What keeps UK marketers awake at night? What trends will they embrace over the next year? What are the barriers to the battleground of customer experience? And how are UK marketing teams evolving and changing to adapt to their customer needs?

Salesforce's 2017 State of Marketing report gives us answers to these questions and more, delivering some key insights into both the state of global marketing and what's happening here in the UK.

This substantial piece of research, surveying 3,500 marketers worldwide, including 400 from the UK, reveals several key findings. The consistent trend exposed in this report centres around the revolution we are seeing in artificial intelligence (AI) and how UK marketers believe that adopting AI-driven capabilities will help them create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint.

As we fully embrace the Age of the Customer and the primary battleground for growth and differentiation of brands becomes the customer experience, marketers are looking for new methods, new channels, new technologies and new insights that will help them drive a personalised customer experience and customer journey, and AI offers them this new frontier.

The report not only revealed the trends in AI adoption, but also how marketing teams and culture are adapting, how technology is being embraced and how their data woes linger. Let's dive into what those key findings are, with a focus on the UK marketing landscape:

1. Marketers move to evolve journeys, but data woes linger

It’s clear that UK marketers understand the importance and the value of creating a connected customer experience. Almost three-quarters (73%) say a connected customer journey across all touchpoints and channels positively impacts revenue and growth.

Similarly, 73% say a connected customer journey across all touchpoints and channels positively impacts customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores. This is an intriguing dynamic, as it clearly indicates that marketers are not only focused on acquisition of customers and revenue growth, but their sphere of influence now encompasses the loyalty and retention of customers, thus positioning marketers and their focus on customer journeys as a truly strategic influence on the health of a business.

However, the picture is not so rosey when we look at the barriers and challenges UK marketers have to connecting the customer experience and customer journey - budget and data get in the way. It's the never-ending quest of creating a 'shared, single customer view', that is preventing them from getting there - this is 3rd most cited challenge to creating a 'connected customer experience' selected by those surveyed, with another 'data dilemma' coming in at number 2, where UK marketers have 'difficulty leveraging data from different sources'.

2. Shifting priorities spark organisational change

An often overlooked topic when researching the technologies and trends in marketing is how teams, organisations, structures and cultures internally are affected by the shifts being made in technology and customer demands. The report highlights some interesting findings, where globally 64% of marketing leaders believe customer journey strategies require organisational shifts, and are working to redefine how sales, service and marketing teams work together.

For UK marketers, traditional marketing roles are being redefined and realigned, with 60% of marketers saying they're aligning marketing roles to a customer journey strategy vs. traditional roles.

As the evolution towards customer journeys and customer experience becomes top of the agenda for marketers, the topic of collaboration beyond the walls of the marketing department comes into play.

Globally, the trend is that high-performing companies are more than twice as likely than underperformers to say marketing consistently provides sales with quality leads, more than twice as likely to alert customer service to special offers and promotions, and 2.5 times more likely to suppress marketing when a customer has an existing and open customer service issue.

For UK marketers, the collaboration between teams on the whole is positive - 61% are extremely or very satisfied with their collaboration with other departments, such as sales, service and IT. This is an encouraging trend for the proponents of customer experience and a positive note for the C-suite to hear the marketers truly value the collaboration across their business, aligned around the customer. Long may it continue!

3. Marketing embraces the AI revolution

Artificial Intelligence is the major talking point in our industry and the application of AI technologies, capabilities and interaction points is reshaping how marketers engage with customers and how customer engage with brands.

After the recent hype and promise of AI, now comes a phase of adoption and integration of AI capabilities into how we market and reach customers, how we better understand customer behaviour, and how we predict the next interaction that customers will take.

The State of Marketing report this year clearly highlights that phase of adoption and investment, with 48% of marketers in the UK saying they use AI extensively or on a limited basis, with 28% either piloting or planning to use AI within the next two years.

Not, only that, more than half (53%) of UK marketers say that AI is essential in helping them to create 1-to-1 marketing across every touchpoint. On the global level, marketers also see AI as a way to drive efficiency, with 59% across the globe saying it will increase productivity. 61% also view AI helping them achieve “hyper-personalisation” of content and dynamic landing pages. 

However, budget, talent and privacy are the main stumbling blocks to executing an AI-based strategy for UK marketers. With regard to talent and skill sets - marketers see the talent pool of data scientists still being important (despite the progression of technology) and the continuing lack of available talent to every business remains a key concern to the adoption of AI within their business.

Data privacy and budgetary constraints also indicate that as of today, AI capabilities are not readily available to the masses - only those with the budgets, teams and the right data strategy are on the early adopter path to this. Certainly, as we see AI become more mainstream and ubiquitous, these concerns and roadblocks will fall away.

4. Tools and tech most essential to 1-1 marketing

The Customer Experience mandate of many marketers today warrants serious investment in technologies that help them scale, personalise, innovate and differentiate. The report highlights that, globally, top performers are 14 times more likely to be heavy technology adopters versus under-performing teams.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest areas of growth in marketers' technology adoption is in emerging areas like AI and Internet of Things (IoT). The top performing marketing organisations also identify data management platforms (DMPs) as the most essential technology to deliver personalised marketing, with leading teams 4.3 times more likely than underperformers to use a DMP.  

For UK marketers, CRM, Analytics and Social Listening are the top 3 areas for helping them deliver on a 1-to-1 marketing vision, whilst also increasing productivity (63% say their tech stack is effective at increasing productivity) and helping deliver more efficient spend (58% say their tech stack is effective at delivering more efficient spending).

In summary

Let's recap the key trends here from what is an intriguing set of data about how marketer's are operating, innovating and integrating:

  1. Marketers move to evolve journeys, but data woes linger
  2. Shifting priorities spark organisational change
  3. Marketing embraces the AI revolution
  4. Tools and tech most essential to 1-1 marketing

Want to know more and get the in-depth view of the report? Download your complimentary copy of the 2017 Salesforce State of Marketing Report



This study was conducted by Salesforce Research through a third-party survey firm in April 2017. 3,500 full-time marketing leaders in Australia/New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Netherlands, U.K./Ireland, and U.S. were surveyed. Respondents were segmented into high-performing, moderate-performing or under-performing groups. High-performing organisations are defined as those who are "extremely satisfied" with the current outcomes realised as a direct result of their company's marketing investment.