“Marketing? We don’t do that here.” That was one of the first responses I received from a resourcing department in a previous job as an IT consultant. I had recently graduated from university with a master’s degree in marketing management and rolled into an IT job: business analyst in Retail and Consumer Products. As a matter of fact, I was told that if I hadn’t come in through a direct interview, but through the traditional Recruitment team, I would have been rejected immediately solely based on my degree.
Granted, this was quite a few years ago. And oh, how times have changed (luckily for me). What happened over the years that followed was that we saw more and more clients bring in marketing-related questions. Initially a lot of it was related to the increase in influence of social media on brand performance. However, as we’ve moved into a world where data, rather than gut feeling is – or should be – leading in decision-making, we’re seeing marketing have a bigger influence on IT strategy than ever before.
How marketing and IT play together
Let’s start by creating a common understanding of what marketing really is. It is usually not considered to be much more than advertising, and often derided as manipulation. But true marketing is the application of a branding strategy; branding is the foundation of any kind of differentiation strategy a company can have. As customers are gaining more and more influence on your brand perception and performance, an effective IT strategy is often the near-immediate result of a solid branding/marketing strategy. This is seen almost immediately when it comes to topics like customer data management, loyalty, personalization etc. This is doubly true for the retail and consumer products industry, where I happen to do most of my work. Think about it: if you want to, for example, double the receipt value of your customers, or use customer data in your R&D programs, where do you start? Getting a proper 360-degree view of your customers, right? And to do that, you need to know who your customers are, and/or who you want them to be. And this has everything to do with your positioning in the market (branding) and how you plan to attract and retain said customers (marketing). So, if we simplify it: without these insights you can’t develop a strategy, and without strategy your IT roadmap is a standalone rollercoaster ride.
According to insights from our latest Voice of our Client report, creating a better customer experience is the top priority for organizations in the upcoming year (fun fact: it was the same for last year!).
This goes for both the business as well as the IT side of retail organizations. This goes back to what we discussed just now: you must know who your customer is to be able to plot their wants, needs and pain points. That’s the simplest way of helping you prioritize your business goals according to effort and potential upside. With these insights, you can start designing the experience you want for your end customers, and even for your employees so they can better serve your customers. Based on all of this you can start mapping out your IT roadmap.
So… what does that mean for us?
As IT consultants, we often talk to heads of IT, CIOs and the like. If we truly want to be able to provide end-to-end services, we need to know how the IT strategy fits into the overall business strategy. What problems are we trying to solve or avoid? What types of innovation do we want to bring to our end customers? And maybe most importantly: which business objectives are we trying to achieve or even surpass? This provides us with crucial context and answers the question of WHY.
Does this always apply?
Well, no, it doesn’t. I generally shy away from using terms such as ‘always’ or ‘never’, but in this case it’s true. In some cases, IT projects are merely focused on reducing operational cost. Although you could argue that this often still touches on your employee experience, which impacts customer experience. However, if your focus is purely numerical, focused on efficiency, it could very well be that it doesn’t really interconnect with your marketing strategy.
Even in these cases though I would still emphasize to get a better understanding of how the work we do in IT affects overall strategy. After all, as CGI we want to be an end-to-end service provider and you can’t do that with a partial understanding.
Today I am working with CGI expert teams in supporting large Retail brands fueling their Total Experience transformation with data, emerging technology, and AI. Bringing together the best mix of relevant expert knowledge is key to achieving success.
Interested in learning more about how to translate your marketing/branding strategy into successful IT projects? Or looking to spar with someone on how to get a better understanding of your clients’ why? You can reach me via LinkedIn or email!