Why John Lewis and British Airways are putting marketers in charge of customer experience

Brands are increasingly including customer experience in CMO’s remit as the 24/7 nature of consumer interactions means marketers must be responsible for every touch point, from stores to apps, not just the marketing campaign or social media strategy.

KPMG Nunwood’s annual list of the top 100 brands for customer experience threw up some familiar faces. At the top was Lush, which went from third to first, while First Direct and John Lewis rounded out the top three.

One of the key outcomes from the survey was that brands with a higher ranking understood their customers better and were able to offer more tailored experiences aligned with their marketing promise.

At John Lewis customer experience is now an even more important part of its marketing after it explicitly included it in marketing boss Craig Inglis’ job. Last week his role was expanded to cover end-to-end customer experience, as well as marketing and insights, and his title changed to customer director.

John Lewis Partnership chairman Charlie Mayfield told Marketing Week at the time: “The root cause of Craig’s change is the continue move to omnichannel within the business and ensuring John Lewis is organised to deliver against the changing ways the customer is choosing to shop.

“Our shopper is thinking about the business as an end-to-end experience, irrespective of the part of the business they interact with.”

Sir Charlie Mayfield, chairman, John Lewis Partnership

The changes to Craig’s role will ensure he is critiquing every aspect of our customer experience to the board.”

John Lewis is not the only brand to have its marketing focused on customers. British Airways has just appointed Avis’ Troy Warfield as director of customer experience while both Asda and Tesco have scrapped the CMO role in favour of a chief customer officer.

Engaging with connected consumers

That customer experience is increasingly coming under marketers’ remit is a sign of the increasingly connected lives of consumers. They are constantly online and expect brands to be too.

Richard Robinson, managing partner at Oystercatchers, says: “Today’s customer lives an ultra-connected life. As a result customer experience has fast-become the vanguard of marketing, stepping up to go way beyond the 40 hours a week the average brand manager is working and stretching to the full 168 hours a week that the customer is living,” he explains.

Brands need to adapt to this change in consumer behaviours, breaking down silos that previously separated out store and online sales, mobile and loyalty.

What BA and John Lewis have done is recognise that marketing has the best understanding of the customer and is therefore best placed to work across customer experience roles.


“The ability today to engage with a customer through their true end-to-end journey from initial engagement to the sale and then ongoing customer engagement requires a wholesale shift in the way in which a business deals with the customer experience.

“That is why we are seeing experience marketers seamlessly shifting into these customer experience roles,” explains Scott McLean, chief operating officer at marketing consultancy The Intelligent Marketing Institute.

The changing nature of marketing

What the changes signify is the wider skillset required by the modern CMO and the move beyond a focus on creativity to more of a commercial role.

“When you look at the end-to-end customer experience, we are talking about the shift towards customer-centricity, the breaking down of customer communication silos and the need to identify and measure commercial returns from customer engagement. This commercial marketing capability is going to be vital to modern marketers moving forward,” says McLean.

Brands’ relationship with agencies will also need to change. At the moment the big creative agencies still govern much of what marketing does but in the future design agencies and shopper marketing agencies, for example, could become more important.

“Marketers have for so long been focused on communications work they lost sight of the mismatch between the real customer experience and those shiny promises embodied by advertising.”

James Poletti, head of digital strategy, RPM

“This is a big challenge for both client side marketers and agencies as we look to define coherent experiences of our brands across the channels where empowered consumers now take control of their relationship with our products and services.”

  • Do you want to ensure your brand’s customer experience campaign gets the recognition it deserves? Enter the customer experiece marketing category in this year’s Masters of Marketing. Go to the Masters site for details of how to enter.



There is one comment at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Hallelujah! Doesn’t surprise me that a forward looking company like John Lewis has recognised the important role that marketing can play.

    But couldn’t help but flag up your comment re CMO’s and “the move beyond a focus on creativity to more of a commercial role.” For me precisely that kind of statement and belief has meant marketing has never been a fully accepted member of the c-suite. The whole point of creativity is to ensure a competitive advantage with its customers/consumers that means it is and should be a wholly commercial activity. Sadly marketing has, in my opinion, spent so much time trying to become a left brain profession, to justify itself to left brain senior management (50% of FTSE 100 companies CEO’s are from an accountancy background vs just 10% from Marketing, need I say more.)

    If marketing is to gain it’s rightful place in the boardroom, the only way that will happen is by going back to what it should be, a truly thought leading and creative profession, because that is and should be it’s USP. It’s about a function all about creating the real numbers, as opposed to another function that gets far too much credit for merely counting them.

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