In the wake of a global pandemic, marketing leaders are at the forefront of innovation. The spread of COVID-19 changed the global marketing landscape, affecting consumer behaviours worldwide. Now, marketers face a new set of obstacles in a socially-distanced world. 

In our sixth edition of the State of Marketing report, we reveal insights from nearly 7,000 marketing leaders around the world. Our research focuses on the main priorities, challenges, and technologies affecting the profession.

The three major takeaways from the report: 

  1. Innovation is the number one priority for senior marketers 

  2. Connections between empathetic marketing and the rise of AI

  3. Account-based marketing becomes standard for B2B 


Below, we explore each area of insight and how the top marketing leaders are navigating change.

 

 1. Marketing Leaders’ top priority is innovation

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact consumer behaviours and trends, market leaders must face new challenges. Like the pressure to rebuild their organisational models and deliver digital-first customer engagement. But for marketers around the world, one thing is certain. Innovation is the number one priority.

Innovation essentially means adapting to change. This may come in the form of a new method, process, idea, and/or product. Even before the crisis, marketing leaders positioned innovation as their number one priority. It's also understandable that real-time customer engagement follows as number two, considering that 69% of customers expect connected experiences. Nowadays, customers expect to engage with multiple channels before completing a transaction. 
 


 

Marketing is both an art and a science. On top of their innovation and copywriting skills, contemporary marketers are data-savvy collaborators. They must capture, organise, and utilise insights to foster a successful customer journey. From branding to customer advocacy, today’s marketers play an active role at every stage.

This all-inclusive, new-age marketer is making traditional marketing roles obsolete. Sixty-nine percent of marketers say that traditional marketing roles limit customer engagement – up from 37% in the last two years. Marketing roles that focus on specific stages or channels are becoming obsolete. Involvement in every stage is essential for creating innovative and connected customer experiences.

 

2. A majority of marketers use AI for empathetic marketing 

New-age consumers are tech-savvy, quick to adapt to new trends, and can spot bad marketing ploys. So it’s essential to deliver personalised messages that resonate with customers. Empathy-based marketing revolves around putting yourself in the customer’s perspective. The goal is to understand their experience and what motivates them. This type of marketing is a faster way to discover pain points and get customers exactly what they need. 

But this is no easy feat. It requires a deep understanding of each individual’s pain points and needs. This is why marketers use technologies, like artificial intelligence (AI), to improve customer experience.

AI-based marketing is already making a measurable impact across the globe. It helps marketers optimise, source, and manage customer data. Currently, 84% of marketers report using AI; a substantial increase from 29% in 2018. To put it in perspective, AI adoption has risen 186% over the last two years.

Most marketing leaders agree with using AI to pinpoint customer insights from data and take action. Seventy-eight percent of marketers describe their customer engagement as data driven. With the current crisis, using customer data for empathetic marketing is especially important. A CRM system with a built-in AI can help you track real-time engagements with customers and achieve personalisation at scale.

Marketing leaders across the globe use AI for many different purposes. For instance, the primary use of AI for South African marketers is to drive the next set of actions in real time. Marketers in Poland utilise AI to personalise individual channel experiences. The AI use cases are diverse and increase each year as personalised customer experiences become more important.

 

3. Account-based marketing (ABM) becomes standard for B2B 

B2B customers expect the same empathy, personalised engagement, and value as a B2C transaction. In response to these new expectations, B2B marketers use account-based marketing (ABM) programs. The rise in ABM is staggering, considering they are a relatively new phenomenon. Ninety-two percent of B2B marketers have an ABM program.   

 


The rise of ABM programs represents a new level of collaboration between marketers and sales teams. They must work together to build highly-tailored campaigns for their most important accounts. Marketers also use ABM to increase the lifetime value of their B2B customer relationships.

Considering that 64% of ABM programs were started within the last 5 years, they’ve quickly grown more sophisticated. Currently, 68% of them use automation. This is ideal for providing  instant, personalised responses to customers. 

 

Navigating uncertain times with a new set of technologies

What’s next for the global marketing landscape? In the wake of COVID-19, it’s difficult to predict, but there is a silver lining. The global pandemic motivated businesses to improve communication with customers in new ways. Customers are now getting faster response times and better follow-ups. It has accelerated the digital transformation and motivated businesses to use a new set of technologies. 

Top marketing leaders predict life-changing impacts from new technologies and societal developments. The global population can expect greater online access, 5G wireless networks, smart homes, and more. Over the next ten years, millions of new prospects and customers will gain online access. Nothing is more anticipated than digital life spreading throughout the global population. 

Businesses around the world are finding new, innovative ways to engage with customers. Read the full report to get the most valuable metrics for each stage of the customer journey. Discover the top priorities and challenges for marketing leaders around the world!