliver a project. Making things worse, most of the coveted resources are locked up in the IT department -- 80 percent of companies need the direct involvement of IT to create digital projects.

Decoupling and abstracting enterprise systems with unified APIs -- a way to project resources drawn from multiple platforms -- makes it easier for CMOs to succeed at digital project delivery.

CMOs must recognize that great digital experiences need secure, easy and reliable access to enterprise functionality, and that existing integration approaches are unsuitable for today’s rapid pace of change.

Age of the Customer

As digital consumer technologies have advanced, how consumers buy has undergone a radical shift. Digital-empowered customers often know more about products, services, pricing and reputation than the actual brands do. This has tipped the balance of power in favor of consumers, ushering in what Forrester calls the Age of the Customer.

Whereas brands and corporations once controlled the flow of information about products and services, consumers are now in charge of all interactions throughout the customer lifecycle.

CMOs must understand the Age of the Customer, and in particular have a strong grasp for how mobile projects can influence buyer behavior. This is especially true for retailer CMOs. By 2018, Forrester estimates that digital technology will influence in some way almost 60 percent of all physical store retail transactions, worth $1.8 trillion.

What’s Your Digital Maturity?

The third and final reason why a CMO’s digital project may fail is due to “digital maturity.” This could be the digital maturity of the CMO, other stakeholders that the CMO must engage with, or of the organization.

What’s digital maturity? It’s defined as the ability of your company to deliver effective, consistent transactional experiences to customers across digital touchpoints.

Simply put, you have a high degree of digital maturity if you have business proficiency in the key areas that constrain your overall ability to achieve excellence in digital experience projects, namely:

  • Organization: Are the skills, operations, metrics and accountabilities related to digital experience and digital commerce outsourced, isolated in specific business groups, or shared across your entire organization?
  • Strategy: Is the quality of digital commerce, and the digital experiences that comprise it, a divisional responsibility or an obsession of your entire company? How concerned are C-suite executives with digital strategy and for how long has this been the case?
  • Interaction: Does your company interact with customers through one voice, giving them a unified experience regardless of channel or touchpoint? Does it listen with one set of ears to continually update a single, shared and reliable profile of customers that is available to your entire organization?
  • Technology: How close is your company’s technology infrastructure to current state-of-the-art enterprise software? Do business units rely on homegrown applications and aging architecture, or do they have access to the latest commercial platforms and integration capabilities?

For example, a business may be great at strategy and operations, but have poor technology, and any digital experiences that it delivers are unlikely to be optimal relative to the current ideal.

By observing the three strategies above -- 1. use a modern platform for innovation that leverages a unified API strategy; 2. put the customer at the center of the digital experience; and 3. ensure you have a high degree to digital maturity -- CMOs can ensure their digital projects don’t fall by the wayside.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic LicenseTitle image by  TheeErin