Customer-centred marketing strategies can greatly impact growth, says Andrew Carlisle, MD of retail consulting at Accenture. Retailers might want to follow suit.

Marketing is undergoing a profound shift across all industries, and for the retail chief marketing officer, this means throwing off the shackles of traditional marketing techniques and creating growth strategies centred around customers.

More than 90% of retail chief marketing officers and chief executives believe that disruptive innovations will drive overall growth in the next two years. However, Accenture research shows that most chief marketing officers spend less than half their time (41%) on activities that can fuel this.

They understand the importance of new growth models but are being asked to “keep the lights on” – manage traditional marketing operations while pursuing new business models.

It’s not surprising, then, that fewer chief marketing officers feel they have a good grasp of both traditional and disruptive growth levers compared to just two years ago.

Who is getting it right?

A small subset (17%) of the almost 1,000 chief marketing officers surveyed are, in fact, managing this delicate balance, tackling what is universally the most critical growth issue – reinventing the customer experience. By delivering hyper-relevant experiences, automating and optimising the traditional marketing operations, and reinvigorating the talent pool with tomorrow’s innovators, they are generating significant business value.

What’s the difference?

But these pioneering marketing leaders are not spending significantly more on customer experience and innovation as a share of their marketing budget. Instead, they are focusing on the following:

  • Alternative sources of growth – be it by reinventing the customer experience, or through breakthrough innovations or entirely new revenue streams. They are spending more than three quarters of their time shifting to disruptive growth, using the newest and best technologies, and leveraging analytics to drive granular insights that inform growth strategies.
  • Rejecting a broken marketing culture, and challenging conventional wisdom and the status quo. The new retail marketing organisation must be highly strategic, defining the customer base that brings high value and owning it. It’s the difference between being a shopkeeper and a customerkeeper.
  • Rewiring operating models with a more connected approach, one that heightens collaboration among internal groups and external partners, and aligns the right skills and behaviours to drive sustained growth.

What should retailers do now?

  1. Spend time on disruptive growth by shifting talent and resources while optimising and automating core marketing operations.
  2. Use data and analytics to provide a consistent, dynamic, shared view of the customer that becomes part of the fabric of the business – in everything from Monday morning trading meetings to the chief financial officer’s three-year plan.
  3. Use high-value customers to drive the marketing strategy. For most retailers, not all customers are created equal.
  4. Shape and own the customer experience: this is not just about influence, it’s about ownership.
  5. Hire tomorrow’s talent today: find data scientists to drive deep insight and growth, and invest in automation to free staff for higher-level, more creative tasks.

Chief marketing officers who have mastered these strategies are putting their most valuable customers at the heart of all they do while rewriting the rules of retail growth.


Andrew Carlisle is a managing director for retail consulting in the UK & Ireland at Accenture, specialising in shaping and delivering digital retail transformations.