At Adobe Summit: Digital era is forcing marketers to undergo a reinvention

Salt Lake City—Marketers are struggling to reinvent themselves during this digital age, according to an Adobe study released Tuesday at the Adobe Summit 2014. While two in five marketers (40 percent) said they want to reinvent themselves, just 14 percent of those marketers actually know how to go about making that happen.

"The shift to digital requires new technology, new approaches and, in many cases, entirely new roles for marketers," said Ann Lewnes, CMO of Adobe. "The good news is that marketers see the change in front of them, and understand they need to embrace data, focus on creating personalized experiences and work across their social, Web and mobile channels. They just need to take the plunge."

The study, "Digital Roadblock: Marketers Struggle to Reinvent Themselves," is based on a survey of more than 1,000 marketing professionals in the U.S. in February and reveals fresh insights into the attitudes and beliefs of marketers as they struggle to redefine their roles and expand their skills.

While 64 percent of marketers said they expect their role to change in the next year and 81 percent said they believe their role will change in the next three years, that path to reinvention remains challenging, the study found. Among the top obstacles, 30 percent of respondents cited lack of training in new marketing skills and organizational inability to adapt (30 percent).

When asked to describe the ideal, successful marketer 12 months from now, 54 percent of marketers said they should take more risks, and 45 percent said they hope to take more risks themselves. However, when it comes to new technology, 65 percent of respondents will play it safe, with 65 percent saying they are more comfortable adopting new technologies once they become mainstream, the study said.

The survey also provided insight into what specific behavior marketers believe will make the biggest single difference in their effectiveness: the ability to work better across channels was first (21 percent), followed by the ability to measure and learn from campaign effectiveness (16 percent).

A majority of marketers (76 percent) reported they need to be more data-focused to succeed; however, 49 percent said they rely on "trusting my gut" while making budget decisions. Seventy-two percent of marketers said their long-term success is tied to proving marketing return on investment.

The report also showed that 74 percent of marketers said that capturing and applying data to inform and drive marketing activities is the new reality, and 69 percent agree on the need to embrace "hyper personalization" or, in other words, using data to provide the right products, services and content at the right time. Yet only 39 percent of marketers report using customer data and behavior patterns to shape marketing strategy in the past 12 months; 45 percent plan to use more customer data and behavior in the next 12 months.

A majority of marketers (69 percent) also said that mobile is a critical element to get right. Additionally, 61 percent of marketers pointed to social media as the most critical area of focus 12 months from now, followed closely by mobile at 51 percent, the report said. Unsurprisingly, both print (9 percent) and TV (7 percent) ranked last. Sixty-three percent of marketers said they are using social more than they did last year, and more than half said they were doing more direct customer engagement via e-mail (51 percent) and digital analytics (51 percent).

These digital priorities are leading to companies investing more in marketing talent, according to the study. Respondents cited digital/social marketer (47 percent), data analyst (38 percent), creative services (38 percent) and mobile marketer (36 percent) as key roles companies need to invest in over the next 12 months.

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