Digital marketing

Marketing’s digital skills gap could become ‘unmanageable’ as skills decline

Marketing's digital skills gap could become 'unmanageable' as skills decline

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According to a new study, marketers’ abilities in key digital skills stagnated or declined between 2020 and 2021 at all seniority levels.

The study, conducted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) and training organization Target Internet with more than 7,000 marketers, finds that proficiency in analytics and data fell the most, dropping by 6 % to reach a score of 29%. Nearly seven in 10 marketers (67%) are in the bottom two quintiles for their analytics and data skills.

While the fall is “easily explained” as new analytics options and changes to cookie rules increase the overall complexity of digital marketing, it is nonetheless a “worrying” indication of the ability of marketers to marketers to analyze and improve their work, according to the study.

The research is based on the results of a digital marketing skills assessment test, taken by marketers in 2018, 2020 and 2021. The test asks participants to complete a series of tasks aimed at testing their knowledge across 12 areas of marketing, with a focus on digital skills and calculating a percentage for each.

Content marketing saw the second biggest drop, down 4% to a score of 24%, followed by social media, which fell 2% to 32%. Three-quarters of marketers fall into the bottom two quintiles for content marketing.

Mobile marketing and SEO both recorded a small step back, with a reduction of 1% each. Other areas remain stagnant, including e-commerce at 37%, digital strategy at 34%, online advertising at 31% and usability at 28%.

The only discipline that has significantly improved over the past 18 months is “general marketing”, which has improved by 7% to reach a score of 54%. Email and PPC both saw small improvements, up 1% each to 49% and 32%, respectively. Agenda 2022: the need for skills development increases as the war for talent intensifies

Unlike previous years, this year’s results also reveal a closer alignment between seniority and digital marketing skill level. In most cases, the ranking of digital marketing skills increases with seniority of the marketer – however, analytics and data skills are still down 7% at director level. According to the study, the trend reflects a “stagnation” of skills among marketers in leadership positions, rather than an improvement at higher levels.

“The latest digital marketing skills benchmark should serve as an incentive for organizations across all industries,” says CIM’s chief marketing officer, Gemma Butler.

“With marketing technologies and social media platforms continuing to innovate at a brisk pace – and consumer use of digital channels showing no signs of slowing down – the skill set expected of marketing professionals will continue to grow. ‘to broaden.”

Butler notes a “distinct shift” in focus towards broader marketing skills, with recent CIM data revealing that six in 10 marketers who were furloughed due to the pandemic used the time away from their work for personal development and development, particularly in areas such as branding, copywriting and strategy.

However, improving broader marketing skills “cannot come at the expense of digital skills,” she cautions, adding that marketing teams need to strike a balance so they can meet the needs of customers and their organizations.

“The risk of being left behind must be highlighted on the basis that technology will not wait. The need to continue honing the skills to stand still was evident before the pandemic – the risk now is that it will only continue to grow and the skills gap will become unmanageable,” she says.

“Employers need to invest in the continuous development of their marketing teams.”

Earlier this month, Marketing Week has identified upskilling as one of the top challenges and opportunities marketers will face in 2022while brands like Unilever, M&S and General Motors are investing in skills programs.

The push comes as the job market remains highly competitive, with demand for marketers with exorbitant digital skills and senior brand marketers reporting difficulty filling positions.

Additionally, in November, the Data & Marketing Association (DMA), Market Research Society (MRS), and Advertising Association (AA) urged the government to invest more in an industry-led training programafter claiming he had ‘missed a huge opportunity’ to involve trade bodies in his £2billion ‘skills revolution’.