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​Commonwealth Bank - Meet the tech savvy CMO

As the CMO mandate widens, the channel is chasing a new type of buyer - but what makes marketing tick?
Vittoria Shortt - CMO, Commonwealth Bank

Vittoria Shortt - CMO, Commonwealth Bank

While a CEO may still hold the centre of attention in any given business, the path to glory is being paved by a new voice within the boardroom, the CMO.

Not merely a typical marketing head honcho however, rather a digitally focused leader that delivers new levels of innovation across the organisation.

Never before have CMOs yielded so much power to drive tangible results throughout the customer lifecycle, creating new buyers for the channel in tandem.

“Ultimately, my primary focus is customer satisfaction and the customer experience, which drive business outcomes,” Commonwealth Bank group executive group marketing and strategy, Vittoria Shortt, said.

“One of the key pillars to deliver this purpose is to combine cutting edge marketing technology practices with creative executions.

“The strategy requires the team to be highly tuned to new technology, analytics capabilities and the competitive environment.”

In heading a business unit formed in March 2016, Shortt oversees specialists across a range of marketing and strategy disciplines including CommBank’s data analytics centre of excellence.

“The team works very closely with colleagues across all the business units to deliver to our vision — to excel at securing and enhancing the financial wellbeing of people, businesses and communities,” Shortt explained.

“We continually challenge, disrupt practices, question and apply the latest thinking, adapt and pioneer new ways to engage with customers.”

Internally, Shortt said this plays out with the development of a range of self-service tools for marketers that provide them with a simple automated tool to assist with annual planning and campaign pre-analysis.

“We’ve recently built a self-service tool to automate post campaign results that helps us understand the performance of all of our direct marketing campaigns in near real- time,” Shortt explained.

“The tool offers drill-down capability to understand the performance of specific test cells within a campaign, or a drill-up view of the total performance of all customer engagement activities.”

Externally however, CommBank is focused on how it uses technology to drive innovations in the customer experience.

“For example,” Shortt explained. “Camera pay allows customers to use their phone’s camera to scan a code to send and receive money to their CommBank account.

Commonwealth Bank
Commonwealth Bank

“This enhancement speaks to an element of our brand promise, to make it simple and easy for our customers to meet their banking needs.”

For Shortt, a key priority is to build a team with “world-class” digital marketing capabilities.

“But this requires more than a system or a shift to in-house services,” she cautioned. “Without engaged, informed and future- thinking marketers and business partners, the business benefit will not be realised and the marketing team will be ill-equipped for the future.”

Digital adoption

Backed up by strong recent financials — with a record half-year profit of $4.91 billion — more Australians are choosing to engage with CommBank through digital channels, illustrating how a traditionally stuffy industry is moving with the technological times.

Currently, CommBank has 5.8 million customers using digital, with 25 per cent of new account openings also coming through the platform.

In addition, 53 per cent of total transactions (by $) are now digital with 80 per cent of logins via mobile.

“This provides a significant opportunity to deliver a more personalised digital experience, which in turn demands a step change in how we make use of our customer data and shapes our investments in marketing technology,” Shortt explained.

“Continuous improvements in technology and investments in technology are a significant lever we use to improve customer satisfaction and experience.”

As one of the country’s largest financial institutions, CommBank operates a customer marketing transformation (CMT) program, which has been in place for over 12 months and focuses on how to use customer data more effectively to inform media buying, improve targeting and lift message relevance.

“As part of this we bought our programmatic trading and paid search capabilities in-house, which has set the scene for evolving data capabilities beyond pure performance, and enhancing digital media measurement in an increasingly fragmented digital landscape,” Shortt added.

Marketing spend

Reflecting the advancements made by CommBank, in organisations across Australia and the world, marketing is now responsible for critical customer-facing, revenue-generating systems and applications.

According to Gartner findings, marketing budgets increased to 12 per cent of company revenue in 2016, from 11 per cent in 2015 with 57 per cent expecting investments to increase further in 2017.

As the marketing leaders’ mandate broadens, tech spending is fast approaching the levels of the IT department to the point that in 2017, CMOs could spend more on technology than CIOs.

A seemingly striking observation in years gone by, but today, marketing has new-found control of technology buying decisions.

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“We work closely with our technology colleagues on important aspects such as the reference architecture, understanding and addressing risks, developing roadmaps to deliver on target customer experiences, and delivering key projects,” Shortt explained.

In terms of influence, Shortt said the marketing department works with technology teams to understand the demand side and supply side impacts of internal decisions, including the financial aspects impacting the business.

Additionally, the strategy team reviews the investment proposals for alignment to the Group strategy.

From a channel perspective, and as a non-negotiable, Shortt stressed that consumer security and privacy are vital to maintaining trust in the integrity of the financial system.

“We work with partners who meet our high standards in these areas,” Shortt added. “Beyond that, we’re open to working with well-established or FinTech partners to develop innovative solutions that meet our customer needs.”

Ultimately however, and to further reiterate, Shortt’s primary focus is based on two core principals — customer satisfaction and the customer experience.

“Continuous improvements in technology and investments in technology are a significant lever we use to improve customer satisfaction and experience,” Shortt added. “There are times where the technology looks interesting and we trial it without certainty of business outcomes.

“An example of this is our partnership with UNSW on Quantum Computing. Other times, we use technology to solve business challenges such as machine learning capability to accelerate benefits.”

Focus on tech

Over the last several years, the industry has witnessed an expansion of the CMO mandate, from what was largely a promotional role to what is now often seen as the growth engine for the business.

Crucially however, it’s playing out in the numbers, with Gartner research driving this point home as CMOs take on more formal responsibility.

In more than 30 per cent of organisations, at least some aspects of sales, IT and customer experience now report into the CMO.

With new responsibility creates new buying power and new levels of preference for marketers keen to utilise emerging technologies in different ways.

“We use all the technologies you would expect such as big data, customer master data repositories, analytics software, decisioning engines, CRM capability and programmatic media tracking stack,” Shortt added.

More broadly however, Shortt said CommBank is building an innovation ecosystem around its customers through partnerships.

“For example, since acquiring Take Your Money Anywhere (TYME) in 2015 our team in South Africa has developed strong local partners in Pick n’ Pay, the second largest retailer in the country, and African Rainbow Capital, our investment partner,” Shortt added.

“With innovations in biometric capture and self service on-boarding, it takes four minutes to on-board a new customer from any of our 685 kiosks across South Africa.

“This is the type of innovation driven by technology that we’d like to see developed in other markets.”

Vanessa Brennan Partner, PwC
Vanessa Brennan Partner, PwC

Selling tech to the CMO

“Marketing and technology departments are realising their dependencies on each other,” observed Vanessa Brennan, partner at PwC.

“Everyone is trying to be customer- centric. It’s the buzzword we hear all the time and organisations now are using technology in different capacities to engage with customers in a number of ways.”

From a technology standpoint, Brennan cited data as a crucial tool in the marketing kit bag.

“The more you know about your customer, the more the customer journey becomes critical,” she explained.

Furthermore, Brennan defined omni- channel as the second most prominent phenomenon trending among PwC customers.

“If I look at it from a customers perspective, they don’t differentiate between online and offline anymore,” Brennan explained. “The expectation now is that they will see an engagement and customer experience from wherever they are in the customer cycle, no matter if it’s online or offline.”

For Brennan, emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), are on the horizon for marketing leaders in 2017.

“If you look at the customer journey, it’s not just about experience — they actually want to participate, so that will grow,” she said. “For example, AR came through during the launch of Pokemon Go last year.”

In addition, Brennan believes opportunities can be found in suppling VR-focused solutions to marketers, with executives striving to drive an emotional connection and longevity in brand advocacy.

“VR is one of the best ways to do that from a brand point of view,” Brennan added. “We are using it at the moment with customers in the health sector to bring the patient into problem solving.

“When we look at patient journey, we question how can we drive empathy and bridge that emotional connection so that we can make the right decision at that point in time in regards to services and solutions.”