The Data Skills Gap Is Impacting Marketing

The data skills gap is now affecting more than just data scientists


We have all received those odd emails that get your name wrong or strangely formatted, ‘Hi NO NAME FOUND’, which tell us that the company sending it hasn’t done too much data cleansing. Everybody has had product recommendations that make absolutely no sense, even when you look at your previous purchases. People put it down to poor marketing, which is true, but there is a key reason why these kinds of mistakes are fairly common: the data skills gap.

In a recent study by Jaywing of marketers, 92% believed that data management is a key priority for their business, but 40% believed that a lack of analytics and data science skills prevented them from delivering effective CRM strategies.

That there is a data skills gap shouldn’t shock anybody who has been following the evolution of data analytics, but the issue is now impacting beyond the pure data related roles. It is not something that we are going to be facing in the distant future either. McKinsey predict that there will be a shortfall of 1.5 million managers and analysts within data by 2018. With this huge demand comes huge wages for data scientists across the world, so is it really a surprise that marketing efforts are suffering as a consequence?

The potential for data use within marketing is huge and as companies like Amazon, Netflix, and Spotify have shown, using it effectively can bring huge rewards. As the Jaywing survey reveals, the vast majority of marketers believe that it is key to a modern marketing campaign, but if one of their competitors is using it effectively and they can’t find candidates with an effective skillset to do the same, they are simply going to fall further behind.

It certainly isn’t an issue that is impacting only the marketing sector, but given that marketing is one of the most visible and important elements of any company, it has the potential to have the largest impact.

One of the major dangers that companies face is having marketing departments using data, but who do not fully understand how to use it effectively. There are thousands of technologies around that can collect and store data, plus with modern websites and lead capture techniques collecting the data itself is a simple task. However, when you receive an email with the wrong name or that recommends something highly inappropriate, it is fairly clear that data has been collected about you, and then either used or stored ineffectively. It shows that there has at least been a lack of an effective data audit, or if there was an audit at all.

Whenever there are untrained people dealing with large amounts of data, there is also always the danger that it will not be kept as securely as it should be. This is particularly important for the data used by marketing as it often contains deeply personal data relating to how people interact with websites, income, demographics etc. However, unfortunately companies are often forced into this position given the threat of falling behind combined with a lack of qualified data marketers.

It is an issue that companies are clearly aware of, but there is little that can be done to negate it. The skillset required by marketers means that they must be both communication specialists and data specialists, two skillsets that do not naturally marry together. It may be difficult to find a solution to this shortage, but ultimately it needs to be dealt with, and quickly. 

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