Is the digital industry unprepared for further rapid growth?

iskills 1Based on last year’s performance, 2014 is predicted to be a good year for the UK advertising industry with digital marketing at the forefront of growth. As development in this sector continues, the Emarketeers iSkills survey, has set out to understand what shape the digital marketing industry is in when it comes to skills, experience, resource and recruitment.

Here are our key findings from the survey:

1. Progress is hampered by resource, lack of skills and funding

Keeping digital talent in line with predicted growth in spend and technology development levels, looks set to be one of the key challenges for the market in 2014, according to the survey findings. Of those respondents polled, only 20% are planning to recruit within their digital teams this year, with the majority of these roles falling within SEO, PPC, and social media. A surprise findings of the research was that only 20% of organisations are planning to recruit in 2014 and this is out of synch with growth predictions of 20%. While the economy is bouncing back, digital marketing is suffering from a skills shortage as senior roles are left unfilled.

2. Skills maintenance – the self-service model

Over 50% of the respondents stated the biggest barrier to successfully implementing digital strategies for growth in 2014 would be due to lack of resources and internal skill-sets. This situation is further compounded by a lack of real investment in digital training; 10% invested in digital training in 2013, budgets per head of £200 to £500 and alarmingly a self-learning model. This can only lead to haphazard skills development.

3. Integration

The survey revealed the key barrier to digital spending is lack of resource, and over a third stated internal sell-in was preventing further spend growth.

4. Accountability

Another trend emerging from the survey is accountability and transparency of ROI and analytics in general, which seems to be an ongoing issue. Over a third of respondents claimed they found it difficult to justify immediate ROI from digital versus longer term, brand building activities and 21% of the survey said they had no ability to interpret or attribute analytics data, whilst 14% of those questioned claimed they lacked sufficiently robust research to justify digital channel investment.

5. Opportunities

Highlighted areas for growth and business opportunities in 2014 included further innovation in areas such as video, mobile optimisation and content marketing. Alongside the more technical areas, one of the key requirements was the real need for digital integration with all marketing activity – joining up the dots has never been so critical, with the need to deliver multi-channel campaigns that maximise engagement through the purchase cycle.

Implications for the digital marketing industry

As digital evolves, both clients and agencies will find it much harder to hire specialists, either due to a lack of talent or experience, or increasingly, affordability as those with experience demand higher salary levels to reflect their expertise. 80% of those surveyed claimed they would not be recruiting digital marketing specialists within the next 12 months.

Key take-outs

To keep up with the digital curve, companies need to implement company-wide blended training programmes, and invest in talent, not just through training, but via mentoring and personal development. As skills and knowledge gaps lessen, this should lead to greater confidence in selling digital internally and understanding the true power of digital.

Tracey Stern is managing director of Emarketeers