Talent Revolution 2016 survey signals the start of a mobile skills race in Northern Europe

Nora Ziegenhagen, Jennifer Armstrong / March 2017

At the Google Digital Academy we partner with organisations to coach them along their digital transformation journey. In Northern Europe, there’s one thing we’ve heard a lot: ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ when it comes to marketing in a digital world. To help, we brought the Talent Revolution in Northern Europe in 2016. We first teamed up with the Boston Consulting Group in 2015 to create the Talent Revolution, a first-of-its-kind tool created in consultation between Google and the Boston Consulting Group that allows every organisation to benchmark their marketing capability and diagnose where they need to shore up.

Two years in and two survey cycles down, our most surprising find from 2016 is that on a 100-point scale (with 100 indicating best practice) the average digital skills score in advertisers from Northern Europe and the 41 total countries surveyed this time round is 57 - exactly the same as it was 18 months ago.

A disconnect in skills

Agencies - in their first year as part of the survey - are in stronger shape at 68, but as digital spending stays firmly on the up there’s a clear disconnect between the skills required and the skills in play on both sides. "Given the pace of technological change and the growing influence of digital technologies throughout the marketing function, we expected advertisers to show material improvement in our current survey—the kind that would indicate that they are moving in the right direction, if still getting up to speed," says Dominic Field, a BCG partner and co-author of the 2016 Talent Revolution report. “Instead, we found more inertia than action as well as low scores in some surprising areas.”

Outmatched by consumers

In Northern Europe we’re seeing that when it comes to mobile capabilities in particular, we’re outmatched by our consumers (some of the savviest and smartest smartphone users around, according to recent numbers from eMarketer2). Talent Revolution results show that just 28% of Nordic marketers believe their mobile strategy is tied to a clear understanding of mobile’s role in the purchase pathway, while less than 20% feel equipped to make the most of mobile by using data to attribute the value of mobile and determine the right spend levels.

Consumers expect great mobile experiences, but it is here that marketers are really falling short: only 15% think their mobile site is optimised for how their audience uses it. Nora Ziegenhagen, Head of External Education in Northern Europe for Google, reveals that the time to make sense of the leap to a mobile-first world and bring those skills up to the mark is now. “Nordic countries have some of the highest mobile penetration in the world,” Nora explains. “It's not a case of asking whether mobile marketing is important, we know it is. It's a question of prioritising mobile marketing capability building to better understand how consumers behave when using different mobile devices, what their preferences are and how to cater to them.”

Rapidly changing landscape: Learning and development is key

Beyond mobile, there’s also a lot of work to be done to ensure marketers everywhere don’t drop further behind best practice across all areas of digital as the landscape continues to shift at pace. Persisting talent shortfalls put this at risk: only 48% of advertisers and 64% of agencies globally say their business is able to attract and retain critical digital marketing talent.

Learning programmes that equip marketers with the right skills and know-how for their role are also thin on the ground (just 36% of advertisers and 61% of agencies across the 41 countries surveyed say they’ve got what they need); these numbers dip lower still when they’re asked if they have a very effective and impactful learning and development programme for digital marketing overall -28% and 50% respectively agree.

With this challenge in hand, what needs to happen next? Director of the Google Digital Academy EMEA, Shuvo Saha, believes doubling down and working together - agency and client - to foster a collaborative skills development culture is better for everyone. “The importance of having a robust, consistent plan for equipping your marketing team to deal with the rapidly changing landscape cannot be underestimated,” explains Shuvo.

“As the results suggest there is still a noticeable way to go in order for marketers to be able to fully make the most of the opportunities presented - even at agency level. We at the Digital Academy believe this is a clear indicator of the need for a more joined up approach by the industry to building digital capabilities together and hopefully this will provide the wake-up call needed.”

Where do I start?

If you’re not sure where to start, be sure to check out the short-to-midterm capability checklists for agencies and advertisers or download a free copy of the full report below to learn more. If you’d like to get involved in the Talent Revolution 2017, register your interest to be first in line when the survey opens later this year.

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