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Brands in the UK and North America are expected to devote somewhere around one-quarter of their budgets this year to marketing technology. Are they getting what they need with that spend? A study from Moore Stephens and WARC [download page] suggests that most have all the tools they need, but they may not yet be fully utilizing them.

Within the North American region, 57% of brand respondents to the survey indicated that they have all the tools they need. Among those, brand marketers were twice as likely to say they they fully utilize (38% overall) than don’t utilize (19% overall) those tools.

Still, that leaves many marketers lacking the tools they need, or not utilizing the ones they have.

It’s a similar story in other regions, as only around 1 in 4 respondents in the UK and Europe both have all the tools they need and fully utilize them. Those in the Asia-Pacific region are the most confident, with almost half (45%) feeling confident in their utilization of marketing technology tools.

The results bring to mind recent research from Walker Sands, in which only 16% of marketers this year – down from 22% last year – strongly agreed that the marketing technology in place at their company is up to date and sufficient for helping them do their job more effectively.

In that same study more than two-thirds of marketers said they don’t believe there’s such a thing as the “perfect stack” for marketing technology, believing instead that it’s always a work in progress. That belief is somewhat reflected in this latest survey’s results, where the majority of marketers in North America said they use one marketing technology provider for most of their needs, but specialist providers for others. (By comparison, about 1 in 4 are using a single provider for their entire stack.)

As for customer experience, fewer than one-third (28%) of those in North America have the technology in place to optimize the customer experience across all channels and touch points. A plurality (39%) instead have the tech in place to optimize across some channels and touch points, while one-third (34%) have minimal or no technology in place for such purposes.

A survey released earlier this year found declining confidence among organizations in the US with respect to current marketing technologies being well suited to support the optimal use of audience data.

Maybe It’s Not the Tech, but the Skills

Marketers may never feel that they have all the tools that they want or need – after all, the landscape seems to be evolving more rapidly than they can keep up with.

Yet there seems to be one area in which they’re falling behind: talent.

Globally, more than two-thirds (69%) of brand marketers have seen an increased need for data skills associated with their use of marketing technology. Yet fewer (62%) agreed that they have the internal skills and talent they need to capitalize on marketing technology investments.

These trends were exacerbated among agency respondents: 83% have seen an increased need for data skills, but just a paltry 28% feel they have the requisite internal talent.

That may contribute to a lack of understanding of available technology, which is the leading barrier to marketing technology investments and use in agencies. This is also an issue for brands, but takes a backseat to marketing budget constraints among barriers.

Data Skills Are Important, But So’s Creativity

All of the focus on marketing technology may signal attention only to data skills, but marketers retain a need for creatives, according to separate results from the study.

Presented with a list of 11 skills (plus an “other” option) and asked to rank their top 3 in order of priority when hiring into the marketing function, brand marketers were as likely to put creativity within their top 3 as data and analytics (each by 42% of respondents).

Many also listed brand strategy, turning data into actionable insights, and customer experience as being among their most prioritized skills for the marketing function, ahead of content, social, email and mobile.

Ideally, new hires would have a mix of analytics skills and creativity: while these are often viewed as separate efforts, senior marketers who unite data and creativity enjoy above-average revenue growth rates, according to a survey from McKinsey.

What’s Coming Up Next?

Looking ahead, the study presents some insights into the future of marketing technology.

In terms of emerging technologies, brands and agencies around the world are most likely to already be using Internet of Things (IoT)/connected devices (45%), while more than one-third are adopting voice interfaces and search tools (35%). Artificial intelligence (AI) and bots are likewise in use by roughly one-third of marketers.

As for planned use in the next year, virtual reality is a popular choice, with 30% of respondents planning to add it to their toolkit. About as many say they same about AI (29%), such that if they’re to follow through on their plans about 6 in 10 will be using AI tools by next year.

Looking further ahead, a plurality of brands feel that their most exciting opportunity over the next 3 years lies in using marketing automation to increase efficiency. Agencies, for their part, are most excited about tracking customers across devices, channels and online and offline.

About the Data: The results are based on an online survey of more than 800 brands and agencies based in the Americas, Europe and APAC.

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