The CMO’s Perspective on Digital Disruption

Stephanie Reshel

The digital era is fundamentally changing the way companies operate and market to their customers. Significant change is increasingly necessary as previously entrenched industry barriers collapse, and tech-savvy customers demand more from the companies they deal with.

Today’s businesses face tremendous challenges to differentiate, adapt, and meet the ever-changing buying behaviors of digitally empowered customers. Evolving technology offers many opportunities for companies to forge ahead with innovative ideas, but it also increases the risk of competition from traditional players, industry newcomers, and unexpected crossover hybrids that break sector boundaries to use their expertise in new ways.

Dealing with a digital storm

The digital shift is being driven by a perfect storm of the following technologies:

  • Cloud computing
  • Mobile
  • Big Data
  • Social media
  • Cognitive computing

These technologies are disrupting how entire industries operate, and they are changing the way businesses, purchasers, and customers interact, buy and sell, market, and use information.

Feeling the digital pressure

Dealing with this digital downpour often lands on the shoulders of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs). As a result, CMOs have gained more influence in the boardroom, and they are increasingly relied upon to steer the corporate ship through the muddy waters of digital marketing. Modern customers have little patience for traditional marketing tactics – turning away from broadcast media and tuning out online advertising. Regardless of the industry, customers are more demanding of individualized and relevant experiences than ever before, so CMOs must adapt in order to improve the customer experience.

The CMO perspective

This is putting a lot of pressure on today’s CMOs. Despite having more corporate influence, many feel that they are not prepared to deal with the digital tsunami consuming today’s economy.

The CMO viewpoint is the focus of a detailed report based on the results of the IBM Global C-suite Study of more than 5,000 executives worldwide. The IBM report, “Redefining Markets: Insights from the Global C-suite Study – The CMO perspective,” specifically addresses how CMOs are dealing with the challenges of the digital economy.

The biggest transformational trend

Of the 723 CMOs interviewed for the IBM Study, two-thirds (67%) say the single biggest trend transforming the business world is industry convergence. Many CMOs are worried about the increased risk of competition from industry outsiders, and 60% expect even more competition from other industries in the future.

According to the report, CMOs are more aware of the dangers of hybrid cross-industry competitors than CxOs in any other role. This is driving leading CMOs – called Torchbearer CMOs in the report – to focus on conquering new markets first. A whopping 79% of Torchbearer CMOs are focused on reaching digital markets first, and in essence becoming digital disruptors.

How do you succeed in the digital world?

CMOs realize that they – and their organizations – need to get up to speed quickly in order to succeed in the digital economy. In the IBM report, CMOs say they need to start with the big picture: 67% plan to reassess their strategic direction, and leading CMOs recommend taking the following additional actions to succeed in the digital era:

  1. Rethink the entire customer experience
    • Review every aspect of your strategy, design, and operations to improve the customer experience
    • Form partnerships and ecosystems to encourage innovation, and be first to market with new ideas
    • Challenge people throughout the organization to break through traditional barriers and silos to present a single, consistent experience for the customer
  2. Embrace digital with “creative destruction”
    • Create a digital culture in your company
    • Train existing staff, and hire newcomers with the skillset required to fill any gaps
    • Intrigue customers and increase engagement with innovative digital technology that creates new types of customer interaction
    • Invite customers to share their expertise – they often know exactly what your company needs to do to meet their needs!

CMOs are gradually learning to ride the tidal wave of digital transformation, rather than being left in its wake. If you need some help navigating the digital era, technology companies, like IBM and SAP, can show companies the path to digital.

Read IBM and SAP perspectives in the point-of-view paper, “Technology and the CMO in a Digital Era.”

Discover more about Technology and the CMO in the Digital Era by attending the webinar July 28, 2016.  

Download the IBM report, “Redefining Markets: Insights from the Global C-suite Study – The CMO perspective.”

Watch this video to see how one company is reaching potential digital customers.

Learn more about the SAP and IBM Partnership for Digital Transformation through the Cognitive Commerce and Heads-up Weather apps.

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is affecting business, download the SAP eBook, “The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.”

To learn more about the driving forces behind digital transformation download the SAP eBook, “Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.”


Stephanie Reshel

About Stephanie Reshel

Stephanie Reshel is senior director for Strategic Ecosystem Marketing at SAP. She drives joint marketing strategies globally with the top strategic services partners. Follow her on @SReshel.