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What are the existing challenges in the Digital Marketing sector?

Updated: Jan 8, 2023

It may be a new year, but the existing challenges that are present in a fast-moving industry are at the forefront of industry leaders’ priorities to tackle in 2023.

As many businesses across various industries have faced challenges in the last few years, causing customer experiences to change significantly; with more spending on digital marketing channels. roles and skill requirements have also changed. The digital skills gap remains a concern for digital leaders in 2023, they’re increasingly on the lookout for talent that can adapt to a demanding customer environment.

The DMI (Digital Marketing Institute) conducted a survey amongst 444 digital marketing professionals to gain feedback on the current challenges they’re facing. The demographics included:

  • Chief Marketing Officer (31%)

  • Director of Marketing (18%)

  • President/VP of Marketing (7%)

  • Marketing Specialist (12%)

  • Marketing Executive (5%)

  • Marketing Executive (5%)

Areas in which marketing professionals were vocal about their concerns included recruiting and retaining marketing talent, where to allocate the marketing budget & ROI, and the current skill shortage.

The findings gathered from DMI’s research established:

  • 46% of CMOs, Marketing Directors & VPs of Marketing have seen their leadership’s vision of digital transformation change over the past 12-24 months.

  • 71% of senior marketers and 61% of mid-level marketers are responsible for digital transformation in their organisations.

A Director of Marketing, at a Professional Services brand, said the following: “Collaboration - very simple. There need to be collaborative efforts between sales, marketing, internal IT as well as the people on the ground, e.g admin, at all stages of digital transformation.”

As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, businesses had to adapt to a new way of working, internally and externally. This included integrating digital tools to improve communication and collaboration. The way events and conferences were conducted changed, with the majority of people heading online to conduct day-to-day activities.

Challenges in the Marketing Sector

VPsDMI’s survey provided great insight into the challenges that marketers across many industries are currently facing. Among the main issues are delivering greater ROI on the marketing budget and delivering marketing automation.

  • 17% of senior marketers rate unlocking the power of data as their second-greatest challenge

  • The 2nd biggest challenge is attracting new talent into the marketing team

  • The 2nd biggest challenger for Managers is delivering marketing automation

  • The 3rd biggest challenge for Managers is building specialist skills in the marketing team

  • The 4th biggest challenge for VPsVPsto is integrating traditional digital marketing

  • The greatest challenge for both VP’s and Managers is delivering greater ROI on the marketing budget

This shows that there are common concerns for marketers for senior and mid-level marketers.

“A big challenge is delivering the right buying journey for the target audience and finding the right advertising channels to reach a specific target audience,” - Marketing Manager, Marketing, Communications & Advertising

“A recent recruitment and interview process showed a lack of basic knowledge of digital marketing among marketing graduates,” Marketing Manager, Retail, Ireland

“I don’t have the needed human power to perform the duties that need to be done, especially in digital marketing. My organization won’t dedicate any more money at this time to hire additional talent or to hire for vacancies in marketing and communications. At the same time, expectations have risen and our team is expected to output much more than we did prior to the pandemic" - Director of Marketing, Education, United States

As well as outlining their greatest challenges, marketers also rated other challenges they are looking to overcome. Amongst these included attracting and retaining marketing talent and managing a hybrid team.

Their feedback is as follows:

  • The 5th greatest concern for VPs is managing a remote team

  • The 6th greatest challenge for both VPS and Managers is retaining talent in the marketing team

  • The 9th greatest challenge for both VPS and Managers is trying to fast-track digital transformation

This data highlights the concerns of not just being able to optimise digital marketing activities but acquiring the talent to do so. With closing the digital skills gap a priority of many leaders, succeeding in this area will be one of the main focuses in 2023.

Marketing budgets and spend

  • 58% of CMOs, Marketing Directors, and VPs of Marketing have shifted their marketing spend from traditional to digital channels

  • 53% are spending ‘significantly more’ on digital channels; and 34% are spending ‘slightly more’, whilst 10% kept their spending the same.

It is predicted that by 2024 social media will be the fastest-growing channel, with an average annual growth rate of 15%, closely followed by online video at 14% and paid search at 10%.

Digital Marketing skills and Skills Shortages

Across most areas, marketers reported a significant shortage in digital skills. The specific skills which were highlighted included Data Analysts and Search Marketers.

“There’s a chronic need for more highly targeted training so that people don’t just say the right words, they can actually perform the duties attached to those words. I am seeing a big gap between what people “know” and what they can “do” and what they want to be “accountable for,” - VP of Marketing, Marketing, Communications & Advertising

Both groups of marketers reported significant shortages in digital skills with the top three being data analysts, general marketing skills, and UX Designers.

  • Data Analysts (47%)

  • General digital marketing skills (37%)

  • UX Designers (34%)

During the pandemic, many marketers admit to adopting mass communication models rather than targeted messaging.

One CMO told McKinsey & Company9 “I’ve largely retreated to mass marketing instead of data-driven marketing because customer behaviour is changing so fast I can’t trust my historical data and models.”

One marketer revealed: “Defining roles as a marketer on a team is difficult as the marketing industry grows. I find that the role of a marketer encompasses way more than it should in hiring companies. For example, an accountant’s role is clearly defined in comparison. I’ve seen this lead to burnout in teams and it’s not effective.

Experience is one thing, but the term ‘wearing too many hats’ rings true for marketers, and it’s not just me.”

Whilst the challenges of the digital marketing sector are apparent, with the right team of talent behind them who possess the required skills, leaders will be able to reap the rewards of their marketing activities in 2023.


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