Aussie marketers ‘grossly ill-prepared’ for upcoming privacy changes says Arktic Fox study

Most Australian brands and marketing leaders are “grossly ill-prepared” for the upcoming changes to data privacy legislation, according to a report from advisory firm Arktic Fox.

In its Digital & Marketing in Focus study for 2023, Arktic Fox found that less than one in four of Australian marketing executives suggested that a focus on improving compliance with data privacy was a priority for the next 12 to 18 months.

Arktic Fox surveyed 230 marketing, digital and e-commerce leaders across Australia between November 2022 to February 2023 on a number of topics like how the marketing and digital industry is changing, the impact of challenges around privacy, martech, digital transformation initiatives and talent shortages.

Whilst a small survey sample, it was specific in its targeting and only included local client-side marketers with roles such as chief marketing officers, divisional marketing leaders, chief experience officers and e-commerce directors, among others.

“In 2022 we experienced a swag of major privacy breaches, but whilst the Attorney General is sounding the alarm and the latest recommendation report signals sweeping change, most leaders and brands are grossly ill-prepared for the change that is coming,” the report read.

“Insights from the data gathered suggest that it’s just not high enough on the agenda for many leaders and their teams.”

Arktic Fox said data privacy was an area it expected to rank higher on the radar of marketing leaders, and the findings suggested “there was a lack of awareness and understanding” of the full impact that changes will bring about and “the need to start preparing now”.

The Attorney-General most recently released its initial report on the Privacy Act Review in February, which explored the possibility for consumers to opt out of targeted advertising, erasing and de-indexing their personal information online, amongst others measures.

The report also found marketing leaders were struggling to get their executive leaders to back digital transformation efforts, as well as secure investment for marketing technology.

Source: Arktic Fox

Arktic Fox found some 40 percent of leaders said the knowledge of executive teams is a key aspect they are finding difficult to drive digital transformation, with scepticism, fear and knowledge gaps credited as stymying such efforts.

“Today we still see far too many leaders believing that digital is someone’s role as opposed to digital capability needing to be embedded across the organisation to become central to the business strategy and operations,” Arktic Fox director Teresa Sperti said.

“When a separate digital or e-commerce function exists that is siloed from the rest of the business, it sends a message that understanding digital is not my job or responsibility and stifles teams’ ability to build capability and develop skills.”

Marketing leaders have also reported they have been finding it harder to secure martech investments as spending softens, but demand for customer data platforms (CDPs) are growing compared to last year’s report, with 40 percent of respondents prioritising investment in this part of their martech stack in the next 12 to 18 months.

Overall marketing spend is also taking a hit, with 35% reporting a reduction in budgets over the past 12 months.

“We believe this data is a sign of things to come. With the tightening economy, it is anticipated that those industries and categories that compete for discretionary spend (as well as providers that support those industries) are most likely to see a reduction in spend as the year progresses,” the report read.

“Faced with the challenge of doing more with less, and the need to improve performance and drive efficiency, the study has found leaders will continue to double down on their efforts to deliver better measurement to improve performance and focus on automation of manual tasks and processes.”

Also on the martech front, respondents reported platform integration as a major challenge, and that martech strategy and implementation has the second biggest skills gap within marketing teams across Australia.

“Alignment is critical. Marketers and digital professionals need to connect the marTech ecosystem to back-end platforms and ensure connectivity between platforms to drive results from their martech stack,” Sperti said.

“Developing an effective partnership with IT to deliver common outcomes is key to embedding and integrating platforms and delivering ROI as is building internal knowledge and capability within the team.”

Furthermore, the survey found brands are not investing in sufficient training and development to address the ongoing talent shortage, citing lack of time, space and priority as the main reasons. Close to half of respondents said they have no set training budget, while a similar number admitted they don’t prioritise skills training as a team.

Data and analytics skills were a particular focus for the report, finding those as the biggest technical skill gaps identified within teams for the past four years, and that only 35% of leaders in this year’s survey believed their teams have strong data literacy skills.

Brands not prioritising e-commerce 

A new addition to the report is a dedicated section on e-commerce, with the report finding that brands don’t prioritise it as much despite increases in customer uptake. Arktic Fox found only some 8% of fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brands believe e-commerce is perceived internally as an integral channel for engaging customers and for product or service distribution. Retailers meanwhile stood at 55% in comparison.

Some of the barriers impacting growth were technology limiting flexibility and agility, being too slow to adapt and respond to changing conditions, and the focus on protecting and maintaining the core.

“It’s not uncommon to see brands struggle to free up funds to invest into new growth areas like e-commerce. Entrenched forecasting and budgeting approaches, a lack of understanding of the importance of the e-commerce channel by the executive and a lack of appetite to invest appropriately to build capability and important foundations sees teams operating with one hand tied behind their back which inhibits e-commerce reaching its full potential,” Sperti said.

“Building e-commerce maturity takes time, it requires focus and investment over a longer time period and shouldn’t be solely measured on the basis of returns today as it helps future proof the organisation as a greater share of spend will shift online over the next decade.”


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