Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) asked some 150 CEOs about the trends they expected to be prevalent in the coming years as part of their 17th Annual CEO survey and found most bets were on technology. Some 86% of CEOs cited tech advances as the dominant global trend. But marketers beware! When it came to how well prepared their organizations are to capitalize on these transformative trends, only 36% of the CEOs surveyed considered that their corporate marketing capabilities were up to speed and ready to embrace change.
According to the report, more than half of the CEOs responding were planning to change their customer growth and retention strategies to address the situation. The next few years are likely to see a new kind of interaction with customers as organizations acknowledge how technological advances are changing their relationships with consumers. The emphasis will no longer be on the single transaction—instead, the focus is shifting to a more sustainable “always on” relationship with customers. It’s what we’ve been preaching for longer than I can remember and it’s nice to see, even in a small study, that this mindset is catching on.
Of course technology isn’t the whole answer. It’s how companies choose to integrate and use technology, and how they balance it with a human, personal touch that will build relationships. Ken Hicks, Chairman and CEO of Foot Locker Inc., explains his approach, “We know that Millennials and younger people like to go to stores. We also know that they like to be online. How we hook that up with the stores is going to be important. It’s how we train our associates and how we educate the customer to train for a marathon or prepare for the basketball game. So linking that technology and having the store people be as informed as the customer coming in with their smartphone is what’s going to be really important.” Well, yeah. Times a million.
Advances in technology allow marketers to collect data and we have the ability to analyze that data to predict consumer behavior. But there’s also such a thing as too much data and organizations not knowing what to do with the data that they have that presents big challenges. More information isn’t necessarily going to give you a better outcome; it’s how organizations use that data to help them to engage with the right consumers that will be key to their success. Data segmentation, marketing messaging personalization and a deep understanding of where customers are in their individual buying journeys are integral to success and to relationship building, both before and after a sale.
Even the importance of a consumer’s cultural background is now being recognized as Daniel B Hurwitz, CEO of DDR Corp explained in the report. “The one thing I think is extraordinarily important, and that the retail community in general struggles with, is demographic shifts away from their bread and butter customer. We have increasing populations in the ethnic and minority populations in the United States and retailers don’t do a particularly good job addressing that change. The winners are going to be companies that aggressively pursue that customer.” The Hispanic customer base is a great example here, and most marketers and brands haven’t truly figured out the importance of understanding and marketing to this huge customer base. And the ones who do? They’ll be positioned for great success.
The good news: business leaders realize the impact that tech advances are likely to have on the future performance of their companies. The bad news: their marketing departments are ill-equipped to take advantage of technology. The reality: they’ve got to figure it out. And soon. The integration of technology into everything we do means that change happens at the speed of light these days, so there is truly no time to waste.
There’s a whole lot more to see in the full report, which you can find at “Good to Grow, 2014 US CEO Survey.” What do you think? If you’re out there in the trenches, working with CEOs on a daily basis like we are, what do you see? Do your experiences match the insights reported here?