Losing touch with their digital consumers

Many companies have embraced a digital or omnichannel approach to their marketing functions. However, while they spend more on digital channels, they still lack the capabilities to use these effectively. Based on an initial survey pursued in 2015, BCG finds that not much has changed and digital skills remain undeveloped.

In collaboration with Google Digital Academy, BCG surveyed more than 2,200 marketers at 141 advertisers and 2,900 employees of 126 advertising agencies in late 2016 to rate their organisation’s digital capabilities and development efforts against best practice. Doing so, the institutions' capabilities were assessed across the categories of planning (marketing and brand strategy, partner management, and critical enablers), executing (digital targeting, digital content development and distribution, and digital channels) and measurement (metrics and measurement, marketing analytics, and testing).

On BCG’s Digital Capabilities Index, on which 100 points represents best practice, advertisers score 57 points on average with two-thirds of companies scoring 60 points or less. With the same average in 2015, advertisers have not improved their digital capabilities. While agencies score an average of 68 points, they are in slightly better but not great shape. “Advertisers, in particular, need to build up their digital capabilities in order to improve their own performance and guide their agencies’ work effectively,” says BCG in A Disconnect and a Divide in Digital-Marketing Talent.

BCG expected digital capabilities to improve significantly within the 18 months between the initial survey and the 2016 survey. Because advertisers continue to lack capabilities, they rely on the support of their agencies for digital and omnichannel campaigns - at a hefty price though: “Marketers that are not actively involved in the test-learn-adapt process lose touch with both their campaigns and their digital consumers,” says BCG. Besides, they lose control about how their budget is spent, can’t explain campaign success or failure, and lose the ability to learn from data generated by campaigns. Doing so, the gap between advertisers and agencies is set to widen.