Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK


Included in Forrester’s predictions for 2017 is a warning that up to a third of chief marketing officers (CMOs) could face the axe this year if they don’t have the skills needed to deliver digital transformation in their organisations.

It is an alarming prediction, and one that will surely galvanise marketing professionals into action this year. But along with the sense of urgency comes the reasonable fear of taking the first step into the unknown – especially when boards are asking CMOs to quantify their spend and performance.

Balancing acts

CMOs know they have to not only develop new ways of reaching new and existing customers but also find how to build communities of trust and loyalty. Customer experience has become the watchword for professionals who are making the necessary shifts to remain relevant in a digital world.

While most CMOs are comfortable with social media, less-known technologies like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are allowing brands to explore the full potential of the customer journey. They can engage directly with their followers on the platforms where they choose to hang out, inserting themselves into their lives and receiving invaluable information back.

Internationally, AR and, to lesser extent, VR campaigns are fast becoming the cornerstone of campaigns to drive additional revenue – especially in the highly contested retail space.

In May last year the Australian division of eBay released its first VR department store. It allows users to explore products virtually using free iOS and Android apps along with head-mounted device hardware. When customers hold their gaze on a product, they will be given a 3D rendering of the product, allowing them to explore the item and move on to purchase.

Sweden’s Ikea has embraced VR as a significant part of its future strategy and launched a VR kitchen experience on the popular game platform Steam. Its customers can explore new products and the app is designed to elicit customer feedback. Iconic brand Harley-Davidson, meanwhile, allows its customers to embark on a virtual road trip with its VR app, complete with the unmistakable roar of the motorbike, for a truly immersive experience.

Locally, the uptake of AR and VR has been slightly slower. However, this is rapidly changing as brands begin to capitalise on mobile phone technologies which cater for mixed-reality experiences and eliminate the need for costly headsets. Destination tourism organisations are leaping at the opportunity to use the technologies to drive new arrivals, and retail companies are beginning to show a keen interest in merging online and offline shopping opportunities. Even the financial services industry, which has had a particularly difficult time in selling less tangible products, has realised that AR and VR can benefit their marketing strategies.

While all of this exciting new technology and marketing innovation has many CMOs fired up, there are some risks marketing professionals should be aware of.

First, using technology for the sake of innovation box ticking will not achieve the desired results. 

The four stages of the customer journey have not changed – no matter which technology is being integrated into the delivery. Awareness, consideration, engagement and conversion are still cornerstones that make up a campaign strategy.

Second, using agencies or consultants who don’t have solid experience in mixed-reality production and execution will mean you are effectively allowing them to experiment on your dime.  Far too many agencies are offering AR and VR services without a credible track record to ensure marketing leaders are delivering against their mandate.

Embracing innovation and digital opportunities requires more than technical prowess, it relies on strategic insight. And, more importantly the ability to measure efficacy in a way that answers to the CMO’s own key performance criteria.

Mitigate risk and still deliver on innovation

An innovation budget provides a safe space to try new things without compromising delivery in other, more traditional spaces. A dedicated budget with projects that are well thought through offers the freedom to test and learn.

Incorporating measurement tools such as DoubleClick allows you to not only measure the new AR or VR projects but also connect online to offline initiatives. Having a multichannel view across your strategy and budget is essential. Once the results of all these efforts – display, search and social – are in one view, you can assess critically how each has been performing in relation to the customer journey. Measurement is the glue that binds above-the-line to below-the-line efforts.

While the Forrester warning should not be taken lightly, acting defensively to protect one’s job can lead to costly, unintended consequences. Truly outstanding CMOs are those who are bold enough to experiment with new ideas and new technologies, but do it in a way that materially benefits their current and future performance.

The big take-out: According to Forrester, CMOs who don’t deliver digital transformation could face the axe. However, any new technologies need to benefit their company’s current and future performance materially.

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