Most major consumer companies have long ago started their digital journeys. Still for many, digital marketing and customer experience seems to be trapped in an organisational silo, while the rest of the company continues to operate according to the same pre-digital era practices.
The cool (digital) kids on the block
A large divide between digital and “the rest” is still very much everyday life in many companies that I have worked with. Most typically, it means that digital sales/service channel and related marketing activities are tightly separated from everything else, sometimes even from shared functions like brand marketing, which should serve the entire organisation.
Digital units are organisationally often “the cool kids on the block”, who are allowed to play by their own rules when it comes to ways of working, marketing, recruitment and so on, while the rest of the organisation may struggle for example in a never-ending series of layoffs. Separating digital from everything else may yield benefits in the short run, but in the longer run we risk organisational efficiency, and more importantly consistent customer experience.
Let them run free!
Don’t get me wrong – when trying something new, I am all for “intrapreneurship” and experimenting new things with small teams. However, when it comes to serving and communicating to customers across channels – both digital and physical – we should be well beyond the “new” phase already. Consumers expect consistent service across channels, and we should enable this by working together in our companies.
How to get going?
- Define ownership of the customer (experience). Often if you ask, who owns customers or customer experience in your company, the answers are vague at best. However, this is one of the most critical questions to answer right away.
- Plan marketing around customer segments or journeys. In general, the focus in marketing should be changed from marketing to channels (digital and “the rest”), to marketing to individual consumers across channels.
Example: Marketo – an example from the B2B side – has structured their entire marketing and sales function around the customer process – also in terms of office seating in their Dublin office. The first team that you meet is outbound team followed by awareness, sales development, sales, account management and finally after-sales teams.
- Align channel-specific goals. This may seem like a no-brainer, but in many organisations marketing goals and incentives of digital and “the rest” collide, and they should be aligned to build right customer experiences.
Example: As a first step, a large entertainment company consolidated marketing objectives across different channels and started monthly marketing forum to ensure fast and consistent progress towards more unified customer experience.
- Integrate digital marketing and “the rest” into joint agile team. Digital has become so integrated into all marketing, that keeping up a an artificial boundary simply won’t do anymore in the long run. Instead we should move into agile cross-competence teams, which focus on certain types of activities or programs.
Example: Stockmann – a major retailer with presence in Finland and Baltics – has recently integrated its marketing and digital units into one team, which covers both traditional department stores and renewed ecommerce.
- Empower change agents to ramp up skills throughout the organisation. Often digital (marketing) competence is centralized in the silo, and we should ramp up skills in other areas of organisation to create sustainable change.
Example: a large Nordic multi-brand company has sent their digital customer marketing specialists from a centralized unit to work within different business areas to support fast knowledge sharing.
- Accelerate change through the right data: Finally, data and analytics should be the first competence to abandon the digital vs. ”rest” division. In practice this mean moving from one-channel related metrics to cross-channel analytics.
Example: a major consumer service company renewed their marketing analytics by combining data from different touch points into one customer profile – accessible to entire marketing and sales organisation.
To summarize, digital transformation and customer experience are strategic priorities in most major consumer companies operating in the multi-channel world. And many of these companies have already successfully ramped up their core digital capability in separate units. However, due to their distance to the “rest” of the business, the benefits of this model are likely to saturate fast. Thus it is essential to spread the learnings more broadly into the organisation, and integrate digital and “the rest” together. Only this way can companies start creating truly connected experiences for their customers.