Chief Digital Officer or company-wise digital culture?

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in Innovation, Retail

Over the past few years, the concept of the “CDO” or “Chief Digital Officer” has become a trend.  With such a large focus on digital-anything these days, having a C-level exec with “Digital” in his or her title seems quite logical. But it begs the question: “Is this the best long term solution?”

eConsultancy thinks the CDO is “a bad idea”, in a post from March: http://econsultancy.com/us/blog/62387-why-a-chief-digital-officer-is-a-bad-idea

At their core, the CDO is expected to foster new digital strategies, accelerate overall digital growth, cut through red tape on key digital projects and act as a bridge between the CIO and the CMO – all important responsibilities, without a doubt.  What is somewhat of a red flag, however, is why these tasks are exclusively allocated to one individual instead of being a companywide initiative.

If you’re reading this blog, you’re well aware that the proliferation of all things digital has brought us to the brink of omnichannel enlightenment – a seamless approach to the customer experience across all available channels. A recent white paper by The Winterberry Group & IAB found “interest in the omnichannel approach is surging across virtually all segments of the marketing ecosystem, with 91.7 percent of panelists agreeing that such strategies drive ‘real value,’ and 82.4 percent saying they intend on investing in the same in the near future.”

As omnichannel practices become the norm, the lines between the digital and physical worlds will continue to blur for consumers and brands alike. So who gets the credit and who takes the blame? The digital team or the traditional team? When one channel’s promotion drives sales to another, companies still operating as walled gardens with siloed sales quotas will be left in the dust. In-fighting is bad for the customer, and ultimately what omnichannel is all about is “customers first”.

There are, however, a select group of companies that appear to have recognized this pitfall and are taking steps to avoid it by creating senior management omnichannel roles within their organization. These people have the ability to accelerate digital growth while fostering an organic acceptance of digital practices across all divisions within the company in a way that may challenge, but doesn’t endanger, existing high-performing channels. A VP of Omnichannel would ideally be more accessible and open to exploring emerging omnichannel technologies and innovations.

Here are a few leaders in the omnichannel retail space:

  • Christine Buscarino – VP Customer Experience for Office Depot
  • Joe Megibow – GM of Omnichannel for American Eagle Outfitters
  • Robert Harrison – Chief omnichannel officer for Macy’s
  • Troy Brown – Omnichannel retail leader for Zumiez

Kudos to these brands for organizationally supporting omnichannel. We fully expect the number of retail executives with omnichannel in their title to explode in the coming months, as the lines between online and brick & mortar continue to blur.