The age of digital possible

August 12th, 2016  |  Source:

Digital is the new currency in our new hyper-connected era, enabling new business initiatives and marketing campaigns that may have been too costly and impractical in the past. From retail to hospitality, there is no question that digital has transformed the way business is being conducted today.

“You need to reach out to your customers 24/7. You need to care about their experiences wherever and whenever they access or reach out to your company,” observed Annabella Yau, the managing director for Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea at BT Global Services. “It’s not just your retail presence. It’s about your website, your portal, even WhatsApp messages from your employees.”

The comment was made at a lunch roundtable discussion hosted by CMO Innovation and BT Global Services (BT) called “Digital Possible”. Attended by senior marketers, participants discussed how digital is shaping their organizations, the role of marketers in it, and challenges faced in their digitization journey.

The digital journey

One question highlighted by Ben Stobart, the vice president of marketing and portfolio in Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa for BT, was the question of whether an organization has the technological capability to execute new digital strategies.

“If we’re looking at experiences, you will need to know what your ecosystem is capable of delivering,” said Stobart as he shared an anecdote involving a successful consulting project for a leading retailer in the UK – the business was so pleased that it paid a bonus.

Unfortunately, not having the right technologies in place culminated in a gap when it comes to tracking the actual conversions. The result was that the sales metric registered as zero, due to an inability of the system to link the price served on the website to the internal costing.

That’s not all there is though. They lost roughly $2M a day, because someone in the IT department decided to update their systems over Christmas, which [represented] 82% of their sales,” he said.

To Michael Hobson, CMO of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, going digital is a journey, not a destination.

“It’s rather like the first time we built our website and thought to ourselves: ‘When we are done, it would be great’. But of course, by the time you done that, something else has happened. The world has moved on; we’ve got to continue to invest,” he said. “It’s never ending, it’s an iterative process.”

Even digital channels such as social media evolve too. “Social media over time has evolved into a customer service channel as well,” said Dennis Owen, group manager of social media at Cathay Pacific Airlines. Owen says he is currently looking at social media and “putting it into the correct areas in the company.”

Everyone’s responsibility

Annika Payn, who is the head of brand for Zurich Insurance in the Asia Pacific, thinks that digital is everyone’s responsibility. She illustrates her point by comparing digital to her responsibilities as the head of brand.

“As someone responsible for brand, I’ve been trying to make everyone in the organization understand that the brand is not just the responsibility of the marketing team, but is the responsibility of everyone in the company,” she explained.

“Whatever you do, whatever your function, you need to drive the brand. If you don’t know what it’s about, then… we’re never going to have a consistent brand experience delivered to our customers,” she said.

“In the same way, I do believe that digital is everyone’s responsibility. If we keep the marketing team responsible for social media, we’re never be agile enough to answer the customers’ requests and requirements,” Payn summed up.

So while marketers can do everything, they really shouldn’t. A discussion point that participants brought up was the task of day-to-day managing of social media accounts, which Owen suggested should belong to corporate communications rather than marketing.

“Social media touches so many department; we’ve moved the issues management and crisis management over to corporate communication. Because they are the owners of brand protection – it should never be the marketing person trying to do [complaints and crisis management],” he said.

Changing the organization structure is no walk in the park, acknowledged Ng Wee Kee, who is the vice president of loyalty and partnership marketing at the Shangri-La Hotel Group.

“I think that’s something that organizations are struggling in, which is to have an agile enough approach to start changing the organization structure, to put people happy to take on responsibilities, and perhaps even educate themselves on all things digital,” he noted. “That’s quite frankly required, you don’t have the option [not to] anymore.”

An era of digital possibilities

Challenges aside, there is no question that digital is the key to opening the door to a new era of innovation and possibilities.

“Ten years ago, when we send out communications, it is like ‘spray and pray”. We just send them out and hope something happens. We had no way of knowing the effect of our communications with regards to the amount of revenue,” said Ng, as he pointed out how the situation is different today.

“Today, the technology is available where you can track every activity after sending it out, whether it is social, EDM or other communications. We are now able to establish through digital technologies that the 100 emails you sent out resulted in the company gaining $20”, he said.

It was clear from the discussion that participants agree that digital offers tremendous opportunities and promises for the savvy digital CMO to shine. All it takes is an open mind for new initiatives, and the leadership to put the requisite technological and organizational structures in place.

Further reading:

Digital marketing is all about the customers, says Adobe

The state of digital advertising in 2016

No scatter shooting in digital marketing

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