Over the past two years, there’s been an acceleration of the digital landscape in large part due to COVID-19. As a result, digital transformation has become front of mind for many businesses.
On a business on the transformation journey? Then it’s important to understand that the key to success is linking commercial impact to data.
This process includes connecting data across systems to generate a better user experience and then integrating that data to enable the business to measure and analyse effectiveness at scale. Done correctly, it provides visibility and allows data driven decision making at a velocity that generates business growth but also competitive advantages.
In this process many organisations explore technologies like AI/ML and robotics. However, buying AI/ ML capable martech platforms alone won’t cut it. Too often, very capable technologies are added to the existing mix of tools without business context. And, most importantly, without adopting the human element of shifting goals, skills, procedures, and processes.
If businesses want their marketing function to drive measurable business impacts in the future, then CMOs or CDOs and business functions must operate with a hybrid mix of marketing, technology and most importantly, data analysts. For businesses with a strong vision of being a customer centric-led organisation, cross functional and hybrid teams will be critical. They should be able to operate with speed and certainty in a competitive environment.
Determining readiness for future technologies like AI/ML and robotics.
Businesses often feel that if they don’t adopt digital technologies like AI/ML and robotics, they will miss out on the benefits and end up behind the competition. The reality, however, is that without proper preparation and knowledge of these technologies, businesses are unlikely to see any benefit at all.
The success of these technologies depends largely on the amount of customer data that a company has access to. In order for these technologies to have long-term benefit, businesses need to first collect massive amounts of data across multiple – if not all – channels, including data that explains behavioural impacts and changes, customer social profiling and decision-making.
Therefore, the first step for most businesses is looking at how they collect and store data, before they even think about entering the AI/ML and capital robotics space, and this is where customer relationship management (CRM) tools come in.
To get the best possible view of the customer, data sources need to be collated and linked to one single profile, through a CRM or data pool. Then, businesses need to look at how this data can be used to drive predictions and personalise customer experiences, and how it can be automated. Once data is flowing freely between channels and systems, between the organisation and customers, the business should have a strong view of what’s actually happening across the organisation and can prepare to adopt AI/ML and robotics.
Preparing for future technologies
However, while it’s critical to success, preparation is not just about CRM, data platforms and channel linkage. How an organisation implements change management is also important.
To make the shift, businesses need to have a diverse set of skillsets across the organisation. This means employing data analysts, digital specialists and strategists who should be considered an extension of the marketing team. The future of marketing will require these skillsets, alongside traditional forms of brand marketing and advertising, in order to predict customers’ behaviour, predict effectiveness and make sure that attribution to marketing activities is associated with financial outcomes.
It’s also important to have strong buy-in from the executive group, as it’s critical that the C suite have an understanding of what’s being done. Given strong data models are being utilised, as soon activity commences return on investment can be calculated which helps to drive the business case and articulate what the program of work actually does to benefit the business.
The marketing teams of the future
The adoption of AI, ML and robotics technology requires marketing and IT teams to function as one, rather than as two separate silos within a business. Traditionally, these departments may have had little to do with one another, but now – and into the future – they are becoming more integrated, as data becomes ever more important to driving marketing and sales.
Technology plays an important role in providing data about customers – reporting and analytics helps businesses understand how customer’s think, act and behave, and moreover predict how they will interact with a certain product or service. Therefore these insights – powered by technology – inform and are integral to successful marketing. It’s important then that both IT and marketing teams understand how their individual functions contribute to larger organisational goals, and how their functions overlap when it comes to digital transformation.
Investing in data to drive business impact
Learning how to use digital technologies effectively, and employing people with the right skillset to be able to do so, is critical to business success. Before even considering AI/ML and robotics, businesses must develop intelligent websites and portals, in order to identify customers and improve their experiences. Where we could once reach our customers through a phone call or business meeting, we’re now using data-driven systems to interact with customers online in much the same way.
To create an impactful experience for customers, data needs to be connected with analysis. Through tracking and reporting, we can assess and understand how consumers interact with a business, while gaining insights into their decision-making process. These insights create a highly personalised customer data base and drive the business’ marketing strategy.
Therefore, the future of marketing is a hybrid model between technology and marketing, informed by a strong understanding of data. For CMOs to create impact, they will need to know the customer, what data is being tracked and reported on, and understand the greater effects this has on the business. Then, by adding the right skillsets to the organisation and being aware of how the business might grow in a cloud-based environment, CMOs have the potential to drive truly impactful marketing, unlike ever before.
Mirko Roettgers is the general manager of Triggerfish.