As digital continues to transform the way businesses go to market, the demand for marketers who are equipped with an ever-expanding skill set will increase. The marketer of the future will need to be equally proficient in analytics, creative thinking and AI integration. Not to mention their growing obligation to responsible marketing and business practice ethics under the GDPR.

Learning and development programmes are essential if the data and marketing industry is to continue to thrive and restore our reputation as a highly skilled, innovation-driven industry.

Data-related skills are in demand

It is hard to imagine any marketing role that will not be driven by a need to use data to develop the customer insights that inform every aspect of the customer journey.  We will need marketers who think more like data analysts and data analysts who think like marketers.

Data skills will become even more central as the marketing industry continues to transition from analogue to digital, where real-time data analysis will be a key part of any marketer’s role. Marketing teams of the future will be able to identify opportunities and act on them instantly.

Automated systems will only increase the availability and scope of data, and so marketers will need to be able to interpret this information effectively and understand how to communicate this back to management teams and adapt their marketing approach accordingly.

Technology integration

Future-proofing a business requires a commitment to supporting the development of knowledge workers and their ability to take advantage of technology in the form of AI in particular.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are driving modern marketing analytics, which is already resulting in a rise in jobs requiring different skills. According to 2017 analysis from jobs site Indeed, the number of roles in AI has risen by 485% in the UK since 2014, and there are twice as many jobs requiring AI and ML skills as there are applicants.

The IDM’s ‘Professional Skills Census’ shows that AI and ML have the biggest skills gap present within the data and marketing industry, with a 25% difference between perceived importance between marketers’ current roles and for future career progression.

Behavioural economics

Getting the right message to your customer at the right time and in the right format for the context will be a key business driver.

Behavioural economics is a field that is becoming increasingly important to data and marketing teams. In order to understand the value of content and the creative, it is essential to understand how they fit into your customer’s increasingly granular interactions with the brand. In this respect, the effect of programmatic marketing on campaign planning, strategy development and budgeting will also present marketers with a wide range of new challenges.

Ongoing data protection training essential

Regardless of the amount of education people have been exposed to up to this point, changes brought about by the GDPR are significant and will continue to make waves for years to come.

Recent research by the DMA, ‘Data privacy – An industry perspective 2018’ found that almost half (43%) of respondents recognise this, saying they would like access to ongoing training. In fact, 32% say it’s already available to them.

Training should not be treated as a one-off, particularly as case law will likely throw new light on some aspects of the regulation as time goes on. The onus is on organisations to equip employees with the right knowledge to remain compliant, and even though marketers generally feel confident in this area – senior management teams should be promoting a culture where marketers are confident and proud to be held accountable.

Changing attitudes towards learning and development

In order to keep pace with the changing environment, attract and retain talented data and marketing teams, organisations need to cultivate a culture of continuous upskilling and professional development.

Organisations need to tackle the issue head-on and provide their marketers with a structure/framework to work within. They need to create an environment where marketers (and in fact all staff) are rewarded for continuous personal development. This doesn’t necessarily have to mean financial rewards, it could even be extra autonomy in their everyday work or opportunities for project management tasks.

Equally, it is the responsibility of marketers/staff to proactively seek new training opportunities. It is their future at stake and an organisation can only do so much – they must show a desire to learn and develop their skill set.

Our industry needs to be seen to invest in the skills marketers use today, but also those they will need in the future. Training staff should not be seen as a cost but as an investment.