Currently, 68% of marketing leaders say their company is increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience. That’s according to data in the fourth annual “State of Marketing” report published by Salesforce Research. The report, which analyzed findings from a study of 3,500 marketing leaders worldwide, highlights the shifts in customer habits that are shaping new paths for top marketing teams across the globe.

Gaining a single view of the customer is something that is increasingly essential, but also increasingly difficult. This is in no small part due to the continuous emergence of new marketing and communication channels. Indeed, on average, marketing leaders today say that 34% of their budget is spent on channels they didn’t even know existed five years ago — and this growth is not expected to slow down anytime soon, as they expect it to reach 40% by 2019.

With new marketing channels regularly added to the mix, and growing pressure to create individualized customer journeys across them all, it’s no easy task for marketing teams to keep on top of emerging channels and reach their customers most effectively.

The fourth annual “State of Marketing” report breaks down the marketing channels that have seen the biggest growth over the past few years, helping marketers determine which channels would most effectively align with their own business and marketing strategies.

For example, in business-to-business (B2B) marketing, there’s been a 204% increase in video advertising, and a 197% increase in SMS or text messaging from 2015 to 2017. For B2B marketing teams, mobile, sponsored content, and social advertising round out the top five growth channels. Video advertising is also indispensable in business-to-customer (B2C) marketing, and has seen 141% growth over the past two years. In the B2C space, email is still a principal marketing channel. Over the past two years it has grown by 106%, making it the second most important channel for B2C marketing.

The steady presence (and growth) of email marketing suggests that marketing teams are testing new marketing channels — like video marketing — in coordination with email marketing to more effectively reach customers. Omni-channel marketing is becoming essential for top-performing marketing teams.

The focus, then, is on marketing across all major channels. In the “State of Marketing” report, 63% of all marketing leaders said that their company has become more focused on expanding marketing efforts across channels and devices over the past 12–18 months. Furthermore, high-performing marketing teams are 12.8x more likely than underperformers to heavily coordinate their marketing efforts across these channels. But the sheer volume of marketing channels makes coordinated marketing efforts a challenge for even the best teams.

Customers are looking for 1-to-1 experiences across the many channels they use, but marketers say that only about a quarter of their messages evolve from channel to channel based on customer actions. Marketing teams admit that 51% of their campaign messages are identical from one channel to the next. With high-performing marketing teams twice as likely as underperformers to evolve messages across channels based on customer actions, it’s clear that this is a difference maker.

To further support the importance of creating a customer journey, 67% of marketing leaders say that creating a connected customer journey across all touchpoints and channels is critical to the success of their overall marketing strategy. Furthermore, high-performing marketing teams are more than twice as likely as underperformers to agree that a connected customer journey across all channels positively impacts customer loyalty, revenue growth, customer engagement, customer satisfaction, customer churn rates, and customers’ willingness to recommend products and services.

Despite being aware of the importance of a connected cross-channel customer journey, many marketers still struggle to create them. Only 23% of marketing leaders are extremely satisfied with their ability to leverage customer data to create more relevant experiences. So, moving forward, how will marketers achieve those all-important customer journeys?

The answer appears to lie in artificial intelligence (AI). According to the report, 51% of marketing leaders are already using AI, with high performers being 2.2x more likely than underperformers to already be doing so. Among those using AI, 64% say that it has greatly or substantially increased their overall marketing efficiency, with 57% saying that it’s absolutely or very essential to helping create 1-to-1 multichannel marketing.

However, there are still a number of roadblocks when it comes to using AI. Only a quarter (26%) of business leaders (including marketing, sales, and service) have complete confidence in their organization’s ability to define an AI business strategy, and many marketing leaders cite budgetary constraints and customer privacy concerns as hurdles in executing an AI strategy.

Top marketing teams are already focused on creating a connected customer journey to differentiate their brand — even as others struggle to keep up with the quick pace of emerging channels. Leveraging new technology, particularly AI, is the key to full cross-channel coordination, and marketing leaders would be wise to do just that.

To learn more about this year’s biggest marketing trends, download the fourth annual “State of Marketing” report.

Ask about Salesforce products, pricing, implementation, or anything else. Our highly trained reps are standing by, ready to help.