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Salesforce State of Marketing report: Trends and insights from 4100 global marketers

The fifth annual State of Marketing report provides insights from 4100 leading global marketers on strategic priorities, challenges, trends and technologies. Here are the highlights.

In the five years since we released the first State of Marketing report, marketers have seen a remarkable amount of change. The amount of data has exploded, channels have proliferated, media has matured, market segmentations have granularised, and budgets have expanded.

The most significant change however, has been customer expectations; 80% of customers now say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. With more choices, more access to information, and more offers at their fingertips, it takes more tact and precision than ever to attract, acquire, and retain today’s savvy customers.

The result is a much more complex — and more exciting — marketing landscape.

Released this week, the fifth edition of the State of Marketing report shows the impact of all that change on marketing. Based on a survey of more than 4100 marketing leaders across the globe, the report is a window into the strategic priorities, challenges and technologies that are transforming the profession.

Here are five key takeaways:

1. Top-performing marketers lead customer experience


Everyone within a company must now consider the upstream and downstream implications of their work on the overall customer experience (CX). Indeed, nearly two-thirds of marketers see their broader organisation as more aligned in their work than ever before. But marketers – with their unique perspective of customer needs, behaviors, and trends – are particularly well positioned to take a leading role.

More than half (54%) of high-performing marketers lead CX initiatives; less than a third (31%) of underperformers do.

Cross-functional alignment is also increasing, with 53% of marketing teams sharing common goals and metrics with customer service, 52% with sales, and 50% with commerce teams.

2. As we get more data, it’s more important to unify that data

Marketers are turning to data to best understand and engage their customers. Today, successful campaigns rely on an ever-expanding number of data sources that track everything from email open rates to transaction history to ad clicks in order to reach the right individual with the right offer. But the pace at which marketers are expanding their data portfolios is mind-blowing.

The median number of data sources is projected to jump from 10 in 2017 to 15 in 2019 — a 50% increase in just two years. While marketers have more customer data than ever before, many of them are struggling to make sense of it all. In fact, only 47% of marketers say they have a completely unified view of customer data.

Our survey found that no universal solution has emerged in the quest to unite customer data. Data management platforms (DMPs), a technology that has historically been leveraged for ad performance and media optimization, is one such solution, with 76% of users employing it for customer identity.

Marketers expect their use of DMPs to increase by 64% by 2020, and the ways in which they use the technology are evolving and broadening. Although DMP use has historically been dominated by ad performance and media optimisation, today’s top use cases include content personalisation, identity resolution and management, and more.

3. AI evolution prompts marketers to prioritise trust

It would be an understatement to say that customers expect personalised engagement. Our recent State of the Connected Customer study found that 53% of customers now expect the offers they receive to always be personalised, and 62% expect companies to anticipate their needs. Personalisation is therefore table stakes for marketers, who report big results across the customer journey from their efforts.

Marketers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to unlock the data needed for personalisation at scale. While 20% of marketers claimed to “extensively use” AI in 2017, 29% now say their companies have adopted it. Other “smart” technologies are also increasingly seen in top marketers’ tool kits.

Like any major technological shift, the rise of AI in marketing brings a new wave of questions. Opaque data use policies have shaken their trust, prompting marketers to evaluate how they implement and expand their use of the technology. More than half (51%) of marketers say they’re more mindful about balancing personalisation and privacy than they were two years ago, but finding a balance is an ongoing challenge – only 30% of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to balance personalisation with privacy.

4. Cross-channel engagement is still a struggle 

Although cross-channel marketing isn’t a new concept, it remains an uphill battle; only 28% of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to engage customers across channels at scale. Now that customers use an average of 10 channels to communicate with companies, the challenge is all the more daunting.

Engaging with customers in a dynamic, conversational manner — back-and-forth and in real time — is now the benchmark. Marketers rate real-time engagement as both their top priority and their top challenge, but high-performers are outstripping their underperforming peers.

More marketers are meeting customers’ elevated expectations for cross-channel engagement, but even more are falling short. An average of 32% of marketers engage dynamically across channels (up from 28% in 2017), while an average of 29% describe their channels as siloed (up from 21% in 2017).

5. CX success = marketing success

Marketing’s broadened purview is causing a rethink of what it means to be successful, and marketing KPIs are shifting. While tried-and-true metrics like revenue growth, sales effectiveness, and web traffic are the most common marketing metrics, customer-oriented metrics are closing on their ranks.

Sixty per cent of marketers now track customer satisfaction, and high-performers track CSAT at a 1.4x higher rate than underperformers. 52% track customer referral rates and, while customer lifetime value tracking is not at the top of the KPI list, it seems popularity and effectiveness may not correlate in this instance – it’s 1.9 times more likely to be tracked by high-performers than by underperformers.

Marketers are also getting more granular in their tracking engagement across digital channels by adopting social analytics (54%) and mobile analytics (49%).

Find out more about the strategic priorities, challenges and technologies that are transforming the marketing profession, and gain insight into the practices of high-performing marketers. Download the fifth annual State of Marketing report.

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