Globally, 68 percent of brands have an increased need for data skills when it comes to utilizing marketing technology (martech), according to WARC’s “Martech: 2020 and Beyond” report. Published in association with BDO, the report assesses martech’s growth over the last year, addresses how agencies are balancing data with creativity and where respondents plan to focus budgets next year.

Since 2018, martech investment has seen year-on-year growth of 22 percent with a current estimated market size of $121.5 billion globally. In addition, the combined UK and North American market of martech is now worth $65.9 billion.

According to respondent feedback, a lack of expertise on the brand side is a key driver to outsourcing martech functions to agencies. Whether in terms of upskilling internally or hiring discipline specialists, brands are exploring ways to increase skills. Opinions on which skills should be the focus differ among businesses.

For brands and agencies alike, there’s a need to use data to guide creative strategy, but each side has different priorities. Forty-nine percent of brands cited creativity as one of the most important skills for hiring into the marketing function whereas 21 percent considered strategy and data a top priority. Comparatively, only 25 percent of agency respondents chose creativity as an important factor, ultimately citing data literacy as their top priority. 

The majority of respondents have found a use for martech tools in established disciplines. Over three quarters of brands use martech to assist them with email and social media, and nearly two-thirds of brands use martech for analytics, content and CRM. Still, 76 percent of respondents feel the need to add more martech tools to their belt while only 24 percent of global marketers believe they have all the martech tools they need.

In addition, brands are focusing on customer experiences over specific media, resulting in the growth of experience optimization and tracking in the martech industry. Over half of the respondents noted that customer experience optimization is a high priority for their organization. Despite this, less than 50 percent of brands are using martech to track customers between channels. 

Half of global respondents agreed that budget constraints are the main barrier to martech investment, up from 36 percent last year. Forty-three percent of marketers globally, however, expect their martech budgets to increase over the next 12 months. On average, North American and UK brands are spending 26 percent of their budgets on martech compared to 23 percent last year.

Report findings are based on an annual survey of more than 750 brands and agencies in North America, UK, Europe and Asia-Pacific.