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Global CIO: IT & Marketing: Can't They Ever Get Along?

A fascinating new study points to why IT and marketing must work together on digital marketing, and why they have so much trouble doing so. The mobile Web will make this tension a bigger problem for companies that can't resolve it.

IT and marketing together need to take advantage of the data in front of them, Whipple says. He offers this example of the challenge, which he has seen play out the same way in three different online retailers:

Each of these three retailers was getting enough initial Web site visitors to meet its sales goals. So the marketing programs were meeting the mark in terms of getting people in the virtual door.

On the checkout and fulfillment side, the performance was on target to meet goals, so operations was doing its part.

But in the middle, Whipple says, shoppers were spending 2 to 7 minutes looking--which is pretty good--and still a high percentage would fall out, leaving without buying. The CMOs blamed clunky Web site navigation and too many requests for information. The CIOs blamed the marketing strategy, saying they were drawing the wrong type of customers, essentially wasting marketing dollars.

"That's a classic example where the data sophistication exists to tackle that problem like never before," Whipple says.

Yet in the Accenture/CMO Council research, only about 27% of marketers and IT executives, agree with the statement “we know what we need to know about customer’s usage of our digital channels.”

CIOs Doing It Right

Some CIOs are helping their companies move ahead in this digital marketing future.

At United Stationers, CIO Dave Bent led a push for the office products distributor to acquire a marketing services company. The idea is that the smaller retailers it supplies need help with their online commerce, and United Stationers can provide that--giving the distributor a new revenue stream, as well as providing better customer service.

At Royal Caribbean, CIO Bill Martin's team is using real-time sales data from its cruise ships to see what's selling and what's not, combining that with demographic data about people on board, and sending personalized offers to people for things like spa treatments and shows on, say, day 3 of a 7-day cruise, via an in-room interactive TV.

At Ford, CIO Nick Smither has teams experimenting with how social networking will change the driving experience, and what kind of technology that will require in vehicles. It's doing that in partnership with teams of college students, using its Fiesta compact car, launched in North America this year, as the development platform for that work.

At Wet Seal, a retailer of girls clothing, the IT and marketing teams have built a platform to let girls create outfits on the Web site, share them on Facebook, and use an iPhone in its stores to see what outfits others have built around a particular shirt or skirt. Next up-- figuring out how to let girls, who often don't have a credit card, use their smartphones to get money from their parents and buy the outfit in a store.

(You can hear from Dave Bent and Bill Martin at the InformationWeek 500 online event, Oct. 13.)

Accenture and the CMO Council in their report offer a number of ways to improve the CIO-CMO relationship, and for companies to get more from digital marketing. For one, bring in the CEO to drive it, says Whipple. Anything less will "perpetuate a cycle of one-off efforts." Start collaborating early in the process, says the CMO Council, but don't test these emerging digital efforts so long you're constantly behind this fast-moving technology.

For CIOs, I'd add this to the list-- just hand this report to your CMO. Would it spark a fruitful discussion? Or just throw gasoline on a simmering feud? That alone tells a whole lot about where this critical relationship stands.

Global CIO small globe Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek.

To find out more about Chris Murphy, please visit his page.

For more Global CIO perspectives, check out Global CIO.

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