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Data beats opinions. It’s cliché because it’s often true. When trying to persuade “higher ups” on an idea, you’re more likely to sway them if you bring data that supports your point. It shows you’ve done your homework, researched the options, and deserve to have an opinion on the matter. 

So if you’re a marketer, and you’re looking to brush up on digital marketing trends, you’ve landed on the right blog post.

Salesforce Research surveyed global CMOs, marketing VPs, directors, and more to pinpoint factors that are influencing digital marketing in 2017 and beyond. This research, published in the fourth annual “State of Marketing” report, is a treasure trove of information. 

Plenty of research on digital marketing trends shows that customer experience is a rising priority. We found that, beyond focusing on customer experience, marketing leaders are beginning to see customer experience as the brand battlefield. Customer experience is the crux of the competition because customer demands are higher than ever; two-thirds of consumers, for example, say they'd likely switch brands if they were treated like a number instead of an individual.

But what does it take to deliver a winning customer experience? With rapidly evolving digital marketing channels, looming organizational changes, and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) knocking at the door, the bar for “winning customer experience” keeps rising.

Here’s a look at three trends that surfaced in the marketing research.

 

Digital Marketing Trend #1:
Marketing Roles Are Transforming to Reflect Customer Focus

 

Marketing’s tectonic shift toward customer experience is having a ripple effect on roles within the marketing department. Over the past 12–18 months, 61% of marketers say they’re more focused on evolving from a traditional marketing structure to roles aligned with a customer journey strategy.

 In fact, 59% of marketing leaders say that traditional marketing roles limit their ability to engage customers. Recent years have introduced a slew of new positions, ranging from “customer experience analyst” to “lifecycle marketing manager.”

 

Digital Marketing Trend #2:
Marketing’s Place in the Broader Organization Is Also Shifting

 

Beyond influencing changes within marketing, customer journey strategies are upending marketing's role in the broader business. Sixty-four percent of marketing leaders believe customer journey strategies require organizational shifts — for example, redefining how sales, service, and marketing teams work together.

Top marketing leaders are 3.7x more likely than under-performers to be very satisfied with their collaboration with other departments — and additionally are 3x more likely to extensively use CRM tools.

 

Digital Marketing Trend #3:
Marketing Is Embracing the AI Revolution

It seems AI is making headlines across every area of business these days, and marketing is no exception. In fact, AI is the leading technology where marketers expect the most growth over the next two years. Marketers anticipate AI use will grow by 53% — a much higher rate than any other tech type.

About half (51%) of marketing leaders are already using AI, with more than a quarter planning to pilot it in the next two years. Unsurprisingly, high performers lead the way with 72% reporting current use. While usage seems high for a tech type that’s still in its infancy, AI has its roots in tactics like product recommendations and predictive lead scoring, which successful marketers have been using for years.

The AI influence on more “traditional” digital marketing channels could factor into the increased growth of such channels. Take email, for instance. Email lands a top-five place among channels exhibiting the highest growth over the last two years (83% growth). A closer look reveals the impact of combining email with other channels. The three biggest benefits cited are improved awareness, higher rates of customer engagement, and improved customer acquisition. Email provides a window into customer behavior — such as which emails they open, what device they use, and which offers they redeem — making it a natural candidate to leverage alongside other channels to boost personalization and engagement. While email plus other channels can help reinforce a message and extend reach, using the data available to evolve the message can have a bigger impact.

Further topics explored in the “State of Marketing” research include:

  • What are the main challenges marketing leaders face when creating a connected consumer experience?

  • Which marketing channels are experiencing the highest growth rates for B2B and B2C marketers?

  • Which marketing tools and technologies are experiencing the highest growth rates?

The report also covers what makes top marketers tick, covering subjects including:

  • Which technologies do top marketing leaders find essential for creating 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint?

  • How do top marketing leaders coordinate messages across channels?

  • What do top marketing leaders rely on their tech stack to deliver?

  • What are the primary roadblocks top marketing leaders face in executing an AI strategy?


Before your next meeting with your CMO or marketing director, download the full “State of Marketing” for more charts and analysis on digital marketing trends.

Salesforce Research provides data-driven insights to help businesses transform how they drive customer success. Browse all reports at salesforce.com/research.