The Rise of The Chief Digital Officer: Why You Need One and What to Look For
Michelle Burtchell | March 28, 2016
Takeaway: Brands and retailers that want to stay competitive in the age of distributed commerce have to start thinking organizationally. They have to carve out specific roles. In particular, they need a CDO (chief digital officer) with a solid set of skills for this space.
CEOs have bigger fish to try. CFOs care about the bottom line. CIOs help digitally enable their coworkers. COOs ensure that businesses sail smoothly. CSOs work to keep digital assets secure. CMOs handle the marketing and engagement (and sales enablement, organization dependent).
If all of those CxOs already have their duties, who's in charge of your digital strategy and channels?
"By 2019, 41% of revenue will come from digital marketing and ecommerce."
You must answer that question in 2016 - in the age of distributed commerce. Your brand simply cannot compete without dedicated efforts focused on ecommerce channels, and the accuracy of that statement will only strengthen in the coming years. For example, a Gartner survey found that 41 percent of revenue will come from digital marketing and ecommerce strategies by 2019. Your brand's ability to think digitally will be directly proportional to the success of your company.
That's why brands need to bring a new CxO to the table: the chief digital officer.
Let's get digital
In fact, a 2016 report from Forrester, "New Corporate Leadership Functions Will Address Rising Digital Pressures," pointed out that 12 percent of surveyed decision-makers said that their organizations will bring on a CDO in order to facilitate the creation and management of "a comprehensive digital strategy."
CDOs can help your brand take a more holistic and digital-first approach to ecommerce, rather than relying on ad-hoc projects and initiatives to stay on top of trends. After all, ecommerce, omnichannel and distributed commerce are here to stay. It's time to make digital customer experience management a mainstay and a department within your organization.
What to look for
OK, so you need a CDO. But who makes a good CDO? Here are three key traits:
- Experience as VP of ecommerce: The new role of CDO requires those who fill it to have a thorough understanding of what their brands need to create the best digital shopping/customer experience possible. If he or she has a background in ecommerce, especially in a senior position such as a vice president, then you can be sure that your CDO is familiar with the market and consumer demands.
- An advocate for a consistent digital experience: You'll task your CDO with doing whatever it takes to make your brand's digital experience as awesome and consistent as it must to be in the era of distributed commerce. CDOs should have a passion for optimizing those experiences, as well as a keen eye for understanding what makes digital experiences something consumers will flock to.
- A flair for disruption: The best CDO will transform how you do business in the age of digital before other brands have already adopted those strategies. It's disrupt or be disrupted out there, and your CDO must understand that as well as be willing to innovate and implement new processes. You can't spell CDO without "do."
Ask yourself what your brand needs to do to ensure that it sticks around for as long as possible, and the answer will likely be that it must grab ecommerce by the horns - and that's a full-time job, so find someone to own those goals: a CDO.