Marketers have made considerable progress to become more data-driven, yet there remain numerous barriers preventing them from getting the most out of data, a new survey has revealed.

Allison+Partners, the global marketing communications agency, reached this conclusion after working with research firm Censuswide to poll 500 marketing directors in the UK and Germany in October.

Recognising that effective use of data can provide real-time consumer insights as well as measuring impact and demonstrating ROI, Allison+Partners sought to establish whether its survey respondents (250 in each country) really use data in the best way.

Encouragingly, 87% of these senior marketers said their department’s use of data was either somewhat or far above average, a similar proportion (89%) said they were confident in their ability to extract insights from data, while 72% said they can use data to prove ROI very or extremely well.

Their confidence extended to their use of data to measure their marketing efforts, with 92% of respondents from both countries stating they use their data very or extremely well.

However, while marketers think they’re on top of their current data-driven efforts, nearly all respondents (98%) expected there will be obstacles to improving how data-driven their marketing department is in the future.

Specifically, they pointed to data being siloed across organisations (45%), the cost of technology platforms (39%) and a lack of in-house talent with the necessary skillset (38%).

“Clearly, any investment in technology and data tools needs to be matched by an influx of talent with specialised skills to maximise data. However, there are simply not enough people with the right skills for the job,” the report said.

Elsewhere, the survey found that seven in ten marketing directors have made investments in AI-driven customer platforms, while one in five plan to do so in the next two years – and the report noted that investment in AI to improve insights is starting to take off.

“With a lack of data skills being another concern, AI has a crucial role to play and it’s promising that the research shows investment in this technology is on the up,” said Heike Schubert, general manager of Allison+Partners Germany.

“AI can sift through the mountains of data accumulated by marketing teams, automate routine processes to save time, as well as suggest the best ways to target customers on a more personalised level,” she added.

“A lot of this technology is still in its infancy, but as it becomes more affordable, we can expect investment in both data analytics and AI to continue in an upward trajectory.”

Sourced from Allison+Partners; additional content by WARC staff