Introducing the 5th Salesforce State of Marketing Report: Here are the Top Trends Redefining the Profession

This post originally appeared on the Salesforce blog.

In the five years since we released the first State of Marketing report, marketers have seen a remarkable amount of change. The amount of data brands have access to has exploded, channels have proliferated, media has matured, market segmentations have granularized, and budgets have expanded. The most significant change however, has been customer expectations: 80% of customers now say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. With more choices, more access to information, and more offers at their fingertips, it takes more tact and precision than ever to attract, acquire, and retain today’s savvy customers. The result is a much more complex — and more exciting — marketing landscape.

The fifth edition of the State of Marketing report shows how all that change is more relevant than ever. Based on a survey of more than 4,100 marketing leaders across the globe, the report is chock-full of valuable insights for marketers seeking a window into the strategic priorities, challenges, and technologies that are transforming their profession.

Here is a sneak peak at a few of my most compelling takeaways from the report:

Top marketing teams are leading the customer experience mandate

Regardless of department, everyone within a company must now consider the upstream and downstream implications of their work on the overall customer experience. Nearly two-thirds of marketers see their broader organization as more aligned in their work than ever before. Marketers — with their unique perspective of customer needs, behaviors, and trends — are particularly well positioned to take a leading role in customer experience initiatives. While more than half (54%) of high-performing marketers lead customer experience initiatives across the business, less than a third (31%) of underperformers say the same [CLICK TO TWEET].

It’s now commonplace for marketers to march towards the same goals as their cross-functional colleagues: 53% of marketing teams share common goals and metrics with customer service, 52% share them with sales, and 50% share them with their commerce teams.

Data proliferation ups the ante for data unification

Today, successful campaigns rely on an ever-expanding number of data sources — from email open rates to transaction history to ad clicks — in order to reach the right individual with the right offer. As a result, the pace at which marketers are expanding their data portfolios is mind-blowing. The median number of data sources is projected to jump from 10 in 2017 to 15 in 2019 — a 50% increase in just two years [CLICK TO TWEET]. While marketers have more customer data than ever before, many of them are struggling to make sense of it all. In fact, only 47% of marketers say they have a completely unified view of customer data.

Our survey found that no universal solution has emerged in the quest to unite customer data. Data management platforms (DMPs), a technology that has historically been leveraged for ad performance and media optimization, is one such solution, with 76% of users employing it for customer identity.

Marketers expect their use of DMPs to increase by 64% by 2020 and the ways in which they use the technology are evolving and broadening. Although DMP use has historically been dominated by ad performance and media optimization today’s top use cases include content personalization, identity resolution and management, and more.

As artificial intelligence evolves, marketers emphasize customer trust

Our recent State of the Connected Customer study found that 53% of customers now expect the offers they receive to always be personalized, and 62% expect companies to anticipate their needs. Personalization is therefore job No.1 for marketers, who report big results across the customer journey from their efforts.

Marketers are increasingly turning to artificial intelligence (AI) to unlock the data needed for personalization at scale. While 20% of marketers claimed to “extensively use” AI in 2017, 29% now say their companies have adopted it. Other “smart” technologies like the Internet of things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) are also being added to top marketers’ tool kits.

Like any major technological shift, the rise of AI in marketing brings a new wave of questions. Opaque policies around how customers’ data is used have shaken their trust, prompting marketers to evaluate how they implement and expand their use of the technology. More than half (51%) of marketers say they’re more mindful about balancing personalization and privacy than they were two years ago. Finding that balance can remain elusive. Only 30% of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to balance personalization with privacy [CLICK TO TWEET].

Marketers struggle to achieve true cross-channel engagement

Although cross-channel marketing isn’t a new concept, it remains an uphill battle; only 28% of marketers are completely satisfied with their ability to engage customers across channels at scale [CLICK TO TWEET]. Now that customers use an average of 10 channels to communicate with companies, the challenge is all the more daunting. Engaging with customers in a dynamic, conversational manner — back-and-forth and in real time — is now the benchmark. Marketers rate real-time engagement as both their top priority and their top challenge.

More marketers are meeting customers’ elevated expectations for cross-channel engagement, but even more are falling short. An average of 32% of marketers engage dynamically across channels (up from 28% in 2017), while an average of 29% describe their channels as siloed (up from 21% in 2017).

Marketing success is being redefined as customer experience takes priority

Key performance indicators (KPIs) tracked by marketers are shifting. While tried-and-true metrics like revenue growth, sales effectiveness, and web traffic are the most common marketing metrics, customer-oriented metrics are closing in on their ranks. For example, 60% of marketers now track customer satisfaction, for example, and 52% track customer referral rates. Marketers are also getting more granular in how they track engagement across digital channels by adopting social analytics (54%) and mobile analytics (49%).

I invite you to dig into the results of this year’s State of Marketing by downloading the full report and joining us on January 24th for a webinar that dissects the meaning behind the results.