For more than a decade now, there has been much talk in the marketing industry about developing 'digital capabilities'. But there's little clarity on exactly what these capabilities are, or how well the industry is progressing. This has been addressed by new research from BCG with 1188 marketers in 65 companies across the UK & Germany, and supported by a whole range of marketing industry bodies & digital experts*. The research establishes a framework for digital best practices in marketing, and a new Digital Capability Index - enabling benchmarking for each company vs their industry averages. It will be repeated each year to show progress over time. Here are the key conclusions from our first year:

October 2015

A major gap between current performance and digital best practices

Despite a decade of talk, many marketing departments still lack essential digital capabilities. There are many digital best practices that have yet to be widely adopted. In particular:

  • Marketers' plans still lag behind consumer behaviour - especially in Mobile & Video. Despite the massive consumer shift toward internet via smartphones & the explosion of video consumption online, companies remain remarkably slow to adopt best practices around mobile marketing & video advertising.
  • Struggling with Technology & Testing. Marketing departments are also struggling to embrace the new technologies which are automating the entire planning & buying process. Few companies have a robust approach to 'test-&-learn', even though this is critical to progress in this fast moving space, and which could be enabled by the ad-technology above.
  • Challenging hotspots in strategy, planning & measurement. Marketing departments put a lot of importance & focus in these areas, but are still hitting challenges with: creating a full picture of online and offline touchpoints in their consumers' journey, and attributing value to online touchpoints in any robust way.

A transformation required in training & culture

  • Many senior leaders are not yet 'walking the talk'. The research shows that even though many senior leaders appear committed, they are not yet pulling all the levers to ensure sustained development of digital capabilities.
  • Lack of focus and investment to develop digital skills and talent. Current training and development programs have been ineffective or insufficient. Org structures do not support this either.
  • Companies are still developing historical strengths, instead of new development areas. Paradoxically, companies are not prioritising areas such as mobile & video, where capability gaps are largest.
  • A culture of innovation & reasonable-risk is still a long way off. There are not sufficient resources, investment and shelter for marketing innovation, combined with a fear of risk. These all inhibit the development of modern agile marketing organisations.

A big opportunity for competitive advantage

  • There is still a lot of 'headroom' for companies to improve how they connect with their customers. The research showed that even the companies at the top of their peer sets still have major gaps vs digital best practices.
  • Talent will drive competitive advantage. Companies that invest in building digital skills in their marketing teams have a huge opportunity to accelerate ahead of their peers.
  • Some 'green shoots' show the way forward. There are a few companies who are making changes faster than the rest - they are the ones to watch & learn from.


*the BCG study was commissioned by the Google Digital Academy, advised on by the Knowledge Engineers, and supported in the UK by the IAB, IPA, ISBA, Marketing Society, Marketing Academy, DMA, and in Germany by both BVDW and OWM.