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5 Biggest Challenges Facing Marketers in 2020

Startof2020

We’re just a few days in and there’s already a lot to look forward to in 2020; Glastonbury’s 50th birthday, a summer of sport in Tokyo, and even the chance of football (maybe…  potentially… hopefully!) coming home. At work, a new year (and a new decade to boot) brings new opportunities for your brand. Fresh strategies are underway, new campaigns are being planned and, as a result, marketers might be busier than ever. 

We rounded out 2019 with a survey to senior marketing and brand professionals from B2C brands*, asking them what challenges they’re facing, in the hopes of bringing insight and reassurance to marketers in the same boat. 

Here we analyse this data, to offer up the 5 biggest challenges marketers are facing in 2020, and dive into how this compares with the biggest challenges faced in other job roles. Where are marketers feeling the pinch, and what hurdles do they need to overcome for a successful 2020? Read on to find out.

The top five challenges, from least to most important:

Challenge #5 – I feel pressure to make decisions more quickly than I used to

12.5% of marketers strongly agree that they’re under pressure to make the right decision quicker than ever. A further 42.7% of marketers agree with the statement to some extent, meaning that over half of those in marketing roles feel pressure to avoid slowing down either their teammates or strategy with sluggish decisions.  

While this ranks as a top 5 challenge, significantly fewer marketers feel this pressure than in February 2019, when we found 22.6% of marketers strongly agreed with the statement. They also under-index compared to other job roles, the average across all job roles in B2C brands coming out at 17.2% strongly agreeing. Marketers are, therefore, feeling less pressured than their colleagues, and less pressured than they were at the beginning of 2019, so while it’s still seen as a challenge, marketers are already busy stepping up to the plate. 

Challenge #4 – My budgets seem to be shrinking

15.6% of marketers are strongly agree that their budgets seem to be shrinking, with another 37.5% also noticing dwindling funds, but to a lesser extent. Interestingly, this stat isn’t affected by the brand’s turnover, with 52.6% of marketers at companies turning over <£1m agreeing to some extent, and a matching 52.6% at companies turning over >£1m feeling the same. No matter the turnover, budgets are being squeezed at brands of all shapes and sizes. 

Marketers also aren’t feeling the pinch as much as insights departments, who are the department most likely to notice that their budgets are shrinking (71.9% agree overall).

Challenge #3 – I feel pressure to be more creative in my role than I used to

In a role that’s increasingly concerned with performance marketing, KPIs, and data, finding time and space to foster creativity can seem difficult, even though it’s vital for a unique and memorable brand. The two don’t need to be opposites, though – as we discuss in this article – data can in fact drive creativity rather than hindering it. Marketers slightly over-index in response to this challenge, 20.8% strongly agree that they feel pressure in this area (and a further 34.4% agree to some extent). 

Senior marketers (C-level and VP) feel this pressure the most acutely, with 26.7% of those professionals strongly agreeing with the statement. Unsurprisingly, the top echelons of the industry are the most marred by challenges, with C-level and VP-level marketers over-indexing on all challenges except not having enough time in the day. 

Challenge #2 – I almost never have enough time in the day

No matter how hard we might try, there are only ever 24 hours in a day, and we need to spend some of those hours eating, sleeping and seeing our favourite people. 22.9% of marketers (and 24.8% of all job roles combined) strongly agree that this is a significant challenge. A further 38.5% (and 42.5% of all those working in B2C brands) agree to some extent that the pesky passing of time is a challenge for them. 

Female marketers have a harder time fitting their work into the day than their male counterparts, with 77.5% of females agreeing or strongly agreeing that they almost never have enough time to get their work done, compared to just 50% of men. There are lots of cultural factors at play here, which we will need to continue to be addressed in 2020 to ensure everyone (male and female) can strike a successful work-life balance. 

Challenge #1 – Consumer trends are changing more quickly than ever before

By far the biggest challenge marketers agreed with was that it’s difficult to keep up with changing consumer trends. Almost half (45.8%) of marketers strongly agreed that trends are changing more quickly than ever before, with another 39.6% agreeing to some extent. This left just 4.1% of marketers who said they don’t struggle to keep up with the preferences, habits and needs of their target consumers. 

Unsurprisingly, marketers over-index compared to other job roles surveyed. This challenge was the most prevalent across all those working at B2C brands, the average across all departments was just 37.1%, compared to 45.8% of marketers. While understanding consumer behaviour is important across the business, marketers need to know about upcoming trends so that they can plan their activities accordingly – which is impossible without up-to-date consumer data. 

In 2020, just as in 2019, it’ll be vital for marketers to keep their finger on the pulse of consumer sentiment, and react quickly when they see trends gaining traction in their target markets. Alongside in-depth trends research, regular, light-touch surveys can help marketers identify opportunities and validate hunches so they can act on trends before their competition has a chance to. 

In the same survey, 60.4% of marketers agreed that it is very important to have access to consumer insight in order to succeed in their role. Campaign strategy, brand strategy and customer segmentation came out as the most popular uses for consumer research within marketing. Speed is an issue, though, as 36.9% of marketers feel they have questions to ask consumers on a weekly basis, with no way of getting the answers. They rely on sales data, CRM data and their internal research team, but struggle to get the external validation on a bespoke repeatable basis. 

Final Thoughts

The challenges faced by marketers span the whole width of their responsibilities: from budget management to creativity, decision-making to consumer research. But that’s not to say the challenges can’t be overcome, as we’ve already seen with some hurdles (the pressure to make decisions more quickly) already shrinking over the course of 2019. Key to taking advantage of the opportunities that 2020 holds  will be keeping on top of changing consumer trends, and creating products, marketing assets and branding that resonate. Starting your new year with a tool to help you get closer to consumers might be one of the best ways to set you up for success. Get in touch if you’d like to hear more about the ways teams across your company can become consumer-led with Attest.

*Data in this article is based on a survey run via the Attest platform, to 500 B2C employees at manager level and above, conducted in late October and early November 2019. The same research was run to 250 B2C employees in February 2019. 

Fancy getting your teeth into a few more challenges?…

19 Biggest Challenges Marketers Face in 2020

We spoke to 18 market-leading marketers to discover what they’re hoping to accomplish in 2020, and the challenges they foresee along the way.

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