Who’s in Charge of Ecommerce Technology?

Brick-and-mortar retail companies are evolving into ecommerce technology companies by introducing new tools to interact with consumers or developing platforms to streamline internal operations. Whole Foods, the high-end grocery store, is one of the latest to partner with a software company to develop a cloud-based platformm that coordinates customer communications across channels.

Modern technology helps commerce brands interact with customers in a more relevant, contextual way, but it also creates new challenges for the CMO-CIO relationship.

Marketers want technology that helps them create a better customer experience, but typically IT leaders own technology spend and management. That’s slowly changing: In 2012, Gartner predicted that by 2017, the CMO would spend more money on technology than the CIO, and this trend seems to be gaining more momentum every day.

Commerce companies — including even traditional retailers — can create a consistent, contextualized experience and differentiate from competitors by leveraging technology, regardless of channel. To achieve this vision, the CMO and CIO need to work together, break down organizational silos, and co-own the customer data and omni-channel commerce platform. Seventy-one percent of companies are focused on understanding the evolving CIO and CMO roles, according to Deloitte research. When marketing and IT work together, everyone can own the bigger picture of creating a valuable customer experience across all touchpoints.

With the right marketing technology, marketing and IT teams can work in concert to transform the brand experience. Here are three ways for the CMO and CIO to own e-commerce technology together:

Eliminate silos

Often marketers and IT leaders only look at the segment they own, whether that’s a particular channel or platform. The C-suite needs to unite these efforts and make sure everyone’s working toward creating a meaningful customer journey across all touchpoints. The CMO is no longer only responsible for thinking about marketing efforts in a silo. He’s a digital technology leader who must work in collaboration with other departments.

One in five companies is building collaborative teams across marketing and IT, according to recent Deloitte research. Consider training new employees for both departments. They can still focus on marketing or IT, but having a deep dive into how the other team operates will inspire natural collaboration. Another option is to create a cross-functional team that bridges marketing and IT. These employees are experts in both areas and act as a liaison. They speak marketing and the language of IT and identify opportunities where the teams should integrate more.

See eye to eye

Marketers should understand the IT team’s priorities and how they operate — and vice versa. With these end goals in mind, employees can make decisions that move both teams toward their joint goal. Invite folks from the other team to your meetings and keep open communication channels.

Align teams from day one by having an all-day retreat to brainstorm how IT and marketing can best work together to achieve success. Teams can map out changes they can make as an individual department to improve the customer experience, and then expand that thinking to come up with ways the teams can collaborate to have an even greater impact. When teams collaborate, they realize with double the brains and energy, they can achieve more than double the results.

Consolidate or integrate technologies

Companies have multiple, disparate systems spanning their customer touch points such as POS, kiosk, customer center and website. The data from these various systems needs to be seamlessly integrated for an optimal customer experience. Customer data is coming from more places in greater volume, so it’s important that information lives in one place so marketers can easily create relevant, contextual messages.

One strategy to achieve this is consolidating technologies, which is the simplest solution from a long-term operational cost and management perspective. Another approach is integrating solutions, which often requires creating web services to expose legacy system functionality. A hybrid approach is likely most pragmatic, starting with integrations that are ultimately replaced in stages with a unified context marketing platform. Getting there requires a detailed roadmap and timeline which deepen the partnership between the CIO and CMO.

In this technology-driven world, marketing nirvana will not happen overnight. Success only arrives if the CMO and CIO play for long game by collaborating, creating a cross-functional team to understand each other’s goals, and integrating technologies across departments.

Ryan Donovan is vice president of commerce at Sitecore.

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