Rise of new tech threatens to open up fresh skills gap

data science 1Marketers are facing a race to keep up with the demands of new technology, despite a slight improvement in their core digital expertise, with the likes of generative AI, Google Analytics 4, and Web3 threatening to create a fresh skills gap across the majority of industries.

So says a new study by the training body Target Internet, in association with the Chartered Institute of Marketing, based on data from more than 10,000 marketing professionals, gathered between 2018 to 2023.

It highlights key short and medium-term trends, opportunities and challenges across the marketing sector.

A separate study carried out by CIM, highlights the complex environment marketers operate in. Worryingly, one in five respondents (19%) state they feel they only have some of the required skills to successfully carry out their roles. While almost four fifths, (79%) believe the skill set required for the job has changed completely over the past decade.

With many marketers being forced to adapt to a variety of emerging technologies, an ever growing martech stack and an increasing number of social media platforms, the range of skills expected from marketing professionals continues to expand.

The pace of development in the sector means that businesses have to dig deep and continue to invest in training and development in times of economic uncertainty.

The Target Internet report finds that there has been a general upwards trend amongst key marketing disciplines with social media (+8%), ecommerce and lead generation (+5%) and email marketing (+5%) seeing the greatest average improvements, while content marketing (+1%), analytics and data (+2%) and PPC (+2%) have witnessed more modest increases.

However, despite a general upwards trend, improvements in most digital marketing areas remain relatively low, and are still far from universal. There is clearly a marketing skills gap with several disciplines only seeing slight increases from pre-pandemic levels and some areas having still not recovered.

The rapid pace of change in the marketing sector means it can be difficult for marketers to remain up to date and relevant, which impacts a team’s ability to meet business objectives, impacting the bottom line.

Sustained investment in training is needed to ensure that teams have the requisite skills they need to compete in the crowded marketing space, the report argues.

While the research found that marketers, at several levels, have improved their skills over the past 12 months, some of the more junior roles have regressed, demonstrating a clear case for skills to be updated through continuous training at all levels.

Intern’s skill levels have seen a general upwards trend compared to last year, with the most significant increase in general marketing (+18%).

Assistant/graduate level roles have seen the least amount of progress, with scores drifting back in four of 12 areas, with the only area of significant progress being social media (+9%).

In contrast, the head of department group has made progress in all but one area of capability in the benchmark tests, while those at director level have demonstrated progress in all 12 areas of competency, taking these groups in line with, or above, the all-seniority average.

Even so, the benchmark also suggests a gap exists between confidence and actual skill levels across the majority of tech-driven marketing disciplines. With the exception of marketing theory, email, ecommerce and lead generation, confidence levels consistently outstrip actual ability; this was most evident in content marketing, usability and social media.

Commenting on the results of the benchmarking study, Target Internet chief executive Daniel Rowles said the report underscores significant opportunities as well as notable risks for businesses of all kinds.

He said: “Companies and individuals that adopt a culture of continuous professional development have a genuine chance to distinguish themselves, especially as technology continues to develop at pace. Moreover, it emphasises that reducing investments in training proves to be an ineffective strategy for increasing productivity and driving growth.”

Chartered Institute of Marketing chief executive Chris Daly added: “Despite the challenges we’ve all experienced over the past couple of years, I’m pleased to see that skills are increasing. However, the report’s findings should act as a wake-up call for marketers to invest in their training and development.

“The range of skills expected from marketing professionals continues to expand, which gives us new opportunities to drive change and demonstrate our industry’s value. But to do this, it is vital marketers remain cognisant of the rapidly changing marketing landscape and keep up to date with professional development – or risk getting left behind.

“The demand for digital skills remains strong in a rapidly changing environment, so I would therefore urge marketers to invest in their own skills and those of their teams to stay ahead of the curve.”

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