In brief

In brief

  • A small subset of retail CMOs are driving new business growth for their companies.
  • These retail CMOs are doing many things right, and top of their list is reinventing the customer experience.
  • To create a customer experience that changes in real time, leading CMOs are investing in people and technology for the New, not the traditional.
  • Keeping the balance right, with a bias toward disruptive growth fueled by shared purpose, sets these retailers apart.

Retail rock stars: CMOs driving growth

Retail growth has been an endgame for some time within the industry, but now it’s no longer enough. Simply growing in existing categories and businesses won’t suffice, as niche startups eat into established players’ profits.

More than 90 percent of retail CEOs and CMOs say that disruptive growth is the name of the game—acknowledging it will contribute “a great deal” to overall growth over the next two years. But acknowledgement does not mean they know how to make it happen, or how to infuse the brand purpose so important to consumers into that growth.

What are growth leaders doing differently?

An elite few are ahead of the pack, spurring disruptive growth for their companies. These are the CMOs who straddle two parallel universes—their traditional responsibilities and the activities that will spur new growth. They are outpacing their peers, who say they spend less than half their time (41 percent) on disruptive growth.

That’s not surprising, because retail CMOs told us they feel confident about traditional skills like marketing operations but far less so about what disruptive growth requires.


Fewer CMOs feel they have good control of both traditional and disruptive growth levers than just two years ago


of retail CMOs are not ready to embrace Artificial Intelligence


of retail CMOs feel they are above average in attracting and retaining the right talent

Growth’s best friend: A tailored customer experience

Our research pinpoints one issue retail CMOs agree is their most critical: engaging customers in the right way for a tailored customer experience that changes as their needs and context change.

CMOs can use powerful analytics to deliver a new product or service designed not just for a specific customer, but for that customer’s needs at a specific point in time. Mastering the moments that matter most to customers means building an organization that can create context-aware, customized products and services on demand.

Companies that can do this are Living Businesses, unlocking sustained growth by continuously adapting to evolving customer needs.

How are Leaders making growth happen?

Leading retail CMOs are putting together two key ingredients—humans and technology—to get to growth. Blending both into collaborative “Human+” teams, they’re building complementary skillsets.

Retail CMOs producing disruptive growth are hiring for tomorrow’s talent needs today. Many of their peers are not, as almost half of retail CMOs say they lack the funding required for a world-class marketing organization. Eighty-four percent think it’s important to attract and retain the right talent but only 56 percent feel they are above average.

Digital technologies allow for speed and scale in a world where brand promise and tailored experiences need to be delivered instantaneously. But as companies focus more intently on high-value customers, it will take more than AI to win and keep them. Humans who can help fulfill a brand’s purpose—infusing values, empathy and nuanced decision-making—are a key link in delivering the right customer experience for the individual.

Retail CMOs feel confident about traditional skills like marketing operations but far less so about what disruptive growth requires.

New growth, new habits

The better retail CMOs can master new activities that fuel disruptive growth, the faster they will incorporate those into the delicate balance of traditional and new. Concentrating on a few areas can help speed the journey, helping them very deliberately shift to the New:

Manage the shift from traditional to New

Spending time on disruptive growth, rather than focused on traditional marketing requires shifting talent and resources to the New now, while balancing current core marketing operations.

One view of the customer, one version of the truth

Data and analytics can provide a consistent, dynamic, shared view of customers. The CMO should own, live and breathe data from each customer touchpoint to drive insight and change the business.

Acknowledge not all customers are equally valuable

The most valuable customers should drive the strategy of the CMO and the business. The CMO must lead the shift in operating model, enabling the company to interact with individual customers.

Own the customer experience

Many CMOs remain influencers of the customer experience rather than owners. As custodian of customer data and insight, the retail CMO needs to work across corporate boundaries toward the right outcomes.

Reinvent the talent model

CMOs in the New are hiring for tomorrow’s needs today, automating repetitive tasks to free people to focus on more creative pursuits and investing in critical data-science skills, despite the price tag.

View All

Retail CMOs who operate in the New have helped create a Living Business, one with a clearly defined purpose for a clearly defined market—putting their most valuable customers at the heart of all they do.

Not surprisingly, it shows in their numbers. Those getting it right are rewriting the rules of retail growth.

Andrew Carlisle

Managing Director – Accenture Digital Lead Retail, UK/Ireland

​Michael Swartz​

Senior Manager – Accenture Retail Marketing Services Lead, North America

Nevine El-Warraky

Co-CEO – Brand Learning, Managing Director – Accenture

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