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Study By The Digital Marketing Institute Reveals Critical Digital Marketing Skills Gap as Emerging Technologies Become Mainstream

Although 96% of the UK’s leading Marketers believe digital marketing is important to the success of their organisations; 70% report that they are concerned about a digital skills shortage in the industry in the UK. This was the key finding in a study released today by the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI), the global standard in digital marketing professional learning and certification.

Keith Moor, CMO UK at Santander and member of the Digital Marketing Institute’s Global Industry Advisory Council (GIAC) said, “I think it is important for Marketing Leaders to do what they can to keep increasing the capability and skill base within the industry. This will help the overall contribution of the sector to the economy and also create more opportunities for individuals to join, learn and grow in a structured way.”

The report, 20/20 Vision: A Marketing Leader’s View of Digital’s Future, shares insights from a survey of more than 200 executive and senior marketing professionals worldwide about critical challenges and opportunities for marketing teams and businesses in the lead up to 2020.

89% of respondents from the UK reported their digital marketing budgets increased over the last two years, with 39% of those reporting a ‘significant’ increase; and 83% expect their digital marketing budget to increase further by 2020.

In fact, digital now accounts for more than half (55%) of overall marketing budgets in the UK. When asked why this is, respondents said it was down to the ability to more accurately measure the success of digital marketing (88%), the ability to target specific audiences (88%), the ability to reach more people than traditional marketing (87%), and better return on investment (86%).

Most effective channels and budget increases

The top 3 digital channels UK marketing leaders identified as ‘Highly Effective’ in their current marketing strategies are mobile (75%), email (79%) and paid social advertising (75%).

Following this was online marketplace selling (71%), Apps (69%), Video (68%), paid search advertising (67%), display advertising (66%), voucher systems (64%), SEO (59%), organic social (57%) and content marketing (57%).

So it’s no surprise that mobile is flagged as the top digital channel to receive a budget increase by 2020, with 64% reporting they plan to increase mobile marketing budgets by 2020 – 31% significantly so. Online advertising will also reportedly get a boost in budget by 2020, with 68% planning to increase paid social budgets, and 64% planning to increase paid search.

The emerging technologies identified by leading UK marketers as becoming the most important by 2020 were artificial intelligence, app technology and automation.

Challenges and skills gaps

75% of UK respondents report struggling with the evolving digital landscape and voiced concerns about how their departments and businesses can keep up. Organisations fear losing out on revenue and market share to competitors who are further along in digital transformation and are creating a better user experience and customer journey through the use of digital technologies.

The channels for which UK organisations are currently experiencing the greatest skills gaps within their organisations and thus enlisting help from external digital specialist agencies (either fully managing or supporting in-house managers) are paid social media advertising (71%), paid search advertising (70%), marketplace selling (e.g. Amazon) (71%), and SEO (66%).

The areas where they anticipated the greatest challenges by 2020 will be be keeping up with the pace of technological change (54%); creating engaging digital content to contend with increasing noise from other brands (49%); and recruiting the right talent (53%).

They revealed that as digital technologies continue to evolve, the knowledge and capabilities of employees lags behind, leaving many organisations playing catch up. To address this skill shortage, 83% of respondents in the UK indicated that their organisation needs to invest more in staff training and development to upskill and reskill their marketing teams to remain competitive. This training needs to address not only gaps in technical skills, but also business skills including strategy and planning, analytics, research and leadership.

“As digital technologies rapidly transform business, marketers are recognising the need to invest more resources in training and closing skills gaps. There is an urgency to cultivate a talent pool that possesses the skills necessary to help their organisations remain competitive and relevant in the digital economy,” said Ken Fitzpatrick, CEO of the Digital Marketing Institute.

“To be successful in 2020 and beyond, a culture that promotes professional development, upskilling, and reskilling is going to be just as important in digitisation as emerging technologies, effective strategies and increased budgets.”

When it comes to training, marketing leaders revealed that their organisations are primarily outsourcing training for all skills, both strategic and technical. There is not a single instance for any skill where training is delivered primarily in-house.

“It is imperative that we invest in and take action on hiring talent that will keep pace with technological change,” said Ty Heath, LinkedIn global lead for market education and member of the DMI Global Industry Advisory Council (GIAC).

“The incoming wave of marketers aren’t fully prepared to find footing in the shifting digital landscape that now exists. We need to move thoughtfully and quickly to meet the transformation in marketing and sales.”

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