April 30, 2013
Chief Digital Officer (or CDO) is the latest in a long line of snazzy C-level titles to emerge over the last few years. At Forrester we’ve been watching this trend for a while now and have made a few comments, but I think it’s time to put a firm stake in the ground.
- Amazon…born digital. You could say “dot com” firms have an unfair advantage, as digital is in their DNA. Firms like Amazon don’t have a CMO responsible for traditional media and a separate interactive marketing team running search and social. They don’t have an assortment and merchandizing team for the web and a separate one for wholesale or stores. They don’t think in terms of channels – they think holistically. This is true of any internet first firm (Asos, Net-a-Porter, Pixmania, Zalando and my old employer the now defunct Egg to name a few). They are born digital. So why would they need a chief digital officer?
- Burberry…achieved digital mastery. A benchmark of digital transformation, Burberry’s bold metamorphosis from outfitter of the ASBO generation to heritage British luxury brand is unprecedented. Burberry has woven digital experiences throughout its brand – in its stores, its catwalk shows, its celebrity associations and everything in between. It now boasts what I’d hold up as a best in class luxury eCommerce site. It hasn’t done any of this by accident, but neither did CEO Angela Ahrendts recruit a CDO to lead this charge. Burberry’s recipe was a digitally savvy CEO who could clearly articulate her vision that “every customer will have total access to the Burberry brand and culture, regardless of where, when and how they access the company.”
- Blockbuster…had digital thrust upon them. In a world going digital, Blockbuster clung to an unwieldy and expensive distribution model and failed to look for an escape plan. iTunes, Love Film, Netflix, Spotify and a host of other cable-delivered, on-demand services eroded Blockbusters’ value proposition, leaving it with a huge cost base of people, rent and inventory which was less accessible to its consumers that the streamed content from its digital rivals. Arguably Blockbuster made two mistakes. It failed to recognize the fact that the fulfillment model for its content was changing, but it also failed to embrace digital as a means of engaging its customers. Would a CDO have been able to change this? Possibly, and given that the trend for hiring CDOs has largely originated in the media industry, out of all three brands, Blockbuster would probably have benefited the most from such a person.
- The ability to develop and articulate a digital vision.
- The ability to embed large scale cultural change into an organization.