Greatest skills shortage ever underway across martech, adtech
The stampede to Covid-era digital transformation has only intensified a major problem: the rate of change in martech and adtech continues to outpace education and everyone is feeling the pain. Joey Nguyen says it’s one of the biggest challenges for consultancies and agencies and every customer he works with. The other is figuring out what “privacy ready” ready means.
We are witnessing the biggest ever skills shortage in martech and adtech, with brands who are in-housing this capability to support their accelerated digital growth aggressively snapping up the talent in the Australian market.
Talent, privacy black hole
We are witnessing the biggest ever skills shortage in martech and adtech, with brands who are in-housing this capability to support their accelerated digital growth aggressively snapping up the talent in the Australian market. The talent gap has always existed in these areas but has been massively magnified by Covid. It is now one of the biggest challenges facing consultancies and agencies – as well as for every single customer we work with.
Part of the challenge is the depth and breadth of understanding now required. Capability like CDPs (Customer Data Platforms) are a double-edged sword: a platform that can unify data across app, web and offline sources and power measurement and activation across any channel also requires someone to understand each aspect and technology involved in order to make it all work effectively – a set of skills that takes years to learn.
Similarly, the privacy side of digital is changing so fast that parts of the advice I provide to clients are likely to be outdated by the following week. The details are blurry, and the nuances are incredibly difficult to understand quickly, let alone act on.
Fortunately, I believe we may be near the peak of this current complexity curve: the major martech vendors have invested heavily in CDPs as their big bet for the next few years, new product development has likely slowed due to Covid and privacy considerations will also narrow the current and future range of capabilities that need to be understood. I expect that brands, consultancies and the industry as a whole will get a bit of breathing room to catch up – and I hope we use it wisely to invest further into education.
The impending Apple and Google changes is driven by a philosophy that individual user tracking is an outdated notion.
Technology’s problems are now everyone’s problems
We’ve watched our clients go through the rapid growth of digital driven by Covid while trying to understand the industry change and requirements for transparency regarding customer privacy.
We’ve seen two key themes emerge as the main areas of investment:
- Maximising use of your own first party data
- The privacy-first future
Both of these are fascinating challenges: they are intersecting circles, but require their own focus, and they are both areas where a technology solution on its own is not enough.
The Customer Data Platform (CDP) category represents an amazing set of capabilities for brands to unify and orchestrate their data, but the complexity means that initiatives are likely to fail without accompanying organisational change, a skilled team and an entire revamp of internal process.
The impending Apple and Google changes, driven by a philosophy that individual user tracking is an outdated notion, mean that brands need to fundamentally reinvent their approach to customers and prospects or else be left in a rabbit hole of circumvention and workarounds trying to cling on to the old ways.
These technology problems are now everybody’s problem when digital is at the forefront, and need to be treated as such, rather than palmed off to one department to solve in a silo or expecting any single vendor to provide a silver bullet. Covid has meant this is now a near-universal conflict in most businesses.
I expect these two areas to continue to dominate mindshare across my clients in the coming years, and brands that act proactively will have a significant advantage over those who react piecemeal to each incremental impact.
The privacy side of digital is changing so fast that parts of the advice I provide to clients is likely to be outdated by the following week. The details are blurry, and the nuances are incredibly difficult to understand quickly, let alone act on.
Personal learnings: Empathy, rituals and luck
There are three key themes in what I’m taking, so far, out of Covid:
- It has been a time for putting understanding and empathy first, in and outside of work. Client contracts were cancelled, budgets were cut, but we all know these factors were in large part out of everyone’s control. What didn’t change was the need to keep the lights on, and brands turned to those they could trust – those who could be flexible and understanding enough to adapt around the instability.
For our key clients, we invested time, energy and care first and worried about the commercial coverage later, and it’s been repaid ten-fold since things have restabilised. For those individuals impacted most, I connected and made introductions where I could to ensure those stood down could try and find alternative roles in the industry, and I feel heartened that there are those who would do the same if the roles were reversed. Similarly, living with my partner in an open plan loft apartment combined with the shift to work from home could have been a recipe for disaster, but we adapted, we invested in each other and we’ve come out the other side much stronger as a result.
- Adapting rituals and routines kept momentum going when it felt like everything had stalled. I would have gone crazy without exercise, and needed to adapt – online yoga was the solution. Our culture would have broken without routine, and we needed to adapt – some existing ones shifted to video chat, some new ones, like spending some downtime playing online video games together, were created to fill the gap. Even if it wasn’t the same, doing something was better than doing nothing.
- I am extremely lucky to be in Australia and work in digital. I am acutely aware of one of my closest friends in the UK who is just now preparing to re-open his bar after a year of closure. As we continue to wind back restrictions, return to live meetings and events, and in the only place in the world where Hamilton is touring, I hope I can remain grateful for the immense luck that has put me in this position.
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As much of Australia looks forward to emerging from long lockdowns in the coming weeks, there is huge pent-up demand for retail therapy. Scentre Group, which operates 42 Westfield shopping centres across ANZ, has polled thousands of customers on their Christmas plans. The results should give brands and retailers some pre-festive cheer.