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Sixth State of Marketing Report Reveals Priorities and Challenges For a New Decade

This morning, Salesforce released the sixth edition of its State of Marketing research report [registration required], a collection of insights on the trends, priorities, and challenges marketers face in a radically altered customer landscape.

Based on a survey of nearly 7,000 marketing leaders across 29 countries and Hong Kong, the report details a profession that is seeking deeper knowledge of their customers and prospects, new ways to engage them, and the technical capabilities to do so.

Here is a sample of key insights from the State of Marketing report:

Innovation is a top priority and a top challenge

Recognizing that business-as-usual no longer exists, marketers’ top initiative is innovation. Real-time customer engagement — 2018’s top marketing challenge — and privacy regulation compliance round out the top three.

Customer Experience Takes on New Urgency

A Our most recent survey of consumers and business buyers found that customers increasingly view the experience a company provides to be as important as its products and services. Marketers leaders are listening, with nearly four-fifths of them claiming to lead customer experience initiatives across their organizations, up from 45% in 2020.

Customer engagement is increasingly digital

Marketers were already preparing an increasingly digital playbook before the COVID-19 pandemic moved nearly all engagement online. Marketers’ adoption of various digital channels has grown significantly since 2018, with search engine marketing (+40%), Customer communities (+35%), and mobile apps (+34%) seeing particularly big gains.

As podcasts and streaming services gain popularity, 57% of marketers report using audio tactics, and 68% use influencer marketing tactics.

As customer journeys touch an increasing number of channels, marketers are making strides to engage cohesively across them. Just 15% of marketers describe their channels as siloed, compared to 29% in 2018.

Use of artificial intelligence is surging as customer data proliferates

As marketers increase their use of customer data — they expect to use 50% more sources in 2021 than they did in 2019 — making sense of it is becoming more challenging. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) is a popular tactic.

Eighty-four percent of marketing leaders now say they use AI — up 186% from 2018, when the rate was 29%.

Regardless of whether this surge reflects net new adoption or increased knowledge of the role AI has played for years, the figure underscores just how ingrained AI has become in marketing.

Marketers are taking customer privacy seriously

Eighty-one percent of marketing leaders claim to be more mindful of balancing personalization with customer comfort levels than two years ago. In 2018, this figure was 51%. Fifty-seven percent of marketers even claim to be taking stronger customer privacy measures than are required by law.

Technology, societal shifts, and legislation expected to transform marketing further

For all the technological innovation impacting their work, marketers expect expanded online populations to have the biggest impact on their worth over the next decade. 5G and virtual reality round out the top three developments with implications for marketing.

Visit our blog post for a deeper analysis on the report’s findings, or download the full State of Marketing report [registration required].


Data was collected from a double-blind survey conducted by Salesforce research via a third-party survey panel in January and February 2020. Respondents include 6,950 full-time marketing leaders in Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.


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