20/20 Vision: A Marketing Leader’s View of Digital’s Future

Across industries and sectors, digital is having an unstoppable influence on the marketing sector. It’s growing at such a rate that by 2020, it’s predicted digital’s share of total advertising will near 50% toppling the crown owned by broadcast television that’s dominated for decades.

With this in mind, the Digital Marketing Institute interviewed 200+ marketing leaders including CMOs, CDOs, Senior Marketing Managers and Heads of Marketing and Digital in the United States, United Kingdom, and Pacific regions to find out what they thought the future held for digital marketing.

Informed by our Global Industry Advisory Council, comprised of a distinguished group of digital marketing and education leaders, this research focused on the digital marketing sector from a global perspective in 2020 exploring top channels, key challenges, skill shortages, talent outsourcing, and emerging technologies.

In this article, we explore the key highlights from the research to provide insight into the view of digital marketing leaders towards 2020. 

Key Digital Marketing Channels

In 2020, consumers will engage with brands digitally more than ever before as the use of devices shifts and new platforms emerge. As engagement changes, so will the expectations surrounding those interactions.

All digital channels included in the research were viewed as important and will receive increased attention and investment. However, five emerged that will be the focus of marketing teams between now and 2020.

Top Digital Channels in 2020

It may come as no surprise due to the increased use of mobile globally, that mobile ranks first with 37% of leaders deeming in extremely important. This was followed closely by online marketplace/aggregators at 34% and video at 31%. Display and email make up the final two of the top five at 31% and 30% respectively.

When you look at the cumulative figures for ‘very’ and ‘extremely’ important, online marketplace/aggregators narrowly pips the other channels to the post at 73%. 

Challenges For Marketers in 2020

As more advanced technologies become mainstream and marketing leaders look to engage customers in new ways, marketers will be faced with a series of challenges in the lead up to 2020.

Top 5 Challenges for Marketers in 2020

From the research, it’s clear that leaders believe the greatest challenge is the pace of technological change. 54% of CMOs and senior marketers report struggling with the shifting of the digital landscape and voiced concerns about how their department and business will keep up.

Recruitment and skills are also key concerns as it is becoming more difficult to find suitable digital talent to grow a business, while there’s huge competition in the marketplace for experienced digital marketers with specialized skills. It’s such a concern that 82% of CMOs and senior marketers agreed with the statement: “Our organization needs to invest more in staff training and development.”

Concerns about recruiting skilled talent landed in the top three on the list of challenges for each of the regions surveyed. It interesting to note that senior-level marketers in the U.S. are more concerned about filling jobs with the right people, or at least people with the right skills than those in the U.K and the Pacific.

“It is imperative that we invest in and take action on hiring and investing in talent that will keep pace with technological change. The incoming wave of marketers aren’t fully prepared to find footing in the shifting digital landscape that now exists. We need to move thoughtfully and quickly to meet the transformation in marketing and sales.” - Ty Heath, Global Lead for Market Education, LinkedIn

The last top five concerns center around content, primarily its creation and measurement. With consumers experiencing ‘content shock’ due to the volume of information available online, 49% of leaders find it difficult to create engaging content.

When it comes to measurement, 44% struggle with understanding effectiveness. This is most likely due to the fact that data and analytics without context is not an accurate depiction of the consumer’s journey, which could actually span large periods of time. 

Most in-Demand Digital Marketing Skills

Digital transformation is driving companies around the world to take a closer look at their digital marketing strategies and tactics. Emerging technologies coupled with the pace of change are leading companies to upskill and reskill their marketing teams, creating a demand for both new talent and development opportunities for current employees.

Currently, the top four skills that marketing leaders around the world ranked ‘extremely important’ include:

  1. Digital strategy and planning (82%)
  2. Data analytics and reporting (80%)
  3. Research and insights (83%)
  4. Leadership and management (81%)

All of the technical skills followed such as content marketing, social media, and website design and optimization. It’s possible that some technical skills could rise as top priorities by 2020, but we predict that big picture skills will remain extremely important regardless of what’s happening in the digital landscape.

In order to upskill employees and train new hires, companies are realizing how important it is to invest in training. But what skills are companies investing in looking to 2020?

“Many brands are now in the process of reskilling their entire organizations in the context of the digital transformation being led now. This research will help leaders validate key digital areas they will want to explore further as they think about the talent and enablers required to win from a future-tense perspective.” - Barry Thomas, VP Global Shopper and Channel at the Coca-Cola Company

A Rising Trend: Outsourcing Talent

Internal vs internal training

When it comes to who does the training, a rising trend is outsourcing as companies look to external bodies to help create and deliver training programs. To dive into this, we asked marketing leaders across the U.S, U.K, and Pacific if training at their organizations is provided internally or outsourced to an external program.

Leaders revealed that between 56% and 68% of companies outsource training for the ten skills listed in our research. Amazingly, there’s not a single instance for any skill where training is delivered primarily in-house.

Emerging Technologies

Rising budgets will result in a wave of change that will ripple through the behavior of marketers by 2020. However, channels aren’t the only investment organizations plan to make by 2020, they are also looking to allocate more resources to emerging technologies.

However, B2C and B2B companies have different priorities when looking toward the future. B2C marketers name artificial intelligence, app technology, and social customer service as the three most important emerging technologies to incorporate by 2020. While, B2B marketers identify augmented and virtual reality, artificial intelligence, and automation as the three technologies they intend to incorporate in the coming years.

Top 5 Technologies for Digital Strategy in 2020

Geographically, all three regions surveyed agree on two out of three up and coming technologies that are key to marketing strategies. Marketers in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Pacific all indicated that app technology and artificial intelligence could be implemented by 2020. 

“Marketing executives globally are focusing more attention, resources, and budgets into digital marketing. There are technology trends, but a lot of uncertainty which technologies are winning and where to focus.” - Frank Hattann, Director Inside Sales (Europe), Microsoft

Final thoughts

By 2020, marketing will be another version of itself, which is why successful organizations are already underway transforming how everything works - from strategy to staff.

This research sheds light on marketing leaders’ views of the future of digital marketing and provides insights into where CMOs and other senior marketers are focusing their attention and budgets.

However, marketers cannot expect to grow through this revolution without facing challenges. A lot of those challenges will be a result of growing pains for the existing workforce with a focus on upskilling and continuous development as the key to success across industries and markets.

Download the report today!

Clodagh O'Brien
Senior Content Specialist