Missing the Mark: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap in the USA, UK & Ireland

Year on year, the digital economy continues to experience huge global growth having an inescapable influence on every organization across every industry. By 2020 it is predicted that the intensified use of digital technologies could add $1.36 trillion to total global economic output.

As a result, organizations - big and small - have had to embrace digital technologies and techniques in order to compete in the global economy. While marketing professionals have realized the need for the latest and most cutting-edge skills to evolve their digital marketing know-how to the next level.

With this in mind, the Digital Marketing Institute tested 908 marketing professionals across a variety of industries in the USA, UK, and Ireland. The research highlighted the fact that there is an unavoidable and growing skills gap exists that affects organizations’ abilities to successfully leverage digital. Let’s look at a few highlights from the research to provide some insight into the digital marketing global picture. 

Digital Skills

With digital marketing now an integral part of any business, the need for professionals with the right skills is a priority. Despite the need for these capabilities, the majority of marketers tested in our research failed to achieve entry level competency in digital marketing skills, with skill levels scoring equally low at just 38% on average across the USA, UK and Ireland.

This figure goes against the perception many marketers had of their abilities across the three countries as prior to the assessment just over half of marketers in the USA rated themselves as fairly competent in digital marketing. In the UK and Ireland, those levels were 47% and 51% respectively. 

Most worryingly the competency-based tests revealed that only 8% of marketers achieved entry level skills.  

Digital Skills Statistics | Missing the Mark: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap in the USA, UK & Ireland

When we examined the type of skills across the three countries, strategy and planning emerged as the leading skills gap in organizations with 58% in the USA, 55% in the UK and 42% in Ireland. For the USA in particular, a staggering 63% of respondents working in digital marketing roles struggle with strategy and planning skills.

Organizational Engagement

As part of the research, we asked participants their attitudes to digital marketing and technology. The results highlighted a demonstrable reluctance in businesses to embrace digital tools and techniques on a global scale.

In the USA (63%), UK (52%) and Ireland (72%) are unanimous in their verdict that becoming more digitally focused will be critical to their organization in the next two years. Key concerns for respondents include the fact they feel that a lack of urgency exists in their organization to develop a focus on digital transformation, with 59% of American marketers claiming this was their primary point of anxiety.  

Digital Skills Statistics 2 | Missing the Mark: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap in the USA, UK & Ireland

Alongside organizational engagement being low, training support is also lacking. Shockingly only 18% of organizations in the USA, 20% in the UK and 25% in Ireland provide essential training support, figures which further diminish the smaller the company’s size. 

As a result, the extent to which organizations offer digital skills training, either internally or externally, is too limited to leverage the full advantages of digital with a lack of in-house expertise, particularly in the USA and Ireland cited as one of the greatest digital marketing challenges facing organizations today.

Fear of redundancy

For many marketing professionals, ‘Missing the Mark: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap in the USA, UK & Ireland’ found the fear of redundancy to be a huge issue. In the face of digital transformation and the ever-evolving digital landscape, marketers across all three countries agreed becoming more digitally focused is critical to their organization.

Our research found that a large proportion of marketers aren’t confident that their current job or occupation will exist in its current form in 30 years, indicating an insecurity that most likely stems from a lack of understanding and sufficient skills training. UK respondents are especially pessimistic, with 40% expressing doubts about their ultimate job security. This figure is slightly lower at 31% for USA and 30% for Ireland. 

Digital Skills Statistics 3 | Missing the Mark: The Digital Marketing Skills Gap in the USA, UK & Ireland

As the capacity to exercise digital tools and strategies is essential knowledge for marketing professionals, many fear that digital advancements may leave them redundant particularly in workers aged over 50 as they worry about the safety of their roles.

As a result, 69% of marketers in the UK and USA feel they need to improve their digital marketing skills to remain competent in the current role in the future. In Ireland, that figure is even higher at 86%. 

The Digital Future

While the need for digital transformation is universally accepted, many marketers agree that becoming more digitally focused will be critical to their organization in the next two years. Yet this acknowledgment is coupled with an unsurprising admission that modern marketers feel they don’t possess the necessary skills.

As traditional marketers struggle to upskill, marketing graduates have studied a syllabus that doesn’t include digital techniques, and digital professionals have inconsistent abilities due to a lack of standardized skills training.

Such is the pace of digital that it is not enough for organizations to just invest in technologies. They need to also invest in digital marketing and skills education. Without this investment, organizations risk falling behind and becoming less competitive in the global market. 

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Clodagh O'Brien
Content Marketing Executive