Three out of four consumers expect brands to provide a consistent experience wherever they engage. This puts massive pressure on retail and consumer brand marketing leaders to transform their strategies in a new digital era focused on the customer experience. New research, just published in “Marketing Trends across Retail and Consumer Goods,” reveals current retail marketing trends and what it will take for brands to adapt to this new reality.

Salesforce Research surveyed over 570 marketing leaders in retail and consumer goods sectors across the globe to discover how:

  • Top marketers in these industries are collaborating cross-functionally for more connected customer experiences
  • Increased mobile connectivity and emerging tech are impacting the consumer path to purchase
  • Personalized and predictive customer journeys drive customer loyalty and bridge the physical/digital divide

Here are a few findings on retail marketing trends covered in the report.


Retail and Consumer Goods Marketers Lead the Way in Customer Experience


Perhaps more than any other industry, retail and consumer brands face the difficult task of meeting customers across every touchpoint, from web and social media to in-person or mobile.

But marketing can’t tackle disconnected customer data on its own. From customer service to store associates to ecommerce, each business unit plays a role in how consumers perceive a brand. However, retail marketing is increasingly expected to own the digital customer experience — and that requires working with many other business units to cultivate consistency.


Customer Journeys Are Crucial to Consumer Loyalty


The majority of retail and consumer goods marketing leaders (71%) believe customer journeys are the primary vehicle for improving the customer experience. They’re right, too — personalized offers and recommendations (à la Amazon) have made consumers come to expect hyper-personalized customer experiences in every experience. In return, they’ll give their continued loyalty.

Luckily, most retail and consumer goods marketers (67%) have already adopted a customer journey strategy as part of their overall business strategy, and many are even adjusting marketing roles to account for customer journey strategies versus traditional roles (e.g., by marketing channel or function).


Creating connected customer journeys becomes especially difficult, however, as consumers’ (specifically millennials’) dependence on their phones causes them to expect access to information whenever and wherever they are. Mobile has completely upended the shopping experience, and brands are struggling to keep up with the new way consumers evaluate and purchase products. But opportunities abound for those that adapt, including in-roads to learning much more about their customers’ preferences, behavior, and buying intent if properly executed.

That’s why 66% of retail and consumer goods marketers plan to increase their mobile app spend over the next year. High-performing teams are especially convinced of the value of apps, as they’re 3.2x more likely than underperformers to say apps are absolutely essential to creating 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint.

The increasing prevalence of channel-diverse consumer behavior makes it crucial for marketers to increase an omni-channel presence across physical and digital touchpoints. Case in point: even as ecommerce sales skyrocket, brick-and-mortar locations will still function as showrooms. To deliver on truly connected customer journeys, it’s critical that retail and consumer goods marketers provide continuity and context that bridge the physical/digital divide.


AI Is the #1 Growing Tech for Retail and Brand Marketers


A new wave of emerging tech is coming over the next two years that will greatly impact marketing in the retail and consumer goods industry. While retail and consumer goods marketers currently employ a number of these emerging technologies, artificial intelligence (AI) is at the top of the list for expected growth, boasting twice the growth potential of others.


AI will not only revolutionize the customer experience with the ability to more accurately predict, recommend, and exceed customer expectations, but also provide retail and consumer goods leaders the opportunity to compete (and even thrive) with industry disruptors like Amazon.

This is good news for consumers (51%) who say that by 2020 they expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they need to contact them. For retailers in an increasingly digital landscape, this is akin to providing a web experience that mirrors the personalized, proactive service that customers expect from in-store associates — with the key difference of relying on data instead of visual cues.

This retail marketing trends report also addresses other brand marketer insights, including:

  • How customer experience is viewed by both high- and underperforming teams in the competitive space
  • What blockers marketing leaders face in creating connected customer experiences
  • Which teams are thriving in creating a single view of the customer
  • How retail and consumer goods marketers can improve in cross-channel messaging

Download the full research report to explore more retail marketing trends.