Data has already transformed the way businesses do marketing. The prospect of artificial or augmented intelligence (AI) and machine learning revolutionises the speed with which we, as marketers, can take action on insight to offer better, more relevant and engaging content to customers. Much has been said about AI in recent years, but one thing that continues to be overlooked is the need for marketers to develop their own skills sets, as well as for organisations to embrace a learning culture.
Marketers of the future will need to be equally proficient in analytics, creative thinking and AI integration. Put simply, we will need marketers that can think like data analysts and data analysts who can think like marketers.
The rise of the data-driven economy has already seen a substantial increase in technological investment. But the key skills and competencies to utilise this technology – whether AI or martech- are a critical business challenge. Innovation and shiny new technology for its own sake are not the answer. Marketers must be able to use technology to make them more productive.
Our most recent research into the key skills businesses need to succeed today and into tomorrow will be released in the coming months as part of the “Business Skills Census 2019’”report. What I can reveal now is that AI and machine learning have been identified as the most important area in which organisations must develop staff skills.
The research asked marketers to identify the skills and challenges facing their organisations today and their importance in the future. Skills in AI and machine learning were found to be available right now within 45% of organisations, according to marketers, but 64% stated that these skills would be important to the future success of their respective organisations, revealing a substantial skills gap (19%) within this survey.
Furthermore, 87% state that developing skills in AI and machine learning is vital to their organisation’s current success. This highlights the urgency with which businesses will have to address this knowledge gap if they hope to succeed.
In fact, when we asked marketers about their own abilities and the areas they need to develop to progress in their career - as part of the “Professional Skills Census 2018” - they again highlighted AI and machine learning as key. This burgeoning set of skills had the biggest gap of all 33 skill sets we analysed, with a 25% difference between perceived importance in marketers’ current roles and for future career progression.
Highlighting how AI and machine learning are already driving intelligent marketing and data analytics, which is resulting in a rise in jobs requiring these skills. According to a 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 machine learning skills as there are applicants.
AI and machine learning 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. In this era of augmented intelligence and machine learning, the technology at our disposal and at the disposal of customers is more powerful than ever. But with powerful technology comes great responsibility.
Marketers will, therefore, be responsible for training the AI that will work on their behalf to create great experiences for customers. A key part of this will be the ability to create the ethical frameworks in which these new technologies operate. Marketers will no longer be responsible for just their company’s short-term sales and long-term brand loyalty, but to the actions of the AI that we create, too. We must ensure that people feel safe in the new data-driven economy and that they understand the benefits, as well as the exchange in value that’s taking place.
AI and machine learning will fuel the future of the data and marketing industry, of that I am sure. However, in order to capitalise on this new technology, we need to see the skills gaps our research identifies being addressed, as well as a cultural shift within organisations towards a belief in the power of continual learning. Because if you can’t actually understand and use the technology, you can be sure one of your competitors does and you will be the one left behind.
Tim Bond, head of insight, DMA
A social scientist by training and a communications professional by trade, Tim now combines these two fields in his role within the DMA. He has an MA in Sociology from Aberdeen University an,d over the last decade, he has continued to utilise this social sciences background to develop research campaigns across a range of sectors. A key part of his role at the DMA is developing actionable insight for the data-driven marketing industry, which also supports the Association’s core belief in putting the customer first and leading the business sector in creativity and innovation.