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CIO, CMO partner to drive used car sales

Clint Boulton | Jan. 4, 2017
CarMax has revamped its website and is testing a new home delivery service thanks to a close collaboration between its CMO and CIO.

Agile cements symbiotic marketing, IT relationship

The hybrid team revamped its website, improving its inventory search capabilities. It also implemented a new, cloud-based CRM system to help sales staff quickly access information from their smartphones. The teams built software in regular bi-weekly sprints, enabling CarMax to iterate and refine the product before it was put into production. And they shared the fruits of their work with senior managers and anyone else in the company via open house meetings.

"The team sees we are unified, which gives them the confidence that we have their back and that we're able to work together," Mohammad says. He adds that CarMax is also upgrading legacy technology in the company's stores, as well as supply chain, logistics, inventory and order management systems to ensure a better omnichannel experience for consumers. The key is implementing mobile and cloud technologies that will help CarMax react quickly to market changes.

Such close collaboration between marketing and IT -- Lyski and Mohammad meet almost daily -- has enabled CarMax to avoid many of the pitfalls Lyski has seen in other companies, where marketing elects to pick and implement a technology rather than wait for IT to vet and deliver the solution. "There's none of this 'hey, marketing is off doing something crazy, using some vendor we've never heard about," Lyski says. "Everybody's in the know and they're all working for the same objective." That objective is driven purely by the consumer, which CarMax uses as its North Star.

Mohammad agrees, adding. "As the CIO I think like a business leader first but I happen to be leading the tech organization and that helps me build a good relationship with Jim and other execs."

Centering objectives around the customer is key in any technology and marketing partnership today, according to Forrester Research. “Companies need marketing and technology working in harmony and sharing the responsibility to meet customer expectations,” wrote Forrester analysts Nigel Fenwick and Sheryl Pattek in a research report earlier this year.

Lyski and Mohammad’s teams are exploring additional digital initiatives. One increasingly popular scenario could include experimenting with augmented and virtual reality. Cadillac and CarMax rival Vroom plan to let people browse for cars by letting them visit showrooms in VR.

Mohammad says that CarMax has already evaluated AR and VR solutions and determined they are not ready for prime time. "We believe this is still a little bit out there and the consumers aren't ready for it," Mohammad says. "We will continue to evaluate and when the time is right we'll get involved."


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