CMOs Still Struggling With Big Data, Social

Top marketers feel even less prepared to cope with Big Data than they did in 2011, and they have made little headway in coming to grips with the social media landscape, according to an IBM study released today.

Lack of a cohesive social media plan and competing initiatives are the two biggest barriers preventing CMOs from implementing their strategies in an increasingly connected world, according to “The Customer-Activated Enterprise."

Based on face-to-face conversations with 4,000 CEOs, CMOs, CFOs and CIOs across 70 countries and 20 industries, the study explores how organizations are breaking the mold in how they engage customers to help guide their business strategy and future decisions, such as new product development.

Despite expressing an unprecedented commitment to direct customer influence on their business decisions and operations, one-third of CEOs worry that the rest of the C-suite is out of touch with customers.



One way that companies are activating their customers is by pioneering new digital-physical innovations, according to the report. By blending their digital and physical strategies, companies can deliver an integrated approach to meeting the needs of their technology-empowered customers.

Both CMOs and CIOs overwhelmingly indicate that they intend to make great strides to overhaul and reinvent the way they work with their customers.

There is a massive shift in how companies are tapping their customers as new business advisors, with 90% planning to collaborate more extensively with their customers in the next five years. About 60% of C-suite leaders plan to directly engage their customers and proactively apply what they learn to set their business agendas in the next three to five years -- up from 43% of CEOs who now include customers in the development of business strategies.

The study also examines which factors are driving leaders to increase transparency, openness and collaboration within their organizations; how priorities within one office of the C-suite compares and contrasts with others, and why leaders are looking outward to ignite big changes.

Organizations have steadily shifted to embrace more open, collaborative and reciprocal models, said Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president, IBM Global Business Services.

"Today, CEOs recognize that they can't do it all alone," Van Kralingen said in a release. "They're opening up their organizations, breaking down barriers and actively engaging customer -- providing customers a seat at the table to help shape their business model and strategy."  

Being a customer-activated enterprise requires a deep understanding and focus on the customer as an individual, rather than as a category or a market segment.

As the business landscape changes, 54% of C-suite executives want to target customers as individuals within the next three to five years. To close the customer intimacy gap, many businesses are relying on digital technologies to boost engagement, create a one-to-one dialogue and provide a superior experience.

IBM’s research finds that C-suite leaders are quickly embracing the use of digital channels to drive customer interactions. Last year, 57% of CEOs expected digital channels to become one of their company’s key means of interacting with customers within the next five years. In 2013, 52% of C-suite leaders say that they are already there, marking a rapid increase in adoption.

1 comment about "CMOs Still Struggling With Big Data, Social".
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  1. Christopher Payne-taylor from sAY-So, October 8, 2013 at 12:08 p.m.

    The primary issue right now with developing cohesive social strategies and direct one-on-one customer communications is that there is an underlying and unreasonable reliance on the customer to do the heavy lifting.

    Tell us what you want, we say. Most of the time, customers do not know until they become aware of it.

    That said, having customers as business advisors is a bit like working with children to determine elementary classroom content. Most would be perfectly content to continue coloring with Crayons, having no way to understand the value or fascination history might hold until they are exposed to it.

    Thus, if we are going to have conversations with customers, it should be in a familial rather than advisory capacity, and for the most part, not geared to "selling" at all.

    The value of social media and direct customer communication lies not in their reaction, but the relationship that ensues. It's actually a very retroactive process, modeled more on the interactions that once took place between neighbors over the back yard fence.

    Nobody was trying to sell anyone anything then. That would have been rude and offensive. They were merely trying to engage and establish a foundation of comradery and trust necessary for any human relationship to flourish.

    The challenge for CMOs is to do more than merely "increase transparency, openness and collaboration." They need to start learning how to use social tools to truly personalize and humanize their communications at the most fundamental level.

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