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Marketing teams have shown resilience in the face of COVID, but the industry is facing an acute skills crisis, a new report from digital experience company Acquia reveals. The report explores how marketing and consumer behaviour has adapted to the pandemic, built on survey data from 1000 UK consumers and 100 UK marketers, in comparison to global data from a further 7000 consumers and 700 marketers.

In the face of a nationwide lockdown, marketers had to quickly adjust customer experience strategies and utilise new technologies and channels to engage with consumers. Embracing digital experiences proved highly successful for most, with some 83% of UK brands seeing improved ROI on marketing and customer experience technology over the past year. Furthermore, despite COVID’s negative impact on the economy, the survey found 70% of UK brands expect the budgets available to their departments to increase within the next 12 months.

Marketing professionals also adapted easily to the shift to remote working; of the 84% of UK marketing teams impacted by a move to a more digital work environment, 81% felt they were well-prepared for the shift. Since the COVID-19 crisis, UK marketers estimate that 51% of their teams’ work has permanently shifted to digital, highlighting how the pandemic has fundamentally altered business.

However, growth risks being inhibited by skills shortages, with one-third (33%) of UK organisations reporting a workforce shortage due to COVID-19, while 44% of UK brands note they face a brand leadership talent shortage. Marketers also identified significant talent shortages in areas ranging from data science to web development, with 37% stating they were prevented from developing more personalised marketing campaigns by a shortage of employees with specialised skills in AI and ML.

With over two-fifths (43%) of UK consumers buying more online than they did before the pandemic, skills shortages could soon impact the success of vital projects aimed at improving digital customer experience at a time when it is more important than ever.

To cope with skills gaps and enhance the customer experience for digital-first consumers, brands have made significant strides in their use of technology. UK marketers reported being on par with the global average for implementing marketing technology such as personalisation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning solutions, which helped smooth transitions.

But despite these positive steps forwards in comparison to global averages, the UK fell behind the curve in the adoption of technologies such as content management systems (26% UK vs 35% globally), marketing automation (60% UK vs 63% globally), and low-code/no-code development tools (17% UK vs 24% globally).

Acquia’s CMO, Lynne Capozzi, explained that “In these disruptive times, it is vital that marketers are implementing technologies such as marketing automation and personalisation. By shifting towards a more open, automated and personalised customer experience platform that offers greater flexibility and interoperability, marketers can help mitigate the UK’s marketing skills shortage”.

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