When most marketers use the word ‘data’, what springs to mind are large sets of numbers, Excel spreadsheets, cloud-based IT systems and complicated algorithms. Big data speak is the mot du jour. There is even a big data Week in London called the Festival of Data.
Australia continues to lead the digital marketing charge across Asia-Pacific but conflict between marketing and IT departments, along with poor data utilisation, are inhibiting strategic capability and improvement.
The CMO Council’s third annual Asia-Pacific Digital Marketing Performance Dashboard , produced in partnership with Adobe, reported that 26 per cent of Australian marketers saw IT as a constraint to implementing new marketing technology, down from 44 per cent last year. However, only 13 per cent believe IT is a big contributor and partner to marketing in terms of capability and deploying marketing technology.
CMO Council vice-president of marketing programs and operations, Liz Miller, said Australia is leading the regional pack in adopting more sophisticated marketing technology platforms. And as marketing functions look to integrate and make better use of increasing swathes of technology to deliver better multi-channel customer engagement, they are looking to IT for assistance, she said.
“As marketing and IT become more inextricably linked, we’re seeing cultural challenges and stretchmarks emerging across these traditional functions,” she told CMO. “Australia is far more comparable to North America in this regard as digital marketing becomes prolific.”
The problem is marketers are treating IT as the hired help, rather than involving IT as a strategic partner earlier in the procurement and planning phase, Miller said.
“IT aren’t just the waiters in the restaurant. They want to be asked what’s good to eat, what you want your experience to be and how they can recommend you get there,” she said.
“Right now, CMOs are asking CIOs just to make it work. But they have to understand CIOs hold an important seat in the c-suite because they offer specialist technology expertise and how that aligns with business.
“What the CMO offers is an understanding of the customer and how that aligns to the business.... One of them can’t do this alone.”
Across the board, the CMO Council report found Australia leads the way in Asia-Pacific across all four categories of digital marketing performance: Top-level mindset, marketing readiness, organisational alignment, and marketing skills. The report also cites strong advancement and optimism around the direction marketing is heading.
In Australia, 54 per cent of CMOs own digital marketing strategy, against 39 per cent across the region. Sixty-two per cent of Australian companies now have a digital champion in the leadership team, nearly double the Asia-Pacific average of 38 per cent.
In addition, 81 per cent of Australian marketers reported the ability to better engage and active audiences was driving their adoption of digital, compared with 58 per cent of Asia-Pacific respondents. Mobile has also increased as a digital driver, up from 52 per cent to 65 per cent this year.
But two major areas still require significant improvement, Miller said: Data utilisation and skills recruitment. Twenty-six per cent of Australian respondents said they now have an in-house team dedicated to data analytics, compared to 15 per cent of marketers across the region.
But while 24 per cent of regional respondents saw value in using data to learn more about customer behaviour and attributes of customer segments, only 7 per cent saw data as a key competitive differentiator. In Australia these figures stood at 36 per cent and 15 per cent respectively, but even those scores were still poor, Miller claimed.
“We have to stop using data as a way to report on KPIs or to look in the rearview mirror in order to justify past spend,” she said.
“Where we’re not coming up to scratch is using data and the intelligence we’re getting through content and digital channels to product pieces of insight that are actioned across the business. Our customers are demanding this from us, whether we want it or not.
“The customer has the power to define the whole relationship with a brand from start to finish, as well as who they choose not to have those relationships with.”
While skills recruitment was less of an issue for marketers this year compared to last year, there’s still a significant shortage. Analytics remains the top area of expertise in demand - not surprising given the massive gap around data utilisation, Miller said.
She also suggested marketers have a long way to go before they fully comprehend the types of skills actually needed in a modern marketing team.
“We’re still jumping at what we think we need and the skills to do that,” she said. “This is because most people in leadership have had to teach themselves digital. They may not be asking themselves the right questions and for the right things.
“There is still a learning curve for us to go through over the next few years to close that skills gaps and identify the specific skills we need to truly move that needle.”
The latest CMO Council report was based on 807 responses from senior marketers across Asia-Pacific to a survey undertaken in Q and Q3, 2014.
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