As retail enters a year still colored by the pandemic, marketers will turn to safe strategies, with 73% of chief marketing officers saying they will depend on current customers rather than developing new markets to foster growth, according to Gartner's recent CMO Strategic Priorities Survey emailed to Retail Dive.
The survey, which studies how CMOs intend to lay out their marketing plans, indicates that they will focus on their current market either by increasing the sales of existing products (39%) or introducing new products to the same customers (34%), per the report.
Of the 381 marketers surveyed, half of the respondents said they would reinvent or rescale six out of 11 key marketing strategies Gartner studied, and 31.8% said they intend to do the same for eight.
The findings suggest that this low-risk, low-return strategy conflicts with CMOs eagerness to reinvent and rescale their key strategies.
CMOs are walking a fine line between wanting to expand digital capabilities and change up strategies, and minimizing risk. Though CMOs may want to innovate this year, 2020 introduced challenges that continue to make the recovery difficult for retailers to accomplish their goals. In being overly ambitious, marketers risk exhausting their resources and falling short, according to Gartner.
While focusing on existing customers is a safe approach, it may not be enough to fuel a company's growth, especially in a turbulent environment.
"CMOs cannot reinvent and rescale everything while still executing effectively and remaining agile in a year that promises more challenges," said Augie Ray, vice president analyst in the Gartner Marketing practice. "Those who attempt to reinvent too much simultaneously risk failing to do any one thing right while overburdening their teams."
The marketing department is notorious for getting its budget slashed, and many were forced to do so in 2020. As nonessential retail stores temporarily closed doors and paused growth plans, the marketing department was one of the areas that was impacted the most by budget cuts. In fact, a Gartner report last April showed that 65% of CMOs were preparing for budget cuts.
Gartner's most recent CMO report shows that marketers are optimistic that their budgets will bounce back after a devastating year. However, internal and external forces may cut their spending plans short.
Last year was a tumultuous year for CMOs with pandemic-induced budget cuts combined with multiple hirings and firings at top retail brands. The challenges from last year made the CMO role more complex and, in some organizations, obsolete.
"CMOs must try to avoid reinventing the wheel in 2021 and remember: For every strategy you rescale, you must choose another to reduce or retire," Ray said. "And for every strategy you try to reinvent, another must return to pre-pandemic levels and approach."