More than eight in 10 agencies (81%) will increase tech investments in 2017, with 75% saying they will focus on personalization and customer journeys, according to research by omni-channel provider Kitewheel which works with 25 of the world's leading marketing agencies, including Omnicom, WPP, Publicis and Havas.
The survey of 134 marketing professionals who work for agencies in the U.S. and Europe was conducted earlier this fall. The research examined the state of technology investment, current agency capabilities in addressing omni-channel marketing directives, emerging best practices and industry use cases, as well as where agencies are falling short on delivering in those areas.
Agencies are struggling to deliver omni-channel experiences despite growing brand and customer expectations for them to do so, per the report. Two in three agencies (68%) say clients are asking them to help deliver these types of experiences and half say this demand is driving them to launch a customer journey practice next year.
Agencies recognize they cannot manage Ad Tech and Marketing Tech separately moving forward and it is time to shed the traditional services silos and realign resources to deliver seamless customer experiences on behalf of the brands they represent, says the report.
However, the majority of agencies say they are not at all or only are partially equipped to deliver Ad Tech and Mar Tech unification (88%), omni-channel loyalty programs (82%), and Ad Tech journey attribution (73%).
Part of the caution to implement these services is driven by the lack of skilled talent to run these tools (54%), by lack of ROI (26%), and concerns around how to scale without losing personalization (15%). According to 64% of the agencies polled these challenges mean it will be 2018 or later before they are able to deliver customer journey practices.
"There is a clear skills gap preventing agencies from tapping into the growing demand for personalization and customer journeys. Without proper guidance, agencies and brands will continue to invest in technology that doesn't deliver," says Mark Smith, president, Kitewheel. "Perhaps the biggest surprise was that only 6% of our survey respondents said that they use all of their AdTech and MarTech tools on a weekly basis." That’s a lot of investment that's going underutilized, and may point towards a future of tech consolidation in which agencies seek to cut down on solutions with very narrow use cases in favor of more comprehensive platforms, per the report.
While agencies may not be able to fully deploy these opportunities, they are keen on using them in certain sectors. Two in three agencies (65%) identify retail as the vertical with the most potential (65%), financial services and travel coming in second (44% each), followed by automotive (37%), telecoms (30%) and CPG (15%).