HP is in the midst of a companywide digital transformation, according to Alex Craddock, the company’s global head of marketing for personal systems.
“In simple terms, digital transformation is about embracing and applying all aspects of digital and data innovation to become an experience-led business, one where you have the operational flexibility to deliver the best customer experience for any customer, anytime, anywhere,” said Craddock, whose business includes desktop and notebook PCs, workstations, and handheld devices. “Digital transformation is enabling businesses to be a lot more agile, a lot more flexible, and a lot more responsive to customers and their needs.”
Human insight and the ability to synthesize data are critical parts of the process, as is an omnichannel mindset, he added. In this exclusive interview with CMO.com, Craddock details how experiences, technology, and brands are evolving.
CMO.com: What are your three top strategic priorities over the next 12 to 18 months?
Craddock: These would fall into the following three areas. [The first is] continuing to drive profitable top-line growth, with a particular focus on premium, gaming, and device-as-a-service. Marketing has to contribute to driving the business, and, importantly, we have to be able to demonstrate our contribution to the business with data. This has always been of paramount importance to me throughout my marketing career.
[Another priority is] building an enduring brand for HP that’s fueling the future of personal computing. HP has made great progress in reinventing all aspects of our business over the last two years. One important aspect of this reinvention has been to get people to reappraise their perceptions of the HP brand and, in particular, to build our brand preference with Millennials and premium PC buyers. We have made great progress in the last 18 months and need to maintain this momentum.
Developing the team [is also a top priority]. We work in the most interesting and dynamic time to be a marketer, given the impact of digital transformation, proliferation of data, and changing consumer media and brand engagement behavior. However, this also makes it the most challenging time to be a marketer. Therefore, there’s a big responsibility on any marketing leader to create an environment in which their marketing team can continue to grow by developing and acquiring new capabilities. I’m passionate about our marketers engaging in focused test-and-learn activity using emerging technologies, new data sources, and emerging ways to engage consumers. This is the only way to ensure we build and maintain high-performing marketing teams and effectively support the business’ future growth ambitions.
CMO.com: Can you give a prediction on what you think the future of customer experience will look like?
Craddock: At HP we believe we have entered a new age. We call it the “Experience Age.” In the 1800s, we were in the Industrial Age, when power-driven machines replaced hand tools. Then came the Information Age with the introduction of the computer, where information was able to be moved more seamlessly around the world and became more democratized. Now we have transitioned to the Experience Age where the experience is key, in everything across both our physical and digital lives.
We believe the Experience Age is defined by greater complexity, omnichannel being the only channel, technology becoming more human and, in turn, brands being more important than ever and our experiences becoming more personal.
CMO.com: So what does that mean for your marketing strategy?
Craddock: In an era of complexity, human insight will be key. Being able to synthesize the data and identify human insight will be critical.
The demarcation between the physical channel and the digital channel is gone. Consumers now move seamlessly between the physical and digital in all aspects of their lives, and nowhere more so than retail. We need to make sure that, in partnership with our retail and our channel partners, we deliver the best omnichannel experience.
Technology will be more human and more intuitive as interfaces such as voice proliferate. This creates new consumer behavior and a new aspect to a consumer experience that has implications for how [people] find and engage with brands and branded content.
In a complex world where consumers will be looking for stability, brands will be more important than ever. This presents a big opportunity for brands that are trusted and can help simplify the complexity.
Finally, the heart will rule. Brands that emotionally engage the consumer and enhance their personal experience will win.
CMO.com: How do you define digital transformation?
Craddock: In simple terms, digital transformation is about embracing and applying all aspects of digital and data innovation to become an experience-led business, one where you have the operational flexibility to deliver the best customer experience for any customer, anytime, anywhere. Digital transformation is enabling businesses to be a lot more agile, a lot more flexible, and a lot more responsive to customers and their needs.
CMO.com: Is HP an experience-led organization?
Craddock: Definitely. We’ve thought very deeply about what being experience-led means for us not only as marketers, but also what it means for us in terms of our products and how they need to evolve over the coming years to continue to deliver experiences that amaze for our customers. It’s incredibly important. Harnessing the power of data and observation and being consumer-insight-driven in every aspect of our business is key to informing product development, not just in terms of hardware, but also software and the purchase experience, and, importantly, the ownership experience throughout the product lifecycle.
CMO.com: Can you go deeper on that?
Craddock: Well, for example, with device-as-a-service we are able to use data and analytics to understand how people are using our devices today and then, based on actual usage behavior, recommend the PC that best meets the demands of what they need to do. We are transitioning from a transactional model to paying a monthly amount with full service included. Then during ownership, we can capture data that enables us to predict when a hard drive may be failing or the battery is not performing optimally, and we can proactively notify them, get someone to come out and replace the part to ensure ongoing optimal performance.
So I think the fact that we’re thinking about the experience beyond purchase and making sure that the customer experience overall is optimal is a good example of how we’re being experience-led.
CMO.com: So data is key in your quest to become an experience-led organization, right?
Craddock: Big data has been talked about for a long time, but HP has evolved our capability to not only capture the data but glean insight from analysis. It has become a powerful tool for us to deliver great experiences for our customers.
Our ability to capture data across all aspects of people’s engagement with our brand, be that product or content, and convert that data into actionable insights that enable us to create a better experience for our customers is paramount.
We’ve put a lot of effort into building out a data analytics team at HP–a team that can access first-, second-, and third-party data that we are then able to use to drive better targeting in the decision journey, better messaging and content, and, importantly, deliver a better ownership experience.
CMO.com: What are some of the biggest trends or challenges in the high-tech sector, specifically?
Craddock: I’ve mentioned this already. Omnichannel is now the only channel. We’ve stopped thinking about physical or digital. Also where there is physical retail, [we think about how to] transition it from a transactional environment to an experiential environment. [That has] implications for how we display our products in store and how we bring the product experience to life in that environment. The blurring of the lines between physical and online retail is forcing us to think very differently about the retail experience.
The other big trend that I also mentioned is that the heart rules. What I mean by that is that in a world where many aspects of our lives are delivered to us via algorithms that are created based on our conscious and unconscious behavior or preferences that we’ve set, for brands that want to continue to win, it is essential that they create a deep emotional connection and bring delight and wonder at every touc hpoint.
CMO.com: If you could give your younger self one piece of career advice, what would it be?
Craddock: Find your purpose. Be very clear in your own mind what it is you want to do, what it is that you actually want to be, and what is it that you want to leave in terms of your legacy in the world, in both your personal and professional life.
I think once you’ve aligned on those in your own mind, it makes it much easier for you to find the place where you fit and the place where your purpose can truly add the greatest value for yourself and for others.