Returning Digital Talent Not Being Leveraged

digital marketing experts

Old-fashioned approaches to marketing are getting in the way of New Zealand businesses making the most of the inflow of digital talent turning to this country, according to a digital recruitment expert.

COVID-19 presents businesses with a rare opportunity to make the most of the inflow of digital talent returning to New Zealand - the first time this country has ever experienced a “brain-gain” in this field. However, Amelia Cranfield, founder of Campfire – New Zealand's only specialist recruitment agency for digital marketing, digital media and e-commerce jobs - says she is surprised how many boards and management teams are reluctant to invest in expanding their e-commerce offering.

Worryingly, yet others don’t fully capitalise on returnees’ experience and insight.

“A lot of ex-pat Kiwis are returning home and bringing their digital skills and experience with them,” she said.

“Whilst some businesses are making the most of that talent, a number of candidates are telling me that boards and management teams seem reluctant to grasp the opportunities at hand even when there’s overwhelming evidence that strengthening their digital offering will help rather than harm their bricks and mortar businesses.”

This is particularly an issue in the retail sector. Claire Backhouse, who recently returned after 15 years working in senior marketing, digital and creative roles in London, agrees that Kiwi businesses could be doing more to leverage the returning talent.

She now heads up Digital and Creative at the organic skincare brand Antipodes, where her skills and insight are very much valued and utilised. However, Backhouse’s initial experiences of working back in New Zealand left her surprised that kiwi companies were reticent to adopting global digital trends and best practice.

While in London, Backhouse worked in marketing, digital and social media roles for some of the world’s leading brands, including PlayStation, Universal Pictures, Red Bull and the BAFTA awards.

Returning to New Zealand after such a long time away was always going to be a step change because by comparison projects and budgets tend to be on a far smaller budget here, and locally rather than globally focused.

“But best practice is best practice no matter what the market size is. New Zealand businesses are missing out on getting some quick wins by upskilling their digital and e-commerce teams, and pivoting to stronger digital and e-commerce offerings.”

Backhouse said New Zealand businesses could also do more to understand their target audiences and define their customers’ “journeys” from the time they visit the website or step foot in the store. The rise in digital and social media requires a far more granular approach to communicating with their target audiences, so to ensure they receive the right message and the right place and time.

It can become a chicken and egg scenario at this point because the digital and e-commerce field is so rapidly changing that HR departments and generalist external recruiters find it hard to keep up with ever-evolving requirements.

“There can be massive gaps in digital teams there – gaps that only highly experienced employees or specialist digital recruiters could recognise.  This can be frustrating for returning talent, who can often find that their skillsets and career goals aren’t well understood," said Backhouse.

“Failure to address this issue represents missed opportunities for local businesses. Once they discover what it is that they don’t know, they can gain a competitive edge by hiring great talent and fully utilise their knowledge and skills to create successful digital and e-commerce solutions."