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Why is Aus Lacking Digital Leadership

Why is Australia Lacking Digital Leadership 
Teresa Sperti 31 August 2009

It is believed that Australian eCommerce lags 3 – 4 years behind our US counterparts! and is this surprising? Not really! one of IBMs Worldwide Commerce Executives, Joe Dittmar stated this week that the current immaturity of the Australian online retail market was more about retailers failing to take the opportunities in front of them, rather than Aussies failing to spend online. And for me taking this opportunity boils down to an issue of digital leadership.

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This is something I broached a few months ago in a post detailing Why Australian Organisations Don’t Do It?, however Dittmars recent comments has made me reflect and delve into this issue further.

Digital Leadership Starts At Board Level

Regardless of organisation size, digital leadership starts at the top.  Whilst senior marketing professionals play a very significant role, it takes a strong personality with significant drive to change a mindset. Thus in most organisations, for digital to be truly effective, the strategy must be driven from the top and integrated with the organisations strategic direction.  Unfortunately in Australia’s case, several large retailers still do not see the sizable opportunity that digital presents. Furthermore whilst others have made inroads on the digital front – their lack of intent to invest in the digital channel is a telling sign of their current success. The lack of buy-in particularly at executive level is still playing a significant role in hindering the Australian market and ultimately will see some retailers left behind.

Mid Level Digital Recruitment

Many organisations looking to invest in the digital arena for the first time, are looking to do so by hiring mid-weight or junior digital professionals.  Whilst operationally these professionals will fill the immediate need, they fail to create a vision and lead an organisation into the digital future.  In addition these individuals lack the breadth of digital knowledge that enables them to educate key stakeholders on the value of digital to an organisation. So whilst technical capability is paramount, individuals do not have the clout to lead organisational change, particularly early on in the digital journey.

The allure of abroad

It is a well known fact that Aussies love to travel and with many lucrative digital opportunities overseas, Australia loses its talent to overseas markets.  In many markets such as the UK, talented client side digital talent is hard to come by and whilst the recession has paralysed marketing budgets, digital investment remains strong.   With a lack of opportunity in the local market for senior talent to progress their career, those with solid skills do make the move – and still continue to do so despite the economy – which saps some of Australia’s best who will lead the revolution.  I spoke to a prominent recruitment agency in the UK this week and one of their consultants advised me they have had more Aussies and Kiwis arrivals in July & August than they have had all year which demonstrates the drain of digital talent from Australian shores.

Will Digital Leadership Be Forced?

So the Australian market is ripe for the picking, and it is positive to see that some of the retailers are taking the big step and leading the way.  Apart from the pure plays, brands such as Sportsgirl and now David Jones have really begun to embrace digital, but for others will digital leadership come to late or be forced?  Internationally eyes are on Australia, brands who have succeeded in their home territory are looking to expand and Australia provides an ideal online landscape to do so – unsaturated and yet to be monetized.  A lack of digital strategy could be commercial suicide – so now is the time for those at the top (both marketers and senior execs) to lead the digital charge and make the important digital decisions now not just for the short term but to secure a long and prosperous digital future.

Teresa Sperti is an Australian client side marketer living in Melbourne. She is our guest blogger and panel advisor on online and search marketing.

With over 9 years experience as a marketing professional, her knowledge base extends across the digital landscape with expertise in • Digital strategy and planning• Paid and organic search marketing• Website development and analysis• Email marketing• Social media marketing

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