Today’s marketers face a whole different landscape than their predecessors. As connected customer experiences become standard in customers’ minds, marketers are expanding beyond their traditional purviews, tactics, and toolkits to meet expectations. Here’s an overview of how marketing is evolving in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the latest trends we discovered in the 5th Annual State of Marketing report


In this report, Salesforce Research surveyed over 4,100 marketing leaders worldwide to discover how cross-functional dynamics are shifting to satisfy customer and business demands; how data and is transforming how marketers operate; and how new standards of engagement (including personalisation) are inspiring and challenging today’s marketers. 

Marketing is becoming the cross-functional glue of customer experiences 

In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the definition of a “good” experience has changed. Customers demand not only relevant offers but to feel truly known and understood as individuals. In a culture of immediacy, they also expect engagement at their exact moment of need. What’s more, this level of engagement is viewed as standard across the entire customer journey, prompting marketers to think well beyond their traditional domain. 

High-performing marketers set themselves apart by not only delivering the right message on the right channel at the right time but by leading customer experience initiatives across their broader organisations.

Customers see one company — not separate departments. As customer experience leaders, marketers must look outside their hallowed walls for new opportunities to drive superior engagement.

Marketers have a unique perspective on customer needs, behaviours, and trends. As such, nearly half (45%) of marketing leaders say their organisation is leading customer experience initiatives across the business, up from 24% who strongly agreed with this sentiment in 2017. Among high-performing teams, this figure rises to 54%. 

To operate successfully in this new day and age, marketers are fundamentally rethinking how they work both within and outside of their traditional purviews. In other words, marketers are increasingly focused on supporting and complementing each other’s work to drive cohesive customer journeys, rather than focusing exclusively on their own channels or functions. While sales and marketing alignment has not reached peak maturity, the strongest teams are moving towards closer collaboration to delight the customer. 


Data unification, AI and trust

The reimagining of business in the digital age is digital transformation. As we move from paper and spreadsheets to smart applications, we have the chance to revolutionise our business with the help of digital technology.

Marketers are turning to myriad types and sources of data — from email open rates to web activity to demographics — to paint vivid pictures of customers’ and prospects’ unique needs, preferences, and behaviours. In fact, the median number of data sources used by marketers is forecasted to jump from 12 in 2018 to 15 in 2019. The use of second-party data — that which is shared between consenting parties like brands and publishers to extend audiences and refine targeting — has seen a 19% growth rate since 2017.

The challenge for marketers, however, is that the myriad of data sources is making it difficult to gain a single view of the customer. Disconnected data produces an incomplete view at best. Only 47% of marketers say they have a completely unified view of customer data sources. 

The explosion of available data has also resulted in consumer distrust, and fuel has been added to this by recent news stories across Europe of data breaches and lack of compliance with consent rules, resulting in the introduction of GDPR in 2018.

What’s key, according to customers, is transparency into how data is used, and marketers are responding accordingly. Fifty-one per cent of marketing teams say they’re more mindful about balancing personalisation and privacy than they were two years ago

Still, personalisation is a treasured commodity. In fact, 79% of customers are willing to share data in exchange for contextualised engagement, and 88% will do so for personalised offers.


Marketers strive for real-time engagement across channels

Regardless of the channel, the concept of waiting is disappearing. Expectations for real-time engagement now include much more than prompt responses over social media.

Today’s real-time benchmarks bridge the offline and online divide — for example, a kiosk serves an ad based on a smartphone’s proximity or an ATM serves an offer based on an in-process transaction.

Real-time engagement is now the marketers’ top priority, but it also ranks as marketers’ top challenge. Similarly, several other top marketing challenges involve effectively using new marketing technologies and connected views of customer data to make this engagement a reality.