Picture: 123RF/rawpixel
Picture: 123RF/rawpixel

There are four questions that SA’s chief marketing officers (CMOs) are not asking – in fact, these questions are not even on their radar.

1.     What is a data scientist and why should I care?

Most marketers now understand that a crucial piece of the digital marketing puzzle is integrating their offline data with their online data. Unfortunately, they often don’t know the difference between a data analyst, a data engineer and a data scientist. This may sound like semantics to some, yet understanding what data you have at your disposal, and what you want to do with it, becomes critical when taking advantage of the opportunities of digital marketing. CMOs need to have at least a basic understanding of their data needs and opportunities, even if it’s only to ensure they can hire the right specialists to help them begin their data integration journey.  

Data analysts analyse numeric data to help companies reveal insights which assist in making decisions. Data scientists, however, analyse and interpret complex sets of data, often from multiple source systems (think “big data”) and build algorithms to create predictive or machine learning models. Data engineers, meanwhile, help prepare the data within the technology architecture that is needed to support the analyst and science functions.

2.     Are pictures the new keywords?

Visual search (using real-world images such as screenshots, internet images or photographs as the catalyst for online searches) is quickly growing in importance – most especially for retailers. In fact, in the medium term (2021 and beyond), the contextual results derived from visual search could change the way marketers do business.

Search at the moment is very much around keywords, as is search engine optimisation. And while the human-hand tagging still remains the most accurate way to find things, making use of visual search provided by companies like Pinterest, Google, Amazon and Microsoft’s Bing is fast catching up.

CMOs must pay attention to visual search, even if it won’t significantly impact their business in the immediate future. The logic of it is obvious. We don’t enter a brick-and-mortar store and begin our search by using words (unless we call a human assistant). Rather, we scan the aisles and see what is available. 

The most visual of the social media platforms, Pinterest, unsurprisingly is betting the bank on visual search. There are already more than 600-million visual searches on the platform every month. Making use of Pinterest Lens, brands can now target over 5,000 categories of visual search advertising with an 8.5% conversion rate. The platform is projected to clear $1bn worth of ad revenue by 2020

3.     Will I appear weak if I use partners?

Many CMOs recently have been weighing the benefits of bringing in partners to augment their in-house knowledge and skills. This is not something new, but the pace and breadth of digital transformation have brought the challenges of this to the fore. This is less about not being able to do something yourself and more about looking hard at key strategic partnerships and deciding where you need help in a blended model.  

It’s an unfortunate reality that the reputations of consultancies have suffered over the past few years given that they come in for a limited time, make sweeping changes and then step back out of the business, leaving companies to either sink or swim in this newly architected operating model. However, in the age of the ecosystem economy digital strategies can only benefit from expanding partnerships. CMOs need to understand that niche players can sometimes deliver the required services far better than your staff. 

4.     Is our CEO on Instagram?

Finally, CMOs need to ask what support they need to achieve real success. Digital transformation has to happen systemically in an organisation. If you are trying to meet your customer on the platforms where they prefer to interact, the chances are your entire organisation needs to understand the power of digital offerings. 

Now, while the company CEO does not actually need to be on Instagram, they do need to understand how digital businesses work. They need to understand that Generation Z customers demand to be heard, but don’t actually want to speak to anyone. They need to grasp that consumers expect to be able to communicate and transact with brands on their terms, often within chat applications like WhatsApp, WeChat and Facebook Messenger. And they absolutely need to create an environment where marketing leaders are part of the strategic business decisionmaking team and are given the latitude (and budget) to innovate.  

  • Roan Mackintosh is the MD of Incubeta SA.


The big take-out:

CMOs should be asking questions around the effectiveness of their digital strategies.

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