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Ashok Pai

In an increasingly digital decade, the chief marketing officer (CMO) must increase the focus on the customer and understand how, when, and where the customer interacts with the brand across the entire life cycle, at any point, with any device and at any location. In the TCS 2021 Global Leadership Study, customer centricity was rated the #1 cultural trait across leading companies (defined as those with a high level of growth and profitability), even higher than shareholder value. This increased focus on customer centricity is providing new impetus for creating highly customized, real-time marketing experiences.


Global demand centers of leading Fortune 500 companies and e-commerce giants such as Amazon are proof points of early adoption of a full-cycle customer journey with go-to-market strategies. While B2C companies have been ahead of the adoption curve, B2B players are very quickly catching up.

How CMOs can gain traction in driving customer centricity

The marketing function has more impact than others in the C-suite in making the shift to a real-time, customer-centric, full customer life-cycle strategy. Why? Because the CMO can:

  • Leverage customer data and customer relationship management systems (CRMs) to better understand behavior
  • Create consistent, personalized cross-channel customer communication that creates loyalty
  • Drive effective demand through targeted campaign management
  • Enforce brand management for more market share

However, there are missed opportunities for creating an end-to-end customer-centric marketing experience. The TCS 2019 CMO Study findings underscore this. In fact, the study shows that overall, only 4% of all marketers surveyed have developed the ability to interact with customers in real time across all four stages of the brand experience. Some of the gaps come from areas that are traditionally not under the purview of the CMO and include functions that are managed separately, typically sales and customer engagement (which includes nurturing customer loyalty). Increased collaboration between these functions is essential to generating high levels of demand and better customer loyalty in the new era.

(There are other gaps identified by the CMO study. Most company CMOs are underusing analytics across every stage of the customer experience. The study also identifies several areas where CMOs have more opportunities to turn prospects into customers, including adopting a ‘helpful partner’ approach and responding to the customer during pivotal moments during the brand experience. Read more insights in the CMO Study report How Leading CMOs Captivate and Convert Customers for Life.)

Collaboration with the sales function: The information needed to complete a sale is available today as online product or service descriptions, along with analytics-based sources of consumer purchasing behavior, consumption patterns, interaction insight, life style correlation, and media consumption. Further, AI-driven algorithms are enabling marketers to respond in real time with highly customized offers based on customer personas. Correlating sales data with marketing initiatives will enable CMOs to pin down return on marketing investment (ROMI) faster. In return, sales gains insights about existing customers as well as future prospects. 

Collaboration with customer engagement function: Opportunities to enhance the customer experience occur across all customer interactions following a sale, including onboarding, order management, and billing, delivery of goods, after-sale servicing, and loyalty management. (Read the TCS CMO Study report Using Analytics to Predict What Customers Need Next for findings that show that nurturing customer loyalty is a neglected part of the customer journey—and is costing businesses in significant revenue.) To drive consistent, customized, and compelling brand messaging across these activities, seamless information flow is required which can be achieved by connecting marketing technologies with finance, supply chain, legal, and people management technologies in the organization. In other words, the individual function value chains need to smoothly communicate and align with each other for optimal revenue growth and profitability.

The collaboration across functions also comes with two major challenges:

1. Technology limitations

2. Process siloes

Technology limitations such as disparate platforms across functions, geographies, and data islands are being overcome by advanced infrastructure capabilities. AI-ML will further help build advanced customer profiling capabilities to address the challenges of anytime, anywhere marketing.

Real-world example: A leading UK retailer deployed an integrated global command center to give an end-to-end view of demand and supply connecting marketing campaigns, e- commerce, customer interaction, and global supply chain. This led to improved order fulfillment, enhanced customer experience and higher supply chain efficiency.

Process siloes across functions are rapidly disappearing as technologies have begun to talk to each other through APIs and intelligent connectors. Furthermore, process modelling enablers, such as digital twins and process mining, are enabling futuristic process modelling to help build business flexibility and resilience as the organization changes.

Real-world example: A leading Australian broadcaster was able to maximize ROI on ad spends for its clients through synergy between their media finance, sales, and ad operations by eliminating silos.

Organizations that embrace these changes will see an unprecedented increase in customer loyalty and brand recognition. Increased collaboration, customer centricity, and an integrated IT and business operations model are imperative for global enterprise CMOs to attain new heights in brand equity, increase profitability, and fuel growth.

About the author

Ashok Pai
Ashok is Vice President & Global Head of Cognitive Business Operations at TCS. He helps organizations leverage digital technologies to reimagine their business models, products, processes, and services. He specializes in helping enterprises make major cost and operational improvements through digital transformation initiatives. Prior to this role, he headed TCS’ Business Process Services team and was responsible for more than 100 customers in North America, Asia Pacific, and other regions. He joined TCS more than 25 years ago, right after earning his Master’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai.
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