Before e-commerce, retail organizations were fairly straightforward. There were store, merchandising, marketing, and technology divisions. Of course, technology has helped power stores for decades and marketing has driven traffic to stores for even longer. And stores have always sold merchandise and served as marketing. So there’s never been a time in retail when leaders didn’t need to work cross-functionally.
The introduction of e-commerce/mobile, digital marketing, and in-store technology has made cross-functional partnerships even more necessary. The increasing availability of customer data – collected in so many ways and with opportunity for use in so many places – makes these partnerships more powerful.
As the number of ways we can see and reach customers grows, seemingly at an exponential rate, retail organizations also become more complex. More sharing is needed. Meeting calendars are filling up faster than ever. When an initiative touches marketing, online/mobile, store visits, and tech, who owns it? Everyone? No one?
Let’s take the example of cross-channel marketing, which I’ve written about before. Imagine you’re a multichannel retailer and you have the opportunity to do the following:
- Not only recognize when someone is in your store but, more importantly, tie that visit to identity by collecting their email address via guest Wi-Fi
- Link that store visit to the same person’s online and purchase behavior, as well as past and future store visits (even those where they did not make a purchase)
- Intelligently re-market to this person across channels using the knowledge of his/her complete path-to-purchase journey, thereby increasing customer lifetime value (CLV)
It should be easy enough for a CEO and other forward-looking executives to see the value in all of the above. But prioritization and resource allocation is notoriously difficult and getting harder by the day, and companies can’t immediately execute everything they think would be valuable. And in the cross-channel marketing example above, who even makes the decision to proceed?
Certainly, store managers should want to provide in-store Wi-Fi, ideally with e-mail collection. E-mail marketing managers would love to have those e-mail addresses, but this is often a junior role that might not make such a far-reaching decision. Likewise, the data is valuable for retention/CRM and acquisition marketing purposes, but if there’s a VP of each – or neither – who owns this? Does the CMO need to make the decision? Or the head of e-commerce with buy-in from stores (because in the majority of organizations, those silos exist)? Finally, in the limited number of organizations where there’s a senior person leading analytics, that person can have a field day with this type of data visibility.
When there’s a high-value proposal that benefits many functions within a company – not to mention the customer – many leaders at all levels get rightfully excited. Sometimes the universal support is helpful, but often the initiative requires a formal or informal sponsor. Sometimes, more than one person wants to do it but it’s unclear which is the right person. Other times, everyone thinks someone else should take it on. In any scenario, sign-off can take time when many stakeholders exist.
Smart companies can say “yes” quickly to the right programs and the risk of not doing so grows every day. Looking back at the example above, failing to understand multichannel customer profiles and build cross-channel marketing strategies is particularly costly now that store traffic is dwindling, online advertising is becoming more expensive, and the CLV of every customer must be maximized in the face of growing competition.
My biggest recommendation for companies struggling with ownership, teamwork, or sense of urgency toward any initiative is to look at what individuals are being held accountable for. Are there enough metrics in common being used for reporting and incentives? For example, in the case cross-channel marketing, is everyone talking about CLV together or are individuals only responsible for driving value in one channel or another?