By Tim Beveridge

A key driver for success behind any digital strategy is having skilled staff who can execute campaigns effectively to deliver results. We recently published the 2012 Responsys Big Australia Report, a study into the digital marketing activities of Australian businesses. The report examines how Australian companies are approaching digital, where resources are being allocated and what the biggest areas of focus are for the next twelve months.

How digital marketing is faring in Australia
The findings of the Responsys 2012 Big Australia Report paint a particularly revealing picture in terms of the widening gap in digital expertise between the most and least skilled within organisations. Encouragingly we found some marketers are becoming more sophisticated in the way they target their audience. On the flipside, significant challenges were revealed when it comes to the lack of time and resources – limiting the ability of digital marketers to run effective digital campaigns. Some of the most notable findings include:

  • The gap in digital expertise widening: 57 per cent feel there is a lack of digital expertise in their organisation and 70 per cent believe they have equal or more digital marketing experience than their manager.
  • There’s a lack of time and resources: Digital marketers are increasingly time poor, more than half (52 per cent) feel their team is not sufficiently equipped to analyse and action the amount of customer data available to them.
  • Budgets are increasing, but so are workloads: Forty-nine per cent expect their budgets to increase in the next twelve months. However, only 37 per cent intend to employ additional digital marketing staff, suggesting that the workload of today’s digital retailer is set to rise.
  • Social and mobile biggest growth channels: Sixty-eight per cent will send more social media messages and almost half (48 per cent) will execute more mobile campaigns.

While our results show some digital marketers have an increasing focus on digital, the widening gap between the most and least skilled is a concern. Retailers are unrelentingly resource poor.

However, savvy retailers are now placing digital programs high on the agenda to ward off international competition and respond faster to what consumers want. By leveraging digital channels, retailers are able to engage larger audiences with fewer resources. With this in mind, retailers need to ensure they are well placed to respond to these developments.

Our five top tips for retailers to increase digital knowledge within their organisations are:

1.    Get your hands dirty:
There's no replacement for actually rolling up your sleeves and getting your hands dirty, so retailers should start by encouraging their staff to begin trying and testing new digital tools and programs on the web. For example, by developing a personal blog and hooking it up with Google Analytics, employees can see how user activity online can be tracked and monitored. Staff should also learn how to use HTML and CSS, there are plenty of courses retailers can sign-up to.

Social media should be experimented with too, and by simply trialing the ‘promoted posts’ function on Facebook, staff can get an idea for how certain aspects of the site work. Retailers also need to improve their understanding of data and can do this by setting up their own databases in software such as MSAccess and having a play around with pulling out different sets of data.

The aim of all of this practice isn’t to become an expert in every single digital program that exists, but rather, to gain a deeper understanding of how the web works and to overcome the digital divide that restricts growth into digital within so many organisations.

Simpler, smaller, cheaper versions of enterprise tools are available for all of us to use so there's no excuse for not educating ourselves. No amount of PowerPoint presentations can replace actually thinking through problems and creating solutions with your own hands. If your whole team does it, and each builds a small personal project, you'd be surprised at the change it creates within your team.

2.    Stop relying on IT teams for digital expertise
In the past, many retailers have relied on their IT teams to set up complex marketing programs on their behalf and this can be a time intensive and resource heavy process. Although, this no longer need be the case.

Companies such as Responsys have simplified marketing automation to such an extent that almost anyone can now run complex digital campaigns, regardless of how many years’ experience they have. Only when we sit down with our clients and show them how our software platform works do they realise how simple setting up their own digital marketing programs can be. They then have the confidence to go away and run their own campaigns, saving them time and money, and freeing them up to focus on the more strategic parts of their role.

3.    Review your team's KPIs
Ensure that the performance of everyone in your team is in some way measured against a specific digital KPI. The benchmark should encourage staff to stretch themselves into digital and deliver digital work to market that shifts a key metric fundamental to the success of your business. If your team isn't compelled to skill up in digital and the framework isn't created to help them do that then it won't happen.

4.    Have a weekly sharing session
Assuming you have members of your team with digital expertise, each week, get one of them to take the rest of the team through the steps they use to get a job done. If it’s email marketing, the session could look at how to create an email design, turn it into HTML, select the people who receive it, load it into an email platform, test it, deploy it, and track the results and so on.

5.    Educate those at the top
While the importance of digital within a retailer’s strategy now goes without saying, from my experience, its role and value is not only underappreciated, it’s often misunderstood. Resistance to investing in digital tools and technology, such as marketing automation software, often comes from those at the top of a company – the decision makers who usually have the tightest grip over the purse strings. Educating this group of experts who may be accustomed to tried and tested ‘old school’ methods will not come overnight, but by starting the education process with middle managers, eventually the message will hit home.

To download a copy of the 2012 Big Australia Report, please visit:

Tim Beveridge is the director of insights and planning at Responsys.