Western European marketing executives expect to have a greater role in revenue growth and strategy as their responsibilities shift from advertising and branding to e-commerce and customer retention, a new study by The Economist Intelligence Unit finds.

The marketing function’s current focus on advertising and branding is expected to decline in favour of one on e-commerce, customer retention, and cross-selling, two-thirds of respondents believe their department will be seen as a revenue driver in 3-5 years, up from 57% who say it is today and only a quarter of respondents strongly agrees that they can use data to engage customers effectively – but twice as many believe they will be able to in future.

The study, The rise of the marketer – Western Europe sponsored by Marketo, examines the responses of 256 marketing executives from Western Europe that were part of a global survey. It finds that while advertising and branding are their most common responsibilities today, as identified by 75% of respondents, e-commerce, customer retention and customer cross-selling are seen as their key responsibilities in future.

The study also reveals that marketers in the region have greater responsibility for the end-to-end customer experience than their peers in North America: 65% say they are expected to manage that today, compared to just 51% of North American marketing executives. 81% say it will be their responsibility in 3-5 years, against 71% in North America.

These findings help to explain why two thirds of respondents expect marketing to be viewed as a “revenue driver” in 3-5 years’ time, compared to 57% who say it is today. Similarly, 70% believe that the marketing function will play a significant role in shaping company strategy in future, compared to 50% who believe it does now.

Marketers face a number of challenges as they move from “cost centre” to “revenue driver”. For example, only 24% of respondents strongly agree that they are able to use data effectively to gain insight and engage customers today. However, Western European marketing executives are confident that their capabilities are set to improve: 51% strongly expect to be using data effectively in this way in future.

“The digitisation of the customer relationship offers marketers an opportunity to create more value for their organisations,” says Pete Swabey, senior editor at The Economist Intelligence Unit. “But while it is encouraging that they are confident their capabilities will grow, marketing executives must face the challenge of transforming their department if they are to capture that opportunity.”

Click to download the report: Economist Intelligence Unit