With the shift to digital transforming businesses post-pandemic, Adobe’s Simon Dale explains how chief marketing officers will continue to retain their leadership role.

Following the effects of the pandemic, the role of the chief marketing officer has undergone a once-in-a-generation reset as the world adapted to new and rapidly changing circumstances. With this shift, businesses also struggled to understand and cater to new customers.

The 2021 Adobe Digital Trends report found that the most prominent shift for organisations was the sudden and wholesale transfer of business online, with a shift that pulled marketing into the boardroom at an unprecedented rate. This year, the 2022 Digital Trends report revealed that businesses have been forced to bridge operational silos across multiple business functions – including marketing – to understand how to run a digital business end to end.

Now, with digital-first businesses adopting decentralised customer engagement models, the question facing many CMOs is how can they consolidate and retain this leadership role?

Real-time data and digital transformation are key to CMO success

In a changing environment, the ability of marketing to monitor shifting situations and the resulting impact on customer behaviour is critical.

Investment in collating, understanding and acting on customer data will help CMOs shape engagement strategies. During the pandemic, it became evident that companies that made a strategic, sustained investment in technology to deliver, track and manage the customer experience flourished. In fact, to elevate their experience management solutions and customer data technology, 58% of organisations are prioritising and investing in a unified source of data and insights across different business functions, according to the 2022 Digital Trends report.

One such example in Southeast Asia is Siam Piwat, which launched ONESIAM SuperApp in late 2021 to connect global customers across multiple retail businesses via a centralised platform. The application brings together technological capabilities – including cloud, content management and personalisation – to provide the best physical and digital experiences for businesses, customers, partners and all other stakeholders.

Building the technological foundation to drive digital transformation and growth opportunities

Collaboration between CMOs and chief information officers (CIOs) is a particularly important partnership as it empowers CMOs with the technology to generate insights that help deliver the experience customers are seeking.

With streamlined processes and marketing workflows, lowered operating costs, and minimised code maintenance and data silos, companies with cloud-connected data management are at a distinct advantage. Yes, almost four in 10 marketing practitioners found that the barrier currently holding back customer experience in their organisation is “poor integration between tech systems”, according to 2022 Adobe Digital Trends.

A unified marketing strategy that integrates technology for better digital experiences will help to create growth opportunities. To differentiate the brand, uplift the marketing department’s business acumen and benefit from a competitive standpoint, CMOs must be ready to provide real-time personalisation at scale. This means using relevant data to tailor online content and experiences across various channels in a timely manner, which elevates brand trust and reputation in the current digital economy.

Balancing short-term activity with longer-term brand outcomes

Improving customer experiences is contingent on the organisation and the team that exists within. The 2022 Digital Trends report showed that workflow issues and the lack of digital skills and capabilities were just some factors that affected organisations across the board. To ensure that customer experience levels continue to soar, businesses need to reduce the friction in employee experience, remove internal barriers, automate workflows and upskill employees.

When organisations strategise for longer-term brand outcomes, a series of short-term activities helps to bolster these efforts. While there have been perennial tensions in marketing over the past few years as a result of the pandemic, a key learning is that brands that can quickly gain customer insights tend to be more successful.

In most cases, CMO success is built on data and understanding the digital-first customer – a position that many in the industry can and should build on in the times ahead. Successfully identifying and working with peers to develop new revenue opportunities, as well as securing the confidence, investment and technology needed to support the brand, will also be critical as we move into the new normal – and a new era for data-driven CMOs.