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Skills shortages and cost concerns curbing data-driven endeavours


Many businesses believe they will face obstacles in becoming more data-driven in the future. 

6th Dec 2019

While many organisations are making strong progress in becoming more data-driven to improve customer engagement, most businesses still report significant barriers preventing them from getting the most out of data.

And research based on the input of 500 marketing directors in the UK and Germany conducted by marketing and communications agency Allison + Partners and entitled ‘Turning data into marketing gold’, found that many believe they will face greater obstacles in becoming more data-driven in the future. 

The top three barriers cited were data being siloed across the organisation (45%), the cost of technology (39%) and a lack of in-house talent with an appropriate skillset (38%).

While prices are preventing companies from committing greater investment into data technology, nearly half reported that the need for additional skills to use the tools and analyse the data generated was also a big issue. The data skills shortage is a problem that is unlikely to abate any time soon – in fact, a report by the European Commission forecast the region would have 769,000 unfilled positions in this area by 2020.

This lack of investment into new technology means that most executives still focus on using traditional methods of data gathering. Top of the list of the data sources employed were customer/prospect surveys (44%), general social listening (41%) and customer interaction data (38%). 

Yet despite these issues, and the fact that the report concludes that the respondents “seem to still only have a novice understanding of what data-driven marketing can do”, a huge 87% consider their department’s data usage to be either somewhat or far better than average when compared with similarly-sized organisations. Indeed, 92% claimed that they used their data either very or extremely well.

They were also either very or extremely confident in their ability to extract insights from data (89%) and to use it as a means of proving a return on investment (72%). This is despite a finding from Forrester Research that most organisations use on average only between 37% and 40% of their enterprise data for analytics purposes.

When asked about how targeted their marketing efforts were, meanwhile, just over two out of five of the marketers surveyed said they went after certain demographics and just under a third after personas defined by psychographic behavioural and demographic data. Just over one in five were also keen to boost general brand awareness.

As to what marketing departments can do to make themselves more data-friendly, the report recommend that they:

  1. Define their goals and strategy before building a team to support them. Many marketing departments underutilise or fail to use analytics and data science experts effectively because they do not understand the mix of technical skills and data expertise they require. But having a clear view of the organisation’s business and communications goals and what teams need to achieve with the data will ensure the right skills are in place and appropriate data sources are identified.
  2. Do not forget the importance of humans when introducing artificial intelligence (AI) technology. Some 71% of the marketing directors questioned have already invested in AI-based customer platforms and a further 21% plan to over the next two years. But despite the potential offered by such software, to be truly effective it really needs to be balanced out with human skills, such as creativity, common sense and emotional intelligence.
  3. Re-evaluate their marketing tools. Because tools implemented five years ago may no longer be sufficient to handle today’s marketing requirements, it is important to reassess what software tools the team is likely to require going forward. Taking a more strategic approach should help to prevent investment being scattergunned, identify potential areas for cost-savings and ensure budget is focused where it is needed.
  4. Win C-suite support to help break down organisational silos. Help to break down data silos by fostering regular communication with leaders in other functions and geographies about company goals and how teams can support each other to achieve them. But be aware that to truly realise digital transformation in the marketing function and thereby demonstrate business impact and value, it is vital to have executive support at the highest level to push through change.


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