Consumer trust and digital skills will be key to business success in post-Brexit Britain

Marketing has a critical role to play in driving business growth in post-Brexit Britain. But to do so effectively, the industry needs to embrace digitalization, build trust and develop its talent base. At the Chartered Institute of Marketing’s Digital Summit 2018, marketers discussed the importance of the industry sitting at the heart of disruptive trends shaping business, Brexit amongst them.

 

Paving the way into new markets

As the UK sets out to trade with new international markets, a study by the CIM and PWC finds that many businesses lack the required export marketing skills and capabilities. And marketing is well placed to step into this breach, according to CIM marketing director, Gemma Butler. She pointed to the profession’s unique ability to help businesses with challenges such as adapting their strategies internationally and overcoming cultural and language barriers.

Adding to the challenges of Brexit, the industry still has to master its own digital transformation. The CIM Digital Summit brought together both ‘digital natives’ and established brands that have used digital channels to reinvent themselves and their relationships with customers.

SortedFoods is an example of the former. It was started by a group of university freshers who found their cookery skills distinctly lacking and started exchanging recipes and cookery videos on social channels.  Fast forward to today and SortedFoods is a social business with nearly 2 million subscribers. Co-founder Jamie Spafford ascribed the company’s success to its community values and focus on storytelling rather than selling – which chime with millennials’ marketing weariness.

And digital communities like SortedFoods are not alone in answering to modern consumers’ preferences. The CIM Summit showed that established organisations can also make the transition successfully. Lonely Planet’s ‘Best In Travel’ annual was designed with millennial audiences’ need for immediacy in mind, according to editorial director Tom Hall.  Instead of old-fashioned guide books – which easily become dated – Best In Travel works multiple digital platforms to place up-to-date, highly shareable content at readers’ fingertips. Last year, it reached 3 billion people and garnered 10 million video views on YouTube and Lonely Planet’s own platforms.

 

GDPR as an opportunity to build trust

But no matter how good a company is at making itself relevant to its audiences, overseas medications online goodwill can easily be shattered – not least by the impact of ‘fake reviews’. As the CIM’s James Farmer highlighted, the only bulwark against this is to have all your marketing “P’s” aligned, from a quality product to customer interactions that reassure the market that your brand deserves their trust.

Critically, this must include data protection. The Royal Mail’s Emma Fletcher suggested that brands embrace the new EU GDPR framework as an opportunity to become more relevant to their customers. They should adjust how they communicate to overcome rather than encourage consumers’ tendency to ‘opt out.’ Fletcher highlighted that combining digital and ‘offline’ methods of delivery – like traditional mail – can play an important role in personalizing brand communications to establish consumer trust.  

 

Skills still at large

While the opportunities of digital marketing are evident, some raised concerns that the profession is being held back because digital marketing knowledge is “shockingly bad.” This is how Target Internet’s Ciaran Martin summarised the findings of the latest Digital Marketing Skills Benchmark, conducted jointly with the CIM.

Across all levels of seniority, there is little understanding of digital marketing tactics – whether it’s SEO, analytics, social media or content marketing. Only email marketing is widely understood – and hence relied on heavily.  

While junior ranks have a better understanding of digital tactics, they are missing key strategic skills. The reverse is true for senior marketing roles who appear to guard their strategic knowledge.  

Dr Geraint Evans of Swansea University and recruiters Mark Lawson Jones and Huw Jones from Page Group echoed Ciaran Martin’s assessment. Senior players need to increase their understanding of the breadth of digital tactics and analytics to keep up to speed. More, the industry to invest in giving those coming through the ranks the strategic capabilities to become future leaders.

 

Marketing 2018 – a patchy landscape

Marketers are uniquely placed to help British business conquer new global markets, but the sector is missing key skills to harness digital channels for this purpose. The industry needs to embrace the latter more holistically and commit to boosting its digital nous if it wants to remain relevant in post-Brexit Britain.

Andrea Willige - Senior Writer, Formative Content
Author:Andrea Willige - Senior Writer, Formative Content