Informed management consultants and industry analysts agree, the digital transformation journey begins with the adoption of digital marketing practices that enable companies to evolve beyond obsolete advertising-centric thinking.
Today's progressive marketers have embraced change. They've learned new skills and pushed past the fears that were once holding them back. Now, digital marketing is an imperative, and digital commerce is also a top priority, according to the latest market study by Gartner, Inc.
The recent Gartner survey also found that marketing budgets increased by 10 percent in 2015, with 61 percent of respondents saying they expect budgets to increase once again in 2016.
"There is little doubt that digital marketing is now mainstream," said Yvonne Genovese, group vice president at Gartner. "Marketers no longer make a clear distinction between offline and online marketing disciplines."
Gartner believes that as more enterprise customers opt for digitally led experiences across most industries, digital marketing stops being a discrete discipline and instead becomes the key context for all marketing.
Moreover, 10 percent of marketers say they've already moved beyond digital marketing techniques and are expanding marketing's role to create new digitally-led business models. The blurring of the physical and digital worlds represents opportunities for marketers to apply customer insights to create and test new business models.
Digital commerce is surging, according to the Gartner assessment, capturing 11 percent of the digital marketing budget (that's up from 8 percent in 2014) as marketers become more accountable for driving results.
Marketing and selling were once viewed as two distinct disciplines. Now, digital strategies can merge these two business processes into a single, continuous activity from initial awareness, through engagement, conversion, transaction and repeat purchase.
Fearless Digital Marketers will Lead Change
There are two main factors driving a digital commerce agenda: the need to point to tangible results from marketing investments, and the recognition that companies need more than a commerce platform to sell. They need a concerted effort across corporate domains and product silos.
In the past, digital commerce operations were often disconnected from marketing activity. Today, they're two parts of a single, integrated discipline -- where marketers weave together content marketing, brand storytelling and advanced data analytics that are applied to achieve digital commerce objectives.
That being said, marketing is expected to drive profitable growth through the acquisition, retention and expansion of valuable customer relationships. As these expectations expand, so does the potential influence and responsibility of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO).
The most successful CMOs will be progressive, forward-thinking catalysts of organizational change. They must be fully cognizant of what it really means to be a digital marketing practitioner. They will lead by example. They will also protect the few change-agents from the gang of legacy organization antibodies that will try to undermine and eliminate any plan to disrupt the traditional marketing status-quo.