Digital Industry Overview

Written by Shane Ferguson on 25/08/2016

Black Swan Technology focuses on recruiting technology support positions across the Digital Industry.  Below is an insight into the Digital Market using a combination of our own experiences, industry sources, surveys and bespoke reports.  Sources  referenced below.

Digital Marketing

What Will Digital Marketers Focus on in 2016?

66% of marketers say they expect their organisation’s content marketing budget to increase in 2016.

Respondents to a poll taken by (1500+ answers) were asked what trends will be the most important to their business impact in 2016. Options to choose from are shown on the right.

The top results in this survey all require, and even rely on, very technical skill sets all of which is sourced and recruited for by the Black Swan Technology team.

The focus on the Digital sector at Black Swan Group also complements what our colleagues have witnessed across   our core function of Financial Services and Banking.  Previously the digital function sat within marketing at a lot of the bulge bracket banks.  What has changed more recently is merging marketing with IT to form distribution IT.  This has led to numerous mandates that twin a hybrid of technology and client data analysis in order to deliver a better customer experience through carefully designed and executed digital roadmaps.  

Content Marketing

88% of marketers say they will produce more content in 2016 than they did in 2015. On average, 29% of the total organisational marketing budget is spent on content marketing in the UK.

Only 18% of marketers say they do not have a content marketing strategy. Interestingly, though, only 37% of them say that they have one which is clearly documented. This leaves a lot of marketers who appreciate the importance of content marketing, and who are potentially about to give more attention to this strategy. The knock-on effect of this could well be that we see an increase in marketing budgets through 2016 and therefore a rise in the tech support required.  Black Swan Technology is already preparing to stay ahead of this curve, originating the most relevant tech candidates to service such requirements. 


Another indicator that content marketing will be an area of interest, is the suggestion that the majority of marketers do not currently consider their content marketing strategy to be well-established. This suggests that resources will be driven into improving content marketing strategies, with a focus on employing more varied methods. These will all require technology support.                       

Content marketing has become increasingly essential to effective marketing campaigns, as traditional marketing strategies are generally considered to be less effective; Sky+ means we fast-forward through commercial breaks, print media is consumed to a far lesser extent and people are so adept at interacting with webpages via PCs or mobile devices that we can consume web content without actually paying attention to advertising banners or buttons strewn across the page.

“Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

Content Marketing also takes place here at Black Swan Technology, we produce a lot of our own content marketing and aim to deliver much more going forward through the launch of our new website.  Salary surveys, market intel, round-table events and client hospitality can all be considered to be sorts of content-marketing; we interact with our clients without directly selling, in an effort to provide value for them, in the knowledge that this behaviour ultimately increases our credibility, branding, strength of relationships all of which we hope leads to profits.  Obviously, the drive in digital agencies is to deliver similar content online, Black Swan Technology shares this same passion and has a dedicate focus to support such companies by sourcing the best in class tech talent.

 A great example of this sort of marketing that I have seen recently is the Barclays Digital  Eagles service. Barclays have trained over 12000 digital ambassadors and provide an  extensive set of online tools with the aim of improving the country’s digital skills. This is a  service that provides genuine value for users, who are constantly exposed to the Barclays  brand whilst using it. Brand awareness improves, as does perception of Barclays as a company.

Great content needs to be in place before some of the answers lower down in the results can work. For example, search engine optimisation (SEO) received only 3% of votes. This is  the process of getting a company’s website to appear higher up in search results on Google or similar. Search engines like Google are becoming more adept at monitoring user interaction with websites. With increased interaction being a good indicator for how useful users are finding websites, this is driving websites up through results pages. For users to really interact with those websites and for that interaction to have longevity, there needs to be genuinely valuable content delivered consistently.  The same goes for pay per click (PPC), aka paid search marketing (2%).  Such surveys results is also conducive to the mandates we have worked across the tech spectrum, particular the rise in SEO engineers being of particular demand to Black Swan clients. 

Tech Roles in Content Marketing

29% of roles within content marketing are directly focused on web or technology.

As discussed, Black Swan Technology works closely with its clients to deliver effective content marketing campaigns by recruiting and sourcing the right supporting technology. Web and Mobile developers is vital to these campaigns and accounted for the lion’s share of the team’s placement thus far this year.  Said placements have been a blend of web developers with the more traditional “hard core” programming languages and builders like WordPress or Umbraco, but a lot still depends on the requirements and desirables of the individual businesses.

The London area average for web developers across all industries is £35k. Junior web developers can start on less than £20k, but salaries can increase up to the £50-60k region. If candidates want to achieve more than this, they will most likely need to move more into a management position.

58% of marketers in the UK say that the greatest challenge for them regarding content marketing is measuring content effectiveness. Enter another prime focus for Black Swan Technology; Big Data.

Big Data

Big data refers to the ever-increasing complexity of information that can be gathered on just about anything. This data can be from a huge range of sources and in a huge variety of forms. The technologies that support business activities have been the cause of this huge increase in complexity; instead of point-of-sale data, response to direct-mail campaigns and coupon redemption, a retailer can now gather data on online purchases, click-through rates, browsing behaviour, interaction with social media, mobile device usage, location data and more.  Big Data doesn’t just refer to the data itself, either, but also to the challenges of storing and analysing this data so that the company makes the most of the insights the data provide.   This is has been a big focal point for Black Swan technology in 2016. 

There are three types of big data that are hugely important for marketing companies:

  1. Customer - This includes behavioural data (e.g. how long do users spend on our website? What pages do they most commonly look at? Which pages are the ones which drive the greatest number of sales?), attitudinal (e.g. what do customers think about our company? Do customers want to be publically associated with our brand via social media?), and transactional (e.g. number of sales? what time do most sales occur? What is the average spend?). This data is generated from marketing campaigns, points of sale, websites, customer surveys, social media, online communities and loyalty programmes.
  2. Operational - This is normally around metrics that measure the quality of marketing processes. For instance, managers might want to look at sales through mobile and websites in order to best make budget allocations.
  3.  Financial - These may be purer financial data, along the lines of sales, revenue, profits.

Challenges of Big Data:

Knowing which data to gather – more is not necessarily better. Marketers need to evaluate their approach to Big Data and make careful decisions around what data they should be gathering.

Knowing which analytical tools to use – As the volume of data continues to grow, the time available for analysing it and making decisions out of this becomes less. Therefore, using the right analytical tools which will effectively help to aggregate and analyse data is increasingly important.

Knowing how to go from data to insight to impact – How do you find the insights within such vast and complex data sets? Then, once you have those insights, what needs to be done to ensure that they have an impact on the business.

Big Data Roles

In terms of the technology roles that Big Data will offer, there are a few. Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, those huge databases will need to be managed. Most commonly, this will be done by a database developer/administrator. From our experience at Black Swan Technology, Databases in digital companies will most commonly be written in SQL, or some variant thereof e.g. MySQL. The problem with SQL is that it can struggle to deal with really vast and unstructured data, and so other languages have become popular, such as Python, R (although this is generally for hard-core, complex statistical analysis) and Go – released by Google and based on the C language, so many programmers are already familiar with it when they begin using it.   

Big Data requires those DBAs to also look after the actual storage of the data, and so linux admin skills will be important. For cloud-based systems skills in technologies like AWS and more general cloud automation technologies could be required.

Salaries for these data roles vary hugely, depending on required skills and experience.                  Salaries for these position range from £20/25K for more entry-level roles up to around £70k, with the higher salaries being for those positions where the AWS and cloud automation skills are required. The salary also depends on whether the role is viewed as supporting the marketing activities or where it is more central to the company’s success, e.g. for a social media app.

Black Swan Technology has an extensive database across Big Data, driven of course by the demand in digital but also on the grounds that such skills are very transferable across other industries.  On numerous occasions recommendations and referrals of Big Data candidates from our colleagues in financial services IT have gone on to land roles on the digital side.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation is entirely focused around using technology to improve marketing processes and outcomes. Tools can be used to manage contact, manage campaigns, manage leads and measure impact.

Marketing automation consultants are becoming increasingly popular, and this is a job title which many of our clients are saying will become more popular still in the coming months and year. These may be employed on a permanent or contract basis. Largely, they can be thought of as a technical business analyst. Communication skills are essential, as these consultants will interface closely with the business. In terms of technical skill sets, Unix scripting, HTML, and JavaScript are often required, as is experience of working with various CRMs (client relationship managers), such as Salesforce, Zoho, Act!, and Microsoft Dynamics.

Salaries in these roles can vary from £35 – 65k, depending on skills and experience. 

Mobile Marketing

Mobile devices have taken over from laptops and PCs as the screens that consumers spend the most time on. As a result, it is essential that marketing content is delivered using responsive design, which detects the type of device you are accessing a webpage on and then presents either the “desktop” or “mobile” site.  Although mobile devices are hardly a new feature of society’s web-browsing behaviour, there are still lots of sites that do not display at all well on phone screens, or those which are just a tiny version of the main website. These are often displayed at such a small size that navigation can be difficult. Mobile marketers will also need to ensure consistency in experience between different screens is consistent and as such, Black Swan Technology has worked numerous roles this year requiring such skills.

Then, there is a challenge of having lots of different versions of the same content that all have to be updated separately whenever content is updated. Content writers are therefore moving over to producing content that is itself mobile. This means writing content within a totally different structure, which software can then compile according to the device that is accessing the website. For example:

  • Company name
  • Long description
  • Short description
  • Website URL
  • Year funded
  • Large logo
  • Small logo

On a laptop, the software might select the company name, long description, website url, year funded and large logo to display. On the other hand, on a mobile device the software may only select company name, short description, year funded and small logo.

The future of mobile marketing? Some businesses are looking into content that adapts in response to nearby sensors that actually interact with your phone. For example, Adidas are piloting a project on shoes with built in sensors. The sensor can detect whether it is in a store, at home or on the road; its proximity to devices that can receive content; which devices the sensor is paired with and the degree to which those devices interact with the shoe; the shoe’s use state (whether it is on someone’s foot); its use case (whether someone is running or walking). It will use all of this information to best target the phone (and shoe) user with the most appropriate content. Grolsch is trying a similar approach with sensors that know when a beer has been opened and will send different videos to nearby mobile devices.

Mobile marketing is going to increasingly rely on the skills of mobile developers. In terms of technologies, these will often run a very similar stack to web developers and many people will count themselves as a hybrid between the two.  This is consistent, with mandates Black Swan Technology have worked this year where we have moved web developers in to mobile developer positions relatively seamlessly and vice versa.  One difference is the necessity to develop apps for different platforms (usually Android or iOS). Some programming languages are specific to one platform (e.g. Objective-C and Swift are purely for iOS). Others to look out for are HTML, Java, CSS, HTML, and mobile developers are often required to be familiar with Agile development practices.

Salaries for mobile developers range from around £20k up to around the £60-70k region. In London, the median average salary for mobile developers is £45,000. This bucks the national trend for the salaries actually slightly decreasing over the last few years (probably as a result of the talent pool becoming deeper as more people develop the necessary skills).

For more insight into Digital and the technology that supports such content please contact Shane Ferguson, Director of Infrastructure and Technology at Black Swan Group


Content Marketing in the UK 2016: Benchmarks, Budgets and Trends: Content Marketing Institute 

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