The rapid pace of digital change is leaving most marketers feeling overwhelmed, with Brits suffering from more tech-induced anxiety than their European counterparts, according to new research.
Adobe’s annual Digital Roadblock study indicates that more than half (55%) of UK marketers struggling to cope with the accelerated pace of digital transformation – up 7% since 2015.
The report – which surveyed 450 marketers in the UK– found that Brits suffer from more tech-induced anxiety than their peers across the region: an average of 44% of marketers in Europe worry about their technology-based skill sets, 11% lower than the UK.
Of the marketers surveyed, 74% believe that technology skills are critical for marketing success, yet only 15% of them identify as tech-savvy themselves.
The report also found:
• Over half (55%) of UK marketers are struggling to cope with digital transformation, up 7% since 2015, and 11% higher than in Europe
• 65% of marketers say pressure to boost company revenue has increased since 2015, but 38% say brands are failing to invest in necessary training to help them do so
• Just under half (47%) aren’t sure if their digital marketing is working, and only 49% make decisions based on data
When it comes to technology skills, there’s an obvious gap between demand and reality: while 41% of respondents cited being a ‘tech-savvy’ early adopter of new technologies as the top attribute of being a marketer, only 15% actually identify as ‘tech-savvy’ themselves. In fact, more UK marketers identify as ‘tech challenged’ (20%) than ‘tech savvy’, and the number of ‘tech-savvy’ marketers has dropped since last year, when nearly one in five (19%) identified as so.
While over four in five (83%) of marketers still see digital transformation as an opportunity, two thirds (65%) of those polled believe that the pace of digital transformation within the marketing industry has been dramatic. It’s this fast pace that is resulting in marketers feeling like consumers and technology are in control of them, rather than the other way around. Over half (55%) see themselves as passive participants– rather than active agents – of industry change.
Heightened pressures on marketers
While marketers’ confidence is decreasing, both internal and customer expectations have never been higher. Marketers are seeing increased pressure for their function to contribute more to the business, with 65% feeling that marketing is now more responsible for revenue contribution compared to 2015.
Consumers are increasingly demanding a better experience from brands too –77% of marketers report that consumers expect an immediate response to a query, and 72% believe they expect more compelling content. When asked what the most important marketing skill is, knowing a customer better than any other brand came out on top, with almost a third (31%) of marketers citing it as their biggest priority.
Organisational support is waning
Despite these increased expectations, marketers do not believe businesses are investing enough to provide them with the support structure necessary to help them achieve their goals. When asked about the biggest barriers to success, lack of resources and budget took first place across Europe at 38%, with a lack of training in new marketing skills following at 24%.
This skills shortage and lack of training might be the reason why marketers aren’t taking full advantage of the data they hold: under half (49%) of marketers said they make strategic marketing decisions based on data, but 47% aren’t confident that they know whether their digital marketing is working or not. It would seem that UK marketers aren’t able to effectively measure their results – a worrying statistic given that big data and marketing measurement are two of the most critical marketing tactics for the next three years.
Besides better utilisation of data, marketers consider ability to work across multiple channels as crucial to future success. 71% of those surveyed believe that the proliferation of channels is fundamentally changing the nature of marketing, with half (52%) having heard of a new marketing channel within the past month alone.
Interestingly, marketers also now recognise that they need to think beyond their traditional marketing departments, with just over half saying that customer response management and e-commerce (51% each) were key marketing tactics to focus on in the next year.
“It’s clear from what marketers are telling us is that they are really feeling squeezed,” John Watton, Marketing Director EMEA commented. “On the one hand they are expected to contribute more to the business and on the other, they have customers expecting instant responses and incredible experiences each and every time they interact with a brand.
Furthermore, they are having to grapple with many new techniques for reaching customers and having to step out of their marketing heartland into sales and customer services.
“Given all of this, it is essential to stay focused on what’s ultimately the most important thing – providing your customers with the best possible experience you can. At the same time, business leaders need to invest more in training their marketing teams to become adept in using the technologies seen as critical to marketing now and in the future. The business results will naturally flow from that,” Watton concluded.
For marketers that are feeling more challenged than excited about their changing world, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Professor of Business Psychology, University College London & Columbia University, has provided a few helpful tips on how they can navigate increasingly complex roles:
1. Keep learning: although it is easy to turn your fears and anxieties into denial and avoidance, there is no other way to cope with new technologies than to remain up-to-date with them. You may not like it, but the alternative is worse: more anxiety and less productivity.
2. Team-up with geeks: today geeks are the new rock stars, and what’s great about them is their enthusiasm to share their tech knowledge. Use this to your advantage – either by learning from them or by asking them to help with your tech issues.
3. Never stop thinking: technology should not be the tail that wags the dog; everybody today has access to it, so the key differentiator is ideas and intuition. Keep your mind active and creative so that it’s you who’s in the driving seat.
4. Indulge in some digital detox: following the previous point, it is important that you have some offline time in order to read, think, and rest. Whether it’s a few hours in your working day or a full day a week, there are lots of benefits to some quality downtime, especially when it comes to getting your creative juices flowing.
5. Focus on productivity: technology is about doing more with less; therefore, it only makes sense to use it if it makes you more productive. In other words, technology is a means to an end rather than an end in itself. You should pick and choose the tech that enhances the quality or quantity of your work while reducing your input or efforts. This will allow you to focus on what’s important for your business and your role.
Professor Chamorro-Premuzic, said: “This research suggests that technology is somewhat of a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it is no longer possible to function without it; on the other hand, a large number of people feel overwhelmed or even anxious by it. The big take-home message for leaders and boards is that they must put in place the right cultural and strategic conditions so that technology is embraced and welcomed by the wider workforce, not just millennials and techies. It is no longer enough to have the right technologies in place – the big competitive advantage will come from integrating tech with the human elements of talent and potential.”
About the research
Between 20 July – 2 August 2016, Edelman Intelligence surveyed 1,301 marketers across the UK, France and Germany about their perceptions of the marketing industry.