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CIOs should work with CMOs to make the most out of e-commerce

2020 had its share of highs and lows, with the pandemic being a definite ‘valley’ moment where thousands of stores and other businesses shuttered, sometimes indefinitely. But the pandemic’s costly impact on physical locations had the converse effect on online sales and channels – giving e-commerce its most profitable ‘mountain’ moment yet.

Although the trend towards digital had been picking up every year, no one could have foreseen the rapid adoption in the first quarter of the year, with US department stores and other “non-essential” retailers suffering sales declines of 25% – which grew to a 75% drop by Q2 2020.

While brick-and-mortar sales plummeted, businesses globally were encouraged and occasionally forced to revert quickly to online retail models, with e-commerce experiencing as much as a 20% growth bump in the US.

But this seismic shift was not only occurring in established digital markets like the US, where end-of-year Black Friday online sales have become as commonplace as the 9.9 and 12.12 ‘event’ sales. But in an emerging internet economy like India’s, e-commerce this year is expected to boost the annual growth rate by 51%, the highest rate in the world.

And so despite a challenging economic climate, online sales are helping buoy digital markets globally, with India’s e-commerce contribution expected to help the country’s digital economy reach US$250 billion by the end of last year.

With organizations globally now speeding up their digital deployments, firms with e-commerce capabilities are now generating copious amounts of data. But sifting through troves of customer data to unearth actionable insights that can better improve shopper experiences, can be tricky. Who is best suited to parse this data, and optimize its usage to drive revenue?

CIOs and CMOs should work together, not apart

Traditionally, the Chief Marketing Officer or CMO will have a stronger understanding of the customer’s experience, while the Chief Information Officer (the CIO) usually has a better understanding of developing systems that streamline data to best run a business.

In the past, the CIO and the CMO would have operated in silos, with pertinent data being passed via reports or as a trend study. But today, with organizations prioritizing an agile, integrated approach to data management, the roles have become more intertwined: IT teams are becoming more customer-oriented, and marketing needs to be more data-driven to maximize its effectiveness.

This is where CIOs and CMOs need to align their collaboration in order to achieve their mutually-beneficial goals. For instance, they can educate their subordinates about the need for a coherent data strategy and how their individual roles inform the overall strategy.

Cooperation between the CIO and the CMO is crucial to help their organization recognize the value of its data and to get a better picture of how to manage data effectively across every organizational department.

For example, an organization can upskill their data analytics team to be more integrated with marketing functions, perhaps even spending a few hours a week embedding themselves in the other team to understand better how the data they harvest can be put to promotional or customer retention use.

To prevent mismanagement of data, both consumer insights and data comprehension are essential to leveraging the collected data, which in turn helps the decision-makers make the critical business calls. CMOs and CIOs are ideally positioned to make the most out of this convergence of customer experience and data analysis.

When effectively utilized, they can yield valuable insights on how an e-commerce business can thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape and help build teams of top talent, delivering the best results for a business. In the post-pandemic normal, data will be the lifeline of e-commerce firms that will be most effective when CMOs and CIOs work together.