How Marketers Are Investing in Digital Transformation Amid the Pandemic

A survey of 800 marketers reveals that mar tech investment continues even as other budgets are cut

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Around 82% of marketers reported better ROI on marketing technology this year. iStock

Even an economic downturn brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic hasn’t stopped marketers from investing in furthering digital transformation and marketing tech, a new survey of 800 marketers around the world shows.

The report, from consumer experience platform Acquia, found that 82% of respondents said they had seen a boost in return on investment from new marketing tech spending this year, even as marketing spending overall was slashed. The biggest investment areas included marketing automation platforms (63%), customer data platforms (54%), AI and machine learning (44%) and content management systems (35%).

“Covid-19 has thrown most organizations a curveball, but the results of this study show just how resilient marketing teams are in shifting to digital,” Lynne Capozzi, chief marketing officer at Acquia, said. “Even though marketers are trying to do more with less, technology has created opportunities to connect with consumers on a personal level—at a time when their digital engagement is higher than ever.”

The findings are in line with the results of similar studies that show that while overall marketing budgets have been cut or remained flat amid the pandemic recession, investment towards automation and other forms of digital transformation has continued unabated or actually increased. A Gartner study in July found that 68% of CMOs expected to up spending on mar tech in the next year, while digital spending overall has grown to account for 80% of multichannel marketing budgets.

“CMOs believe technology will help them navigate through difficult times and recover faster, and thus will continue to shield these investments—like customer data platforms, mobile marketing platforms and digital commerce—from further cost efficiencies,” Gartner analyst Ewan McIntyre wrote in the report.

Among the uses that marketers are finding for automation and machine learning are the introduction of chatbots for answering routine questions and reducing wait times, digital consultations for product advice and dynamically personalizing content for consumers.

But the survey also revealed that a shortage still persists in the amount of technical talent available with 43% of marketers saying they struggle to recruit data scientists, while about 40% having trouble filling machine learning engineer positions. CMOs, rather than technical leadership positions, are still responsible for leading digital transformation efforts at around 52% of organizations surveyed.

Siloing between marketing tech platforms continues to be a problem in this regard, with marketers reporting frustrations with their ability to share data across different parts of an organization. That also echoes a finding from Gartner that around 58% of CMOs report their marketing tech stacks not delivering their full potential, a stat that could threaten future spending on the category.

“Many brand leaders found themselves trapped by siloed marketing technology that limited their ability to share data across systems or integrate new tools with their existing platforms,” the authors of Acquia’s report wrote. “Too often, that results in a fragmented digital brand experience that’s not easy to evolve.”

The survey, Acquia’s third annual report on this topic, covered 800 marketers across Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, the United Kingdom and the United States.


@patrickkulp patrick.kulp@adweek.com Patrick Kulp is an emerging tech reporter at Adweek.
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