Is there really a skills gap in digital marketing?


The UK Digital Skills Gap remains a blistering topic, this crisis affects organisations across all sectors – no one is safe, including marketing, and yet many sectors are unconscious to the issue, because these ‘digital skills’ sometimes come in the shape of periphery tactics, such as website monitoring, CRM management and search knowledge.

Despite people thinking that digital marketing would be the industry that remedied this skills gap a long time ago, sadly figures show that only 8% of current marketers in the UK possess entry level digital skills, a shockingly low number, we can all agree.

Digital skills refer to digital literacy and the ability to confidently use the internet and information technologies, which are vital responsibilities for any digital marketer.

The only true way to address the situation is by education and skills development

Considering the UK was responsible for the earliest known recording of digital music played out by the computer in 1951 by the BBC at the University of Manchester, on paper we should be ahead of the game when it comes to our global counterparts.

Marketing has thus far been complacent when it comes to plugging the skills gap; perhaps because digital technology has grown organically and rapidly for the past ten years, it was assumed that skills would too adapt naturally – but analysis shows the shocking truth.

Digital marketing is a dynamic sector that's constantly responding to changing consumer habits.

As technology becomes more sophisticated, companies must invest in new ways (social engagement, interactive video and virtual reality to name a few) to better understand and communicate with their clients – and without the skills available, this will undoubtedly mean that the industry falls behind, and so will commercial profit margins.

Is digital marketing a dying trade?

In 2014 The Guardian published the UK digital marketing manager’s census showing that digital marketing professionals feel overwhelmed and isolated by the complexity of their work.

It’s clear that many digital marketers were feeling frustrated and unmotivated through the lack of recognition from management and other departments.

Despite this, the number of people looking to work in digital marketing has grown exponentially over the past few years.

It warned that the digital and creative sector workforce needs to keep pace with advancements - especially with digital technology employment predicted to increase by 6% by 2020

Has digital understanding shifted?

The total population who are active savvy internet users is a sizable 89%. The share of web page views on laptops and desktops comes in at 58% with web page views on phones coming in 2nd at 27%, despite 58% of the UK population being mobile internet users.

Over 59% have active social media accounts and operate day-today using an array of digital technologies, so people know how important digital is, don’t they?

While the industry and technology has most certainly moved forward – the simple fact is that the skills of people within those sectors has not been provided for.

The only true way to address the situation is by education and skills development.

While it’s not necessary to have a specific degree in Marketing, Advertising or PR for a role in digital marketing, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.

The Digital Marketing Institute's Missing the Mark report has revealed that 'digital talent crisis' is a global problem, with more than half (59%) of the marketers questioning the need to improve their digital marketing skills for career progression.

Indeed, the government's own digital skills assessment emphasises the need for academic development as well as on-hand skills based training, but as of yet no qualification has been specifically driven towards the digital skills agenda, until now that is.

The future is digital

In order to succeed, our thinking and skillset needs to be too, failing to do so will result in an even larger skills gap then what currently exists.

This will not only affect organisations who need to adapt their marketing to new innovative audience engagement strategies, but also decrease the opportunities for people looking to advance or enter a career in marketing.

Related Stories

Leave a comment


This will only be used to quickly provide signup information and will not allow us to post to your account or appear on your timeline.

Frank Viljoen
5 Dec 2016, 10:26 a.m.

There may well be a skills gap in the digital marketing sector, but at the same time, people with skills are not being recognised in their approach. I for one have niche skills ( specialist mobile proximity marketing using AdTech), combined with digital marketing certification but because I don't have 'industry specific experience' I am not even considered when making application?


5 Dec 2016, 5:18 p.m.

I would say there are a number of issues for any digital roles in most industries. For marketing, the first big issue is how many different digital disciplines and channels there are that could even be considered for recognition. 2nd the digital landscape is constantly shifting and evolving so courses, like the latest gadgets will almost be out of date before you start. Generally the boundaries between all marketing disciplines are gradually merging as digitisation permeates the delivery channel for nearly everything. Finally, a respected industry body or institution needs to establish the benchmark for defining digital marketing. Is it even a role in its own right or just taken for granted as a skill-set that people just have to have now?


Aleksej Heinze
15 Dec 2016, 11:41 a.m.

Having tried to recruit someone for a Digital Marketing and Web Development job where we only had three applicants and all from abroad makes me think that we are definatly facing a major challenge! If anyone is looking for a Dgital Marketing and Web Development role near Sheffield please get intouch!