Latest Arktic Fox Digital & Marketing in Focus study finds Australian brands seeking growth amid uncertain times and industry challenges from privacy requirements.
Now in its third year, and formerly known as the “Marketing State of Play” study, the report offers a rich data set that captures how the marketing and digital industry is changing, the impact of industry challenges like privacy, marTech, digital transformation initiatives and a lack of focus and prioritisation on developing teams despite talent shortages. The headline results paint a revealing picture of the state of marketing and digital, including:
• Growth and privacy now top list of priorities and challenges
The growth agenda for the organisation is one of the top priorities for 78 per cent of digital and marketing leaders and their teams in the year ahead, above developing their first-party data strategy (55 per cent) and brand development and embedding brand purpose (54 per cent). Growth has moved to top the priority list since last year, showing the impact of challenging economic conditions. For organisations generating in excess of $100m in revenues, digital transformation trumped brand development and embedding brand purpose as a key priority, with 55 per cent of leaders suggesting it was one of their top priorities in the year ahead. Balancing short- and long-term priorities are the main challenges for two-thirds of respondents, demonstrating the balancing act leaders are facing to deliver short-term performance outcomes while building for the future. In addition, some 60 per cent of respondents struggle with resourcing and budget contraints, showing marketing and digital leaders must be laser focussed on priority areas and investing for impact.
• Executive teams holding back digital transformation
There are many benefits that flow from digital transformation; however, almost 40 per cent of leaders say the knowledge of executive teams is a key aspect they are finding difficult to drive digital transformation, topping the list. It reveals that skepticism, fear and knowledge gaps of those at the top are stymying these vital initiatives and progress. On the key objective of digital transformation to embed digital across the business “Today we still see far too many leaders believing that digital is someone’s role as opposed to digital capability needing to be embedded across the organisation to become central to the business strategy and operations. When a separate digital or ecommerce function exists that is siloed from the rest of the business, it sends a message that understanding digital is not my job or responsibility and stifles teams’ ability to build capability and develop skills,” said Arktic Fox director, Teresa Sperti.
• The growing demand for CDPs in the marTech stack
The demand for CDPs has doubled since last year’s study, with 40 per cent of respondents prioritising investment in this part of their marTech stack in the next 12 – 18 months, even as overall marTech spend is softening. However, platform integration is still the biggest challenge teams face. The study also found that marTech strategy and implementation is the second biggest skills gap within teams across the country (38 per cent). On the marTech challenges and the need for alignment around outcomes “Alignment is critical. Marketers and digital professionals need to connect the marTech ecosystem to back-end platforms and ensure connectivity between platforms to drive results from their marTech stack. Developing an effective partnership with IT to deliver common outcomes is key to embedding and integrating platforms and delivering ROI as is building internal knowledge and capability within the team,” said Arktic Fox director, Teresa Sperti.
• Talent shortage not being properly addressed
There’s a well recognised talent shortage; however, brands are not investing in sufficient training and development to help meet the shortfall, with lack of time, space and priority the major reasons. Almost half of leaders have no set training budget and nearly half of all respondents (47 per cent) revealed that the biggest inhibitor of developing and training teams is themselves as they don’t prioritise it as a team. Even though the market isn’t as tight in 2023, organisations will still have to work very hard to engage top talent based on a set of new and evolving, post Pandemic ‘needs’. Candidates are demanding flexibility, seeking strong value & purpose alignment, career opportunities and investment in training and development which this study suggests is not currently being prioritised by many businesses. It remains exceptionally important to candidates to be able to continue to upskill and broaden their knowledge and expertise.”, said Jo Krause, Manager Digital & eCommerce recruitment at Six Degrees.
• Tighter measurement and budgets being reduced
More than a third (35 per cent) of respondents report their budgets being reduced over the past 12 months, and it’s no surprise to find there’s a growing need to drive results and efficiencies. Just over half of respondents say better measurement and more focus on test, learn and optimisation is the focus in the year ahead to improve performance across their operations.
• Urgent need to address skills gap in data capabilities
A capability gap in data and analytics skills is holding back businesses. Only 35 per cent of leaders believe data literacy is strong within their teams. Data and analytics is the biggest technical skill gap identified within teams, which has consistently topped the list for three consecutive years, with measuring performance and outcomes also featuring prominently in the list of skill gaps. However, more than half of leaders said customer data strategy and better utilisation of first-party data is a key priority, showing a significant gap between business priorities and capabilities.
• Industry remains underprepared for looming privacy changes
A seismic change is looming on the privacy front, yet only 23 per cent suggested they were focussed on improving their brands compliance with data privacy over the next 12 – 18 months, suggesting many won’t be prepared to operate in the coming privacy-first environment.
• Ecommerce lacks priority despite customer uptake
A dedicated section on ecommerce is new to this year’s report, examining how brands are grappling with the challenges of building maturity as omni-channel businesses and devising strategy to guide future initiatives and realise the opportunities of this growing channel. Only 8 per cent of FMCG and CPG brands believe ecommerce is perceived internally as an integral channel for their organisation to engage customers and distribute their product or service, despite the huge change in consumer buying habits over the last few years. While for retailers, this stood at 55 per cent. For retailers one of the biggest barriers impacting growth is technology limiting flexibility and agility (51 per cent), while 39 per cent say they’re just too slow to adapt and respond to changing conditions. For FMCG and CPG brands the biggest barrier to growth was the organisation’s focus on protecting and maintaining the core (50 per cent). However, there are significant differences in priorities across categories, with 61 per cent of retail respondents saying improving the end-to-end experience is their top priority, while almost half of FMCG and CPG brands are leaning into channel expansion.
Mixed maturity on ecommerce and lack of strategy focus
“It’s not uncommon to see brands struggle to free up funds to invest into new growth areas like ecommerce. Entrenched forecasting and budgeting approaches, a lack of understanding of the importance of the ecommerce channel by the executive and a lack of appetite to invest appropriately to build capability and important foundations sees teams operating with one hand tied behind their back which inhibits ecommerce reaching its full potential. Building ecommerce maturity takes time, it requires focus and investment over a longer time period and shouldn’t be solely measured on the basis of returns today as it helps future proof the organisation as a greater share of spend will shift online over the next decade,” said Arktic Fox director, Teresa Sperti.