Talent and skills gap hindering marketing firms says new report

As digital experiences are now at the heart of marketing, marketers are struggling to keep pace with consumer technologies and demands, and a pervasive talent gap continues to derail success.

This is the key finding of Perpetual Evolution: The Interplay Of Talent and Technology in the Future Of Marketing, released today from The Economist Group in association with the Digital Marketing Institute (DMI).

Based on a survey of more than 500 marketing executives around the world, Perpetual Evolution demonstrates that while marketers understand the line between “traditional” and “digital” marketing no longer exists, 74% believe that marketing organisations face a critical talent shortage due to a lack of digital skills that will be needed to meet ongoing customer demands.

This talent gap includes digital experiences, marketing experiences as well as soft skills.

To address this talent shortage, the research indicates that marketers will place a strong emphasis on recruitment (47% say they will focus “somewhat or much more” on recruitment), and a sizeable number (40%) say they will focus on recruitment and re-skilling of their existing workforce equally.

“Consumers today don’t just expect companies to understand their needs, they expect those needs to be addressed with highly relevant experiences on the platforms and devices of their choosing,” said The Economist Group’s Mina Seetharaman, EVP, Chief Strategy and Creative Officer.

“Unfortunately, the majority of marketers we surveyed say they have not kept pace with the technologies their consumers are using, while at the same time identifying customer experience as the leading driver of marketing success.

“The success story, though, isn’t just one of technology, but of the talent who can adapt to the ever-changing tech landscape with a creative and customer-focused mindset.”

Future success issues

To drive future success, respondents identified the need for well-rounded professionals, as opposed to solely marketing specialists.

In response to the question, “What skills and competencies will a future marketing workforce need to be successful in the next five years?”, nine of the top ten responses identify skills that are not typically associated with traditional marketing.

These include technology skills (48%), openness to change (38%), adaptability (37%) and broader business knowledge (31%).

Marketers identified customer experience (84%), strategy and planning / brand management (79%) and data and analytics (76%) as very or somewhat important to their organisations’ success and business performance today.

The focus largely stays consistent when considering the key drivers of organisational marketing success in the next five years: customer experience (81%), strategy and brand management (78%) and user experience (78%) emerged as important or very important, the companies said.

The perceived significance of artificial intelligence in marketing is also notable, the report said.

52% identify AI as the technology that will most influence the marketing function in the next five years — significantly higher than the next closest responses (mobile apps at 38%; voice/intelligent/digital assistants at 36%, and immersive technologies at 32%).

“Marketers are struggling with how to future-proof their organisations in the light of a skills challenge,” said Ken Fitzpatrick, DMI chief executive officer.

“Those organisations that come out on top will be diligent about ongoing employee development to build agile teams that can easily adapt to an era of constant change.”